Marketing

Includes copywriting, products, business and social media

Getting Starting With Small Business Social Media Tactics

If you haven’t gotten started with social media tactics, here are a few suggestions. The two biggies are Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t set up a Facebook page, it’s fairly easy.

You can do it yourself if you want, you can hire someone on oDesk or Fiverr or hire a full service company like ProFacebookPages.com.

Where to Get Ideas for Social Media Tactics

If you’re running short on places to get ideas for social media tactics, consider hopping over to a coffee shop where other entrepreneurs are likely hanging out. If you’re in a friendly enough location you might be able to eavesdrop or join in on an interesting conversation.

Additional Social Media Tactics Channels

If you’ve got Facebook and Twitter down, you’ll want to consider other social media tactics depending on your particular small business: Tumblr, Yelp, Google maps/places, Foursquare and Pinterest.

Said one business owner:

“Foursquare became one of my best tools. The ability to do free campaigns enables you to run your own promotions when you want. Foursquare gives you (the business owner) the control instead of paying for advertising.”

Sources:

Noobis Releases ProFacebook Pages for Small Businesses

 The Coffee House Isn’t Just Your Corner Office: Small Biz Ideas

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Social Media Tactics Strategies

Of course your small business social media tactics are going to depend on your overall strategy.

More than a few companies ended up getting burned by their Groupon experience when they weren’t able to handle all the traffic it sent them. So the bigger picture has to be considered.

Your marketing will be more effective if you can consistently broadcast your USP. Then it just becomes a matter of finding additional channels for your social media tactics.

Flexible Small Business Ideas

It turns out the traditional paradigm of developing a business plan and a product over a few years is becoming obsolete in favor of more flexible small business ideas. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the idea of pivoting.

The Pivot: Flexible Small Business Ideas

Source: Chris Kirkman via Wikipedia

For more technology and especially web based businesses, the most important component to their product development is customer demand.

For many, the exact recipe consumers will respond to can’t be determined ahead of time.

A number of companies including Groupon, Twitter and Instagram all started out as something else. In the course of initial customer feedback, they changed their product offering to what they’ve become today.

The Next Generation of Flexible Small Business Ideas:

Generally speaking, there is an expectation among venture capitalists that people in their 20s and 30s are better at these flexible small business ideas than their Baby Boomer counterparts.

Investors say the founders who made left turns are generally more experienced—and less fearful of failure—than past generations of tech entrepreneurs. The founders who change products and markets between one and three times raise more money than those who don’t, according to Startup Genome Compass of San Francisco, which tracks more than 13,000 Internet start-ups. In fact, they raised roughly 2½ times more capital than founders who changed products and markets either four or more times or not at all, its research says.

There’s also a graphic comparing companies that pivoted versus those that have persevered.

Source:

‘Pivoting’ Pays Off for Tech Entrepreneurs

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When Are Flexible Small Business Ideas Needed?

The graphic shows that there are successful companies that stuck with what they originally set out to do as well as those that needed more flexible small business ideas.

If you’re in a business that can change and adapt easily according to customer demand, then you should. Staying flexible within your mission is essential for long term viability.

Of course that doesn’t mean to chase ten rabbits all at once. Each of the companies mentioned only pursued one idea at a time. It was only when one idea was shown not to be effective enough that another one was adopted.

Jim Collins talked about this concept in a longer term strategy version in his book, Good to Great. He talked about how the most important thing was to get the right people on the bus and then figure out where the bus was going.

Regardless of your current business model, a strategy that includes flexible small business ideas has merit and ought to be considered.

A Low Cost Way to Improve your Small Business Brand

Most small business owners know that sustainability is a concern to many consumers and can affect your small business brand.

While no business is going to claim not to be sustainable, it helps if you can point to actual things you are doing in this area.

The Small Business Brand as USP

Being “green” isn’t going to be a complete USP for most companies these days. But if you are in one of the few remaining industries that doesn’t concern itself with sustainability, then it might help.

Faced with two seemingly otherwise equal choices, most consumers will choose the small business brand that appears more sustainable.

Simple Small Business Brand Options

One easy and low cost way to make your small business brand more sustainable is to switch to green energy. Fortunately, these days you can buy sustainably sourced energy from many power companies. That’s much easier than trying to install solar cells or wind turbines.

Then you can tell your customers, employees and anyone else likely to care that your business is helping to save the planet and so on, increasing your small business brand.

