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4 Texting Rules to Follow as a Small Business Owner (INFOGRAPHIC)

4 Text Message Etiquette Rules for Small Business Owners (INFOGRAPHIC)

Texting is a quick and effective communications tool. However, when it is being used for business, there are some important rules you should observe. A new infographic by hosting company and URL registrar GoDaddy titled, “Text Etiquette for Business Owners” provides four tips to make sure you don’t offend your customers or business partners while texting.

Since the introduction of digital technology, the way we communicate has changed. Whether it is email, texting or video conferencing, each platform carries with it a set of guidelines that should be followed.

Maxym Martineau, copy editor and staff writer for GoDaddy, who authored the infographic, recommends you, “Keep an eye out for auto-correct and voice-to-text errors and don’t change set dates, meeting times or events via text. If your client misses that important information, you could cost yourself a customer.”

Text Message Etiquette Rules

Here are the four text message etiquette tips in the infographic.

Respect Business Hours and Be Prompt

Even though texting might seem informal and give you a sense of comfort, you can’t text your clients past business hours. Unless you have permission to do so, respect the boundaries of the people you text.

Time also extends to the way you respond. The quicker you respond to texts, the better results you will have in the long run with your customers.

Use a Courteous but Not Too Casual Tone

Again, this goes to the appearance of the informality when texting. Don’t use the same tone with your customers as you would with your friends or family. According to Marineau, you have to avoid using all caps and emoji as they mean something and they could also be misinterpreted.

Be respectful. Don’t write something you wouldn’t say to a person if they were in front of you.

Don’t Overtext Customers

Just as you must avoid texting at every hour of the day, you should also avoid over texting, since this also shows lack of respect for your customers. Just as you should make sure to text during business hours, use every text wisely and limit the number.

If you time your text just right, you will have greater success in getting a response.

Be Generally Professional

Being professional brings all of the above recommendations together. Once you do those things, carefully write your text, make sure you haven’t misspelled words, names or titles, double-check your text and press send.

Texting for Business

According to research cited by Adobe in an official blog post, SMS has a 98 percent open rate and 90 percent are read within three seconds. Those are numbers that are much better than any other marketing method.

As a small business owner, using texting can deliver ROI you can live with because of the high engagement rate. In the same blog post, Adobe says consumers that respond to SMS offers with texted coupons redeemed them 10 times more often than traditional coupons.

See the entire infographic below:

4 Text Message Etiquette Rules for Small Business Owners (INFOGRAPHIC)Images: GoDaddy

This article, “4 Texting Rules to Follow as a Small Business Owner (INFOGRAPHIC)” was first published on Small Business Trends

Blockchain Offers Multiple Benefits to Restaurants

Terms like Bitcoin and blockchain are dominating the news. For a restaurant owner, blockchain may seem like a technology that’s only relevant to the financial world, but this isn’t the case.

Blockchain has several applications in the food industry, and for restaurants in particular, that number is growing. These applications can affect almost every part of a restaurant’s business, from food sourcing to reviews and promotions.

So what can blockchain do for your restaurant soon? More importantly, how can restaurants leverage the technology today?

Restaurants and blockchain

Before we delve into the uses of blockchain in the food service world, let’s take a quick look at what it is. Blockchain is basically a ledger, similar to what every business already uses. But it’s not restricted to financial information, debits and credits. Instead, in this ledger, almost any kind of data can be recorded and stored.

What makes blockchain special as a ledger technology is that it’s distributed, immutable, and it’s verified. Or, to put it another way, it’s stored on multiple computers, entries can’t be changed once they are added, and all ledger participants agree on the data placed within it. If, for instance, somehow on one computer a ledger entry is changed, the changes won’t be reflected in other copies – the consensus will be the valid entry.

Blockchain and food quality

One of blockchain’s uses for restaurants speaks to both food quality and safety. Currently large companies like Walmart are testing farm-to-store tracking of food using blockchain with the intent to increase food safety.

For instance, if chicken that comes from a specific farm is contaminated with salmonella, blockchain could trace the product throughout the distribution cycle. Notifications could then be sent to those restaurants that received the tainted product, which could then potentially save a restaurant’s reputation.

Beyond the more serious issues of food safety, food quality can also be tracked. For a restaurant that is receiving consistently good – or poor – quality produce through a distributor, for instance, a restaurant owner could use the blockchain ledger to identify the source of the food in question. From there, the restaurateur would work with the distributor to increase orders from that source, if the produce is good quality, or eliminate that vendor if the product is poor quality.

Blockchain, smart contracts, and food assertions

Restaurants are in direct contact with the end consumer, and therefore have a better idea of what they want. If a restaurant markets itself a particular way – as a vegan establishment perhaps, or one that only sources from local farmers – they want the ability to back up their claims and ensure their suppliers do so as well.

If a vegan restaurant sources bread from a local bakery, they will want to validate that the ingredients used are free from dairy and eggs. But a bakery may not want to publicly share what ingredients they use, keeping their recipe a secret.

In this scenario, the restaurant could use blockchain with a smart contract – or a self-executing contract – that would place the order only when the bakery discloses their ingredients privately to the restaurant. These items would be kept in the chain to verify ingredients had been validated while maintaining the bakery’s privacy for their proprietary recipe.

Similarly, blockchain could record the origination of food provided to a restaurant that boasts locally sourced ingredients. In this way, consumers can independently verify items against the immutable blockchain ledger, including where the food is sourced and whether the restaurant is living up to its claims.

Blockchain and quality reviews 

False and misleading restaurant reviews are a problem for both restaurants and customers. Because reviews can be written without knowing the identity of the author, it’s difficult to know which comments are honest and which are fabricated to help or hurt an establishment.

