Category Archives: Marketing

The Surprising Online Marketing Method Most Consumers Prefer

Marketers today are faced with the challenge of appealing to active consumer groups that represent four generations spanning from legacy traditionalists to elusive millennials. The unique experiences of each generation have played a large role in the development of distinct predilections in what they value and how they spend their money.

 The Millennial misconception

Poised at the peak of consumerism and yielding nearly $200 billion in buying power, millennials are a key target audience for marketers. However, have marketers been targeting them incorrectly all along? We’ve heard it time and time again — the recurrent conjecture that millennials now resort to social media for virtually everything. The dominant narrative circulating among many marketing communities seems to be “if you want to reach millennials, start with social media.” However, a recent survey on consumer shopping habits by Campaigner reveals that the concrete assumptions many marketers hold on millennial’s purchasing habits are actually a bit more nuanced than one would think.

Despite social media’s large and growing presence in many consumers’ lives, millennials are the most likely generation to engage with marketing emails. In fact, 51 percent of millennials surveyed indicate email as the preferred method of interaction with brands. Additionally, less than a quarter (24 percent) of all participants surveyed across all four generations name social media as their preferred channel for brand interaction. Rather than blasting promotions via multiple social channels, marketers will have more luck crafting campaigns designed to engage consumers instead of strictly “selling to” them.

The enduring power of email

Marketers have consistently implemented email marketing as a pillar of their campaigns because it’s fast, cost-effective and non-invasive. However, the rise in social media has begged a few questions on the state of email as a medium, the most prevailing being, is it still the most successful tool in our marketing arsenal?

In sharp contrast to the shelf-life of some social media platforms, email has proven to be the most enduring marketing channel for brands. Email ranks as the most preferred digital marketing platform for brand interaction (44 percent), and 85 percent of online shoppers are either somewhat or very likely to open email from brands.

However, contrary to the old adage “you can never have too much of a good thing,” online shoppers’ top complaint (49 percent) about marketing messages is that they simply receive too many of them. When planning campaigns, marketers must determine what cadence of email is most effective for their various audiences. For example, Generation X appears to be more receptive to a higher frequency of email than the rest. On the other hand, when it comes to serving millennials and Baby Boomers, sometimes less contact is more impactful. Most (27 percent) think receiving emails from brands once a week is ideal. In efforts to appeal to each of these generations, audience segmentation is a great way to ensure each group is being met with the appropriate and desired email frequency.

Brick and mortar for boomers, tips for traditionalists

In the effort to attract Generation Z and millennials, baby boomers and traditionalists cannot be overlooked. With their sheer size, disposable income, and spending power, these two generations still control a large part of our country’s spending power and have unique preferences about how they would like to interact with brands.

For those born in the traditionalist and baby boomer eras, the survey indicates that they want to interact with brands in physical stores. In fact, 73 percent of traditionalists and 67 percent of baby boomers say they prefer to interact with brands in-store, compared to 65 percent of the group overall.

Digital marketers targeting baby boomers and traditionalists should use online deals that further entice foot traffic to stores. Additionally, traditionalists appreciate helpful tips and short reads more than the average online consumer, at 28 percent versus 13 percent overall, so content marketing may be most impactful for this group.

With every generation expecting marketers to engage when, where and how they choose, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Rather than attempting to bridge the generational divide with blanket content and campaigns, brands must devote time to understanding generational preferences and learning to market across demographics. The insights from this report further detail commerce consumption preferences and how to most effectively market to different consumer generations.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Hidden Reasons Why Customers Buy Your Products

The “Amazon era” of technology and e-commerce has made cost and convenience a forefront of retail and consumer product business for over a decade. Certainly, low prices, ease and efficiency are top motivators for many consumers when choosing stores, brands and products.

But these are not the only drivers.

Shoppers are moved to transaction and brand loyalty by a range of factors. It can vary by age, demographic, and so much more.

Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that low price points and ultra simple shopping processes are all that consumers seek (or what they predominantly seek). While it can be true, it can also depend. Failing to recognize the unique dynamic that makes your customers and prospective customers choose your products can have an adverse effect. If you’re not careful, it can hurt your brand and bottom line.

