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Happy Turkey Day! In recognition of Thanksgiving our Support office will be closed Thursday (11/23). We will be open Friday (11/24) for limited hours (10:00am - 6pm ET) and will be back to normal hours on Monday (11/27).
Thanks for reading, everyone! @Raise Capital -- I think a lot of businesses launch email marketing initiatives, but end up running into obstacles when it comes to creating newsletter content month after month. Jill's method of showcasing pieces of her portfolio and past work gave her an endless source of material that was eye-catching and informative.
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Goldleaf Framemakers of Santa Fe has been around for 24 years, but President Martin Horowitz explains that the process his business uses to hand-craft each frame dates back to the Renaissance.
“We start everything from scratch here,” he says. That means carving basswood to make a frame that’s just the right fit, to carefully mixing gesso from rabbit-skin glue, calcium carbonate, and warm water, before sanding it and applying it to clay coats that are generally yellow, but have highlights ranging from red to blue to black.
The process is known as water gilding. “We basically do it the same way they did it in the 15th century, except we use spray guns,” Martin says. The frames themselves are crafted to resemble a different period, from 16th-century Italian frames to 19th-century impressionist frames, all the way to the modernist frames of the 1930s and 1940s, and the contemporary ones showed today.
Goldleaf Framemakers of Santa Fe may be incorporating centuries-worth of styles in each frame, but that doesn’t mean that the manufacturer has stood still, either. After hearing from his friend Noberto Zamudio of Peyton-Wright Gallery that Constant Contact set the “gold” standard for email marketing, Martin decided to try it to better reach his growing client base - and in the process, became Constant Contact’s 500,000th customer.
The Right Frame of Mind
Martin explains that marketing his frames is a hands-on activity, because clients don't truly appreciate the frames unless they see them in person. Most clients are museums, exhibitions, galleries, and other businesses. One of the ways Martin promotes his business is by attending the annual West Coast Art and Frame Show, which is taking place next week at the Mirage Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
“Manufacturers from all around the world set up booths to show their wares. I’ll have corner samples in my 20-foot-booth that are sold to frame shops from coast-to-coast,” Martin says. For example, a shop in New York City may purchase a sample and sell it from the store. “For the most part, that’s how we’ve been marketing Goldleaf Frameworkers.”
About five years ago, the frame manufacturer tried something new in the form of virtual picture frames. That meant that the same store in New York City could submit a client’s painting to Goldleaf Framemakers Santa Fe, and Martin and his eight employees could "virtually" frame it so the client can see the painting framed in the chosen frame. The example would be sent back, and the client could decide whether to purchase or not.
“This way, we’re able to showcase Goldleaf Framemakers’ work around the country,” Martin says.
A Better Way to Reach His Clients
Though he purchased another framing company last summer, Martin realized he needed a better way to reach new clients. That’s when he decided to give Constant Contact a try. Just days after becoming a customer, Martin sent out an email to more than 200 of his contacts.
“We emailed a small promotion that said we’ve reduced the cost of goldleaf picture frames, which will save people about 20%,” he says. The newsletter put the emphasis on the namesake of the store: goldleaf, and showed off the fine work of the framers.
The results so far? Goldleaf Framemakers has already received plenty of calls about the offer.
Eager to Do More
Based on his initial success, Martin is already planning to send another newsletter when he comes back from the Las Vegas trade show. “I’m going to try and snap a few pictures while I’m there so I can include them,” he explains.
Since email marketing offers an easier way to show off the shop’s wares to clients, it’s like Martin is hosting his own virtual trade show. We’re eager to see what his next campaign looks like and we’re proud that Goldleaf Framemakers of Santa Fe chose Constant Contact to help grow the business!
As an award for being Constant Contact’s 500,000th customer, Goldleaf Framemakers of Santa Fe has received a free account for life that includes all of Constant Contact’s products. The business is also entitled to any free custom service and will be receiving a certificate for the milestone — that we're sure they will put in a beautiful frame.
What tips do you have that may help Goldleaf Framemakers succeed with its email marketing efforts? Share them here or on our Facebook Page.
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When you’re trying to promote your own business, people often say that it’s all about connections.
Unfortunately, the advice tends to stop there. How do you meet people? More importantly, how do you keep track of everyone? Networking opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, from the workshop to the convention, but the most frustrating part can be remembering who you talk to and what those people do.
This is precisely the problem with which Jill Singer, founder of Jill Singer Graphics, recently wrestled.
“I’m involved with so much networking, and many people I meet are also networking all the time,” she explains. “It’s a continuous challenge to stay on top of it all. Meeting and staying connected with people can be tough, too.”
Her graphic design firm, based out of White Plains, N.Y., has been helping clients to create professional-looking promotional materials for almost 30 years. And, as a one-woman show, she has had to mostly rely on networking and self-promotion to get the word out about her services.
At the end of a hard day of networking, Jill would always have business cards scattered in the bureau, a few in her wallet, and some contact information in her iPhone. It was overwhelming to remember who was interested in her business. This past August, that all changed when a client asked her to help with his Constant Contact Email Marketing campaign.
“He was really tricking me,” she laughs, “because he knew that it would be a great tool for me to use, too. And he was right.”
Following Up Through Email
Once Jill started using Constant Contact (and getting permission to send messages to those people she had met), she suddenly found that she had one safe place to put all of the information she exchanged at networking events — and even better, a way to stay in touch with those people.
“Emails gave me a great way to highlight pieces from my portfolio. So now if someone asks to see a sample of my work at a seminar, I can just tell him that I’ll send him an email,” she explains. “Email marketing is an easy way to stay organized and stay in touch."
As a graphic designer, Jill found that she was most successful when she displayed the work she had done for previous clients. That means most of Jill's emails include testimonials and marketing materials she has designed, along with a great subject line.
For example, October’s subject line read: “Moved to Action by a Good Story.” The email explained how important it is for small businesses and organizations to tell the stories of their customers and members to spice up white papers, reports, and other documents to encourage people to read, then showcased an example of Jill’s work that touched on the same subject.
Jill's emails always have very economic copy and one central theme & image.
Jill gets a lot of return emails, too, whether people are complimenting the work or are interested in her services.
In fact, Jill says that she gets at least one new client per newsletter — a pretty remarkable return considering she has only been using email marketing for the past six months.
Getting the Word Out
To really promote her emails, Jill often uses Constant Contact's Simple Share feature, so she can share the advice with fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and contacts on LinkedIn. For example, “Ask for what you want!” email, which was sent in December, was shared through all three networks.
In this case, Jill’s email newsletters are creating an online network that can do something she had never been able to do in person: meet contacts one-on-one. “People get to see my work, which is great, and these are often people who I never get to meet with one-on-one. The timing of each newsletter is going to be right for somebody, and having the opportunity to show people what I’m doing has just been a great way to grow my business and my reach,” Jill says.
So, while Jill still looks forward to conferences, conventions, and workshops, she knows that meeting the people there is now just the beginning of her relationship with them. Because with Constant Contact, she can provide loyal clients and prospects with helpful marketing emails that hold both inspiration and opportunity.
How do you reach out to contacts beyond traditional networking events? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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Ever get tired of just "Liking" something on Facebook? You may be in luck — the social network is developing “Actions,” buttons that let users do all sorts of things other than Like, from clicking “Own” on a product page to “Read” on a book’s Facebook Page. As Facebook unrolled these new features, anyone looking to brush up on an obscure fact, learn a history lesson, or read a biography on Wednesday suddenly found that Wikipedia greeted them with a foreboding black screen. Fortunately, food was unaffected. Foursquare users who wanted to know the location and cost of all nearby tacos — or any other kind of food — discovered they could now use the “Explore” feature of the popular mobile service. Read on to find out more about these topics and more in this week’s news roundup. 1. Do You Like Like Something? Or Do You Want It? Facebook Actions were originally announced at Facebook’s f8 developer conference last year, but they’re finally coming to life. In San Francisco this week, Facebook announced that a number of partners are using Actions instead of the simple Like. E-Commerce sites can benefit from “Own” and “Want” buttons; blogs, books, and more will benefit from a “Read” button; and that’s just the start of Facebook’s growing vocabulary. Bottom Line: More buttons means more opportunities for social media marketers to learn about customers. It’s important to note that these buttons won’t be replacing the Like, just supplementing it. Now your fans won't just be able to Like your Facebook Page, they’ll be able to clarify why. 2. A Wiki-Less Wednesday Means Broken Senate Websites Wikipedia and other sites attracted national attention by going dark this past Wednesday, in order to protest SOPA and PIPA legislation, bills being considered as an effort to combat online piracy. One of the main conflicts is the sweeping language of the bills, which opponents say will impede online innovation and creativity. Wikipedia invited users to find their local representative’s website to protest the bills; as a result, a number of contact links for Senators had “technical difficulties.” Bottom Line: Thanks partly to the protests, SOPA and PIPA are now looking more and more unlikely to pass in their current forms — but online piracy isn't going away, either. The entertainment industry is understandably concerned about illegal streaming of music, TV shows, and movies, but until lawmakers find a way to tackle those issues without infringing on the internet’s freedom of expression, this debate will continue. 3. Time Spent Watching Online Videos Rises by 58.9% Is the computer your new TV? If so, you’re not alone. In an ironically timed release, given the SOPA controversy, new findings from comScore Video Metrix showed that, among the 182 million U.S. internet users across the country, the average user watched 23.2 hours of online video in December, marking a 58.9% uptick from the same time last year. While TV shows and movies are prominent, so are music videos: Sony’s VEVO service, which hosts all the most popular music videos on YouTube, had 53.7 million viewers in December 2011. Bottom Line: If you’re thinking about how to market your business or organization, the future —or more accurately, the present — is in video. So concentrate on making your own videos that show off your products and services, your team, or your customers, clients, and members and get them up on YouTube. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth even more! 4. Hungry? Now You Can Browse 13 Million Different Dishes Anyone who has wandered from restaurant to restaurant in search of an enticing menu may be relieved to find that their aimless quests could be at an end. Foursquare has teamed up with start-up SinglePlatform on a feature that helps diners find the meal that’s just right for them. Explore will find the menus and prices of nearby restaurants that serve the food of your choice. That means if you type in “ice cream,” for example, you’ll get all the scoop shops located near you. Bottom Line: With Yelp and Foursquare growing so popular, it’s becoming ever more important for restaurants and other businesses to establish themselves online. This new feature can be a valuable way to connect to diners, especially if your business is off the beaten path. 5. 56% of Employers Check Social Networks of Potential Employees Businesses are increasingly relying on social networks to find out a little bit more about any would-be employees. OPP, a U.K. business psychology firm, found that 56% of employers look at would-be worker profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to screen them before making hiring decisions. Bottom Line: As the line between professional and personal life blurs thanks to everything from the Like button to the everyday tweet, privacy has become an even bigger issue — even as there’s less and less of it. This recent study highlights the need for everyone to remember that anything they post to a social site can (and often will) be seen. What news topics caught your eyes this week? Share it with us below or on our Facebook Page.
