What's the best gift you'll get this holiday season? Is it some cool high-tech gadget? Gift cards? New clothes? Bottles of alcohol? What if there was something that could reach qualified new customers (without costing you anything), convince them you are the right person to do business with, and for each one of these people who becomes a fan on Facebook, it gains you another $9.56 for your business? It's not a fairy tale. In fact, you have this gift already: It's your customers, and with just a little nurturing they will be happy to give you the gift of a growing business. Current customers get you new business The best marketing any business can get is the kind that's driven by word of mouth, by those who have done business with you and are willing to recommend you to others. Even better, this kind of marketing doesn't cost you anything! Great news, but for this gift to work you must provide an experience that has value in your customers' eyes. I picked the word experience because I want you to think beyond your product or service and think about all of your interactions with customers. This includes any emails you send, blog posts you write, social media posts, or customer service interactions that happen. Remember: Your relationships are with individual people, not talking wallets. If you talk about what is important to and valued by customers, then you can watch the revenue roll in. Customers provide reviews that drive sales Every day when I talk to small businesses, I hear how hard it is for them to reach new people. My secret? Get more voices speaking and saying the things that matter to your customers, not the things that matter to you. What matters to customers? It's what other people are saying and thinking, and generally not your promotional messages. The easiest way get more voices is to actively gather reviews of your business and share them in each of your marketing channels. Sites like Yelp are devoted to reviews and ratings of business, so create your own page and ask your customers to write reviews for your business. Let your email readers know that you're collecting reviews and ask them to write one — or better yet, include those reviews in your email newsletter; that's a better encouragement anyway. How about when your customers are at your business? Since so many people have mobile devices, ask them to provide a review right there, or to tweet or post about you on Facebook. Being great at what you do is fabulous. It's better if people say so. Engaging with you in social media brings new rewards The value of connecting with customers on social media is evident in each stage of your relationship, from introduction to advocate. On average, people spend an additional $71.84 on products of which they are Facebook fans, compared to those that are not fans on Facebook. In addition, 56% of customers are more likely to recommend a brand after becoming a fan on Facebook. We've established that in the early stages, it matters more what other customers say than what you say. How actively you engage with your fans increases how many people you reach outside of your own network. If those people see value, your fan numbers will grow and so will your word of mouth. As you start 2012, look back at all the gifts you've received this season and put some thought into your customers. Make a New Year’s resolution to say thank you to your customers and focus on listening and giving them the content they want. Do you have a favorite customer that you wish you could duplicate? I would love to hear about how they are a great gift to your business and what you have learned from them. Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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Looking at all the special-deal emails and social media messages, it's easy to think that the only thing people care about this time of year is price. But take a moment to dig a little deeper and you'll find that's not as true as you might think. No doubt, price is important to many people, but it's not always the ultimate factor when prospective customers are picking who to do business with. What's important to the majority of us? According to a recent study by Cone Communications, when choosing between similar products with similar prices, 94% of us will choose a brand that supports a social cause over a competitor that does not. This is not a small group of idealistic big-box customers — we're talking about Main Street! How can your small business use cause marketing to leverage our desire to do good? Just look around; there are lots of great examples you can learn from. Here are three of them: 1. Build goodwill without asking your customers to spend money Is there a cause that relates to your business? If yes, think about how you can show support and get your customers involved. A fun example of this is being done by Lego this holiday season, and it supports the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation. For each free Star Wars/Lego e-card that people send, Lego will donate a toy (up to a million of them) to the Toys for Tots drive. Why this is good for Lego? It aligns the feeling of doing good and the Lego brand. This is a social cause Lego has supported in the past, but now it's enabling its brand fans to be part of the process. And, by tapping into a giant, extremely active online community that shares and talks about its products (not to mention Star Wars fans who do the same), the cause marketing message is more likely to go viral. 2. Use your own and customers' resources to make change One popular way to do some good is by giving back a percentage of sales this season. One business that does this is Harpoon Brewery, the ninth-largest microbrewer in the U.S. For each six-pack sold of its Grateful Ale, the brewery donates a $1 to a local food bank. A dollar may not sound like much, but if you add up all the purchases, it starts to make a big impact. In 2010, Harpoon donated $270,000 to local causes from its fundraising efforts. But the helping was not limited to money; Harpoon also leveraged its loyal customers, encouraging them to come volunteer with the Harpoon staff to support these same charities. We're not just talking a couple of hours here, but hundreds of volunteer hours that have made a significant impact. The combination of monetary and volunteer hours from staff and loyal customers has given the small brand increased positive word of mouth in their desired market. 