It is imperative to assess and determine what your own customer motivators might be. There are thousands of media articles and references on the topic on consumer behaviors that you can tap into. But you’ll want to hone into what specifically fits your customers and prospective customers.

At Simple Mills and within our industry, we’ve found that these below often play a role in why consumers buy our products:

Identity.

People make purchases that fit who they are or who they aspire to be (or both). Our customers are often people who are concerned about what they eat as well as their footprint on the environment. They tend to make choices that fit this identity consciously — but many consumers do not. Who are your customers? Who do they want to be? Determine this. Keep it in mind at all times.

Value.

Value is highly individual to consumer groups – what one group considers valuable can differ from another. Amazon customers may value the ease and competitive prices that Amazon offers. For Whole Foods customers, it is often rooted in that they can trust products are natural and responsibly sourced, with price and ease less relevant. Don’t assume that what matters to one matters to all.

Experience.

It’s easy to forget that stores and products are an experience – one that many consumers enjoy. Apple is a great example of the power of product experience. Prior to it introducing beautifully designed products, the look and feel of tech gadgets and gear was often ignored. It gave Apple an enormous capability to beat out what was (and continues to be) a crowded market. Give thought to this with your store and/or product.

Connectivity/Community.

We inadvertently participate in a community and experience connectivity with others who buy the same things we buy. It creates a commonality. For example, Simple Mills customers often engage and interact on our social pages. Harley Davidson motorcycle owners gather every year at a large festival in the company’s hometown. This can also be very subtle, where purchasing your products simply makes the customer feel part of something larger.

Quality.

Cost and convenience often require a compromise of quality. For the shopper moved by quality, this matters – and you’ll risk losing them if you cut corners here. Hundreds of luxury brands have held potent positions in their categories because their customer wants craftsmanship, fine materials and so on. Don’t assume that price will keep a customer alone. If making things easier for your customers requires you to chop away at your product, don’t do it.

Need.

In an era of innovation, ideas explode across all markets. But not all fill a need – and needs of all kinds play a huge part in consumer behavior. It can be base needs like food or shelter, or something else. Google was enthusiastic about its Google Glass product. But consumers felt differently and it affected sales. My company’s customers feel a need to eat natural, whole foods. Find this in your customer. Make it your priority. 

Original Article: www.inc.com

8 DIY SEO Tips to Optimize Your Mobile Marketing

Mobile online marketing is now synonymous with online marketing. More users consistently use mobile devices today than connected ones. In late 2016, Google began testing a mobile-first index. When they rollout and begin using the index, search engines will look to the mobile version of your website before the desktop version to determine ranking.

If your content performs inconsistently across mediums, you’re missing an audience engagement opportunity. Mobile SEO, much like traditional SEO, is about creating and tagging content in a way that makes it stand out online. Use this list of DIY mobile SEO tips to protect your brand from search engine penalties and maintain online visibility:

1. Create a Google My Business listing.

One of the most important listings businesses owners can create, Google My Business accounts are free and simple to set up. Fill out the information to the best of your ability, and include as many images of your business as possible. When people enter a search for your business online or via a Google app, they will likely see this information first. Make it count.

2. Frequently review all directory listings.

Beyond the Google My Business account, mobile users may use other websites and applications to find your brand. Frequently review and update all listings for your business online. Update listings on Yelp, local websites, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau and other popular business directories. These listings will ensure searchers reach the right information when they search for your name.

3. Get social.

On mobile devices, social media sites drive a significant amount of traffic. Around 80% of social media users spend their social media time on mobile devices. If you want to maintain visibility with mobile users, prioritize your social media marketing strategy. Use platform-specific advertising, engage with users, and/or post prolifically to ensure your brand stands out.

4. Take advantage of plugins.

If your business uses WordPress or another platform, take advantage of the plugins designed to make your mobile site more user friendly. WordPress offers plugins to improve site speed, optimize images, and take care of other important mobile SEO tasks. WPtouch is a somewhat ubiquitous WordPress plugin that will create a Google-approved mobile-friendly version of your website. If you’re not currently using a professional to update and optimize your website, look into how plugins can help you maintain visibility online.