The companies Munchee and SynchroLife are looking to change that. Both platforms reward reviewers with cryptocurrency tokens for contributing reviews on restaurants. Because the reviews are stored in a blockchain, they can’t be altered, and users and restaurants can’t delete or create new accounts to wipe away bad reviews. This keeps reviews, and the subsequent recommendations from SynchroLife’s machine-learning algorithms, above board and honest.

How to Automate Your Small Business Marketing with These 4 Approaches

4 Areas to Start with Automated Marketing for Small Business

One of the biggest difficulties of running a small business is too many tasks for too few employees. Large organizations can afford separate sales and marketing departments and budgets; small companies cannot. Often, just one or two people are responsible for all sales and marketing tasks, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all the necessary tasks. Without creative marketing efforts, however, small companies don’t have much hope of competing with larger businesses.

Areas to Start with Automated Marketing for Small Business

Luckily, marketing technology (“martech”) solutions for small businesses have come a long way. Marketing automation solutions can eliminate the need for humans to perform certain tasks — most notably email marketing and social media monitoring — allowing small businesses to streamline their efforts for maximum results in creating valuable leads. The most important ways marketing automation can help include:

  • Creating and sending emails automatically;
  • Scoring and ranking of leads to maximize productivity;
  • Social media monitoring; and
  • Dynamic content creation.

Creating and Sending Emails Automatically

Email is one of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with customers and prospects, but it has high failure rates when done improperly. Text-heavy emails have poor open rates, so companies are increasingly adding graphics, animation and even video to their emails.

Doing this manually, however, requires a lot of skills and time that small businesses simply don’t have. A drag-and-drop email template designer, which is often part of an email marketing automation solution, can help people without graphics or coding skills build eye-catching, dynamic emails and newsletters that result in vastly improved open rates.

Once companies create their emails with the help of a template designer, they can designate when these emails are sent, either to begin a campaign or follow up on the actions of prospects and customers. Did a customer or prospect click on a link to your website to view a white paper? Your marketing automation solution can take the next logical step, inviting the customer to further action or providing content of value (a relevant case study, for example, or a “how to” YouTube video).

Email marketing automation solutions such as Apptivo allow you to easily create email marketing campaigns and set up business rules to perform automatic actions based on a wide variety of trigger events.

Scoring and Ranking of Leads

Many marketing automation solutions have extensive lead management features. They will track each email sent, allowing companies to know who opened or clicked on links. Using this information, the software can identify the highest value leads, automatically putting them to the top of the priority list for salespeople to nurture. While you can’t nurture every lead, you can focus your efforts on the ones that are most likely to lead to a sale, according to Daniel Newman writing for Entrepreneur.

“Marketing automation can help you manage redirects when someone has left an item in an online shopping cart and even send product discounts or other incentives if a customer fails to buy after your first reminder,” wrote Newman. “It’s all based on a series of simple ‘if/when’ statements you establish when you create your campaign.”

It’s also worth looking for a solution that allows you to easily analyze all your marketing efforts in an easy-to-read graphical interface that helps problem areas stand out visually, and eliminates the need to compile manual reports and updates on campaigns. Apptivo’s solution provides an easy-to-read graphical dashboard that reports on the health of a campaign at a glance.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media is like a Swiss army knife with about 900 tools: you know there are some gadgets on it that will help you with digital marketing, but you also know there are a lot of tools that are irrelevant to your business and your customers. Trying each one out, however, will waste time and money you don’t have.

A good social media marketing automation tool allows you to identify and pinpoint the posts most relevant to you. It can help you know what to listen for and where and respond quickly and effectively. Solutions such as Hootsuite allow small businesses to track, analyze, and respond to the most relevant online conversations about their brands and their industries, according to Hootsuite’s Christina Newberry.

“The exact keywords and topics you monitor will likely evolve as you learn (from social listening) what language people use when they talk about your business and what sorts of insights are most useful for your business,” she wrote.

The most critical keywords and topics to monitor include your brand name, your product names, your competitors and their brand names, industry buzzwords, the names of key people in your company and your competitors’ companies and your branded hashtags. By tracking these things, companies can be surprisingly effective in social media marketing with relatively few resources.

Dynamic Content Creation

So you’ve got your contacts sorted out, and you’re in possession of the tools to create and distribute great emails and social media posts. What content should you provide? While content creation probably can’t be automated, there are tools that help reduce some of the pain by helping you understand where to focus your efforts.

Epictions EpicBeat and BuzzSumo are content aggregation tools that explore what’s trending in real time across industries and consumer areas and rank the topics by what’s trending the highest. You can sort by topic, time of day (certain topics are in greater demand at different times of day) and geographical location to better understand where you should focus your efforts to create popular and shareable content that’s most likely to go viral.

The ways marketing automation can help a small business go beyond simple elimination of repetitive tasks. Used in the long term, marketing automation solutions can improve the value of your company’s contact database, building up a core of knowledge that can help you make smarter business decisions and amplify the positive results of your marketing efforts.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Automate Your Small Business Marketing with These 4 Approaches” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How I Recruited 19 People In 30 Days Into My Business 🔥

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Did You Give Up?? 😐😐

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How I Recruited 19 People In 30 Days Into My Business 🔥

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Tech Tools to Manage Subcontractors

Construction projects on a larger scale require several subcontractors, and that can cause a logistical mess for contractors trying to keep the project organized and on track while managing tight budgets and schedules. Keeping track of the outside companies you bring in to complete certain tasks is prudent; otherwise, you run the risk of running behind or overbudget if they’re not doing their jobs in a timely and efficient manner.

If you wear multiple hats for your company along with your hard hat, staying organized is essential. Fortunately, you can ditch the piles of paperwork thanks to several tech solutions to help you manage the subcontractors on your project.

Solutions for job management, workforce management, and data gathering can help you cut down the paperwork and are often software as a service (SaaS) applications you can run from both the office or the field using a smartphone or tablet.

When shopping around for any of these applications, you should note how incorporating this tech will impact your company’s regular workflow.