3. Partner up to create a greater impact It's great that Harpoon has the ability to rally staff and customers to provide physical help for those causes. But what happens if you want to do good but can barely run your business with the resources you have? Take a lesson from Bridgewater Candle. To combat hunger in children, it partnered with a well known nonprofit organization called Rice Bowls. In their joint Light a Candle, Feed a Child campaign, each candle sold means a child is fed for one day. This message is central to Bridgewater Candle's marketing efforts. Understanding the direct impact of a purchase makes customers feel good and increases their willingness to talk about what they are doing. If you have not already started to consider how cause marketing can impact your business in 2012, I would encourage you to start. In this past year, 62% of us have purchased a cause-related product. I would love to see more small business be part of that revenue generating trend. Remember, it doesn't matter if you're just raising awareness — when you implement social change yourself or partner with others who are doing so, the benefit is to the greater good and your bottom line. What is your business doing to give back this holiday season? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Looking around at the articles, blog posts, guides, and eBooks about Facebook, they all seem to focus on the same question of "How do I get someone to 'Like' my Page?" While getting people to Like your Page is certainly important, many of these how-tos fail for one business or organization and work great for another. How are you supposed to know what tips will work for you? Start by asking yourself the question, “Why would people Like me?” and let this determine the techniques that will work for your individual situation. The reason people do business with you ties directly to the quality of service and the perceived value of their interaction with you. Did you know those are the same reasons people will chose to Like you on Facebook? Of course, being Liked is not a given — 78% of us only Like 10 brands or less. But it can be valuable: According to Syncapse Corp., a Toronto-based social media management software provider, a customer who Likes you is worth $136.38 more than one that does not. The reason why someone would Like a business or organization on Facebook may be a little different for everyone, but there are some constants that can help you identify your own why: 1. I Like you because I am your customer and/or I am looking for discounts and promotions. Treating your customers well and providing value in every interaction is the least expensive and most effective way to get someone to Like you. This method has impact beyond Facebook; in fact, it fuels every way that you communicate. The long-term payoff is seen in the staggering increase of positive word of mouth and the resulting growth of your business. The next most popular way to leverage people Liking you is to present them with a compelling offer or discount if they do so. It works, but often provides only short-term results. I am not knocking discounts, as I am huge fan of getting a good deal, but as a business you need to understand the limitations of this strategy. This method will give you a spike in Likes but if you're not thinking long term, you will see a bunch of “unlikes,” or the Facebook Insights measure of People Talking about This will take a nose dive. 2. I Like you because I want to be the first to know and access exclusive content Who doesn't like to feel like they're in a privileged, exclusive club? I know I do. One of the most valuable things you have access to is exclusive knowledge that you can share with your Facebook fans before anyone else. Letting your fans be the first ones to read a guide or article, or watch a video, and then share it, is a priceless benefit you can offer them. Think about the content can you share on Facebook that will keep people engaged and interested in sharing. 3. I Like you because I want others to know that I like you or I respect your views or skills Some people have said that Facebook is similar to high school, where you want to be associated with the cool kids. On Facebook, instead of kids it is brands. I take a different view: Now I can decide who I want to be friends with on Facebook, without peer pressure. Often, I find I am selecting people and brands that share the same interests and passions as I have. If I am out to impress anyone with a Like, it is only my immediate network. In other words, I now control what is cool, not someone who tells me what to like. This doesn't mean that peer influence has no impact on my choices; in fact, by sharing what I Like, I'm hoping that other people in my network will Like these brands' Pages too. In short, if you give people good reason to Like your business or organization in the real world, they will “Like” you on Facebook. So broaden your view to go beyond Facebook. Make current and future customers like you in every way you communicate with them. When done right, Likes are building your army of advocates that will bring you more customers, and more dollars to your bottom line. Why do you Like the Facebook Pages you have Liked? How many of these Pages have you gone back and Unliked because they failed to provide value? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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How many of you have checked your email on a mobile device today? I will admit that I checked on my mobile phone as I woke up and while I was walking the dog before I came to work. Do I have a problem with mobile addiction? Perhaps, but I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Apparently, 49% of us admit we have an issue with using our mobile devices too much and 83% of us sleep with our mobile by our sides?