5. Use keywords for content visibility.

Mobile users search differently than desktop users. Optimize for mobile keyword searches to keep your content in front of the right people. While you can purchase tools to find the right keywords for your content, you can find keyword comparisons by device in Google’s Search Analytics.

6. Optimize images.

To improve page loading times on mobile devices, optimize images for mobile users. If you don’t use a plugin to help with images, identify the ones that present a problem using a page speed tool and then compress or change the dimensions for faster loading times.

7. Prepare your content for mobile.

In addition to searching differently on a mobile device, many people digest content differently. Readable and scan-friendly content tends to work better on mobile devices, but testing is the only way to know for sure. Consider using a basic A/B test format to determine which types of mobile content perform better.

8. Optimize for local searches.

You may not want to dive into detailed code optimizations that can boost search rankings, but you may want to consider a few basic activities. To optimize for local searches, include both the city and state in title tags, the URL, the H1 heading, and Meta description.

Mobile SEO will soon trump desktop SEO. Consider working with a professional or attempting a DIY head start today to ensure your site maintains visibility in mobile and desktop searches. A few simple tweaks can boost your digital presence and bring local customers to your door.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

5 Easy Exercises to Find Your Brand’s Voice

Each day, consumers are bombarded with a cacophony of brands. Taglines and slogans shout from TV, radio and the Internet; they vie for attention on store shelves and billboards. It can be difficult for consumers to make sense of the noise, and it can be even more difficult for brands to be heard.

Who are you talking to?

One of the first steps to shaping your brand voice is to identify the voice of your audience. If you’re like many companies and have more than one core target audience, select an individual within each segment. Create personas for these individuals and “interview” them, asking questions like “Where are you from?” or “How do you get to work?”

Identify a common theme throughout your audiences and ensure that the voice can speak about this theme to all audiences equally. Ultimately, you want to understand exactly what each audience segments thinks about your industry and what they want or expect from your company.

Your audience also differs in regards to their familiarity with your company. A new customer may not appreciate the same level of informality as someone who is a longtime subscriber to your newsletter, so the tone of voice should adjust accordingly.

5 exercises to find your voice

There’s no one way to develop your brand voice. With a few exercises, using some imagination and with or without the help of your team, you can hit the right note.

  1. Personify your brand. With social media allowing brands to speak directly to consumers, it’s helpful to think of your brand as an actual person. What would this person look and sound like? Is he or she young, old, serious, or funny?
  2. Brainstorm adjectives. Ask as many members of your team as possible to think of three adjectives to describe your brand and culture. Compare these adjectives to see if any specific ideas have been repeated, and use those as a jumping off point for the voice.
  3. Go where your audience is. Search online — Twitter, Facebook, and online forums — to see where your target audiences spend time, and examine how they talk to each other. While you can attempt to speak in the same way, take care not to lean too heavily on mimicry or it will sound inauthentic.
  4. Choose your ideal spokesperson. Celebrity spokespeople are a popular way to quickly give a brand an identifiable voice. Select the celebrity you think would best represent your company, and examine why you chose them: if you choose an esteemed actor, for example, you may desire to sound distinguished. If you chose a comedian, you may want to be your customers’ funny friend.
  5. Read it aloud. When you’ve written some content, read it out loud to yourself or to an audience. If any part sounds awkward, the voice isn’t right for your brand.

Consistency is key

After you’ve found your brand voice, it’s important to keep it consistent in all content production. Create a style guide for your brand voice in which you address a few key points:

  1. Length: Short words can be playful and pithy; long words can be more eloquent and authoritative. Sentence length can also impart a certain tone of voice, as longer sentences of varied construction can be melodic whereas shorter sentences are punchier.
  2. Vocabulary: Outline a few areas of vocabulary, including jargon, slang, and swear words, and whether you allow their use. The use of slang can help a brand seem younger. Swearing can be used, but it’s not often done as it can cause offense.
  3. Grammar: All content should pay attention to grammar — and that includes deliberate misuse. Accidental grammar mistakes can make a company look lazy, but intentionally breaking grammar rules allows for a more colloquial tone of voice.