“Simplicity for all staff to use – an app is only effective if both field and office staff are onboard. Good tech tools need to be easier than the alternative and not significantly change how a business works,” Cameron Allen, marketing manager for APE Mobile, said.

Job management software

Plans for your construction project should include detailed descriptions and specifications for the jobs you need assigned to subcontractors. Job management programs can help you lay out the specific needs and expectations for those jobs, award subcontractors’ bids and continue tracking the progress of the job along with budgets and invoicing.

WorkflowMax is a job management program that allows you to better manage subcontractors by collaborating with them through the software. Set up job specifications, budgets and timetables, while giving subcontractors a special login to the software so they can report updates, request changes and leave other messages.

Software like this allows you to plan out your project through timelines, letting you track actual work done against your estimates. Having an organized plan of action will help you run a tight ship and make sure your subcontractors don’t stray from the timeline.

Workforce management software

While there are plenty of programs you can use to plan from your desk, there are also apps to assist you on the construction site during work to keep everyone on track. Workforce management programs on a mobile device can be a foreman’s best friend. Such apps let you view the schedules for your crew and subcontractors.

Operation software such as Assignar and Geniebelt are mobile and allow you to manage the construction site in real time. You can draft inspection checklists and forms for routine check-ins, organize timesheets, gather compliance and safety forms and compile them all into complete reports.

Their communication platforms not only allow you to keep in touch with the office but also allow you to monitor your subcontractors and dispatch them to tasks you deem a priority. You’ll be able to keep track of where crews and subcontractors are assigned at any given time, so you can more efficiently allocate resources to where they’re really needed. Track materials and orders and assign them to different sites.

Assigner has a feature that allows you to set up email or SMS groups for workers and subcontractors to let you notify them of shift changes, send reminders for deadlines and send alerts for weather and other changes to plans.

These programs can be integrated with major accounting programs, so you don’t have to enter in timesheets twice and allowing you to get accurate labor costs.

Data gathering software

A lot of factors determine whether a construction project will run under budget and ahead of schedule, or over budget and late. Data collection is a good habit for construction companies to get into so they can make better decisions come the next big project.

“I believe data capture to be the single most important function for subcontractor management,” Allen said. “There is more and more competition within the construction industry, and construction companies need to be data driven to be competitive.”

Plenty of construction companies make the mistake of going with the cheapest subcontractor they can find. They can then find themselves over budget and behind schedule thanks to the poor quality of work that subcontractor submitted.

Keeping accurate data on subcontractors and their work will help you make better-informed decisions for the future, and if that company is worth working with again. APE Mobile comes with several templates specific to construction management that can help calculate the ROI on certain subcontractors and let you further optimize your workflow. You’ll save money by avoiding redoing work and picking the best subcontractor for your money.

Summary

There’s nothing wrong with the traditional clipboard and pen, but as construction projects get larger and more complicated, consider upgrading to a tablet with these software solutions. It’ll be worth it to learn these programs so you can better keep track of your subcontractors, making sure they’re on time and efficient with their work. Ultimately these tools can help you make smarter decisions to save your company money and time. Using data to create detailed reports to see which subcontractors are valuable and which ones just aren’t cutting it

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Hyperlocal Paid Search: How to Increase Your Franchise's In-Store Revenue

The holiday season is upon us, which can either excite or frighten retailers and franchisees. With an increased number of ad dollars committed to hyperlocalized campaigns both online and offline, this critical selling period can make or break a brand’s revenue for the entire year.

Knowing this, it’s time to consider what franchise brands can do to drive more consumers to the store this holiday season. The best way? A hyperlocal paid search strategy. Let’s take a look at a few tips below to get your strategy up and running.

1. Figure out your hyperlocal targeting strategy.

The conversation around local search and ROI is not a new one; marketers have discussed strategies and the importance of targeting customers by location for the past decade. However, in recent years, there has been a steady increase in hyperlocal search, mainly due to mobile devices. About three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) own a smartphone. “Near me” search queries have increased, and AI-powered personal assistants are also on the rise.

Google reports that nearly one-third of mobile searches are location-based queries. This uptick in location-based searches by consumers indicates an increased level of purchase intent based on physical location. It also provides an opportunity for brands to capture incremental store visits, as these types of searches are often more focused on product than brand, making it easier to identify intent and act accordingly.

Eighty-two percent of customers research online before visiting a store or making a purchase, whether online or in-store. If you fail to incorporate hyperlocal trends and tactics in your current strategy, you might notice a considerable drop in both online and in-person traffic. Consumers are savvier than ever, so it’s important to connect with them using search early on in the research process. You can do this by qualifying them with the right keywords and ad copy, and then moving them through a quality experience on your website or other digital channels, to increase the likelihood of a store visit.

Remember, a poor online and social presence can badly harm your franchise’s visibility, thus hindering ROI, business growth and lead generation. But if you can master these tactics, it can help your brand stay competitive and increase success.

2. Consider the new and improved customer journey.

Think about your current and prospective customer base. What are they searching for when considering your brand? What steps do they take before making a purchase? The customer journey is no longer a linear path with planned touch points before purchase. Instead, consumers are now experiencing a series of high-intent touch points that include a variety of devices (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.). To connect directly with customers during these critical points, it’s important to accurately understand and interpret a customer’s intent and timeline at each step. Each customer engages and reacts differently.

During the initial stages, shoppers are often unsure of what they are searching for, so they use brand-agnostic keywords and phrases or search for stores in walking distance of their current location. Capitalizing on these moments will increase revenue and draw in new customers.

You must also consider customers’ needs and intent, which means shifting your strategy to adopt a mobile-first mindset. Is your website mobile-friendly? Does it prominently feature call-to-action buttons? Are there local maps and directions to each of your locations? The more effort you put into understanding your mobile user, the easier it will be to draw local traffic.

