Small businesses are challenged by two things: Getting new customers, and making the most of the relationships they have with existing customers. With social media and word of mouth marketing on the rise, it's become clear that the greatest source of new customers is your current customers. The more you treat your loyal, current customers like VIPs, the more they will come back. And, those customers will interact with you and about talk about you on their social networks, opening up the door to new customers. Your current customers are your most important marketing asset. Now combine that with mobile. If 2011 was the year small businesses began to take advantage of social media, then 2012 will almost certainly be the year of mobile. Consumers will soon be able to do everything right from the palm of their hand, and many of them already are: According to Nielsen, 43% of all mobile users own a smartphone. Among those under 45, the number is more than 50%. A related Pew Internet study found that 87% of smartphone users access the internet or email on their device, including two-thirds who do it daily to look for deals and information. The point is, consumers these days are "always on," and are connecting with businesses and each other wherever they are. Making the most of mobile technologies to engage those customers and encourage their loyalty and advocacy is the natural next step. With this in mind, I'm so happy to announce that Constant Contact has acquired CardStar, which helps shoppers stay connected with their favorite merchants through a mobile app. This free mobile loyalty app consolidates membership and rewards cards on smartphones, letting consumers use a single application rather than a series of physical cards. The app currently has more than 2 million active users and is available on major mobile platforms such as iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. CardStar works with larger retailers, small businesses, and even local resources like libraries. I'm most excited about the potential it has for small businesses. CardStar and Constant Contact will do for loyalty systems what we have done for email marketing, social media marketing, and event marketing — make it easy, effective, and affordable. And we will enable your customers to use the same mobile app where they store their national loyalty cards. Over time, our solution will allow you to tailor mobile deals and information to your customers, and to track engagement so you can reward those customers' loyalty. Today’s consumers don’t just want, they expect access to information and the ability to make decisions on the go, and they want to be rewarded for their support and loyalty. The CardStar mobile app makes this possible, letting consumers engage with businesses like you when they're on the go, and providing you with expanded opportunities for the kind of customer engagement that drives real business results. In our most recent Attitudes and Outlook Survey, 72% of small businesses told us they don't already incorporate mobile into their marketing campaigns. CardStar provides a great opportunity to start doing just that. I encourage you to download the CardStar app today and check it out for yourself. Then enable your customers to take advantage of it, so you can see how it will help your business.
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As 2011 comes to a close, many people are looking back on the year and trying to learn lessons from what we all experienced. The unfortunate truth is that 2011 was a challenging year, anywhere you looked. So my eyes — and the eyes of the entire team here at Constant Contact — are firmly on the future, and the year ahead.
We head into 2012 with a fresh optimism for ourselves, for our country, for our world, and especially, for small businesses everywhere. That's because, from the perspective of the small business or the small business marketer, 2012 should be a year of opportunity.
It's a very exciting time to be a marketer. Small businesses and organizations have the chance to reach new people, and to create a new level of intimacy and interaction. We can target our efforts in a way we never could before. We're reaching those people with whom we already share a connection.
Tools like social media make all this possible. Thanks to social, we can now use our very best asset — our loyal customer base — to drive new business and reach new customers. And with everything we do, we get to see immediately how it resonates. This creates a great opportunity to do things faster and even better.
2011 was the year we did a lot of experimentation with social, to figure out how it all works. Now, 2012 will be the year it becomes real.
This year, we'll start to see social media have a meaningful, measurable impact on the business. Social media marketing is going to include action-oriented calls-to-action — not just be centered around conversations — so businesses and organizations can see actual results from their customer, client, and member interactions. And it won't matter whether these people are at home or on the go, on a desktop or a mobile device: Social media will create a brand experience that transcends boundaries and devices. Constant Contact will be working hard to make this a reality, and I know our entire industry will be working together to do it too.
I think our small business customers will be delighted to find that their customers are willing to advocate on their behalf on social channels. And that will give our customers the ability to reach new prospects through the social networks of their existing customers. That's why I think 2012 is going to be a year of renewed opportunity and growth for small businesses, enabled largely by social media.
As the calendar changes to a new year, I wish you and yours the very best for a prosperous and successful 2012. And I look forward to hearing from you, on social media channels and in other ways, so I can learn how things are improving for you and your business or organization.
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These are exciting times for small businesses. We are evolving into a consumer buying culture that's heavily driven by word-of-mouth recommendations. New tools that allow businesses of all sizes to reach and communicate with customers are leveling the playing field. In short, the ability for a small business to compete has never been stronger. As the effect of word of mouth grows, influence takes on even more significance. That's why I'm so proud that Constant Contact was recently chosen as a Small Business Influencer Champion by Small Business Trends and Smallbiztechnology.com. Champions were chosen from 520 nominations, in two stages: voting by the community (weighted at 40%) and voting by a panel of judges (weighted at 60%). I'm also personally honored to have been chosen as an Honorable Mention, along with two of our RDDs, Wendi Caplan-Carroll and Julie Niehoff. At Constant Contact, our influence is guided by our customers. While we love that we have influence, what we like even more is the two-way dialogue that helps us understand what you're dealing with, and stay focused on what really matters. We understand that the pace of marketing technology is overwhelming. Our goal has always been to help small businesses — our customers and non-customers — understand how to pick and choose from the vast array of tools available, to discover the ones that will be most effective to drive their business. With the guidance of small business owners like you, who we've met at events, on the phone, via social media, and in other places, we've built, developed, and refined our own marketing tools and educational resources, and you've let us know how successful you've been, in part thanks to them. So while we're very proud to be marked as an influencer, we're even prouder that we've played a role in creating real business results for more than 450,000 small organizations who struggle every day, especially in this tough economy. That's what really matters to us. We thank all who voted for us, and as always, thank our customers for really helping us understand what matters.