Developing a clear brand voice has become a necessity in such a crowded marketplace. Keep your tone of voice consistent across all media in order for customers to recognize your brand over noisy competitors. And once you’ve established a strong voice, yours will become a familiar one among thousands.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Pitching Your Business to a Journalist? Here’s What Works.

Entrepreneurs often ask me if publicists’ pitches really lead to stories. Journalists don’t like answering that. When we bite on a publicist’s suggestion, we feel like we aren’t doing our jobs — that rather than hunting down a great yarn, we just ran with what fell in our laps. But the honest answer is: Yes, sometimes a pitch works. And I’ll tell you the background from one such story in this issue, so you can see how it happens.

It began on February 1, when a publicist named Leila Belcher emailed our senior editor, Alexandra Zissu. Subject line: “Hi Alexandra — How Project 7 Gum Rose from the Ashes.” (Side note: A marketer recently told me that he ran an experiment and found that customers opened his emails more often when he put their name in the subject. Did that make a difference here?) The pitch was one paragraph; it said that Project 7 founder Tyler Merrick had a “particularly interesting and inspiring story” of rebuilding his company after it went under.

 The pitch didn’t offer much detail, but it did hit upon a theme — problem-solving — that we love to write about. And it offered growth numbers, so Zissu knew the rebound was legit. She dashed off a response: “Why did it fail, and how did he make it rise/what worked 2nd time around that didn’t work 1st time?” She was searching for three things. One, is there a compelling story? Two, is the entrepreneur open about his mistakes (which not everyone is, even if their publicists claim they are)? And three, did he learn something that our readers would find valuable?

Usually, publicists reply to these kinds of questions themselves. But this publicist forwarded a personal response from Merrick, her client, who explained in detail how he went wrong. (In brief: He sold mediocre products that he thought people would buy because a slice of sales went to charity. It didn’t work.) “Founders need to be more vulnerable and transparent about their failures and struggles,” he concluded.

This was a bull’s-eye in ways Merrick may not have realized. Many publicists will read a writer’s or an editor’s work before pitching so they can target those most likely to be interested in a particular story. In this case, there was no way to have known that at Entrepreneur, Zissu and I have had many conversations about how to cover social missions. She believes strongly in them. I worry that stories about them aren’t compelling — just a ticker of good intentions, with no lessons for readers. Here, Merrick represented both sides: His company has a social mission but had to learn hard business truths.

She got Merrick on the phone. “He was the most transparent person I’ve talked to for Entrepreneur,” Zissu says. And that’s how the perfect mix came together: a pitch that targeted what a publication covers and what a specific editor is interested in, an entrepreneur who is comfortable opening up and a story that readers will benefit from. Sure, it wasn’t gumshoe reporting — but no journalist will turn that one down.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

Two Influential Gen Zers Explain How to Market to Young Consumers

The best marketers are those who are most in tune with their customers. They understand what consumers want, when they want it and how they want it delivered.

Of course, this level of understanding is much easier to discuss than achieve. It’s often challenging to figure out what motivates a consumer.

Lately, top brands and executives are turning to youth marketers for advice. This move makes a lot of sense. After all, what better way to gain insight into customers than to talk to leading influencers who happen to be your target customers?

 Two of the most successful gen Z marketers today are Connor Blakley, age 17, and Deep Patel, age 18.

Young but poised, Blakley and Patel have been consulting for Fortune 500 companies for years now. The two clearly understand how generation Z thinks and, more importantly, how to meaningfully engage and form lasting relationships with this group.

Currently, if you want to learn about marketing to gen Z, you have a limited selection of sources. That’s why Patel and Blakley are building YouthLogix, a publication for all things related to youth marketing.

Their goal is straightforward: to provide resources for marketers so that they can better understand how to reach this new, influential and diverse generation of consumers.

Here are eight innovative ways that brands can reach gen Z:

1. Consider influencer marketing.

Members of generation Z have grown up with a screen in their hands. Because of this, they’ve been able to establish genuine relationships with influencers across platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.

These connections are much deeper and more prevalent than we’ve ever seen throughout history. As a result, gen Z knows all about influencers. They connect with these people every day, and they even have emotional relationships with them.

This is a huge opportunity for brands to partner with influencers to help spread a message. The connection is a fragile one, but it nevertheless creates a direct channel for reaching vast numbers of gen Z consumers.