3. Make sure customers can find you online.

Focus on points of interest: Your website and social pages should be filled with localized content of interest to consumers in your area. If you own a fitness brand and one is located in Chicago, ensure your location landing page is focused on health and fitness issues or local fitness challenges. This will target the key audience in your area and help draw foot traffic.

General information on your site and local pages is not nearly as beneficial to those who are searching “near me” as location-specific content that is relevant to the user and guides them toward a conversion. So consider localizing your ad copy and including key info such as holiday promotion site links or store hours. This can help to ensure you appear in these critical searches. Connecting your business locations with these local-specific user queries can boost your click rates significantly, particularly with paid ads.

Next, create a landing page for each and every location. To maximize your appearance in search results, create a local landing (optimized for both desktop and mobile) and social page (Facebook, Google My Business, etc.) for every location. It might seem like a lot, but this helps you develop and optimize personalized content for an area or specific radius. It also makes it easier to create incentives based on ongoing events in the neighborhood or timing of holidays.

Additionally, optimize content for location-specific keywords, including the name of your city (if it’s on the smaller side) or your zip code (for large urban areas). Conduct research to uncover which keywords are most associated with your business or industry. Tying your local pages to these keywords with useful, user-friendly content can draw in more foot traffic and create a conversation around your brand.

Outside of the holiday season, a few hyperlocal paid search tactics can be incredibly beneficial to your brand and bottom line. With the increased competitiveness of online and offline retail, hyperlocal paid search is a must during these critical months.

 

How to Create an Actionable Drip Campaign

I know how much time and effort you put into building your email subscriber list.

But growing that list is only half the battle.

Now that you have a way to contact these subscribers, you need to make sure your messages trigger a response.

I’ve seen many companies having success with adding customers to their email lists but struggling with the content portion of their email marketing strategy.

Simply put, they don’t know what to write in their emails or when to send them out.

Each message you send needs to be carefully calculated.

Timing is everything.

That’s why I love to use drip campaigns to elicit an action from the recipient.

If you’ve never heard of a drip campaign or haven’t used one, I’ll cover the basics before we move forward.

Drip campaigns are sometimes called:

  • automated email campaigns
  • auto-responders
  • life cycle emails
  • automated email campaigns

Automation is the key term associated with this technique.

Drip campaigns are a series of emails that get sent to subscribers in a predetermined order.

Although it may sound simple, this email strategy is highly beneficial to your marketing strategy.

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Drip campaigns are commonly used to communicate to new subscribers or someone who made a purchase but didn’t join your email list yet, but you can use them at any time.

I’ll give you some tips about the best uses of drip campaigns and show you how to create one.

Here’s what you need to know.

Focus on personalization

Although drip campaigns are automated, you don’t want your message to come across that way.

Subscribers want to hear from you, not some computer.

Make sure your emails don’t sound like cut-and-paste or cookie-cutter templates (even though they might be).

I’m sure you’ve received emails that start with

Dear valued customer,

That’s boring.

You won’t get any actionable response from someone if they don’t even finish reading the message because they got bored.

After the message gets sent, the subscriber needs to:

  1. receive it
  2. open the email
  3. understand the content
  4. identify the call to action
  5. complete that specific action

Personalization can help you accomplish these things.

Marketing experts agree this is an effective tactic:

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Automating your email responses doesn’t mean you should ignore best marketing practices.

A recent study from OneSpot and the Relevancy Group showed personalized emails positively impacted:

  • open rates
  • click rates
  • conversion rates
  • average order amount

Pairing that strategy with your drip campaign is a no brainer.

Use the recipient’s first name within the body of the email.

Try personalizing the subject line as well.

You don’t have to always use their name to accomplish this.

Here’s what I mean.

Which one of these two subject lines sounds more appealing?

“A special offer for a loyal customer.”

Or…

“I’ve got a special offer for you.”

The second choice is the clear winner.

It’s personalized from the sender (I) as well as the recipient (you).

You should also end each message with a personalized signature.

Here’s a great example from Ian Blair at BuildFire:

image2 8

Ending a message this way will remind the reader it’s coming from an actual person—not an automated computer system.

It’s more effective than saying

Sincerely, The Management Team.”

The email sender field should also come from your personal email address as opposed to customersupport@companyxyz.com.

Here’s what the sender field looks like in that last example:

image3 8

Implement these personalized touches in each email to get a more actionable response from your drip campaign.

Use a drip strategy to grow your email list

You can actually use a series of automated messages to add subscribers to your email list.

I know what you’re thinking.

How is it possible to send someone my drip campaign if they aren’t already on my email list?

Well, it’s possible.

This method works particularly well for ecommerce sites.

Customers can purchase something from your website without signing up for emails.

It’s the perfect opportunity to send them triggered emails so they complete an action.

In this case, the action would be joining your subscriber list.

Here’s how you do it.

Take a look at this part of the checkout process from Lululemon:

image5 8

Entering an email address is required for customers to complete the purchase.

Why?

The company wants to send you updates about your order.

If the customer unchecks the box that signs them up for promotional emails, these order updates can double as a drip campaign.

Here’s the sequence of messages:

  1. order confirmed
  2. package shipped
  3. items delivered
  4. follow-up

You have four opportunities to get this person to opt in to receive future emails.

Just make sure you execute this drip in a timely fashion.

The order confirmation message should get sent instantaneously.

Have a clear call to action in this message that entices the recipient to join your subscriber list.

Discounts work well.

For example, you could offer them 25% off their next purchase if they join your list.

Even if they don’t do this yet, don’t worry.

You still have three other opportunities to get them to subscribe.

Stick to the script.

Update them on their order status, and remind them about the benefits of your subscriber list.

Remember, you have their name, so don’t be afraid to use it.

As we discussed earlier, adding a personalized touch can help with your conversion rates.

If you’re using a service like MailChimp to contact subscribers, you can create a survey directly on their platform.

image13 1

Take advantage of that resource with the fourth message of this drip series.