The good news is that this addiction to mobile is only increasing the effectiveness of email marketing, which remains one of the best ways to reach and connect with your audience. Here are 5 things you can do to make the most of mobile in your email program:
1. Make me pay attention. Just as in any place you read email, getting your reader's attention and keeping it is a deal breaker. Your subject lines need to compel me to want to read and act now. Otherwise, your message will be ignored or deleted. Remember: Some mobile devices show only 27 characters of your subject line, so be concise and engaging.
2. Give me something to do. Mobile addicts like me are always on the go, and we are people of action. In fact, the majority of people who search for something via a mobile device act on the result within a 1-hour timeframe. Your email campaigns should make use of this. A clear and useful call to action is required. The message could be everything from "Buy now," to a link to product/service reviews, or even a way to get an instant discount that I can get simply by showing my mobile phone when making a purchase. You know it's a good call to action if someone can act on it right here, right now, and you can track the impact on your business.
3. Make it easy for me to find you. We mobile addicts search the internet for info on the go, and we are specific and location-driven. When putting together your email messages, always include your physical address and perhaps also a link to a map tool that tells people exactly where you are. Speaking of which, have you claimed your Google Place yet? If yes, link to that listing from your email. That will tighten up the geographic relationship of your email and the location of the mobile reader. Why should you care about that? Because when someone performs a search on a mobile device — for a “dry cleaner,” for example — Google will automatically suggest results that are near where the searcher is. When the searcher picks the short cut, you want your web-hosted email to show up.
4. Make it easy for me to Like and share. As often as the mobile addicts are checking email, they are also tapping into their social networks. Do you provide your email reader with a quick and easy way to share it on their networks, or to "Like" your message or Page on Facebook? If yes, then you are tapping into your readers’ network and reaching qualified people you did not know before. Think about this: When I Like your email on Facebook, my 320 friends are notified and prompted to check out your email message. Since we know that so many mobile addicts have friends who are just as connected, expect instant access to this extended audience.
5. Make it easy for me to say “yes." How many times have you seen a picture like the one on the right? That's a QR code, and they seem to be showing up everywhere you turn. Why? Because they're a quick and easy way to let mobile users access information. You can use a QR code to share a web-hosted version of your email or to direct people to a place where they can sign up for your email list. Then, place these QR codes around your business or event and watch the mobile sign ups roll in. You can also make it easy by tapping into existing behavior. For example, communicating via text message is already something people are doing; Portio Research predicts 8 trillion texts will be sent this year. Why not use a text-to-join tool that will enable mobile users to add themselves to your mailing list? Consider encouraging that sign-up by offering a discount a person can take advantage right then and there, that will show up in the confirmation message.