2. Don’t rely on dotcoms.

Gen Z will not search the web for your dotcom website. They often go through social outlets.

What that implies is that in order to reach the eyeballs of gen Z kids, brands need to find the channels where those consumers are looking. Most likely, those channels will be somewhere other than a traditional website.

3. Use visuals.

A big difference between gen Z and previous consumers is a shorter attention span. That means marketers and brands will need to build content that consumers can digest easily and quickly.

Gifs are a great tool for brands to deliver their messages concisely and powerfully. They pack a punch and can be delivered across many media platforms to find their audience. Because of their concise and efficient nature, gifs and other short clips are a perfect way to appeal to gen Z.

4. Follow the “new social contract.”

Some interesting research has been done on the way in which gen Z consumers prefer to interact with brands. Researchers have concluded that dealing with gen Z requires a new type of social contract.

Gen Z likes brands that can engage them, provide a relatable and personalized experience through social media, reward their loyalty and maintain consistentcy across all channels.

5. Seek quality over coolness.

Although they appreciate conciseness, generation Z seeks quality as well. In addition to being extremely cost conscious, gen Z consumers know great value when they see it.

They’ll always side with high-quality products and content over what may be perceived as cool.

6. Blend the online and offline spheres.

For gen Z, there is no separation between the offline and online worlds. Just as they interact and form relationships in person, gen Zers build real friendships with people they meet online.

This phenomenon occurs with not only other people, but also brands and companies. The most in-tune companies will always build a strong online connection with their customers so that they can best understand their wants and needs.

7. Recognize purchasing drivers.

According to a study conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, nearly half of gen Z says cost is the deciding factor when making a big purchase. A secondary factor is whether the product helps them reach a goal. This is an important deviation from the traditional marketing standard.

A gen Zer is a tough but extremely valuable customer if you can convince them that your product or service is worth the price and actually provides value. If you can accomplish this task, then you can expect a long-term customer.

8. Aim for consistency.

Consistency is crucial when you interact with gen Z consumers. They are tough and stubborn. They will also remember all of the interactions that they have with companies and brands.

That is both good and bad. Gen Z will reward you if you show them you are valuable. However, they will never forget a poor interaction, either in person or online. Creating consistent, quality interactions with gen Z is a key part of connecting to this influential consumer group.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

6 Super Simple Content Marketing Hacks to Double Your Lead Generation

If lead generation is the engine that drives your business, then content marketing is the premium grade gasoline you use to fill that engine. The power of content marketing has made it easier than ever to implement evergreen lead generation strategies and convert those leads into happy satisfied customers.

While most of you probably understand the basics of using content marketing for lead generation, there are a few simple hacks you can implement to double your results almost overnight and generate leads in numbers that will boggle your mind.

 Today, I am going to show you six of those hacks.

1. Write content that goes deep

The first hack is also one of the simplest. For SEO and branding purposes, long form content is always better. Writing longer and more in-depth content enables you to provide more value to your audience, share a more detailed message, and as an added bonus, is absolutely loved by Google.

Nearly every marketing expert agrees that the average length of viral articles is around 2,400 words, so if you plan on generating leads through your company’s blog then increasing the length of your content is a good place to start.

But this doesn’t give you permission to create redundant or tangential copy that makes people question why they clicked through to your website in the first place. Each word must provide value to fulfill your visitors’ intention.

2. Use content upgrades for your lead magnets

Have you ever been surfing a website or reading an article on the latest technological advancements when all of the sudden you are hit with an on-page pop up promoting a lead magnet regarding health & fitness?

I didn’t think so.

Even if you’ve never experienced an example quite this extreme, it’s obvious that the lead magnets you are promoting need to be congruent with the content on the page your viewers are reading.

These are often referred to as content upgrades. Content upgrades are post-specific lead magnets that are designed to enhance the user’s experience in exchange for some contact details.

For example, someone who blogs about programming may provide cheat sheets with code snippets outlined in their article. A chiropractor who writes about back health may provide a series of videos demonstrating stretches outlined in their blog post.

But these lead magnets are more than whipping up random checklists. You need to create content upgrades that are centered around what your audience truly wants.