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It breaks my heart every time I see a question posted to a business or organization’s Facebook Page that goes unanswered, with that lonely question mark dangling, doomed to be ignored. Around 95% of Facebook posts on brand pages suffer a similar fate. Some businesses and organizations may be unsure of what to post, some may not know how to post, and the vast majority certainly don’t have the time to reply to every comment that comes their way. A Facebook Page that's been abandoned by its creator isn’t a pretty thing, and it certainly won’t attract any new fans. In fact, it can give people the impression that the entire organization is lagging behind the times. So, what do you do? What’s the key to consistently posting good, engaging content? The truth is that any small business or organization can be successful at Facebook marketing. You just have to ask yourself one question: “What are my fans and I both passionate about?” Sharing What's Going On The Facebook Page of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce has more than 500 fans. President Christy Gillenwater says the organization’s number of Facebook fans rose by 300% in 2011 and the number of active fans quadrupled. Each Facebook post is about Bloomington, local businesses, and the people who live there. The page is full of information about chamber events, contests, and job openings. It puts the spotlight on local businesses, and it offers plenty of photos — from snowy downtown Bloomington to recent conferences. Remember: Your fans may be passionate about what your business or organization provides, but Facebook is first and foremost a social gathering place. The key to your fans’ hearts is sharing things that they're interested in. Focus on staring a conversation, not advertising your services. Very few posts from the Greater Chamber of Bloomington are about marketing or policy debates. Instead, the organization focuses on sharing things about the current events happening in the city, whether they relate to the chamber’s business or not. Giving the Business a Personality Gourmet Coffee Service’s Facebook Page has been around for less than six months, but it already has an active community of fans that numbers just under 400. Bob Tullio, the director of business development, explains that one thing that jumpstarted fan growth was encouraging drivers to mention the Page when they delivered equipment and coffee supplies to clients. The drivers who were mentioned by fans of the Page most often were recently rewarded with $100 gift certificates. The clients, by "Liking" the Page, also had a chance to win a number of nifty prizes each month. This fun recommendation system not only got everyone excited about the Page, but displayed just how great a relationship many clients had with their drivers. As the Page’s fan base has grown, Gourmet Coffee Service has also started to share a lot about the one thing all fans are sure to be passionate about: coffee. People can expect to see articles about the health benefits of coffee, the economic impact of it, and even news stories about everyone’s favorite morning brew. Think about how fans will see your page. Often, they will see your posts in their Newsfeeds. Gourmet Coffee Service’s Facebook Page has become a go-to resource for coffee news and deals, and the fun, playful tone of the Page gives the business — and the people who work there — a personality, bringing customers and staff closer together. What Makes You Special? To come up with creative Facebook posts, small businesses and organizations should think long and hard about what makes them special. Restaurants can share recipes and photos of new dishes, retail stores can show off new products or take pictures of fun ways to use them, and nonprofits can use photos and videos to document fundraisers. The bottom line is to bring the same offline experience to your Facebook Page. Fans of the Brooklyn Waldorf School’s Facebook Page, for example, can look at videos of the annual scooter race around Prospect Park (called the “Scootathon”) or the Winter Fair, which is a big hit among parents looking to catch a glimpse of their kids performing. Ben Williams, the school’s publications and marketing associate, says that when the school was renovating its new building, his team posted a series of videos showing off the construction, and was surprised by how popular it proved to be. These kinds of videos give the school a unique identity and help form an online community of fans that are all passionate about the same thing: education and children. Through video, the Brooklyn Waldorf School has been able to show off the experience of the students there, which interests both parents of students and those who are considering it for their children. While Facebook has made it easier to share the experiences that make a business or organization special, but it’s still up to you to think of what that experience is. Your enthusiasm for your business or organization should be fully displayed on your Facebook Page. The same drive that got you involved in the first place can provide you with plenty of passionate posts. And just by showing your own passion, you’re sure to get some in return. How do you show your passion for your business or organization on Facebook? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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Agreed! Finding a way to keep emails unique every time is definitely the best way to get people to keep reading... of course, to get them to open, you still need an exciting subject line. Thanks for reading!
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Businesses that are marketing to other businesses can have a difficult time coming up with the right content for their email newsletters. It’s a little harder to think of articles for email marketing when clients rely on you as a resource for professional advice and services, rather than a source of coupons and giveaways. Offering a discount on your services can be impractical for every email, and “10 Ways to Market Your...” articles only go so far. Without great content, people won’t feel inclined to open an email, much less follow up on a B2B’s services. That can make sending out an engaging newsletter a challenge each time, particularly because people often react quite differently to an email advertising a free sandwich than they do an email advertising your expertise. Quality newsletter content is something that Stephanie Royal, the marketing director for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida (UNF), has been determined to provide her clients. Without a lot of budget to spend and a lot of different interests to highlight, she had to get creative when connecting with subscribers and ended up discovering two key steps to keep people reading: segmenting her contact list and showcasing client businesses. Making a List and Checking It Twice The SBDC at UNF serves one of the larger regions in the state of Florida, covering 18 counties that range from rural areas to big cities like Jacksonville. Most businesses seeking the services of the organization have fewer than 100 employees and, according to Stephanie, “run the gamut of industries.” Last year alone, the SBDC at UNF consulted almost 1,900 businesses and conducted nearly 150 training events that attracted just under 3,000 attendees. When it comes to marketing, Stephanie says she’s a “one-woman show.” Before turning to email marketing, the SBDC at UNF relied on word of mouth recommendations and community boards. When the organization did start marketing, there was a problem from the start: the SBDC’s diverse range of clients. The veteran business center wouldn’t necessarily want the same information as a county commissioner, and SBDC clients in Gainesville weren’t likely to be interested in events in Jacksonville. Stephanie knew that she needed to segment subscribers into different groups, so they would only receive relevant information. Nowadays, the SBDC at UNF has 22 lists for more than 9,000 contacts. To refine the lists throughout the year, she uses Constant Contact’s Online Survey. “We send out three or four surveys a year, because they’re really effective at pinpointing our different readers,” Stephanie explains. The SBDC at UNF uses surveys to better segment its contact list. Stephanie adds that her first newsletter through Constant Contact was a big hit. People enjoyed the professional appearance and that success eventually Stephanie to stop sending newsletters through snail mail completely. “More people started coming to events, too,” she reports. “I don’t think we would get nearly as many attendees if we relied on newspapers and fliers.” The Content Conundrum With the first hurdle of lists cleared, Stephanie started thinking about what to include in her emails. The first few only included information about different events, but, over time, more and more features were included. Inside each “Spotlight Newsletter,” for example, subscribers can find a calendar of workshops and training sessions, articles that discuss taxes, marketing, and business plans, and links to the SBDC at UNF’s social media channels. The most noticeable feature, however, is the spotlight section itself, where, every month, a small business that benefited from the SBDC at UNF’s services is featured. These concise profiles help showcase the different marketing and business planning available through the organization, and put a face to the people who are directly benefiting from it. In addition to the spotlight on small business, there's an in-depth article about an upcoming event. Spotlight stories are inspirational and upbeat, which make them fun and interesting to read each month. While many other B2B emails may have marketing tips and news about workshops, the SBDC at UNF provides real stories about small businesses that are working hard to keep growing, a topic that’s dear to all of their subscribers’ hearts. The section adds a unique touch to each newsletter and, given that studies claim the average working professional receives 140 emails a day, that unique touch may be the difference between an open and an unsubscribe. What other things does your B2B do to engage email subscribers? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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QR codes have proven to be a perpetual experiment for most small businesses and organizations. A recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey found that, while 81% of consumers have seen the codes, 79% aren’t actually familiar with the term ‘QR code.’
Restaurants may include them on menus, some stores may offer check-outs or scans of specials by slapping a code on a package or billboard, but overall, the effectiveness of QR codes is still something that people debate.
So are these computerized ink blots an underground fad, a growing trend, or a flash in the smart-pan? We took the debate to our managing editor, Martin Lieberman, and our senior content developer, Dave Charest.
Why would a business or organization use a QR code?
Martin: A QR code can be great because it's a quick way to get someone to your website, or a specific landing page, without having to give that person a URL.
Dave: See, I think QR codes are just the latest fad. You see a lot of people using them just to use them. That’s not really ideal. What’s the sense in using a QR code to send people to your homepage when you could just give them the web address? Some crazy people think it’s a good idea to use them online. That’s just dumb. Give me a link instead. Don’t make me take out my phone, scan a code and then get to the destination. Like I said: dumb.
The only reason I see for businesses and organizations to use them would be to do something cool or unique. For example, I’ve seen a restaurant have a code at each table that would bring you to their specials menu in case you couldn’t see the board. That’s cool. Or maybe you can use them if you’re going to take people to a secret page with unique content that can’t be found otherwise. You have to make it worthwhile for the person to go through the cumbersome process. Otherwise, it’s best not to use them at all.
Are there potential disadvantages to using QR codes, such as time or budget constraints?
Martin: There aren’t really time or budget constraints, since QR codes are free and take about two seconds to create. I'd say the disadvantages are that not everyone knows what a QR code is or what they're supposed to do when they see one. Any business or organization that chooses to include one in their marketing efforts should include instructions for scanning it (possibly including info about the mobile app needed) and what the person should expect to see when the code is scanned. People will be more apt to scan if they know how and why.
Dave: Like Martin said, I don’t really believe it’s an issue of time or budget. It’s simple to make a QR code and easy to have it printed. The real disadvantage is whether or not your audience is going to use them. But since they’re easy enough to create, if you have something worth sharing, it can be worth a try.
Should all businesses and organizations be using them? How can someone decide whether a QR code campaign is a smart marketing move?
Martin: I don't think everyone needs to be using QR codes just yet. But if you have a hard-to-remember web address, then a QR code might serve you well. Another consideration is whether your website is mobile-friendly. You don't want to use a QR code and send someone to your website on a mobile device if the user experience will be less than optimal. And finally, will the people you want to scan your code have access to the internet? For example, I've seen QR codes included in inflight magazines, and I have no ability to get on a website when I'm thousands of feet in the air.
Dave: You probably can’t decide whether it’s a good marketing move until you use one. Once you experiment with them, you can look at your stats to see if something worth implementing again. I’m all for giving it a go, but I wouldn’t expect it to take you to new marketing heights.
And the bottom line: Are QR codes here to stay? Why or why not?
Martin: I think the jury's still out. Right now, some people are resistant to QR codes for a number of reasons, including the fact that the codes aren’t visually appealing. Or, like Dave, they have super-memories and can remember every URL they come across. [laughs]
I think in the next year or two, as mobile marketing becomes more prevalent, we'll see different versions of QR codes, or technologies that act in similar ways, but are easier to use and more interesting to look at. Microsoft already has a version that's more colorful, and other startups have ones that incorporate a company logo. So I wouldn't close the book on QR codes, or technologies like them, just yet.
Dave: I would happily close the book on QR codes, at least from a consumer use standpoint. In that regard, I’m going to have to say they aren’t here to stay. Sure, there’s a curiosity about them right now, but I don’t see QR codes providing enough value to last. Where I see a lasting use is from a transactional stand-point. If a business is providing coupons to customers, a QR code make the redemption and tracking process pretty painless. That’s where a QR code has some legs, and may just get me to take my phone out.