In most cases, green energy isn’t going to cost much more than conventional. In fact, it might be one of the most inexpensive small business brand improvements you can do.

Said one retailer:

Yeah, it costs us a little bit extra to do these good things, but I think it helps our bottom line. Employee-retention rates are high and customers are more loyal.

In addition to local press, businesses that reach these sustainability goals may make it on to the EPA’s list of companies that choose renewable power. Official logos are usually good to improve a small business brand.

Source:

Green Power: A Low-Cost Boost to Your Brand and Bottom Line

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Sustainability can be a tricky subject. Take building supplies for example. You won’t find a product that doesn’t claim to be more sustainable. Concrete is one of the dirtiest, most energy intensive processes out there. But then well laid concrete will last indefinitely. Wood on the other hand, is infinitely renewable but we build with it intending for it to last only 50 years.

Another relevant example is the car battery. Electric and hybrid cars claim sustainability based on extremely low gas mileage. But then if you consider the production cost of manufacturing a hybrid battery and its disposal, it becomes one of the least sustainable vehicles there are.

Sustainability and The Small Business Brand

Those two examples look at sustainability from the cradle-to-cradle paradigm. It’s important to consider the energy it takes to bring a product to market as well as its disposal. Consumers are becoming more aware of such issues even if it doesn’t seem that it would be immediately relevant to your bottom line.

All that’s to say that paying a little bit more for your energy might make sense financially too when it comes to customer satisfaction, employee retention and improving your small business brand.

Small Business Ideas for Going Mobile

Almost everyone by now knows that the economy is going mobile. Not just a particular segment of the economy – the entire economy. Think Internet sized bigness.

For those who want to be hands on in going mobile but don’t want to start programming from scratch, we have this announcement:

RunRev Offers Free Small Business Academy on Going Mobile

Yes, that’s right, a free course on how to build your own apps. The course on going mobile runs through the month of May (2012) and requires a signup.

The course includes daily short videos on different topics related to using RunRev’s platform – LiveCode – in going mobile.

“We’re delighted to build on the success of our hugely popular Game Academy,” said Kevin Miller, CEO of RunRev. “With our new business-oriented course, we’re unlocking the potential of entrepreneurs and developers by giving them the tools to create custom apps and take their businesses to new levels. Today, every business can benefit from connecting with customers on mobile devices, and LiveCode is a great entry point for those new to development who want to create apps for iOS, Android, Mac, PC and even Linux. The Small Business App Academy will show you how in visual, engaging and easy steps.”

Going Mobile Options

If you’re wondering if there’s a catch – well, sort of. If you have no intention of using LiveCode to build your own apps, then this might only be halfway interesting to you.

If you compare it to hiring a developer to create you a custom app and then maintain it for you, you might just come out ahead going mobile this way.

Even if not, the course is sure to provide a number of pointers to keep in mind while building apps so at the very least, you’ll be a more informed consumer when it comes to hiring someone to build your app.

Going Mobile Course Topics

Some of the topics to be covered include:

  • Database and cloud access
  • Data manipulation
  • Monetization
  • Working with rich media
  • Creating user interfaces
  • Deployment to devices
  • Push notifications

If you don’t know what most of those things are, that’s okay. No doubt there will be lost of visuals and examples. It is a feature list after all and the training will probably cover the benefits of those features too.

Regarding RunRev, they were also listed as one of the top cross platform development tools for going mobile.

Sources:

Free Course Teaches Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses How to Create Mobile Apps in New RunRev Small Business Academy

Cross-Platform Developer Tools 2012

LiveCode Academy for Small Businesses

Comments:

As I’ve said before, going mobile – like any other tactic – needs to support your overall strategy and mission. Many apps are nothing more than an exact replica of company’s website. Having your website be mobile friendly may or may not help in the long run. That would depend on how you’re using your website now.

For many small business owners – especially the less tech savvy, learning to create an app might not be for you. It’s another question though whether any app is right for your business. It could help gain new customers with the right level of special offers and interaction.

Like all other marketing tactics, going mobile should be weighed on a ROI basis rather than just because it’s the next big thing.

Small Business Ideas For Social Media

Small Business Ideas Share ButtonsSmall Business Ideas For Social Media

At this stage in the game, everyone knows that social media is a big deal in small business ideas. For any business dealing with consumers (and most who are not), a social media presence is almost a requirement to thriving in today’s market.