If you want to quickly boost the number of leads generated, then start creating a slew of post specific offers for your most popular articles outlined in your analytics reports.

3. Link to webinars directly within content

Webinars are hands down one of the single most effective lead generation and marketing tactics available to the modern entrepreneur. But their power means nothing if you are not promoting them correctly.

One of the first steps that you need to take to fully unleash the potential of a well-designed webinar is to promote your webinars in the body of all of your articles, emails and in the subtext of your videos.

It might seem like an easy hack, but it will have a massive impact on your ability to generate leads.

4. Use multi-touch content marketing campaigns

Generating a lead is good, but after the initial generation, you are still miles away from converting that lead to trust your brand and make a purchase. This is why designing multi-touch content is a necessity for the modern entrepreneur.

You need to design campaigns that allow you to connect with your new lead on a recurring basis until you have developed enough rapport to streamline the sales process.

5. Include tweetable quotes in the body of your articles

A great way to quickly grow your Twitter following and rapidly grow your lead generation capacity is by including tweetable quotes in the body of your articles.

This is a simple hack that requires nothing more than an easy to download WordPress plugin or a service like Click to Tweet. It can result in a massive growth to your Twitter following and a rapid increase in the number of leads you generate through social media.

6. Include share buttons in your emails and on your web page

If you took my advice from step one and you are creating killer long-form content, members of your email list will naturally want to share this content.

To take advantage of this and make the process as seamless and pain-free as possible, include share buttons in all of your emails and at the end of every piece of content that you write. This will simplify the sharing process and radically increase your odds of generating social hype for your brand and your content.

Content marketing is one of the greatest weapons in your lead generation arsenal and equipped with the above seven hacks, you are well on your way to becoming a lead generating ninja in no time.

While the above tips are relatively simple to implement, they require a significant amount of testing and optimizing before their full potential will be realized. Start implementing them today and get ready to reap the rewards.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The NBA’s Marketing Superstar

If you found yourself near Atlanta’s Philip’s Arena in early January 2015, you likely would have seen crowds of people, dressed up (by basketball game standards), pouring into the stadium, staring at their phones.

They were all on Tinder.

Yep, Tinder. As a wildly unorthodox — but no doubt genius — marketing exercise, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks hosted its first “Swipe Right Night,” inviting Tinder users to meet up at the game. The event was such a success that they did it again in March 2016; participants shared photos on social media and the event made news nationwide.

 Behind this idea and many other innovative, out-of-the-box marketing strategies was Melissa Proctor, CMO for the Hawks. Proctor and her marketing team have employed fresh thinking to attract the attention of the Atlanta public and it has paid off. In August, the Hawks released its schedule on Twitter using only emojis.

Proctor’s creative thinking has resulted in increased excitement around the Hawks. I sat down with her between strategy sessions and speaking engagements (her next appearance will be at business conference NextCon) to discuss how she determines her target audience and the best advice she’s received.

With so many NBA teams vying for fans and ticket sales, how do you compete?

In my mind, when others zig, we zag. I don’t really think of other teams as our only competition. Our competition is anything that can entertain you, which could be a Netflix show, the nearest restaurant, a fashion show — basically anything happening within Atlanta is competition from an entertainment standpoint. We are selling entertainment. We don’t just look at the world of sports.

Who is your target audience and how do you reach them?

Next-generation Atlantans are our target audience. Atlanta is an interesting place because we experienced a major population boom after the 1996 Olympics (population soared from 3.5 million in the mid-90s to 5.5 million today). A lot of people settled here from places like Boston and New York — people who already had allegiances to the Celtics or Knicks. We can’t change those allegiances, but we can be the team for the children of those residents. That is our goal.

We’ve taken this really seriously and done things like design our jerseys to be the coolest jerseys when those kids play the NBA 2K17 video game. Everything we do is through the filter of attracting that audience.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing sports marketing these days?

Across the board, teams are looking to create deeper fan engagement. They are focusing more on mobile and how to integrate that experience with fans in the arena and at home. I’ve heard about teams considering virtual reality opportunities for fans to help build brand loyalty. Content is also huge right now. Players are becoming their own brands and publishing their own content, which helps fans interact. We’ve seen that happen within music and other industries. It is now coming into the sports world, too.