Are you a mobile addict? How many times a day do you check your email and act on it? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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Facebook gets most of the attention when talking about social media, but LinkedIn, with its network of more than 135 million users, can also be a treasure trove of useful information about your current and future customers and clients. LinkedIn’s value is the people in the network. More than 70% of them are between the ages 25 and 54, and over half of these people are male. An "active" 1% on LinkedIn only accounts for 34% of the traffic. Most of the information sharing and online networking is done by individuals via Groups and Profile status updates. Individuals are looking to exchange ideas and ask questions with other individuals they can learn from right now or expect to be of value in the future. As a small business, why should you care if LinkedIn users engage with you online? Well, because 45% of visitors from LinkedIn to your other digital content (website, blog, whitepapers, video, etc.) will likely be new to your organization. That's a lot of prospective clients, customers, and supporters. These leads are highly motivated about seeking useful content, and are more likely to fill out a form. That means they're likely to sign up for your mailing list, which will give you permission to continue the conversation. If giving you information was not enough, these visitors stay an average of more than 10 minutes on your website. What are you going to do with a group of people who want to have a conversation with you and are willing to spend the time do so? That's right: Give them the kind of content they want. Product brochures are three times more likely to be downloaded and printed than case studies or whitepapers, which have seen a 22% decrease. On the other hand, videos and podcasts have increased in usage, and almost 40% of people have consumed information in a mobile format. While it's not everyone, this is something to keep in mind. If you use a webinar format to nurture new customers, know that people from LinkedIn are more likely to register and attend these live educational sessions. What you want to understand is there is still is a time and place for traditional content styles, but broaden what and how you offer to capture all of the relevant attention. With LinkedIn, be a regular contributor and watch new customers inspired by your knowledge continue to connect and help you grow your business. Are you using LinkedIn? Share your experience with us here or on our Facebook Page. Or, to get started building a LinkedIn profile, visit the Social Media Quickstarter.
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It's not news that social media continues to influence both our personal lives and business lives — and those of your customers, clients, donors, volunteers, and supporters too. According to Nielsen research, people are spending at least 36% of their time online in social media posting messages, sharing photos and videos, and researching topics driven by their passions and interest. If you're not taking advantage of this behavior, my money says one of your competitors is.
As a small business or nonprofit organization, you play an important role in social media conversations. You need to actively participate, and provide entertaining but useful content to power up those conversations.
Sounds great, but how can you do this with all the other things already on your giant to-do list? As surprising as it sounds, there are two small things you can do that will have a greater impact than you may have imagined.
1. Start sharing yourself.
Let me ask you this: Do you want to increase your social following? Well, sharing useful content can have a direct impact on keeping your current customers and reaching new ones.
As you are part of the conversations going on in social media, it's important to provide useful content to keep the conversation growing. When you share, it shows you are willing to participate and be an active part of the greater conversation.
It's important to note that people on Facebook interact with each other differently from how they do on Twitter and LinkedIn. So what doesn't work? Using the same message on all those social networks. Doing this, you become the company version of that nice but dull person you avoid at parties because they repeat the same bad joke or dull stories every time you see them.
Want to avoid this? Use our Simple Share feature and craft a unique message or abstract for each of the social networks you participate in, even if each of the posts contains a link back to the same article, blog post, or archived email. This small step shows that your business or organization cares enough to not repeat the same content on each of the different social networks.
2. Make it easy for your email subscribers to share.
Now ask yourself, Do you send your customers content to read/watch/listen to that they find interesting? If you answered yes, then you already have the raw material you need to put your army of advocates to work for you in social media. How? Well, it's human nature to want to share things that make us feel good or look smart. As a business or organization, you can provide your subscribers with good, helpful information that will make this happen. After all, nearly three-quarters of consumers prefer to get information from a company in the form of a collection of articles over an ad, according to a CMO and Consumer Attitude Study conducted earlier this year.
To get your useful content shared, use tools that make it quick and easy for the reader, such as our own Share Bar. Perhaps you've seen buttons or bars on email messages or blog posts that look like a collection of miniature social media icons. (They're often called Chiclets, because they look like the chewing gum.) These buttons are for your readers to use to share your great content, on the spot, and usually with one click. How come it works? Because your reader is willing to share, and because you've provided great content. It's just that simple.
Have you found success in sharing your own content or getting your army of readers to share it for you? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page about topics you had the best results with and what surprised you the most about the experience.
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Shawn Smith, creator of Shawnimals, talks to Constant Contact about how to engage your audience using social media in this week's Office Hours. Shawnimals recently won first place in the Best Overall Users of Social Media category in the first Chicago Small Business Online Marketing Contest for its Facebook 10K giveaway campaign. Shawnimals is a Chicago-based character design studio that creates plush toys, videogames and multimedia products. Click here for more Information about the Chicago Small Business Online Marketing Contest. Questions will be answered by Heidi Tobias and Azure Collier from our Distance Learning Team.
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