Are QR codes here to stay or are they a passing fad? Let us know what you think here or on our Facebook Page.
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If you drive just a little ways off Interstate 70 into Glenwood Springs, Colo., you’ll find yourself traveling through a beautiful valley that runs between rugged mountainscapes dotted by hearty trees. This is where the showroom of Strange Imports is nestled, open to any customers who are curious about the store’s rich collection of Eastern Asian furniture, artifacts, and countless other valuables — from antique Turkish olive jars to wheelbarrows and urns. Owner David Dixon started the business nearly 20 years ago, after he took a trip to Asia following high school graduation and developed a passion for Asian antiques and cultures. While Strange Imports (also known as Strange Imports / Eastern Elements) began as a wholesale business, it has slowly grown to accommodate walk-in customers, online retail, and trade shows. The scenic location of the store — and a recently opened branch in Aspen — provides a place for new customers to browse goods, but only if they can find it. To that end, David says that the store has been working on ways to reach out, both online and off. “We’ve been trying Google Adwords, and we upgraded our website so it has a shopping cart feature. We’ve published glossy magazines related to design, and done ads in newspaper and through public radio,” he explains. “But what’s really been great for us is Constant Contact Email Marketing. It’s probably some of the best marketing dollars that we spend.” David estimates that about 20% of Strange Imports’ sales are from its marketing through Constant Contact. And its warehouse-worth of exotic items lend themselves to two keys in Strange Import’s emails: beauty and adventure. When Professional Means Eye-Catching David started using Constant Contact in November 2007. Before that, the store had been using Microsoft Outlook to send emails. However, David decided that he wanted a more professional look for Strange Imports’ messages. Nowadays, if you open a newsletter from the store, it’s bound to be full of pictures of garden statues, hand-woven baskets, and more. Just scrolling through an email feels like taking a quick look through the store itself, whether you’re scanning a collection of Buddha statues for the garden or polished wooden benches for the living room. That’s one of the most distinctive features of the emails: how beautiful they are. Photography has taken a central role in each newsletter. While many photos showcase individual items, others just show off the store itself, or new merchandise being taken off the truck. On the Strange Imports Facebook Page, customers have the option to show off how they’re using the furniture by posting photos to the store’s Facebook Page. The emphasis on visuals means that there are often just as many pictures as there are words in each email, unless David is sharing tidbits about one of his journeys to regions in China, Nepal, and Tibet. Most emails from Strange Imports make a point to showcase the store's unique pieces When David does include stories from his travels, he makes sure to share a little bit about the country, too. “Occasionally, I include a ‘Strange News’ feature, where I share some things I experienced, or about social issues affecting the area,” he says. Some of these reflections are quite detailed, describing both the people and culture of the country. That means they can run a few pages long, so David includes a preview of the article in the newsletter and links to a different page outside of the email. In addition to “Strange News,” David helps keep customers up-to-date by sending newsletters about trade shows he’ll be attending. Sometimes, he’ll bring as many as 500 pieces to display in venues like Kentia Hall in Los Angeles. In this case, emailing wholesale customers and designers can be crucial to making sure that they stop by. “Our biggest challenge is keeping in touch with our customers, especially because they’re all over the country,” David says. Strange Imports has four very different kinds of customers: direct retail, online, design, and wholesale. By segmenting his email contacts into lists, David guarantees that he can stay in touch with all of them, but only send them things that they want to read. Coupons help add another incentive for subscribers to open. Sometimes, there are discounts of up to 50% for people who open an email, which could in part explain the impressive sales that come from Strange Imports’ email marketing. “That’s usually how we get new subscribers,” David explains. “We tell customers that if we have their email, we’ll be able to email them offers and sales, and we include a lot of coupons for shipping for people who order online.” Whatever the reason a subscriber opens a newsletter, it’s clear that you can expect each email from Strange Imports to be just as unique and interesting as the items in the store itself. How do you use email to share how unique your business or organization is? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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Gail Patrick’s Café in Chappaqua, N.Y., had a loyal following, especially since owners Gail and Patrick Filacchione had been running their own catering business for 30 years before opening the restaurant in 2009. Most customers were coming through the door because they had heard about the business from a friend, not because of any direct marketing efforts from the restaurant. Not a bad thing, of course, but the café wanted to start marketing for itself. So in late 2010, they worked with David Fischer, founder of marketing and consulting firm Solutions for Growth, and focused on creating entertaining and engaging email newsletters.
In the beginning, there was one big problem: Patrick and Gail didn’t have any email contacts. Luckily, that only proved to be a temporary setback. With David’s help, Gail Patrick’s Café went from having no contacts to almost 850 a year later, and launching email campaigns that increased sales by about 10%. Not bad, considering the café launched the first campaign in late November 2010.
Email Marketing for the New Year
Since Gail Patrick’s Café has been involved in email marketing for just over a year, we thought the café’s strategies this year could help small businesses and organizations that are thinking about marketing programs for 2012.
David says that if you’re just starting off with email marketing, or looking to make it more effective, one thing above all others is crucial: “Businesses have to have a plan. As long as they have one and stick to it, they’re likely to see sales improve,” he explains. Solutions for Growth helps organizations with the hardest part: consistency. “Businesses don’t often have the capacity to maintain a schedule and don’t have the time to create email campaigns, so that’s where we come in.”
Building a Contact List with a Lucky Draw
Gail Patrick’s Café may have solid email campaigns in place now, but that’s not what it looked like last year. So, let’s turn back time and follow the business from day one.
First, David and Patrick brainstormed ways to encourage customers to give email addresses without being overbearing, and settled on a raffle that continues today. “Every month, people just fill out a little slip of paper with their names and email addresses, and they’re entered into a raffle that can win them a free lunch for two on a weekly basis,” David explains. Patrick adds that the deposit box itself has a “Join our mailing list!” sign, so people will expect to start receiving emails from the café.
The next step was trickier – figuring out what would be in each monthly newsletter. After all, people would probably open one email from Gail Patrick’s Café to see what’s inside but, if the newsletter didn’t entice or engage them, there was a risk that they would unsubscribe.
Patrick and David designed an editorial calendar for the newsletter content and, ultimately, decided that variety would be best. Subscribers can find everything from news about local events to articles about different types of food. However, there’s always one definitive reason for readers to open the email: a coupon.
David says that coupons are fundamental to his email marketing “litmus test.” “Everything you write in a newsletter has to answer one question: ‘What’s in it for the reader?’”
Coupons keep people opening emails and content keeps them engaged. Sometimes, the content relates to the offers. If there’s an article about frozen yogurt, for example, you may just find a coupon for that same dessert when you look at the bottom of the newsletter.
This coupon was attached to an August 2011 newsletter.
Frozen Yogurt that Heats up Sales
In fact, there’s some power behind initiatives like the frozen yogurt email campaign. As a solution provider, David keeps careful track of each and every email that the café sends. “In August, we sent out a newsletter about frozen yogurt, with a coupon attached, so that if someone bought one frozen yogurt or ice cream, they got another free,” he says. “About 650 people received the email. Just over 50 people came to the café to redeem their coupon, and most of them bought other things, too.”
The café saw a 10% increase in sales that David says is a direct result from the email newsletter. Other campaigns with coupons have had similar results. What can be learned from Gail Patrick’s Café is that, when a business starts a marketing campaign, it can be best to use the resources it already has, whatever they may be. The café started with no online contacts, but used free lunches to get in touch with people outside the store, and ice cream to keep them coming back — and encourage them to to their friends, too.
“The important part for businesses to realize is that getting an email address and keeping that subscriber engaged is worth a lot more than a free lunch,” David says. “And getting more people into the store is worth more than a scoop of ice cream.”
What do you use to build your list and bring in more customers? Tell us here or on our Facebook Page.
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With 2011 almost behind us, it’s time to start thinking about the next year. In the world of online marketing, the past 12 months have been a rollercoaster ride for small businesses and organizations. People are looking for new ways to market content, social media, mobile platforms, and causes, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing new on the horizon, either. That’s why we decided to ask managing editor Martin Lieberman and senior content developer Dave Charest what they thought would be the big thing that small businesses should focus on next year. So tell us, what’s going to be the top strategy for online marketing next year? Martin: Social media. Yes, I know we were saying that all year long in 2011, but next year will be the time to get serious about it. It won't just be about building a large following or including share buttons and "Follow us" icons in your emails. In 2012, businesses and organizations will have to figure out what they actually do with their fans and followers, and how to use those connections to drive real results — not just conversations. Dave: I’d have to disagree. Next year, the year after that, and the year after that, online or not, the answer is positively, absolutely strategic alliances. How’s that for definitive? Why? Martin: In a tough economy, we all want to do more with less. Dave's right, one way to do that is with partnerships. But I think the best strategic alliance you can create is one with your loyal customers, clients, and supporters — people who are already using social media. They’re the most reliable marketing asset you have. The goal for 2012 will be to focus on great interactions and experiences, so you can give your contacts great things to talk about and make them your marketing partner. Social media will be the tool for all of this. Dave: Before I get to the why, let me define a strategic alliance just so we’re all on the same page. Essentially, a strategic alliance is when two or more businesses come together to help each other achieve goals. Why is a strategic alliance so important? Because you’ll be able to supercharge your results. Let’s say you’ve started a blog to help support your business. Great idea, right? Except it’s not much good if no one reads it. So there’s all this work you need to do to build an audience for your blog. You could do it alone, but it’d take you a long time. Or you could cut down that time by reaching out to other bloggers who already have a large audience. How can you help with the work they’re doing? Perhaps you can create a special report for their audience or guest post on their blog. This immediately gives your blog a jumpstart, because you’ll reach a larger audience who all have the potential of becoming readers of your own blog. Martin’s right; you want to get more social. But that’s only part of the story. Being social without goals and direction is simply a waste of your precious time. It may make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it may not help move your business forward. How can businesses and organizations start focusing on this strategy? Martin: Like Dave said, you should have a plan and a goal in mind when you start ramping up social efforts. What is going to be the result of your social media activity? Will you use it to drive more sales, communicate your expertise, or something else? Success starts with a goal. When you know what you want to accomplish, the plan for how you will get there will be easier. Dave: Focusing on strategic partnerships all starts with identifying the people you’ll want to develop relationships with. It also helps to break it down into three buckets: peers, pros, and patrons. Peers are the people at the same level as you. It’s great to develop these relationships and help each other out as you move up the ranks. Pros are the people at the next level. Relationships here have the potential to move your business up to that level as well. Finally, there are your patrons. These are the people who become potential customers, the ones Martin refers to. To form a relationship with your patrons, become a resource for them, so you’re the trusted source when they’re looking for what you offer. Start making lists and then listen and observe to all of these people. Figure out where you can best fit in and nurture those relationships. What’s going to be the most important tool for businesses and organizations taking this approach? Martin: Obviously, the social media sites… but I'd say Facebook in particular. That's where much of the word-of mouth activity is happening these days. And of course, email marketing will be important, too, because you'll use that to drive people to your Facebook Page. Dave: I’m a big fan of Twitter as a way to monitor the three groups I mentioned, because using lists is a good way to monitor the conversation and Tweeting is an easy way to have first contact with potential alliances. Is the strategy going to differ for B2B, nonprofit, and B2C organizations? Martin: The end goal of your social activity may be different, but the things you’re using for results, and the way to get there, should ultimately be the same for everyone. Dave: I don’t think so. The people they’re trying to reach may be different, but the way to go about it essentially remains the same — at least from an online perspective. What do you think is going to be one of the big online marketing strategies next year? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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Last week on this blog, we touched on some of the finer points of content marketing, focusing on content curation and using your unique expertise to come up with engaging content. This week, let’s dive a little deeper and assume that you have time to sit down at the computer, flex your fingers, and actually create new content. Of course, that’s when it’s a natural time to get stuck — oh, how ironic that you’ve actually set aside a block of time to focus on content marketing and found that you can’t actually think of anything! So, how do you come up with ideas consistently? And once you have an idea, how do you represent it? Content Marketer’s Block When creating content for the online arena, remember that being concise is key. If you don’t have a topic to write about and start rattling away on the keyboard in hopes of summoning inspiration from sheer kinetic energy, the results can be sleep-inducing at best. The trick is to find inspiration first, because inspiration will serve as momentum. Martin Lieberman, the managing editor at Constant Contact, explained in a recent post here about blogs that he has a system worked out: He jots down every idea that comes to him on a list next to his keyboard. That way, when it’s time to write, he already has plenty of material to choose from. Another way to find inspiration is to use Google News to search for topics related to your industry, or use Twitter to see what people are discussing. Alternatively, you could think about subjects that most concern your customers —healthy holiday eating, environmental road cleanup, gift ideas, organizational tips, tax preparation shortcuts, cleaning up after pets, and so on. That brings up the other problem. Once you have the idea, how do you deliver it so that it’s fun, engaging, and shareable? Check this Out! In the first part of this series, we talked about how important it is to evoke the “Check this out!” moment with anything you create. Businesses and organizations can only benefit from people sharing that content. Whenever you’re making something new, just ask yourself: “Would I ever share this with a friend?” To increase the chances of a "yes,” just remember: Creativity, originality, and fun count for something, but great content marketing engages people so much that the marketing message becomes fun, whatever the subject. Just take the example of the Belmore Court & Motel in Enniskillen, Ireland. Owner Terry McCartney explains that the establishment won the Best Online Strategy Award at Digital Advertising Northern Ireland (DANI). He points to one video in particular that helped boost the hotel to the top: a clip that shows a very special tour of the property, conducted by none other than Lewis McCartney, Terry’s 8-year-old son. The video, which follows Lewis as he remarks on the Belmore Court & Motel’s “lovely” bedrooms and “lovely wee balconies,” proved to be a hit. The clip has been shared through all sorts of social media channels, earning thousands of views since its debut last fall. The popularity of the video highlights the fact that the way an idea is delivered matters just as much as the idea itself. Let’s face it: There are plenty of video tours of hotel rooms, but how many are hosted by a hospitable eight-year-old? Content marketing, in the end, is about giving value to viewers and readers, but knowing that similar information is just a quick Google search away. The “Check this out!” moment will always be the thing that sets you apart so that people read, react, view, or engage with your content. What do you do to make your content special? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Last week, we asked on our Facebook Page what you would give to a small business this holiday season, and we were overwhelmed by the response. A lot of the answers resonated with us, so we wanted to take the time to share them here on our blog.
There are a lot of things on the small businesses wish list this year. Some items, like revised tax codes and health insurance, are out of our control. But others are not. At least not entirely. So we took four of the most popular gift ideas and tried our best to suggest small ways that we can help make these wishes come true.
If you could give a gift to small businesses this holiday season, it would be…
– Kathleen Witham Fleming
Online marketing has become a big focus for small businesses lately. In our Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlook Survey, we learned that 98% of small businesses use a website, 95% use email marketing, and 68% use online advertising.
We know that marketing can be tough when you have no time to learn, but there are some steps you can take that can help. Try watching one of our webinars, or try a more hands-on approach by taking a boot camp course. Interested in a more holistic approach that covers everything from social media to event marketing? We’ve got local experts in regions across the United States and Canada who teach free seminars about online marketing.
2. Customers Who Shop Local
– Glenna Johannessen
Small businesses know that getting customers to shop locally is all about providing an experience that lasts. But how do you advertise that experience to people who don’t pass by the store every day? Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful tool in the small biz arsenal, and that means that loyal customers are the best source of new customers.
The good news, as demonstrated by the recent Small Business Saturday, is that people want to shop local. Now you just have to get them to your business. Just taking the time to make a Facebook Page or sending out an email newsletter once can do wonders in reaching out to both current and prospective customer with news and special offers. If you use both, don’t forget to post the newsletter to your Facebook Page, which can make it easier to keep the page fresh and engaging.
– Annette Basso
Establishing a strong professional network is a key to growing business, but what if you don’t have time to hit the road for every industry conference in every state? Well, social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter have proven to be strong resources for B2B organizations: 91% of B2B marketers use Twitter to connect to industry peers, and LinkedIn is said to be the best social media site for leads.
LinkedIn and Twitter aren't the only places to network with your peers. Constant Contact's own Community is also a place where you can connect with other small businesses, compare notes, ask questions and get answers, have your email messages critiqued by other people just like you.
4. Social Media Training
– Vena Hinchman Holden
Our Fall 2011 Attitudes & Outlook Survey also found that 81% of small businesses now use social media, up from 73% this spring. But that doesn’t mean every shop has started to actively tweet and post every day. Social media is still a new frontier for businesses, and can seem like just another item on an already crowded plate.
So how do you help with social media training when no one has time to spare? Well, we recommend Social Media Quickstarter, our guide on how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, QR codes, and much more. We also have webinars that will teach you how to grow with social media, and plenty of other resources as well.
How else can small businesses get help with these "big-ticket" items? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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This week, Facebook and Twitter both released new features, though in the case of Facebook, it was in a limited release. Mark Zuckerberg finally let his site's highly anticipated Timeline feature loose... but only in New Zealand. Meanwhile, Twitter's new features seem to acknowledge that hashtags and constant @ing have made the social network less than intuitive for newcomers. New Twitter brand pages aim to make the site more attractive for businesses and organizations. End-of-the-year predictions are also starting to emerge, with people pointing at cause marketing in particular as an emerging trend that could explode in 2012. It seems people like to shop at businesses that do good things for the community ... Imagine that! We cover these stories and more in this week’s breakdown of hot news topics. 1. Twitter Makes Tweeting Easier This week, the social network announced a major overhaul of its interface across all platforms. New features include a homepage timeline, an improved way to see relevant tweets, and an easier way to find and use hashtags. Twitter also introduced brand pages, so businesses and organizations can have a stronger presence on the site. Bottom Line: Twitter has already proven to be a popular way for businesses and organizations to better connect with customers; no wonder 76% of small businesses now say they use the social network. But now it seems that the goal is to simplify and streamline that process. A new interface means that Twitter will be more accessible than ever before, to both customers and organizations. 2. 94% of Respondents Take Cause Marketing into Account Cause marketing is when a brand supports a good cause or a social issue through a product, service, or endorsement. Cone Communications has been measuring the value of this strategy since 1993, and has found that its popularity is at an all-time high — 94% of those surveyed said they would choose a brand that supports a social issue over a competitor who had a product that was equal in quality and price. Bottom Line: Cause marketing is a great way to improve business and help the community. It doesn’t have to complicated, either: An organization can provide a gift card to customers who donate to a charity or donate a dollar for every product purchased. 3. Amazon.com Releases Controversial Price Check App Amazon.com has released a new free app for iPhones and Android devices called “Price Check,” which guarantees shoppers a $5 discount off most products from a brick-and-mortar store. While the online retailer says the app facilitates “price transparency,” the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Alliance for Main Street Fairness are labeling the app a big threat to small businesses. Bottom Line: The Price Check App could hurt sales at non-virtual stores, but Fortune estimates that the hardest-hit businesses will actually be large chain stores like Walmart and Target. Those kinds of stores will always compete on price. Small businesses offer something that online retailers can't: Better customer service, expertise, and more personal relationships. In this competitive shopping season (and always!), that's the advantage that will make all the difference. 4. Yelp Helps Small Businesses Go Mobile Yelp has updated the features of its free mobile app so that business owners can create new pages on the go. The app also allows businesses and organizations to change hours of operation, address, categories, and upload photos right from their smartphone. Bottom Line: More than 80% of Americans are influenced by online customer reviews. Many of those reviews can be found on Yelp, so coupling an engaging and helpful Yelp page with favorable reviews is becoming more and more important. 5. New Zealand Gets an Exclusive “Timeline” There was a lot of buzz in late September when Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook's new “Timeline” feature. Described as a virtual scrapbook of a person’s life, the feature enthused some and horrified others. But no one could have expected the holdup before it was rolled out to Facebook's 800 million users. That is, except for the 1 million Facebookers in New Zealand, who got exclusive early access to the feature this week. No one is quite sure what’s behind the general delay, but a glance at the comments on Facebook's “Timeline” blog post can give some hints. Bottom Line: Timeline could be the feature that never was. In fact, Facebook was sued for introducing it in the first place. Right now, it may be better to be aware of the addition, but not actively following the developments; the final product could look and function much differently than the New Zealand prototype. What news topics caught your eye this week? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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The term "content marketing" has been getting popular in recent years, but whenever I hear people talking about it, I think of men in white lab coats, carefully growing "content" out of glistening vials in some sterile lab. That highlights what I believe is one of the biggest problems with the trend: the phrase itself.
If I was in charge, I’d probably change the artificial-sounding "content marketing" to something organic, like "good stuff marketing." After all, that’s what it’s about — giving customers, clients, members, supporters, and prospects good stuff to share. “Stuff" like photos, articles, news stories, blog posts, pictures, videos, surveys, games, quizzes, and online scavenger hunts ... basically, anything that encourages people to have that “Check this out!” moment. Think of YouTube phenomena like "Surprised Kitty." Not a whole lot of marketing budget there to be sure, and yet the video has more than 57,000,000 views, thanks to so many people having a “Check this out!” moment.
A shared experience is still the leading way to market through social media. Content marketing is about how to create that experience.
Time v. Content
It probably comes as no surprise that businesses and organizations don’t have a lot of time for content marketing. Almost three-quarters of respondents to a 2011 HiveFire Survey said that creating original content and having the time to do it were big challenges.
One solution that we’ve advocated before is content curation, where you "collect" and share someone else's content. As the HiveFire survey explains, "If the marketing world had a Grammy award, content curation would be this year’s Best New Artist."
John Rife, the founder of Winter Park Harvest Festival, is a content curation convert. Last year, he was part of a four-person team trying to organize a farmer’s market for 3,000 attendees. “It was getting really draining to try and come up with original content for social media,” he explains. “So we just started spotlighting vendors with a paragraph and a picture, or posting news items about the local food industry.”
What he found was that “bite-size” content often got the highest page views and shares on the festival’s Facebook Page too, which seemed to indicate that people weren’t looking for the whole story so much as Winter Park Harvest Festival’s take on the subject.