Ask for the customer’s feedback.

Were they satisfied with the order process?

Was it delivered in a timely fashion?

Are they happy with the performance of the product?

Most importantly, don’t forget to pitch your subscriber list.

This is your final chance to get the customer to opt in.

It’s also a great way to enhance the customer experience, and it shows you’re constantly trying to make improvements.

Send a welcome message to new subscribers

Drips are also effective once you’ve added subscribers to your list.

In fact, the first messages new subscribers get should be in a drip sequence.

Once someone joins your list, you should automatically send them a welcome message.

Set up your double opt-in landing pages the same way.

You can take your welcome message one step further and increase the personalization of future email content.

Here’s what I mean.

Let your subscribers choose what kinds of emails they want to receive.

Do they want promotional messages like flash sales and other discounts?

What about notifications whenever you launch a new product?

Or maybe they just want to receive your newsletter?

Ideally, they want to receive all of the above, but let them decide with your welcome message.

The Drip email marketing service allows you to set this up with a triggered link.

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But I’m sure whatever software you’re currently using has a similar feature.

Here’s an example of what the message would look like:

image9 7

What the customer clicks on will determine the rest of the drip sequence.

This keeps all their messages relevant, improving your unsubscribe rate.

They won’t think they’re receiving any irrelevant messages since they are getting exactly what they asked for.

It’s perfect.

The CTA should still be similar in each drip sequence.

Having consistency will help drive the actionable response you’re trying to get from these messages.

Building a drip campaign

Now that you know the basics of drip campaigns, it’s time to create one.

You can do this with your current email marketing software.

Although the wording may slightly vary depending on your service provider, these are the basic steps you’ll need to take.

I’ll use HubSpot’s platform in this example since their navigation is user friendly and easy to understand.

Step #1: Go to the “Productivity” tab, and select “Campaigns”:

image6 8

The “Marketing Dashboard” is basically your homepage from the user side of the platform.

Step #2: Create a new campaign:

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Here, you’ll see any previous marketing campaigns or pending messages.

Click on “Create a new campaign” in the top right corner of the screen.

Step #3: Select a template:

image11 3

For our purposes, we’ll select the template builder and email options.

Once your template is customized, you can start working on the content of the message.

Remember the points we talked about earlier.

Personalize.

Keep your message short and to the point.

The CTA should be the focal point of this message if you’re trying to elicit a specific user action, whatever that may be.

The tone of your message should reflect that goal.

Step #4: Schedule for automation:

image10 6

Now you can step up the frequency of your message.

For example, you’ll want to make sure your welcome message gets sent to a new subscriber right away as opposed to a day or two later.

Setting up a drip campaign isn’t difficult.

The process is very similar to how you’re currently using your email marketing software.

You’re just not going to send out each campaign individually.

Set it up, and let the triggered response drip the sequence depending on the subscriber’s preference.

Measure your success

Automated messages don’t mean you can just set your campaign and forget about it.

You still need to track your results to see whether each drip campaign was successful or not.

Look at the basics like:

  • open rates
  • click rates
  • bounce rates
  • conversion rates
  • unsubscribe rates

Conversions will be the true measure of the success of each campaign.

While the other factors will help contribute to that number, the conversion has to be your ultimate goal.

Take a look at the possible paths an email can take after you send it out:

image12 2

Measuring your results can help you determine what factors are preventing the recipient from converting.

For example, your open rates may be high, but click rates could be low.

Make the necessary adjustments.

Try to reposition your CTA or change the wording to entice an action.

This is a great opportunity for you to start A/B testing your email messages.

Conclusion

Drip campaigns are an effective way to improve your existing email marketing strategy.

It’s easy for you to set up as well.

Even though your subscribers are getting an automated response, it’s important the message doesn’t come across as automated.

Use the personalization tips outlined above, like using the subscriber’s first name and sending the message from your personal email address.

This will help you get more conversions.

While welcome messages are one of my favorite ways to start a drip campaign, you can also use drip emails for people who haven’t subscribed to your email list yet.

Just send them updates when they buy something from your ecommerce store.

Once your campaigns go live, keep track of the results to measure your success.

Make any changes to get optimal results from each campaign.

What kind of personalized CTA will you use in your next drip campaign?

20 Things Employees Value (Infographic) via Catherine Adenle. If you like UX, de…

20 Things Employees Value (Infographic) via Catherine Adenle. If you like UX, design, or design thinking, check out theuxblog.com Source by businessguides0171 Sponsor AdsSocial Interest Freak Pro Desktop Software Fully …

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Why Inbound Marketing Fails (and How to Guard Against It)

There’s no doubting the power of inbound marketing.

It’s safe to say that inbound has revolutionized the way marketing works in today’s world.

When it works, that is.

Because many times, it doesn’t. Or at least, it takes too long.

Crafting an inbound campaign requires audience targeting, multiple forms of content based on funnel stages, and perfect integration between marketing and sales. Which rarely happens in most companies.

And on top of that, inbound marketing tends to pull in a very specific type of buyer.

Hint: It ain’t the CEO of a Fortune 500.

Inbound is great for driving certain kinds of leads. But again, many of those are unqualified and can take months to convert.

And you can’t risk spending months or years producing content only to see a trickle of unqualified, small deals roll in your door.

Here’s why inbound marketing fails and how you can guard against it.

Why Inbound Marketing Often Brings in the Wrong Clients

Inbound marketing is like a box of chocolates. You never know…

Cheesy movie quotes aside, this one rings true.

You really don’t know what you’re gonna get when you start a new campaign. Especially when it comes to B2B clients.

Think of it this way:

What clients and client types do you want?

Most likely large corporations. The big-time players. The accounts that will take your business to six-figures overnight.

Now… what clients do you usually get through your blog?

Small businesses. Local shops. Cookie-cutter clients.

Sure, your box of chocolates might have one or two big-time clients. But you really don’t know and can’t always control the outcome.