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Has this ever happened to you? You go out for a nice dinner at a new restaurant you've been meaning to try, hungry and hopeful. After a 30-minute wait, the host seats you at a cramped table next to the kitchen door. When the server finally shows up, he seems distracted and bored. The food arrives late, cold, and undercooked. All-in-all, a disappointing experience. At the end of the meal, when the waiter plunks down the bill and asks, "Was everything OK?" you say "Fine." And you walk out, never to return again. If you're a social consumer, you might tweet about the experience or post a negative review on Yelp! or some other customer reviews site from your smartphone on the ride home. Most people are guilty of not always being 100% truthful when a business asks, "How did we do?" So why does politeness prevail when the customer is clearly unsatisfied? Because it's human nature to avoid confrontation and an uncomfortable situation. It's easier for some people to say "Everything's fine," knowing they'll never patronize that business again. This "everything's fine = something's wrong" scenario doesn't just happen at restaurants. It can happen to any type of business or organization that provides products or services to customers — retail stores, hotels and tourism agencies, spas and salons, any and all services industries. It's a huge opportunity lost for the business, which doesn't get a chance to make what went wrong right. Or even to improve on something that could be done better. There are a few things you can do to encourage customers to give you useful feedback. 1. Ask Specific Questions Whether you're writing a customer satisfaction survey or verbally asking customers about their experience, be specific in what you're asking about. It's too tempting for polite customers to answer "fine" to the vague "How did we do?" Show them you're listening, and open the door to honest conversation. Ask about the specific products or services you've provided, and "What could we have done better?" to improve the customer experience. Make customer input part of your company story on Facebook and Twitter, in your email newsletter, and on your website. 2. Ask While the Experience Is Fresh One of my favorite restaurants brings diners an iPod Touch mounted to a board at the end of the meal, with a short survey and email sign-up form pre-loaded. That's an innovative way to get customers' opinions while the experience is still fresh! Don't wait to crack the nut of customer participation. Whatever tools you use to gauge customer satisfaction — online surveys, a follow-up email message, an in-person conversation while they're ringing out at your cash register, or a phone call when a project is complete — ask for that honest feedback before the experience fades. 3. Listen to What They're Saying on Social Media While some customers may be shy about telling businesses to their faces what they really think, today's social consumers are shouting their opinions from the roof tops. Social media channels and consumer review websites, along with local online directories, give customers a megaphone to blast their views. You may be surprised to learn what's already being said about your business. Listen to what people are saying — about your business and your industry — and engage those customers in two-way conversation. Let them know you're listening and that their opinions matter. For more on gathering business intelligence from the people who matter most — your audience — read my latest column on Entrepreneur.com, “Your Customers Are Talking. Are You Listening?”
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Small business owners tell us they're eager to find new cost-effective ways to engage their customers. The explosion of social media and other online marketing tools — combined with the growing popularity of Internet-connected mobile devices — means businesses have more ways to communicate with customers than ever before. If you're like most entrepreneurs we meet, you have lots of marketing communications options — but not a lot of time to figure out which tools and tactics might work best. The good news is you can try new ways of marketing your business without investing a great deal of time and resources. How can you accomplish that? With what we like to call "mini marketing campaigns." Mini campaigns are short-term bursts of marketing communications sizzle. They can be as simple as igniting a conversation on Twitter or Facebook, targeting an email promotion to an emerging niche audience, sending out a survey, or hosting an impromptu event. Mini campaigns give you the flexibility to… Fill in the gaps in your yearlong, major event, seasonal, and holiday marketing calendar. Respond to news and current events related to your business or industry. Test out new tools, networks, and tactics. Identify new target audiences. Create buzz around products or services. Get a beat on what matters in your customers' lives. Create opportunities to engage customers right now. Think about how you engage your customers today. Are there other ways you've been meaning to try? Social media marketing campaigns may catch fire or fizzle out very quickly. That's a challenge for businesses — and an advantage for those nimble and willing enough to try new ways of connecting with customers. A yearlong marketing calendar is a good anchor, but it shouldn't hold you back from engaging in other communications activities. Mini campaigns let you explore new ways to engage customers — around a conversation, a promotion, an idea, or an event — without incurring the costs or headaches of major campaigns or significant new content. Online marketing provides the tools and the channels. You provide the business savvy and passion for helping your customers. Ready to weave some mini-campaigns into your overall marketing plans? Check out my latest column on Entrepreneur.com, and get six quick-hit marketing ideas for social media.
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Constant Contact’s ConnectUp! user community was designed as a forum for you and people like you to share the entrepreneurial energy and passion that drives small businesses and organizations. The community provides a host of tools and technologies that enable you to connect with your peers, exchange ideas and find answers to your questions about email marketing, online surveys and small business issues in general. The latest version of ConnectUp! delivers personal and professional profiles, a business directory, new ways of sharing information and knowledge with blogs, and several other improvements that will bring the Constant Contact community closer together through a rich and useful exchange of information. Whether you are a small business owner, a nonprofit professional, a marketing director, or anything in-between, you can benefit from the inspiration and information you will find in ConnectUp! We are grateful to have you as our customer, look forward to your participation in the community and welcome your feedback on new format. With warm regards, Gail Goodman CEO, Constant Contact
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