Lending Your Expertise to the Discussion
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep in mind that every business and organization has one advantage: industry expertise. Customers and clients are looking to your social media channels and your email newsletters for news and advice specific to that industry. If you’re an expert in the field like financial planner David Lewis, founder of Resource Advisory Services, you can step into the ring by sharing news stories or other people's blog posts, with a brief intro that includes your personal comments about the item you share.
If you know the things that are close to your audience’s heart, you could send emails like David Dixon, the founder of Strange Imports / Eastern Elements, an import store in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Every so often, he includes a “Strange News” section, which covers issues facing the world or sometimes just shows subscribers photos of the places that he’s traveled, from Nepal to China.
An editorial calendar never hurts, either. Virginia Berracasa, the communications and admissions officer of the San Diego French-American School in California, says that the communications team gets together once every two weeks to tackle content marketing. “We draft a dashboard of stories to include in our newsletters based on what’s happening at the school, whether it’s a field trip, a public lecture, student volunteer projects, or anything else about campus life,” she explains.
The trick is to maintain a balance between original content and curated content. You want your expertise and voice to shine through each Facebook post, tweet, and email newsletter so that customers, fans, and prospects understand what the organization is about, while learning something new at the same time.
Creating a series of articles is another sure way to keep people engaged. Speaking of which, are you having trouble coming up with ideas consistently? Want to know how to make your own version of “Surprised Kitty?” Come back next week, for "Content Marketing: It’s That Easy! (Part 2)."
How do you market your business or organization’s ‘good stuff?’ Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
Photo Credit: Search Engine People Blog
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A lot of parents have been there before: You’re at the park, the kids are playing tag with some other children, and you meet the other moms and dads who are watching over the scampering pack, making sure no one takes a spill on the slide, or a dive on the monkey bars. When it’s time to go home, you may even exchange numbers with other parents so that the kids can get together again. But, more often than not, those calls are never made.
That’s what inspired Lisa Smith, who lives in the Harlem section of New York City, to think of other ways for families to get together. “I kept meeting mothers at local parks and we would exchange numbers or something, but we never ended up getting together,” she explains. She started an organization called Chase’s House to change all of that.
There was just one problem: “I’m a team of one,” Lisa says. “I basically run a community building out of my house. I have a full-time job and I don’t have any funding — no grants and no loans.”
A playdate doesn’t generally need volunteers or planning or careful budgeting, but Chase’s House activities became so popular so quickly that some started to attract up to 200 families. Since the organization was founded last summer, Lisa estimates the playdates have seen a 300% increase in attendance. That meant Lisa had to find a way to keep everyone on the same page, and fast.
A Community through Playdates
Chase’s House is named for Lisa’s young son, Chase. It isn’t an easy nonprofit to categorize. At its heart, the organization is a playdate planner, a way for children to get together once a month and enjoy activities that often have an educational slant. Events are free and open to everyone. The kids eat, learn, and play together in spots throughout the New York City area.
The organization has a deeper goal, too: community. Lisa makes sure that the events promote values that strengthen family and neighborhood bonds. “For me, Chase’s House was an official way of connecting with people by promising that we would get together,” Lisa said.
The explosive popularity of the program shows that Lisa wasn’t the only one looking for this mix of fun, and family. Chase’s House now helps bring together parents who are looking to meet other parents, and help their children (usually aged 2–7) make new friends. Nowadays, Lisa estimates that 200 families from New York City, Connecticut, and New Jersey come to the activities every month. There’s always something exciting waiting for the kids, whether that’s a trip to a petting zoo, an end-of-summer celebration in a park, or a spooky Halloween party.
As more and more families became interested in Chase’s House, it became increasingly difficult for Lisa to keep everyone connected and up-do-date. Keeping in touch with parents is easy when you’re hosting a playdate for two and the other family is just a phone call away, but when you’re hosting dozens of kids, things get a little more difficult.
Keeping It All Together
Playdates are unruly enough, but keeping track of everyone who comes, or who wants to come can be just as chaotic. Lisa needed a way to tell families about each occasion, so she turned to Email Marketing. “Constant Contact has been a resource, when I have no resources,” she explains. “It enables me to store all of my contacts and all my information in one place.”
She primarily uses the software to send out invitations to playdates and, in April, decided to complement her emails with Event Marketing. “It had been a nightmare to keep track of who was coming. I was trying to use the website, manually go through all of the emails, and use spreadsheets to keep track of who accepted and who declined.”
An invitation to the Chase's House Halloween Party - 210 people registered online.
Now, Lisa can print out a list of the responses that are automatically generated from the event marketing tool, then use those to check people in. “Just being able to have professional-looking emails and registration pages makes it look like I have a whole marketing team at my back,” she says.
Lisa’s first hurdle of getting everyone to register and connect has been cleared — more than 200 people registered for year's Halloween party at Chase’s House. The challenge for her now is figuring out what to do with them all!
What has Email Marketing and Event Marketing helped you organize? Tell us here or on our Facebook Page
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Thanks for reading! Blogs that are useful to your audience have the added bonus of having a high chance of being useful to your audience's audience, which means more sharing. I've always thought that a blog is kind of like a private newspaper. There can be articles current events, opinion, culture, and even industry gossip all in one format and written with the unique perspective of your business or organization.
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Yesterday, we featured the blogs of two businesses that had seen significant results that were driven in part by their engaging posts. Highlighting a successful blog or two is one thing, but writing one is something else entirely. However, yesterday’s post did show that, if done right, blogging for your business or organization can be fun and productive.
The real challenge is to find out just what makes a professional blog tick. Beginning one can seem like a daunting task — the published post is visible to the world and some businesses and organizations may worry that they have nothing to write about. That’s why we took the conversation to two veteran bloggers: our senior content developer Dave Charest and managing editor Martin Lieberman.
If you had to sum it up in one word, what’s the key to an engaging blog?
Martin: One word?? Ha ha ha. One of the points of a blog — unlike, say, Twitter — is that you don't have to be brief. But I'll play along: I'd say authenticity.
Dave: Creating useful content is the simplest way to make sure people engage with your blog. Useful can mean different things to different people, so it’s important you know your audience and provide content they connect with.
Martin: I would argue that one of the most important aspects of a blog is that it’s a way to share your views and expertise, and express your business or organization's personality. That’s why authenticity should be the top priority. What you post on your blog is as important as how you write it. Your posts should give some insight, even if it's not overt, into who you are.
What common mistakes do you see when businesses and organizations start a blog?
Dave: The main one is that they focus only on themselves, rather than the audience. That leads to writing posts that the reader doesn’t find useful (there’s that word again). Focus on helping your readers or providing them with something they’ll find entertaining. When you shift the focus to the reader, everything else will become a lot easier.
Martin: I’d take that a step back. Keeping a narrow focus isn’t even a problem when companies are reluctant to write anything at all. A really common mistake is hesitation. Businesses and organizations think they have to write all the content themselves, or that every post has to be some kind of novel on solving the world's problems. Blog posts can be casual. Every business or organization has "friends" who would love to contribute, either on a one-off or a regular basis. Or, you can use a video as a blog post, with a short introduction. Same with an article or blog post written by someone else that you find interesting. Just weigh in on the article on your blog, then link to it.
What do you think the ideal schedule is for blog posts? Is it the same for everyone?
Dave: The ideal schedule is to have one and commit to it. It’s not the same for everyone, so you just need to choose a schedule that works for you. It could be once a month, once a week or every day. Whatever it is, it’s consistency that matters. Choose something you can manage and stick to it.
Martin: One of my favorite speaker-author-pundits is Scott Stratten. I like how he answers this question: Write when you have something to say, not to fill a schedule. Of course, for some folks, that could mean a very inactive blog. Like Dave says, you need to find your own schedule and stick to it, so you can get people in the habit of checking what's new on a regular basis. I'd say once a week is ideal, but I know not every business or organization can support that.
A lot of people have trouble writing about their own business or organization. What do you personally do to break blogger’s block?
Dave: The trick for me is not writing about my own business. I focus on what the reader gets from what I’m writing. It becomes easier then, because you’re out of your own head.
Martin: Well, I’ll be less artsy and abstract than Dave, but I basically agree: Bloggers shouldn't be writing about themselves. They should be writing about topics that will benefit readers. I keep a running list of blog post ideas by my keyboard. Every time I get an idea — whether by reading another website, sitting in a meeting, listening to a song on the radio, or speaking to a colleague — I jot it down. Businesses and organizations could try keeping a similar list by the cash register, the host stand, the phone, or some other place where staff come in contact with people, and write down the questions that are being asked. Those questions are all great sources of inspiration for blog posts.
How do you keep readers coming back for more?
Dave: Technically, you can create a series of posts around one topic so people anticipate the next installment. But I’m bringing back the word I used at the start of this discussion: useful. That’s the trick on the most basic level. If what you’re creating is useful, people will come back.
Martin: You write good blog posts. It's just that simple — although I realize it's easy for a writer like me to say that. If your posts help people and are not just self-promotional, then people will come back for more, and may even share your blog posts with other people.
What do you think makes a blog stand out? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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With businesses and organizations struggling to understand more hyped social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, blogs often get left behind, but they're no less important. Blogs are a chance to communicate a company’s message, and to show a little more personality than a corporate Facebook Page or Twitter handle allows.
Each blog post shows what makes your business or organization unique and endearing. If you’re a bakery, a Facebook post and a Tweet about a new recipe is all well and good, but a blog post about your experience making that recipe, and photos of the end product (be it cookies or a cake) will prove to be far more endearing.
That’s why many small businesses with active blogs have used social media and email marketing to drive people to those blogs. Today, we take a look at two organizations that do just that — a consulting group for nonprofits and a financial services firm.
Mark Simon, Storywalkers Consulting Group
Two prospective clients from a weekly blog post
Mark Simon specializes in conversations, especially the uncomfortable ones. That’s his job as the founder of Storywalkers Consulting Group — helping nonprofits broach provocative topics in a safe space. The biggest issue he faces when it comes to growing his business is to show the value of the service.
“Conversation is a hard commodity to sell,” he explains. To help that cause, Mark decided to begin a blog four months ago, which he called Giving and Gathering. Today, that blog has grown into a personal and professional outlet that helps Mark discuss the experiences he has during work and life and, most importantly, shows his perspective on the everyday issues that Storywalkers Consulting Group works to solve.
“The blog has really become a breakthrough for me,” he says. Mark has managed to keep a disciplined schedule of one blog post a week and is starting to see some results from that hard work: right now, he’s talking with two prospective clients who became interested in his consulting after reading the blog.
The weekly blog posts, along with occasional email newsletters, have become the backbone of the content used on Storywalkers' Facebook Page and Twitter account, so Mark always has plenty to share with his followers and fans. In fact, some of his posts are now getting upwards of 20 Likes, which is spreading the Storywalkers message farther and wider than ever before.
David Lewis, Resource Advisory Services
An engaging website doubles the number of new clients for one financial services firm
When you ask financial planner David Lewis, the founder of Resource Advisory Services, what has made his business boom in recent years, he has one answer: his blog.