So why does this happen?

It all comes down to the inbound “funnel.”

Look at the standard funnel stages, and which content/lead magnets are usually associated with them:

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Whitepapers, guides, webinars, and demos.

These are all great. They all work to one degree or another. And there’s no doubt about that.

But when it comes to bringing in top clients, the typical inbound playbook fails miserably.

The only people sitting on hour-long webinars and downloading whitepapers are lower-level employees or a small business’s workers looking to improve their day-to-day, tactical activities.

C-suite executives and decision makers for large corporations aren’t anywhere near this type of content. They’re too busy.

And topics like “XX conversion rate tactics to increase your growth by YY%” don’t appeal to them. Because they don’t do tactics. They hire people to do them.

This leads to a long list of unqualified leads. Ones who aren’t making a final decision to purchase. Or even have a budget worth discussing.

Don’t keep reaching into the chocolate box with your fingers crossed. Unless you have another plan or can supplement it to cover the flaws.

Here’s how to take matters into your own hands and prevent the vicious cycle of poor inbound leads.

How Account-Based Marketing Can Help You Land Better Clients

Scaleable marketing activities work at the top of the funnel. Or for companies with extremely low barriers to purchase (read: low-priced, transactional, or free).

But those very same tactics often fail when you move up the food chain.

They aren’t personalized enough. They’re not customized enough.

And that’s exactly what account-based marketing seeks to achieve.

It focuses on identifying and qualifying ideal prospects first, before trying to get them deep into your funnel.

Before you’ve wasted thousands of dollars A/B testing or sending email campaigns and remarketing ads.

Your typical inbound marketing strategy is like fishing with a net, dragging it across the web and collecting as many leads as possible.

Account-based marketing, on the other hand, is like fishing with spears. You’re carefully selecting a target.


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A great example comes from WP Engine and Terminus.


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Their entire funnel was focused on identifying prospects ahead of time, expanding that research, engaging with them, advocating, and finally measuring success.

Conducting all that account research ahead of time wasn’t cheap or easy. But they got engagement from 93% of accounts on their target list.

Open rates jumped from 27% to 43%.

Overall, they increased their sales opportunities by 28%.

And that’s not all. The WP Engine team targeted 87 accounts and closed 32 deals.

Instead of casting a wide net, they honed in on specific accounts that were desirable and compatible with their services.

Through detailed, one-on-one customization, they were able to land clients that otherwise were unreachable.

So, how do you put some account-based marketing tactics into practice? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Conduct a Lead Search and Turn Them into an Audience

The first step in any proper account-based marketing game plan is to identify prospects first.

Creating a target list will allow you to get hyper-specific with your marketing messaging.

And we all know that personalization is critical.

Remember that ABM isn’t about marketing to 1,000 companies. Weed out prospects that aren’t going to convert.

Start by researching companies that could utilize your services and that match your target demographics.

You can do most of this directly on LinkedIn’s advanced lead search:

Once you’ve plugged in your data, you can start to add specific target accounts to your list.

Selecting these accounts will add them to your sales list, giving you constant updates.

Now that you’ve found accounts that fit your business goals, it’s time to do some deep digging.

Locate specific accounts and head to their profiles. Click “See all employees” to generate a list of employees at the company:

You can either scan for gatekeepers or use the keyword search to find them faster:

If you notice any shared connections, you have an even better shot at opening the door to a conversation.

And if you dig even deeper, you can often find the prospect’s email and social media accounts:

Start engaging with their content to get yourself out there. Sometimes, that’s all you need to start a conversation.

Take it a step further by researching these leads on tools like Socedo that allow you to target specific leads on social media:

Simply enter a few target keywords related to your products and services, and you’ll generate a huge list of leads.

Weed through the rest by narrowing your keywords down further.

Then simply repeat the same process of engagement and getting your foot in the door. You’ll quickly see which decision makers and buyers from which accounts are in-market.

Keep adding these accounts to a list or a Google Doc that you can keep track of.

The next step is to utilize LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences feature to target ads directly to your accounts.

These new audience formats are already proving to be extremely successful.

Advertisers see a 32% increase in post-click conversion rates with account-based targeting and a 37% increase in CTR for contact targeting.

To get started with these, fire up your LinkedIn Campaign Manager and head to the account assets section.

Click “Matched Audiences”:

Next, select the “Upload list audiences” tab and upload your own list of leads that you’ve collected through Socedo and LinkedIn:

You can upload lists of accounts or direct email contacts:

Be sure to format each with their own template listed in the upload process.

Now you can target high-quality ads their way, driving tons of brand awareness and getting a front row seat to their daily LinkedIn browsing.

Conferences Can Produce High ROIs

Most people think that conferences and conventions are a huge budget waster.

They cost thousands of dollars just to obtain a few tickets.

On top of that, you’ve gotta pay thousands in hotel and transportation costs.

It seems like an ROI nightmare.

Rand Fishkin from Moz estimates that a typical conference can cost anywhere between $4,630–$10,230. That could be your entire month’s marketing budget.

But what if that conference leads to you acquiring a new skill, discovering unique and groundbreaking ideas, or building relationships?

What if it nets you one of your best clients to date?

You could easily double, if not triple, your ROI.

Tons of high-level executives and business owners attend conferences every year. Rand himself has attended dozens over the years and believes they are an amazing investment.

Start by scouting conventions and conferences in your niche, specifically looking at the sponsoring companies of these conventions.

This will give you an idea of whether or not your target accounts are going to be attending.

For example, when you look at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference page, you can see the exact companies sponsoring and attending:

Knowing that they’re willing to pay big money to sponsor the event and have their brand featured tells you two things:

  1. They have a large budget
  2. They are heavily invested in your niche

Those two elements are critical when it comes to driving a sale.

Conferences are a great place to engage in genuine conversation with current targets and even find new targets for your business.