What does your average day look like?

Every day is different for me, but I’d say meetings are a constant — lots of lunches, breakfasts and general networking events. Marketing is about collaboration and connecting with others. I have an amazing team and we have a lot of brainstorming sessions. Just yesterday we had an Oreo cookie birthday party for a team member. We try to keep it light and fun.

When I’m not in meetings, I do my best to be available and answer questions. Good ideas can come from anywhere; it isn’t the loudest voice in the room that has the power. It is about a team that can collaborate.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

No one manages your career but you. A lot of people who work in corporations are looking for someone to give them their next opportunity or waiting for a job to open. Instead, create the job you want. Go into your career with an entrepreneurial mindset and watch amazing things happen.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Marketing Power of Secure Payments

Secure payments serve a functional purpose in your business, but they can also serve double duty as a marketing benefit — particularly now that so many customers have experienced card fraud or security breaches.

Here are a few ideas on how you can incorporate the fact that you offer secure payments into your marketing campaigns

Prove that you understand their concerns.

More than 40 percent of consumers surveyed by Auriemma Consulting Group (ACG) reported having personally experienced some form of credit card fraud — and nearly half of them had fallen victim to it on more than one occasion. Your payment security isn’t just a value-added benefit to consumers who have experienced fraud; it’s a solution to a problem that they have experienced. Your business’s willingness to invest in payment security and make it a priority ensures that customers who buy from you can trust that their information will be kept safe.

Incorporate messages into your marketing campaigns that overtly express that your business knows the challenges customers who have been victims of credit card experienced. Speak to the fear, frustration and vulnerability they may have felt, as well as the time and money they had to invest into managing the extent of the fraud. When you humanize payment security, your marketing campaigns can communicate that you truly care about taking care of your customers. Tell customers that you are empathetic to the concerns they have regarding data security, and that you made the business decision to intentionally invest in the payment security solutions to protect them.

Leverage customer perception of small business security.

Though a host of major retailers, corporations and government agencies have fallen victim to data breaches that compromised customers’ financial and personal information over the past few years, customers may expect that a small business isn’t as equipped to offer payment security as a large company with deep pockets. (For some small businesses, this perception may be correct: One IBM survey indicated that only 30 percent of small businesses provide security training to their staffs, compared to 58 percent of larger companies). Your business has the opportunity to leverage payment security as a point of differentiation in your marketing campaigns compared both to other small businesses and larger competitors.

Increase the perceived value of your offering.

Some consumer behavior studies indicate that customers are less price sensitive when they perceive that a business offers enhanced convenience in some way, shape or form.  Use marketing messaging that remind customers that the costs of credit card fraud aren’t just monetary in nature; consumers can spend several hours of their lives dealing with the aftermath of credit card fraud for years after the fact, particularly if card fraud requires them to file a police report, place a freeze on their credit reports and notify payees of changes to the card information.

Outline the many tangible and intangible benefits that payment security offers to customer convenience in your marketing messages. You may also want to remind them that payment security remains a very real concern if they buy from a business that doesn’t take it seriously, particularly since the number of consumers who experience credit card fraud is expected to keep increasing until 2018.

Promote loyalty.

Nearly 70 percent of fraud victims say they will not do business with the company that failed to protect their data. Tout your payment security in marketing campaigns alongside loyalty messages that prove how many customers have come to trust your business over the years, in part because of the fact they know you take all aspects of customer care seriously, including payment security.

Payment security is important to protect your business from the risk of a breach (and the financial losses you may absorb if your business is the victim of one), but it’s also a benefit you can offer to the many customers who have become increasingly wary about credit card fraud and identity theft. Incorporate payment security messages into your marketing campaigns to tell your customers why it’s a tangible benefit worth valuing when they buy from your business.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com

How to Use Content and Social to Promote Your Small Business

In the United States, the small business sector represents a significant part of the nation’s economic growth, with an estimated 28 million registered businesses earning 54 percent of annual sales in America. Small business accounts for 55 percent of all jobs and, on average 66 percent of new net job growth on an annual basis, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Given these statistics, there is nothing “small” about small businesses in America, except that these organizations typically follow a lean startup model, beginning as part-time businesses and growing only with time and cautious investment.  Because of this limited growth model, hiring a marketing manager isn’t an option, budget-wise, for many small businesses.