Is Social Media Working for Small Business Ideas?

The interesting story behind social media is not whether to use it but how. A site, Business 2 Community, reported a few statistics on social media usage as well as posting an infographic detailing survey results from Intuit.

Small Business Ideas from Business 2 Community:

  1. Businesses engaging with customers on Facebook build loyalty and drive word of mouth.
  2. Special deals and offers are the top reasons consumers follow a brand on Facebook.
  3. Social Media Experts can help take the burden off building and managing social media pages.

Sources:

Social Media and the Impact on Small Business Marketing

How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media (Infographic)

Comments:

To follow on to this list, item #2 is also true for Twitter. We’ve seen examples of businesses do well promoting their specials on Twitter once word reached their customer base.

The most interesting small business ideas from on the Intuit infographic to me was the conflicting views between small business owners and their customers. The most effective Facebook tactic for reaching customers according to small business owners was wall posts (followed by direct messages). The most effective tactic according to customers was special offers and discounts (followed by direct messages.

In using social media, it would also be helpful to talk to your customers and ask them what they’d like to see on your Facebook page.

The small business ideas to take away are that you should be on Facebook and that you should find a way to post special offers and discounts.

A Competitive Advantage Is Essential

In doing research for a client this week, I found something strange is going on.

I called a number of debt settlement companies and found that they’re basically all doing the exact same thing.

I called 5 of the largest companies and asked them all what their fees were and what made them better or different than the other companies in their industry. I selected these 5 because they have the largest numbers of International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

Most of them charge 15% and a couple charge a monthly fee on top of that.

When asked what they do better, they all pointed to their size and how much debt they’d settled recently. One had stats on customer satisfaction and another said they exclusively used attorneys for negotiations. I’m not sure whether credit card companies care that they’re talking to an attorney or not. A settlement is a settlement and my understanding is they look at the past history of the account, the person’s ability to pay and what kinds of quotas they need settled.

Another company bragged that they were the most expensive and the Mercedes of the debt settlement industry. When pressed, they didn’t have a good answer as to why they were charging more though.

One company even told me they settle 80% of all the consumer debts that get settled. I clarified to make sure he wasn’t meaning they settle for 20 cents on the dollar. No, he meant they settle 80% of the debts. He said they settled $30 million last month. I said I’d just spoken to a company that claimed to have settled $27 million and so $30 million couldn’t possibly be 80%. He didn’t have a response for that.

How do you become the top 5 companies in an exploding industry without a clear competitive advantage? I supposed there’s so much business out there right now that they’re getting by just fine without one.

One of these days some company is going to come up with something that’s going to obliterate the competition once consumers start shopping around. It’s not always going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

For now, being able to document a high customer satisfaction and be friendly on the phone make you the clear winner.

PS. If you’re looking for debt settlement services, the company that had the high customer satisfaction rating was also the only company to not try hard sales tactics on me. If I were in the market for debt settlement, I’d call Marty at Freedom Debt Relief. His direct line is 1-800-544-7211 x16277.

Write When You Are Feeling Good- Never When You’re Tired

The tone of any particular piece of writing comes across as clearly as the nose on your face. Many times that I read a CV that has been written by someone who is fearful, I can tell immediately. The tone of writing comes across very quickly and turns off the reader so quickly that the CV gets rejected almost immediately even though nothing else is actually wrong with the document

You cannot help the way you feel about an event that is going on in your life. Feelings of desperation, despair, loneliness, etc. find a way of getting in to your subconscious mind and this definitely transmits through to the things you say and write about. One of the first things to do to resolve this issue is to understand it in the first place. Once you understand that your feelings definitely transmit into writing, you can start to do something about it

Just the simple fact of understanding that your feelings affect the way you come across in writing can help you get the results that you desire from your writing. For example, if you are at your best first thing in the morning, clearly it makes sense to write then. We all have some degree of flexibility in our schedule and choosing to write at the time when we are at our best and perhaps just planning when we are not so good

Feeling great about yourself is bond to come over in your writing. When you feel the most positive, drop everything (if that is possible for you) and get down to writing that important sales letter, job application, resume, etc. Be aware of your feelings and moods and monitor your writing for positivity. Get someone else to read through your work and make sure that you are projecting the message that you are trying to achieve

Never write when you are feeling tired. If you want to be sure to turn off your reader, make sure you write when tired. You will end up using language that turns the reader off, not on and you may as well not bother in the first place.