Sure, it’s old school and “lame.” But if lame works, let’s all be lame together.

So, what’s next? What do you do after you’ve initiated a relationship?

Go Old School with Direct Mail

Initiating the relationship is the easy part.

The hard part is standing out amongst the dozen other people vying for the same client you are.

Thinking about sending a targeted email offer?

Think again.

Email alone isn’t enough to catch their attention (even if it has en emoji in the subject).

And CMOs don’t have time to read your email offer.

Remarketing? Forget it. They see thousands of ads a month.

The goal in this step isn’t to get them to convert.

They aren’t ready yet. Account-based marketing takes a long time, but it doesn’t produce subpar leads like inbound marketing does.

While both take time and money, ABM produces a consistent quality of leads with a higher response rate.

To get the attention of high-level executives and big companies, you need to reach them through uncommon mediums.

For example, direct mail.

One study found that direct mail had the third highest ROI of any marketing tactic.

Another found that direct mail open rates are 42%. That’s nearly double email open rates.

One Utah-based marketing company found massive success with a direct mail campaign to land high-ticket clients.

97th Floor in Utah sent out a direct mail piece to their top clients, encouraging them to give back to the community:

On the back of the piece, they gave each client $20 to use to give back during the holiday season:

They effectively connected their offline efforts with online goals.

On top of that, they connected it to a #20helps hashtag to generate more buzz on social media.

Direct mail is old school, but when combined with online landing pages, it’s massively effective.

Why? Direct mail alone isn’t enough. You have to connect it back to inbound and digital best practices.

According to a study, marketing campaigns that used direct mail in conjunction with digital landing pages experienced a 118% lift in response rates.

Meaning people are much more likely to go to your site if you connect direct mail to online activities.

Want to reach the leads you really need?

Think outside the box and flip the script:

Go old school with direct mail, and tie it back to modern times with a landing page.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing was a game changer when the concept came to life.

And it still is today.

But it’s nowhere near foolproof or all-encompassing.

Results can take months to come to fruition, and the leads you do generate aren’t the ones your business really needs.

High-level executives aren’t sitting on your webinars during their busy schedules.

Decision makers aren’t being swayed by what CTA button color you choose.

In the event that your inbound marketing strategy is failing, you need a backup plan.

Safeguarding by using account-based marketing is a great start.

It can help you reduce the “box of chocolates” effect that you find with typical inbound playbooks.

Seemingly old-school sales methods like direct mail can help you cultivate real, genuine relationships with big-time leads.

The biggest customers don’t sign up after a blog post.

They get referrals. They vet. And they build rapport through personalization before ever signing on the dotted line.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

10 Tax Write Offs For Small Businesses Around The Holidays

10 Holiday Tax Write Offs for Small Businesses

The end of the year is a big time for small businesses. You’ll need to get your taxes in order and enjoy the holiday too. Here at 10 holiday tax write offs that can help you to do both at the same time.

Holiday Tax Write Offs for Small Businesses

Defer Some Income

Tax and business attorney Barbara Weltman says this year small businesses should defer income to take advantage of the lower tax rates that should be coming under the new tax code.

“If you provide services in December and wait to bill for them until end of the month you won’t get paid until 2018,” she says.

Buy Next Year’s Office Supplies Now

You can buy toner for the printer now and write off the cost for next year. Cleaning services and the like can be included if you want to prepay for something you wont use right away.

Look for This Year’s Bad Debts

If you’ve got a bill that’s been hanging around all year without being paid, this is a good time to write it off as a bad debt.

“Look through your books and see what’s outstanding,” Weltman says. ” It could even be a loan to an employee or another business.”

Set Up Employee Benefit Plans

Providing healthcare to your employees makes a wonderful Christmas gift if you haven’t already got a plan in place. With the future of the Affordable Care Act uncertain, getting an employee plan now is a great year end write off and motivational incentive.

Give A Holiday Gift To Your Business

This is all about making sure you can take advantage of pass through tax laws at year’s end. To make sure you can take advantage of a personal tax return, you need to show you’ve got some skin in the business side of the game.

“The owners needs to have sufficient stocks and bonds in the company to show losses on a personal tax return” Weltman says. “Maybe you want to put more money in the business.”

Throw a Holiday Party

Kevin Miller, Chief Marketing Officer at the Neat Company, suggests getting into the Holiday Spirit with some partying, but cautions about keeping the records straight.

“To steer clear of an audit, the best practice for writing off holiday parties is to keep them separate: throwing a party for employees and their families is 100 percent deductible; inviting vendors and clients to your holiday party can be partially written-off, if all interactions remain business-related,” he says. “Keeping good records (guest list, invitations, party-related expenses) will be your best protection.”

Travel

Traveling over the holidays is a good tax write-off but not if you’re going to visit friends and relatives. However, if you plan on visiting clients and business associates to talk about business plans for the new year, those travel plans are absolutely deductible.

Make A Charitable Donation, but The Right Kind!

Giving to those less fortunate is what the holidays are all about and it’s also a good business deduction. The general rule is charitable deductions go on personal and not business tax returns. Make sure you make the distinction between advertising and a charitable donation.

For example, buying an ad for your business in the program of the local high school holiday production may support the school but does not qualify.

Give Out Holiday Gifts To Employees and Clients

You can actually deduct $25 per person per gift every year.

“That applies even if the gift is worth less than $25 dollars,” Miller says. “Keep in mind the definition of holiday can vary, so it’s best to use this write off around the major ones.”

Stock The Office With Treats

Here’s a suggestion everyone will love. Making the office festive with a series of holiday treats will keep people motivated during the busy season. Just remember to keep those stocking stuffers reasonable. Too much of a good thing can bring red flags and an audit.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Tax Write Offs For Small Businesses Around The Holidays” was first published on Small Business Trends

Some of the Copyblogger Team’s Favorite Writing and Content Sites

Here at Copyblogger, we’ve always been in love with writers. So we thought it would be fun to wrap up the year with a collection of some favorite blogs and podcasts that teach writing, showcase writing, or help writers. This is very much a partial list — so if you have a favorite site that
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The post Some of the Copyblogger Team’s Favorite Writing and Content Sites appeared first on Copyblogger.