“About 60% of the new clients I meet with nowadays say something like, ‘We’ve been reading your website and it sounds like you’re the advisor we need,’” he says. David started his blog in 2008 with that exact goal in mind. “I felt like I had something to say and I wanted to say it in the tone and culture of my business, to show what kind of firm we are."
David began driving more traffic to his blog by using channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and email newsletters. “Email newsletters were definitely a cornerstone of the whole thing,” he recalls. Almost 50% of the people that click through a Resource Advisory Services newsletter go to the blog. “We wanted to use our newsletters as a way to deliver the blog post to the clients that we were already serving.” Since putting more of the spotlight on the blog, the number of new clients seeking advice from the firm has doubled, jumping to around 20 this year, up from 10 a year ago or two ago.
David says he only posts to his blog when he feels that he has a significant perspective on a specific topic. The posts are long, in-depth, and informative, appearing on a bi-monthly basis. He believes that frequency isn’t nearly as important as quality, and a strong, comprehensive post guarantees lasting power. So, while David’s clients may not always need his financial advice, it’s always available when they do — whether they read the Resource Advisory Services newsletter, Facebook Page, or website.
How has your company used a blog to make business more personal? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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As the last of the leaves fall and temperatures in many parts of the country drop, we thought it would be nice to highlight a business that can make anywhere feel like the middle of summer. Maas Nursery has been in the Maas family since 1951, when Cristina Batz’s grandparents first founded the business. The nursery is located in the Houston area, but is well outside of the city. So, while Maas Nursery is recognized as one of the top residential landscaping services in the region, Cristina admits that even beauty needs a little bit of marketing. “We don’t get a lot of drive-by traffic, so we had to make an environment that’s worth visiting," Cristina explains. “People will drive two hours to see our garden.” The nursery sports a beautiful, 15-acre landscape of rare flowers studded with fountains and antiques, making a visit to the store a unique and memorable experience. For the past few years, Cristina has worked hard to further improve that experience by marketing things online. She says that going digital has helped Maas Nursery power through tough times. Last year, sales grew by 30% and have remained strong ever since. The key, Cristina believes, is to make the nursery not just a business, but a gathering spot, a community, and a resource for veteran landscapers and amateur gardeners alike, whether they're at the store or at home. A Flowering Online Strategy It all started with an email newsletter. “When I first got pregnant, I kept telling my parents that they really needed a newsletter. So, I researched the options,” Cristina says. She chose Constant Contact’s email marketing tool and uploaded the nursery’s 200 contacts, sending out the first issue in July 2009. From there, she started asking customers if they wanted to be included on the list. “If you want to grow your newsletter, you have to always remember to ask customers in the store if they want to be emailed,” she says. The simple strategy seems to have worked — Maas Nursery’s mailing list has grown to nearly 2,500 subscribers. The popularity may be because the monthly newsletter contains much more than just colorful coupons. In addition to pictures of some of the nursery’s latest blossoms, each issue features in-depth articles about organic gardening, seasonal news, watering and landscaping, and even the occasional Q&A section. Cristina says the nursery also sends out emails whenever there’s a severe ice storm or hurricane that could damage plants, with advice on how to protect them. The overarching goal is to give subscribers not just one, but many reasons to open each issue. Nearly 50% of subscribers do so each month, a rate that speaks volumes about the nursery’s dedicated customers and the value that each mailing offers. One look at the newsletter's table of contents shows that there's something for everyone. Keeping Sales Blooming through Workshops Sales at Maas Nursery are strong, but the nursery faces a lot of competition. And in this economy, no growth is certain. The email newsletters proved to be a success, but one big question remained: How could Cristina keep people coming to the store itself? One way was to use social media; she created a Facebook Page that now has more than 625 Likes, and a Twitter handle. Then, in January, Cristina decided to start hosting regular gardening classes. “We wanted to create a real gardening community for both our customers and people who have never been to the nursery before,” she explains. The registration page for one of Maas Nursery's popular gardening classes. The topics of each workshop are diverse, with classes about everything from herbs to roses to cacti and lawn care — with some sessions attracting upwards of 50 people. Each class costs $40, and Cristina says that attendees receive around $60 worth of gardening supplies. At first glance, those numbers may not seem to add up too favorably for the nursery, but it’s part of a bigger strategy. “When people get into the nursery and know how to use everything, they’re more likely to buy from us while they’re there,” Cristina says. “In fact, sales go up by a third every weekend we have a gardening class.” In just two years, Maas Nursery has gone from a nursery with little marketing and no online presence to a tech-savvy business where customers have become members of a community. And, with so many more people learning about gardening this year, next spring is sure to be a beautiful season. What creative steps have you taken to grab customer attention online? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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Here at Constant Contact, we’re getting really excited about Thanksgiving. This holiday is a truly special one, because it’s not just about the pies, or the turkey, or the stuffing — it’s about taking a moment to step back from the rush to appreciate friends and family, and be grateful for what we have. With the holiday only a couple days away, we asked a few of our customers, as well as our Facebook fans, to share their thoughts about what they're thankful for this year. Here’s what they told us: “First of all, I am thankful for an ever-increasing number of people who will put their feet under my table on Thanksgiving Day as our family continues to grow with a son and his growing family. Second of all, I’m thankful for the chance to live in a country where there is opportunity to use my talents and skills to grow my business and experience the American dream. Included with that is thankfulness for people with a vision of how technology can be used effectively for small business owners like me at companies like Constant Contact and Pixibility. May everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving.” — Matt Davidson & Glen Allen, LOGO Dynamics “I’m thankful that our world is becoming more progressive and open-minded to those of us who are different.” — Kyle Anderson, via Facebook "Not everyone can wake up every day excited about the work ahead. Thanks to our wonderful clients, we can specialize in what we love: Constant Contact, writing, training, and consulting." — Maureen Dudley, Dudley & Nunez Communications “I am thankful for my friends and family, and for the technology that makes it possible for us to always be just a click apart!” — Brenda Pendergraft, via Facebook “I am thankful to be working in a rewarding profession where I can positively impact the lives of others by helping them find satisfying employment. As a bonus, I am very thankful for being successfully self-employed, which allows me to sleep until 8:00 a.m. and commute from my kitchen to my office in under 10 seconds.” — Terry Pile, Career Advisors “I am thankful to live in a country where free enterprise and those who think different than the masses are encouraged. I’m sure many forget how good we really do have it here. Thankful to be in the U.S.!” — Tina Nixon-Brown, via Facebook “I'm thankful for the fantastic customers of 99 Bottles who share a passion for beer and who enjoy taking their tastebuds on beer adventures. For friends and family who listen, laugh, and allow their jaws to drop upon hearing my tales of what it's like to operate a small retail business. For our wholesalers who attain limited-release and everyday beers, helping us share the beer love. And for the breweries and brewers for making beer that tastes so darn good. 99 Bottles loves you all. For each of you, we are thankful.” — Tiffany Adamowski, 99 Bottles “I am thankful because owning a business gives me the chance to share in so many of my customers’ lives and some off their real heartache. It makes me grateful for everything — small business problems and all.” — Carol Borgess-Griifin, via Facebook “I'm most thankful for the good health of my immediate family. I'm grateful for the amicable relationship I have with my ex-husband. I'm thankful to have an interesting job that challenges and stimulates me. And I'm very thankful for supportive, entertaining, and wine-drinking girlfriends!” — Felicity Britton, Wild Rumpus Books “I'm thankful that God is part of my life. I'm thankful for family and for the new baby that arrived this year. And I am thankful for all the good friends who have enriched my life. It’s all good.” — Loretta Reith Menard, via Facebook “On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the experience of well-being, and to see it expressed through humor and warmth with my wife and three boys. I am grateful that my work allows me to bring the crucial voices and powerful stories of others out into the world. And I am grateful to watch the leaves offer their multitudes of colors, reminding me that transformation is inevitable." — Mark Simon, Story Walkers Consulting Group "I am thankful for family and friends, of course, but I am also very grateful for each of my clients in our small business. Without them, we could be in the ranks of the unemployed with so many others. Being your own boss is hard work, but it's worth it!" — Leslie Jordan Stone, via Facebook "This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the simple things that make life sweet: time with family, great food and wine, a warm house, a fun job, a vacation plan, good smelling candles, a happy kid, a loyal dog, a husband who still makes me laugh, and the occasional night out without them." — Jennifer Goulart Amero, Serenitee Restaurant Group "I'm thankful that my four children and some of their significant others will be visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday. Love to see them and spend time with them." — Jim Dubinsky, Monkey House Concerts What are you thankful for? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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It's true! I'm still a big fan of paper books myself -- even though everyone is saying that e-books are the wave of the future, I think people often overlook the experience of reading something together, which is something that Wild Rumpus Books emphasizes so well. Thanks for reading!
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The worldwide headquarters and distribution center of Cynthia Berman's D-Lux 57 fashion aprons is the living room in her Los Angeles home. That means that she doesn’t have a whole lot of time for any kind of advertising, and she cuts her overhead costs as much as possible. Last March, email marketing was dropped from that list. “I hadn’t used it for a while, and wasn’t really sending newsletters every month, so I decided to stop using it until I figured out what I was actually doing with it,” Cynthia says. This month, Cynthia returned to email in a big way. She coupled two issues of her newsletter with Facebook posts, and in the process, gained 200 new "Likes," higher user engagement, and most important, more sales. D-Lux 57's email campaign promoted an apron giveaway through Facebook & newsletters. The Summer of Social Email It all started last summer, when Cynthia decided to attend a workshop on social media and email marketing in Santa Monica, Calif., that was being presented by Constant Contact Regional Development Director Kelly Flint. “The workshop really helped me realize how important Facebook Pages were,” Cynthia explains. While she had already had a Page in place, she admits that she “hadn’t done anything with it.” So, in early November, Cynthia decided to try something new — hosting a concentrated campaign across email and Facebook. The campaign featured a series of photos and descriptions that focused on different textile designers whose beautiful prints were on the D-Lux 57 aprons. Cynthia posted about the series on Facebook, a few days before launch, then sent a newsletter about it on November 2. On November 3, the campaign officially kicked off with a blog post on This Lil Piglet, a blog about parenting, and offered free giveaways for some lucky readers. Cynthia sent another email newsletter on November 4 that promoted the giveaways and also started to promote the event on Facebook. So how did the campaign do? On November 1, the D-Lux 57 Facebook Page had 43 Likes and 3 people talking about it. On the morning of November 8, the Page had 241 Likes (a gain of 447.73%) and 162 people talking about it (a gain of 5,300%). While both numbers have since stabilized, Cynthia considers the campaign a big success. The D-Lux 57 Facebook Page features pictures of aprons and prints. The New Importance of Campaigns As email marketing becomes more integrated with social media, it’s important to note what a coordinated campaign can do. “What I love is that Constant Contact embraces social media,” Cynthia says. Since the workshop, she has taken advantage of the SimpleShare feature, which allows her to post her newsletters on Facebook, and is already planning another similar campaign for Christmas. Cynthia’s email and social campaign demonstrates the power of combining these two tools, especially considering that she hadn’t touched email marketing since March. Cynthia says that, by “reminding customers of her existence,” apron sales have gone up and more people have started to call her to ask about the product. One campaign certainly made a difference. Now the question really is, what will another do? Has your business seen success from an email & social campaign? Let us know below or on our Facebook Page and you could be featured as a customer success story!