 However, what they lack in capital, these nusinesses can make up for with creative content marketing.

How can your small businesses leverage content tools and brand messaging to support your growth? Here are several strategies and software packages that every business owner should consider part of an effective marketing plan.

Master social media management.

If delegating social media management to someone on your team isn’t an option, become a master content creator yourself. There are many online courses available on Udemy that start for $10 per lecture, allowing you to learn at your own pace the fundamentals of digital marketing and social media. The courses will teach you what to share and when, to optimize the benefit of professional community management.

Learn what software applications the experts use to preschedule posts, and how to get alerts sent to your phone whenever someone likes or comments on your social media content. Empower yourself (or your staff) to respond quickly to customer questions on important social channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Small businesses that sell online nationally, or internationally, can benefit from looking at metrics or analytics regarding their social media engagement. Learn where your customers are from, what posts have the most traction, the most active days or times for your customers — and more. You can use Sprout Social. The software also comes with comprehensive scheduling applications, competitive reports and more.

Take advantage of newsjacking and trending hashtags.

Starting from scratch with new social media accounts means a slow, persistent build in terms of audience. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time and a lot of effort to gain traction and followers for your small business, but focus your efforts first locally, to build brand awareness in your immediate community.

Look for hashtags and other businesses in your local area that are “killing it’”on social. Follow charitable organizations from your community, including local associations and chambers of commerce. There is nothing unscrupulous about following up news events or headlines from your local area; comment, and like posts (or share them) to start networking with other businesses in your area. You can also expose your own business to more people by leveraging hashtags that are trending. Stay in the middle of the conversation.

Stimulate user-generated content.

Small businesses that advertise on social media platforms gain more traction by encouraging customers and users to create their own content. Just as product or service reviews help small businesses, so does user-generated content when shared online.

There are many ways small businesses can leverage user-generated content without pricey contests and large giveaways. If you own a restaurant, for instance, ask customers to share their favorite meal on Instagram, using a custom hashtag for your business. The hashtag will allow owners to randomly select a winner monthly, but the pictures of different items, and comments from satisfied customers, are worth far more than the price of a once-per-month “free dinner for two” incentive.

Invest in visual-content marketing.

You don’t have to be a graphic designer or professional video editor to create valuable multimedia visual content to share in your social feed. Finding the time may be a challenge for small business owners, but there are many free or low-cost smartphone apps that make it easy to create social-friendly creative posts.

If you are just starting out, and want to create some animated video posts with captions, try Ripl. The full version of the app (without the distraction of a watermark on your images or videos) is under $10 per month. Adobe Spark is fabulous software that allows a more advanced creative user to develop short videos, presentations (slideshows) and even magazine-quality graphic posts for social sharing.

Use an online-review service.

Gaining favorable customer reviews should be part of a small business marketing plan. Consider that any brand has an uphill battle to convince and convert potential customers. And favorable communication coming from the small business itself naturally has a biased opinion. The beautiful thing about customer reviews is that they hold a lot of merit with new customers, who trust the purchase or service experience of other consumers over the brand’s own promises.

Some industry leaders in online reviews, like Trustpilot, are out of budget for small businesses, despite the fact that they offer a high-traffic and easy-to-use online review format. Other review providers, such as Google My Business and TestFreaks, are more budget friendly, and the ratings and comments they enable customers to leave can be embedded for the business’s website.

Proud of your service track record? Showcase it on social media and on your website as an important credibility piece, to help establish a positive online reputation. Don’t forget to design an effortless way for customers to leave your business a review, by designating a funnel on your website; and remember to respond to comments (negative and positive) in a service-focused manner.

Overall, don’t be afraid to show the personal side of your small business to your customers, on social media.  Staff recognition, birthdays and charitable giving or events are all valuable from a public relations standpoint.

Small businesses have personality, and that’s why customers love to buy from them and shop locally. Let your passion and positive vibe shine through, and watch your small business grow.

Original Article:www.entrepreneur.com