The best writers in the world put something of themselves into their writing. They are not scared to give everything of themselves and they connect with their audience as a result. Emotion, particularly strong emotion makes a massive difference for us- if you want to be sure that you connect with your reader, you have to take a little risk sometimes.

Taking risks in a positive way with your writing will produce incredible results. If you cannot connect with your reader, you might as well not bother. Selling yourself through an important document like a CV is so vital to the success of your life that you need to be sure that your language connects with the reader in a positive, emotionally captivating way

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Top 5 Reasons Why Marketing Integration Specialists Trump Web Designers In Making A Website Work

Marketing Specialists are more effective on websites than actual web designers.

Setting up an internet company? Not sure on how to start your online business? Then this article is for you! This article seeks to aid internet businessmen looking to start an online enterprise in choosing people to help and introduce them to the world of email marketing. It focuses on keeping substance over style in creating a website when hiring a professional to do it for you.

Let’s get started then! First up – DON’T HIRE A WEB DESIGNER. HIRE A MARKETING INTEGRATION SPECIALIST INSTEAD. A lot of starting up companies make the mistake of leaving their websites at the hands of web designers. Not to undermine the capabilities of web designers, but their sole concern is in creating a great image for the company. Their jobs are focused on creating a respectable and professional company face. Although a lot of web designers do great jobs at this, just as it is pointless and disappointing to suit up and have nowhere to go, a good-looking website is nothing without visitors. Here are some reasons a good copy writer or marketing integration specialist would do a better job than a web designer.

Cheaper Cost: Most web designers charge tens of thousands of US dollars to create a visual treat of a website, not to mention design a logo for your company. Whereas a marketing integration specialist would only charge a reasonable fee for the actual website design, and have the logo design outsourced to their partners.

Writers are less Flashy: In creating a visual treat of a website, most web designers use flash for a more intricate feel on the site. Flash loads very slowly on internet browsers, causing readers to search for some other site. Search Engines also tend to leave out pages with flash in their search results. Marketing integration specialists or copy writers use flash only for advertisements and customer testimonials. This keeps the page high in search engine results, and assures the fast loading of the web site in browsers.

They provide your content for you: Upon completion of a website, web designers would ask for the web content from you. Then all they have to do is copy and paste the information you sent them, on your home page, about page, contact page, etc. Marketing Integration Specialists have copy writer capabilities to provide you with your site content based on your company’s policies and principles. This allows for them to maximize your website responses.

Work Wonders with Web Traffic: Web Designers are great at layouting but suffer from disregard for search engine optimization. Whereas marketing integration specialists create search-engine-friendly sites to ensure that your website comes out in the top searches.

Constant Website Management: Web designers ultimately make you a site that’s pure eye candy and leave you to it. Letting you figure out your website and how you’re supposed to make money with it, on your own. A marketing writer provides constant checkups and management to ensure that your website gets the best results.

Beside this, consultation and proposals from a marketing integration specialist is free. So it clearly shows that when starting a web site, we shouldn’t hire a web designer, but a marketing integration specialist. This could be the first step to your future in cyberspace.

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Types of Testing and Software

Many people in the marketing world are familiar with split testing. It’s the stuff Claude Hopkins wrote about in his book “Scientific Advertising” way back in 1923. Not as many are familiar with multivariate testing.

Split testing is testing version A versus version B. That’s about all you could do before the age of computers and the internet. You ran two different ads in similar periodicals to see which one did better. Of course back then, there were way to many variables to give you perfect results if it got close.

Now, one of the most perfect split testing operations is Google AdWords. Not only can you rotate A vs B, but you can test A vs B vs C… as far out as you care to write copy for.

So what’s multivariate testing? If you’re only writing a headline and two lines of copy, you can probably do without it. On the other hand, if you have much more than that, you need to know which headlines work best with which leads with which calls to action. If you introduce multiple variations for every variable you want to test, the possible combinations are practically impossible to sort out.

Even so, sorting out and pre-planning is what Taguchi testing is all about. Think of Taguchi testing as advanced split testing with many different combinations pre-planned. It was originally designed to test factory production lines.

What Taguchi can’t tell you is what relationship all of the variables have to each other outside those preplanned combinations. So essentially, it’s split testing with more versions.