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The past three years for Minneapolis-based Wild Rumpus Books have been the best yet. Sales have been up and customers keep coming through the doors. Marketing consultant Felicity Britton admits that the success is a little unusual, considering the state of independent bookstores. But then again, Wild Rumpus Books isn’t your average bookstore.
With an orientation toward young readers, Wild Rumpus holds a lot of popular events for children. Whether the kids are hopping onto a vintage trolley car to ride around town or authors are speaking in the store, there are plenty of things to make reading a fun and interactive experience. In fact, the trolley rides and readings became so popular over the years that sales staff would have to work after hours just to field calls for attendance, and customers trying to register had to listen to a busy signal, sometimes for hours on end. That meant extra overtime costs for the store, and a lot of unhappy faces.
Since 2008, the store has been using Constant Contact Email Marketing to notify customers about special deals and new titles. In late 2010, Wild Rumpus Books decided to try Event Marketing to register people for trolley rides and author events. That left the phone lines open and the staff available to help with the operations of the bookstore itself. Taking events online hasn’t exactly dampened attendance — this year, the October trolley rides sold out in four minutes, without one busy signal.
Real value from virtual registrations
Felicity says that Wild Rumpus Books originally tried using a free event invitation tool to better organize events, but the service only added to the chaos. There was no way to cap attendance for each occasion, which was a problem because the modestly-sized bookstore can hold 300 people and the trolley can hold 60. So, without the ability to limit registration, children could end up crammed into the store or hanging from the trolley’s side.
By creating an intuitive RSVP system through Constant Contact’s event marketing tool, Wild Rumpus Books now offers a way for people to quickly register and pay online through PayPal.
“Using Constant Contact has saved Wild Rumpus time and money,” Felicity says. “Especially by automatically taking RSVPs to events. Now we don’t have to pay staff for overtime just so they can handle phone registrations.”
Felicity explains that email marketing has made it easier to keep the store’s “whimsical tone” and still look professional. Online newsletters have been a cost-effective alternative for Wild Rumpus Books, as well. More than 15,000 people have signed up to be on the mailing list since the store opened in 1992. Without email, that would have meant a lot of extra postage.
Sometimes, success means a chinchilla
“Independent bookstores are a dying breed, and we’re lucky that the last three years have been our best to date,” Felicity says. She believes that the continued growth of Wild Rumpus Books has been due to the personal and unique experience that customers get when they enter the door. The Wild Rumpus was started by Collette Morgan and Tom Braun, who both had theater backgrounds and shared a love of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. Consequently, drama and adventure are around every corner.
“Live chickens wander the floor alongside manx cats, and ferrets, a chinchilla, a tarantula, an African lizard named Spike, fish, birds, and even some rats are located around the store,” Felicity explains. “If you look up, you’ll see the ceiling splits open revealing ‘the sky’ and a garden shed at the back of the store gives you a feeling of being outside.”
Three years of great growth despite a weak economy and the threat of e-books is particularly admirable. And Felicity says that Wild Rumpus Books isn’t just about the books — it’s about giving time for parents to get together with their children and do something that everyone can enjoy. By combining an unforgettable experience with a good book, the store has ensured that trolley rides are still full, kids are still reading, and chinchillas, tarantulas, and African lizards all have a home to call their own.
How do you combine experiences with a product? Let us know below or on our Facebook Page.
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This week, Google gave brands the ability to make pages on Google+, finally throwing the social network’s full weight into the ring. But many people have already started doubting the power of Google’s efforts, and are questioning whether it's worth it for brands to spend the time to build a presence there.
Meanwhile, eMarketer studied the things that engaged Facebook users the most, Facebook itself improved the site’s search algorithm for users who post with third-party apps, and a report showed that smartphone users manage to stay glued to the TV and their smartphones at the same time.
Read about these topics and more in our weekly breakdown of marketing hot topics:
1. Google+’s Unfun Business Pages
Any business or organization can finally make a brand page on Google+, but should they? Google+ strictly dictates that no contests, promotions, or sweepstakes can be used on the pages, and these limitations seem to be just the tip of the iceberg. Brands may be scrambling to chase after the next big thing, but it’s not yet clear whether Google+ is it.
Bottom Line: Despite lots of hype, Google+ is stumbling; the site claims 40 million "users," but traffic to it has fallen significantly since its peak over the summer. Slate magazine even published an article this week proclaiming that "Google+ Is Dead." Any social network needs a critical mass of active users to be successful, and conventional marketing wisdom dictates that you should go where your audience is. With more than 800 million active users, Facebook remains the reigning champion of customer engagement. Until Google+ becomes popular outside the marketing and technology scene, we're just not sure it's worth a busy small business person's time.
2. More Algorithm Goodness Means More Clout for Third-Party Facebook Apps
Do you use a third-party app to help post content onto Facebook? Well, a September study from EdgeRank showed that this habit could decrease your likelihood of engagement per fan by about 80%. The good news is that Facebook is working to correct that by overhauling its algorithm (i.e., what it uses to determine what content to show users) so the site can identify good quality posts, regardless of where they come from.
Bottom Line: This new algorithm change may be a big plus for small businesses and organizations that are already pressed for time and rely on third-party apps to streamline their posting process. The change means that your posts may be more likely to appear in customer News Feeds, which can lead to more engagement.
3. A Facebook Picture Is Worth .10% More Engagement Than Words
A report from digital marketing agency Web Liquid found that Facebook posts with photos are the most likely to engage users. These posts showed a .37% engagement rate, compared to a .27% rate for text-only posts and a .15% rate for links. Another related report from Momentus Media showed that posts asking users to “like” it had an engagement rate of .38%, compared to an .11% rate for posts without the call to action.
Bottom Line: Brands are still learning how to harness the energy and time of their social media followers, but it’s becoming more and more evident that maintaining fresh and unique content, especially if it's a picture or contains a clear call to action, is a surefire way to engage your audience.
4. E-Commerce Spending Grows 13 Percent in Q3
Retail e-commerce experienced its eighth consecutive quarter of growth, according to a new report from comScore. The 13% uptick means that the industry is now valued at $36.3 billion. Some of the most popular goods being bought virtually are event tickets, digital content, watches, electronics, and jewelry.
Bottom Line: These findings are important for any business that sells products and services online. With additional sales coming through the internet, it may be time to start thinking about a comprehensive, internet marketing strategy that makes use of people’s growing comfort with the concept of e-commerce.
5. 80% of Smartphone Users Multitask While They Watch TV
It used to be that you had to get up during TV commercials, but a new study by Yahoo! Mobile and Razorfish found that 80% of American adults who own smartphones use their devices while watching TV, and 94% of users are doing something related to social media, whether they’re checking their emails or using a social network.
Bottom Line: As mobile quickly becomes an everyday habit for more people, it’s important to remember that your marketing campaigns need to catch the attention of readers who are often multitasking. Mobile strategies like short, simple email newsletters and fun social media posts that grab and keep people's attention may be most effective.
What internet marketing topics caught your attention this week? Let us know below or on our Facebook Page.
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If you don’t work in internet marketing, chances are good that you may not know what a Klout score is — but there’s an even better chance that you’ll learn very soon. (Like, right now.) A Klout score is an easy way for someone to gauge their personal influence on Twitter or Facebook, or other social media sites. The score is a quick, numerical rating of that influence, based on everything from comments to shares to number of followers.
Businesses and organizations can take advantage of Klout by seeing who the most influential of their followers are and involving themselves in the hottest topics of conversation, but many organizations may feel like looking into Klout may be just another foray into the already overgrown jungle of social media. That’s why we decided to take the topic to managing editor Martin Lieberman and senior content developer Dave Charest, so we could find out whether Klout actually matters or if it’s just a passing fad.
What’s your personal Klout score? What trends have influenced it?
Martin: Right now, my score is 60 (out of 100). It’s high because I'm an active and consistent user of Twitter who shares good information with my more than 1,450 followers, and also because I'm active on Facebook and Foursquare. But more importantly, it's because I engage on those channels — I'm not just talking for the sake of talking. When someone responds or retweets, I usually write back.
Dave: My score is 54. Klout tells me it's increased by +1 in the past 30 days. That's despite the fact that, last time I checked, my score was 55. So, apparently, the score isn’t influenced by math.
Why would a small business or nonprofit look at Klout scores?
Martin: You might think that because I have a high score, I'd say, "Because it means a lot." But I'd actually say it's because Klout is gaining, well, clout in social and marketing circles. It's a quick, short-hand way to measure who your strongest and most vocal advocates are. After all, word of mouth matters. If a person has a high score, then his or her positive or negative tweets and posts about your business or organization will probably be seen by more people.
To that end, savvy marketers can use their customers' high scores to their advantage. One business I frequent, a restaurant called In a Pickle, has actually acknowledged my Klout score and rewarded me for it. I got a free lunch once just for sharing with my followers a picture of what I ate.
Dave: The only real reason to look at a Klout score would be to decide the weight of a person’s comments, especially if you want to form a partnership or something. Even then, I’m not convinced that Klout is a real indicator of anything useful.
What’s the disadvantage for businesses that aren’t measuring Klout?
Martin: I'm with Dave on that. At least for now. Keep in mind, though, that a lower score could hurt your credibility if you're a B2B business or consultant trying to show you're a social media "expert." And picking up on my lunch example, you could be losing out on "free" marketing by not creating social media relationships with your influential customers. So I think it's worth looking at and at least considering.
Does Klout matter for all industries? Why or why not?
Martin: I'd say it matters for some more than others. No one really knows what individual Klout scores mean, and it's tricky: Someone can be influential offline but not online, and vice versa. So it's silly to base any serious business decisions on it. What it comes down to is that everyone deserves the same high level of customer service, because you never know who's going to talk about you and who’s going to hear it, online or off.
Dave: Again, I don’t think it matters for any industry, simply because it’s not a true measure of influence. There are so many unknown factors. To Martin’s point — you could be the CEO of a company and have a low Klout score. Does that mean you aren’t influential in the business or the community?
Is Klout score going to be increasingly more important going forward or will people lose interest in it?
Martin: More and more businesses seem to be catching on to Klout, offering up Perks for those with higher scores. There's even a Perk for Small Business Saturday. I've also heard of bigger businesses using Klout to gauge who it will respond to when it comes to customer service. For the rest of us, I think Klout is a novelty right now. We're all trying to measure social media, and Klout gives us an easy, albeit not always reliable, way to do so.
Dave: I don’t think it will ever be more important, but people will always want to at least see a rough estimate of their scores. They just shouldn’t take it that seriously.
For once, maybe we can learn from Justin Bieber, whose Klout score is 100. What did he – and his fans – do to achieve a perfect score? We may not all be a teen pop singer, but what can others do to apply some of these social media successes to their businesses?