Is a Coworking Space Worth the Cost if You're Already Working From Home?

The commute from kitchen to home office is great, but it gets lonely when it’s just you and the dog.

SMS Marketing vs. Mobile Marketing: Where, When and How to Use Them

Thanks to the resounding popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices such as phablets and tablets, marketers have found ways to integrate SMS marketing and mobile marketing into the fold of digital marketing strategies.

Although both can be viable marketing tools for your business, it’s important to know what distinguishes one from the other to help you strategize your campaigns. But first, here are some staggering numbers of global smartphone and tablet use:

  • As of spring 2017, there are 237.7 million cellphone users in the United States.
  • In China, approximately 1.4 billion mobile phone subscriptions were registered in September 2017.
  • An online survey conducted in the U.K. in May 2017 revealed that a high percentage of Brits owned smartphones, while 11 percent of the respondents owned basic phones.
  • By 2018, the number of tablet users in the United States is forecast to be over 177 million.
  • This year, Americans will spend 91 minutes on average on mobile apps daily, compared to 76 minutes in 2014.

It is no wonder that marketers are pouncing on digital communication to deliver content and reach customers as part of their digital marketing strategies.

To help you choose the right channel for your specific marketing objectives, here’s a rundown of how SMS marketing and mobile marketing stack up against each other.

SMS marketing

SMS marketing is the use of a mobile phone to send SMS (short message service) or text messages that contain promotional content, such as special deals, product updates, or any other marketing information directly to customers.

How it works

SMS marketing is a permission-based strategy where customers opt in to receive marketing offers from you. By texting a specially designated keyword to a short code, which is usually a 5-digit code, customers give your company permission to be added to your SMS database.

You could also get customers’ approval to collect their number when you’re on the phone with them or through a sign-up form on your website or at your physical store’s register.

Advantages of SMS marketing

Since text messages are generally opened within five minutes upon receipt, SMS provides you an instant way of marketing to your customers and building brand loyalty.

You can, therefore, leverage text message marketing to issue reminders, delivery notices, limited time or exclusive offers and redeemable coupons. It’s also an effective method for engaging customers through polls or survey-type messages.

SMS marketing allows you to personalize text messages for recipients of your messages. When you insert a customer’s first name into your message, you’re more likely to capture their interest and attention – in addition to generating a good response and conversion rate.

Another benefit you can get from text message marketing is that it has automated response functionality. Depending on the action your subscribers take, you can send messages automatically to their phones that would trigger a series of follow-up replies or actions from your SMS software to engage customers further.

Last, but not least, most SMS marketing applications provide an option that allows for easy segmentation and management of your SMS database. This makes SMS marketing a cost-effective business strategy that helps your team hit your SMS metrics.

SMS Marketing Tips

  • Be clear in communicating what your SMS marketing campaign is all about: what types of SMS messages your customers will receive, how often they will receive them and how they benefit when they opt in.
     
  • Give subscribers who may no longer be interested in your notifications the chance to opt out anytime by including relevant instructions in your text campaigns from time to time.
     
  • Don’t text during irregular hours, and don’t use shorthand texts. Aim for a professional tone instead.
     
  • Add a disclaimer in your initial text message about possibly incurring data and message charges if customers don’t have unlimited plans for their subscription.

Mobile marketing

Mobile marketing is the practice of marketing your business on the mobile device platform, smartphones and tablets included, although current trends are extending the concept of mobile marketing to other gadgets, such as smartwatches.

It’s a multichannel digital marketing strategy that utilizes websites, social media, mobile apps, and SMS/MMS (multimedia messaging service) to send mobile ads to audiences.

The key with mobile marketing is to use smartphones and other handheld devices to provide potential or existing customers personalized and time- and location-based information about your business.

Types of Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is a well-rounded technique in digital marketing because it gives you several options on how to format your ads. Some of the most popular strategies used to market on mobile include the following.

Video ads

As digital technologies make video-watching possible on mobile devices, you could create video ads to reach your target market in a nonintrusive way.

Contrary to being intrusive, many consumers consider video ads entertaining and engaging. Your video ads can be part of your MMS messages that you send from your mobile messaging service provider or website to your mobile audience.

Mobile apps

Mobile consumers spend 82 percent of their time using mobile apps, which makes app-based marketing or in-app advertising a popular strategy among marketers.

Facebook is an example of a third-party mobile app that enables you to integrate your ads into the social media platform through sponsored posts.

In-game mobile marketing

Mobile games can also host your mobile ads, which can be in the form of banner pop-ups, full-page image ads or video ads that load in between game time.

Location-based marketing

This allows you to send ads on users’ mobile devices when they are within a specific distance to your business or location. Fast food or other specialty stores are using this strategy to promote brand awareness among consumers.

Mobile search ads

These are ads that customers see when they do a basic search on Google. Often ads will have extensions like click to call or maps to help users find your business.

Mobile marketing tips

  • Optimize your ad’s message, format and design for mobile. With the small screen that you have to work with on mobile devices, every space and word should be used wisely.
     
  • Your business’s home page must be responsive to mobile SEO so users can find your local business at the time of their search.
     
  • Know your audience. You’d do better, for example, to use in-game ads to interact with gamers rather than sponsored posts on social networks like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. 

As users continue to use mobile devices more and more, it’s safe to say that the future of digital marketing is shifting more toward mobile, specifically SMS marketing and mobile marketing.

SMS marketing can help you build a more direct and personal relationship with your audience, while mobile marketing can help you improve customers’ interaction with your brand. Either way, it’s a must for you to incorporate these two strategies into your overall marketing plan.