For a tangible example, consider the following:

You have an email you’d like to test. You want to test 3 different headlines, greetings, opening paragraphs, body copy and closing. That’s 3 to the 5th power or 243 variations. If you had just two versions of 15 different variables, you’re talking over 32,000 total variations. Are you really going to try to split test that? No, that’s not possible. Taguchi testing would try to pick several of the best ones and split test them. Multivariate testing would test them all until it found the best combinations.

If you’d like more detail about why multivariate testing kicks butt over split or Taguchi testing, check out the white paper below. It was written by a Google Authorized Consultant who uses Google’s solution, Google Website Optimizer.

http://sitetuners.com/taguchi-method.html

If you realize how much better multivariate testing is, how can you take advantage of it? Here are some of the different solutions so far:

  • Google Website Optimizer: a free solution. It’s great if you can write code or pay someone to.
  • MuVar or now TestiVar: a former product of James Brausch. It’s written in php so you also need to know code. It’s a one time fee for the software and you can install it on as many websites as you have. The reason it’s better than Google’s solution is that it “watches” the results and over time favors the winning combinations. If you give it some time, you’ll end up with a fully optimized website. Otherwise, you have to have someone constantly setting up tests and analyzing the results.
  • ConversionMultiplier.com: These guys SAY they multivariate test email and web pages but they don’t have enough info on their website (which doesn’t look like they optimized it either) to know. There’s no 3rd party credibility so I can’t say whether they could deliver or how they work.
  • Vertster.com: These guys look reputable from their website. Unfortunately, they only do Taguchi testing. The good thing though is that it looks like it only requires a small amount of coding (good if you know how) and then it’s an easy user interface.
  • Optimost.com: They also look like a reputable company. They do full multivariate testing. They require someone to do coding and ongoing technical support.
  • Sitespect.com: This looks like the easiest solution out there so far. They don’t require you to make any changes to your website but instead act as a filter for your site. When people go to your site, they intercept the traffic and send out the variations you wanted to test. Of course you have ongoing fees to support it but unless something easier comes along, it’s probably well worth it depending on your business.

All of these solutions required some amount of coding at one time or another. Personally, I’ve been challenged with MuVar because I’m not a programmer and realize that to get the most out of it (and be able to test the nuances of NLP language patterns in different formats), I probably need to go learn CSS.

What is NO ONE doing? Easy, multivariate software for marketing people… your typical business owner can barely manage a website IF there’s no coding involved. They aren’t going to figure out Google Website Optimizer or any of these other solutions aside from maybe Sitespect if they can afford it.

What would be the ideal solution? Drag and drop interface. You click, highlight and insert different variables to test. You can test depending on different sources of traffic. Your test results automatically favor the winners and let you know when those winners have been decided with a certain degree of certainty.

There needs to be one click installation or a technical support rep available to walk you through it (needs to be even easier than installing WordPress). And it ought to have the option of being a web app so you can log in from anywhere and add more variables.

There aren’t many companies out there positioned to take advantage of this. Partially that’s because the market has been driven by IT department purchases. That’s changing now as web tools become more accessible to marketers. As marketers start driving software infrastructure purchases, they’re going to start asking for essential modern marketing tools like multivariate testing.

And what about email? I don’t know of anyone multivariate testing email. Conversion Multiplier claims to but their website has no proof so maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.

Here’s how an email multivariate testing program could work:

Instead of the typical split testing approach (testing 2 or more emails on a small percentage of your list), a multivariate tester could return results in real time.

Typically, you’re wanting to measure a number of different actions: bounce rate (or if the servers think it’s spam), open rate, click through rate, unsubscribe rate, and purchases once they click through. Almost no one measures customer longevity but that would be a good metric too.

What if you multivariate test by trickling out emails to a percentage of your list? Your email program would send out versions generated from your different variables and rank them according to however you weighted the different action metrics. The whole setup would need to be an easy interface, drag and drop, and point and click too.

If you had optimizing capabilities (the program favored winners), you could send it once and be done. By the time you were halfway through the list, the program would be sending out only a few different variations that were all close winners.

How do you think that would affect your conversion rates or future copywriting? It would change everything.

And if the barrier between programmers and marketers were removed… everyone would be doing this and we’d all be seeing much better marketing messages.

Any company out there want to make this happen? We’re all waiting.

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