Martin: Oh, Biebs. And he's not the only one; YouTube also has a perfect 100 score. All kidding aside, though, I don't really think you can try to have a higher Klout score. You just have to engage with people over the long-term and your score will take care of itself. It's the same advice we at Constant Contact always give: Find great content that your fans and followers will benefit from, and share. Ask questions that get them involved. Listen and respond when people talk to you on social media. The more "present" you are, the higher your score will go. And don’t forget to check your customers’ scores. When someone tweets "at" you, go to Klout.com and search for his or her Twitter handle.
Dave: Want a score like Justin Bieber? Become a celebrity. I know that’s a little glib, but this is exactly why things like Klout are kind of lame. Bieber’s score shows that it’s not really a true measure of anything. Similarly, Paris Hilton has a Klout score of 79 and is considered a thought leader. So ... Here’s what’s really important: Do good things for your customers and let the scores take care of themselves.
What do you think about Klout? Does it matter to you or your business or organization? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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Every time you hear something about social media, there’s a good chance that the words ‘ongoing conversation’ will tumble out soon after. We generally think of a conversation as something that has a greeting and a goodbye — even if that parting is an awkward “Well, all right then.” But social media has created a new kind of conversation. People can revisit topics at their own convenience. New links, blog posts, photos, and news can all spontaneously spark a new avenue of discussion. The trick becomes figuring out how to direct that meandering conversation to a specific cause. Organizations, especially nonprofits, can use this tactic to their advantage — the more involved you become in the conversation and the more your organization personally contributes, the more attention that's paid to your Facebook Page, which can become a hub for the discussion. We talked to two people involved in the nonprofit industry to better get their take on how to use Facebook for a cause. Maureen Dudley, Dudley & Nunez Communications 100+ fans in 24 hours Maureen Dudley, owner of a communications consulting company, regularly donates her expertise to help nonprofit organizations. In the summer of 2009, just as she was starting to embrace social media, she began working with the city mayor and other Rocklin, Calif., community leaders to pass Measure A. The legislation would fund the upkeep of all the parks in Rocklin, but would require a “yes” vote at a time when the recession was at its worst. Voters had already rejected the tax funding once, so the committee decided it had to think outside the box this time. In addition to printed mailings, letters to the editor, and other standard campaign strategies, Maureen suggested using social media. With the help of three high school students, the message about the parks spread throughout the teen community – in large part thanks to Facebook. The “YES on Measure A” Facebook Page saw more than 100 people join in a single day after Rocklin students learned about the legislation. Photo Credit: Maureen Dudley “Effective social media is a two-way street,” Maureen says. “People are giving you their time and expect something of value back. We offered a cause that students could rally around and feel good about.” “Even though the vast majority of the students were too young to vote, they helped spread our message and reminded the adults around them to mail in their voting ballots,” she adds. “Using social media proved to be very successful for our campaign and stretched our limited dollars.” The results speak for themselves: Photo Credit: Maureen Dudley The Social Media Task Force, Safety Center Inc. Using Facebook to keep safety in the spotlight The Safety Center, a nonprofit organization in Sacramento, Calif., already has a tough enough job trying to provide safety training for everyone from children to seniors. When it comes to marketing that message, there’s not much money left in the budget. Direct mailings can be expensive and phone calls often require more effort from an already pressed staff. So, the Safety Center started taking things online with a “Social Media Task Force,” a group that draws on the skills of five different employees (Larry Hearn, Rhondalyn Moran, Gail Kelly, Christine Davidson, and Susan Hecht) to manage around 10 different pages. “Each of our different training programs has a different Facebook Page,” Rhondalyn explains. The team keeps track of much of the center’s efforts and growing the organization’s online presence. For the Safety Center, this means making people interested in, you guessed it, safety. That can be a hard topic to keep promoting without enough material, but the Social Media Task Force gets creative. For example, the Workplace Safety & Health Facebook Page, managed by Rhondalyn, is a place where visitors will find everything from safety videos, photos of Safety Center field exercises, and links to upcoming classes. On the other hand, the Safetyville USA Page, managed by Christine, is more oriented toward families — so in addition to recipes and parenting advice, there are safety games and kid-specific news. The games, news, and recipes aren’t created by the Safety Center, but the Safetyville USA Facebook Page -- and all the organization's other Pages -- share the links, so visitors can rely on the Page for unique and regular content. Just by positioning their Facebook Pages as safety resources, the Safety Center Inc. stays involved in the conversation and becomes a go-to destination for those looking to join the discussion. How have you kept the conversation going on social media? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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27,930 and counting. That’s how many people "Like" the independent documentary Buck on Facebook. It’s a staggering number, especially considering that there aren’t really any discounts or coupons that Connecticut-based Cedar Creek Productions can give to fans of the Page. People who Like it have to be passionate about the movie and the Page’s content.
Some of Buck’s Facebook announcements — whether they’re about awards, screenings, or other events — get 50 Likes or more, which is a testament to the passionate fan base the movie has attracted. When a new visitor arrives at the Page, the movie trailer immediately starts playing. There’s even a review feature that lets individual Facebook users award the film starred ratings. To further spread the word, the Buck Facebook Page itself Likes a number of Facebook Pages, too, many of which are for riding academies and equestrian interest groups — Pages that are bound to attract horse-lovers, cowboys, and cowgirls, who should also love the documentary.
Buck's Facebook Page, Twitter handle, and newsletter recently encouraged fans to vote for an upcoming award.
While it doesn’t hurt that Buck has won more than a dozen different awards for its telling of cowboy Buck Brannaman’s emotional life journey, Pam Miles, the executive assistant to director Cindy Meehl, points to one specific tactic that has seen an enormous amount of success: the film’s “You’ll Hear It Here First” campaign, which it uses to promote its email newsletter.
For this campaign, Pam got together with web developer and solution provider Terry Lalso, of Wingcat Web Design.
“We use Facebook to promote the newsletter and direct fans to our website for subscriptions to it,” she explains. Cedar Creek Productions promises Facebook fans that anyone who signs up for the email newsletter (which is sent through Constant Contact) will hear about the latest interviews, screenings, and more — before the information is posted to social media. Hence, the “You’ll Hear It Hear First” slogan.
The buzz this strategy has generated has encouraged thousands of people to sign up for the email newsletter and many others to eagerly wait for the news on Facebook. It also helps ensure that subscribers carry the conversation from the newsletter to social media channels. Pam shares most emails through Twitter and Facebook eventually, and says that many readers tweet the newsletters to their friends, spreading the word about Buck even further
The "You'll Hear It Here First" campaign has been successful and crucial for Cedar Creek, since the company has very little room in the budget for traditional advertising. .
“I can easily say that we have received 50% of our leads from email and social media,” Pam explains. As screenings continue around the world, the email newsletter has become international and the Buck Facebook Page continues to accumulate fans. Just one look at the Page today shows not just how Buck has touched people all over the world, but also how the film's creators have used social media and email to encourage fans to come together as a community and celebrate the experience.
How have you used social media and email to create a community of fans? Let us know here or on our Facebook Page.
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When you’re tinkering with the very first newsletter of an email marketing campaign, the process can often be a little stressful. You don’t know how subscribers will react to the email, or if anyone will even open it. Not only that, most businesses try to make the first email as perfect as possible, which can slow down the process, and turn a “monthly” newsletter into an “annual” one.
We spoke to three Constant Contact customers who have been using email marketing for two months or less so we could find out a little bit more about their initial experiences.
1. Silbury Hill Alpacas
How a farm has used Constant Contact to talk to fans of alpacas, peaches, and more
About a year ago, Danise Cathel and her husband decided to start an alpaca farm in Sunnyside, Wash. With just 20 acres and a firm conviction that “pigs and cows didn’t sound like very much fun,” the couple slowly started purchasing alpacas and a few llamas. Danise says that the farm is their big retirement investment.
Silbury Hill Alpacas just started trying to advertise as a destination for agri-tourism in August. One of the main ways that Danise spreads the word is through Constant Contact Email Marketing, which she started using this past August. The first issue of the farm's weekly newsletter, Pacas and Peaches, was a big hit, with 43.2% of recipients opening it, which is especially impressive, given that the average industry open rate is around 25%.
“Constant Contact has been really easy to use. They walk you through everything,” Danise says. “I’ve had lots of experience with other programs, and Constant Contact is pretty easy and fun.”
The farm’s second email had an even higher open rate, at 47.8%. By the fourth email, the open rate had climbed to 53.3%. Danise explains that since one of the biggest sources of business for the farm is visitors who pet the alpacas, buy knitted goods, and pick peaches, every open of an email counts in a big way, because it means that the subscriber is more likely to visit the farm.
Danise believes that her early success with email marketing is due to the personal relationships she has with everyone she emails. “We don’t buy email lists. We have personal contact lists,” she says. “These are people who have seen us in person and want to hear from us.”
The first email of Silbury Hill Alpacas
2. The Inn at the Crested Butte
For this inn, marketing is finally… in
When Sara Morgan started her job as marketing director of the Inn at Crested Butte in Crested Butte, Colo., she found that there was a database of 1,200 guest names that had piled up over three years, but hadn’t been used.
“We had a very good qualified database of guests that had stayed with us before or knew about the inn and were interested in what we have to offer,” Sara says.
So Sara decided to import the names into Constant Contact's Email Marketing tool, so she could reach out to those guests who hadn’t been contacted by the inn since their last stay.
The first issue of the inn’s newsletter, which advertised a special offer for a fall film festival, was overwhelmingly popular; 47% of the recipients opened the email, which seemed to indicate to Sara that there was a great appetite for more offers in the future.
Now that Sara has the inn's email marketing program on the right track, she’s already thinking about the next big thing: a guest satisfaction survey using Constant Contact’s survey tool.
The inn's first email newsletter
3. The Strobel Guitar Company
A guitar manufacturer that is using email to jam out with new website visitors
Since 2003, Russ Strobel has been designing custom guitars in Boca Raton, Fla. These unique, high-end Rambler Custom guitars are travel-ready — musicians can easily take them apart if they’re hitting the road, then put them back together for a show. StrobelGuitars.com has a detailed order form for people interested in designing their own custom guitar or for buying the more affordable Rambler Classic as is. The problem has been how to best spread the word.
“I had been talking to people about how to increase our web presence,” owner Russ Strobel recalls. “I looked at the other business emails I got and they all seemed to come from Constant Contact.”
While Russ admits to struggling a bit with the template and list building techniques when creating his first newsletter, Constant Contact support was there to help craft it, from the ground up. “They explained how to build the email list and import it into the right format.”
Russ says the efforts were well worth it: Right after the newsletter was sent, StrobelGuitars.com received several new orders and positive feedback about how professional the email looked. Not only that, his website saw an immediate spike in visitors.
“Before using Constant Contact, we were getting 30 to 40 visitors a day,” Russ says. After the newsletter -- which was opened by 63% of 266 recipients -- that number shot up to 80 to 90 visitors a day. “These are the people that want to jam when they get somewhere, practice in the hotel, or jump on stage with their Rambler Professional Electric Portable Guitars.”
Russ already has other plans in the works for future emails, such as free Christmas shipping, new videos, and more.
Strobel Guitar Company's first email
What was your first Constant Contact experience like? Share it below or on our Facebook page.
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