Marketing Archives

Direct Marketing Crucial For Small Business Growth

Everyone is active on spoonfuls of social media networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few. You name it, we’ve tired them. In fact, social media has transformed the way direct marketers know how to drive results. They’ve been building business with it for years. With a time-tested, scientific approach to reach target demographics, direct marketers have turned TV, mail and email into sales engines. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could combine a successful direct marketing campaign with the power of social media? That’d be impressive. Here’s how you do it.

Direct Mail

Mail campaigns are still one of the most effective ways to reach new customers and grow your business. A survey conducted by the Association for Education in Journalism this past year found that readers of the print version of newspapers remembered “significantly more” news than those who read the same content online. In other words, the physical paper resonates far more with readers than the electronic version. The same can be said about direct mail vs. email.

A direct mail campaign will only be as good as the contacts you reach and the contents of the mailings. There are companies that provide mailing lists targeted specifically to just about every demographic out there. The lists are relatively inexpensive as well, but paying the extra premium for a more up-to-date and target-specific list will pay off in the long run. The mailer should always include your company slogan and insignia, along with Web site and social media addresses. The contents should get right to the point, but include as much information as you feel is necessary to convey the message. A special offer or some sort of coupon code within the contents is the best way to get immediate responses and will help you track the success of your campaign overall. The envelopes can be made to look more professional and personal by using something like Pitney Bowes postage meters and printing the postage directly on the envelope, as opposed to using stamps.

Telemarketing

The stigma attached to telemarketing, along with growing “do-not-call” lists, have caused many companies to abandon the practice altogether. But a well conceived phone campaign, with a good list of numbers, can be just as effective as email. Calling customers and simply asking them to take a quick survey is an easy way to get feedback and offer them some sort of incentive or discount to purchase something on their next visit.

Marketing Software

The ways in which people communicate have changed significantly over the past decade. In 1990, you either picked up a telephone, sent a letter, or a fax to interact with customers. Today there are so many new channels, including mobile Web and social media, which make it difficult for some companies to consistently and seamlessly deliver messages to their customers. For instance, your company name shouldn’t appear in blue font on your email campaign and appear in red on direct mail. The company Web site also needs to be optimized for mobile phone viewing, so to not look completely different when viewed from a smart phone. Several companies, including Responsys and Eloqua, offer solutions which can address these issues. And with more of these companies establishing themselves everyday, prices for their services are getting more competitive, even for lower budget enterprises.

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Start Me Up: Getting Your Small Business Off the Ground

Getting Your Small Business Off the GroundFrom business planning, to strategy, management and advertising, creative ideas, good management and a healthy understanding of the competition can help a startup business succeed.

According to Tech Vibes, when considering the creation of a new business, focusing on your special talents and abilities will give you an important edge. Also, being creative and thinking out of the box will give you an advantage. Doing things that are typical, and selling mass produced products will saddle you with tremendous competition. Ending up in a price war with established businesses is not an advantageous starting point. Everything from web hosting, like VPS Windows, to a solid social media presence will determine how high your company flies or low it falls.

Use Individualistic Abilities and Ideas

Having a unique business model can help to set you apart from your competitors. An example of someone who achieved success by thinking outside the box is Linda Katz. In the 1990s she decided that she would like to start a web-based business, but had never created a website before, as heard on NPR. As a joke, her site’s subject was tumbleweed farming. Though it was never intended to actually be a business, people took her seriously.

She began to get orders for tumbleweeds and some of her customers were movie companies. She even sold tumbleweeds for Johnny Depp’s “Finding Neverland.” Her tumbleweed sales earnings reached $40,000 per year. Her product was easy to obtain and unusual at the same time.

Promote Your Business on Social Media

Business Insider talks about how Facebook Small Business can help get the word out about new businesses. It also offers many of the resources necessary to educate business owners about marketing their products and services. Guides are available demonstrating how to build a Facebook page and how to create posts that will attract customers.

Startup Donut suggests that social media marketing can help your business from the very start. An advantage of social networking is it’s a very measurable and a cost-efficient way to reach a large audience of potential customers and let them know how your business can help them.

Having a Business Plan

Tech Vibes suggests that a good business plan can greatly increase a startup company’s chance for success. When creating a business plan, you must think of all the business aspects and work through them to see if they make sense. At this point you should conduct research to test your ideas. Decide upon a competitive price for your product, identify a potential customer base and try to determine if your sales will cover your costs. Two of the main reasons businesses fail are undercapitalization and poor management. Plan well and thoroughly to set yourself up for success.

The world is connecting digitally more than ever, and it’s only going to continue to rise. Growing a solid social media base with your startup will help to put your name out in the digital landscape. Growing a following is key when trying to create a brand. Being backed by web or VPS hosting can assure security in your web presence. Keeping promotions high will be sure to spearhead your business into the great wild wonder of startups.

How To Get Ideas – For You, Your Business and Your community

how to get ideasComing up with new ideas isn’t always easy. And while there are loads of different ways you can create the opportunities for ideas to spring to mind, there is one fundamental ingredient you must have if you want to get new and innovative ideas. You need to give them space to grow.

To begin with though, have you thought about how you actually come up with ideas? Do you already have a method whereby you allow ideas to come into existence? For example, do you go running or some other form of exercise to create the space to come up with new ways of solving known problems? And what about coming up with ideas about how to help your friends, family, community and the world at large? Idea-generation doesn’t stop with just your needs.

Usually, ideas come about because you want to do something better or there is a problem that you have recognised that you want to help solve. This could be in your business, personal life, of in the lives of others.

What can happen with any new idea is that it can be discounted or dismissed even as it is being shared. The best way to describe this is with the phrase “All ideas are born dying”. This reflects that many people will talk down an idea even before it has been properly heard. The moment you even utter the words “I have an idea”, someone is already thinking “oh yeah, here we go. What crazy idea am I going to hear now?”

So, it is vital that you create a space in which you, and those who you will share your ideas with, are allowed to share any and all ideas without fear of ridicule or being dismissed as having nothing to offer.

Having a safe space in which you can share your ideas still will not actually help you come up with any ideas on its own. So, here are some prompting questions to get you thinking. In effect, this is a brainstorming session.

  • Is there a problem that you know of that needs a new solution?
  • Is there a need you know of that needs to be met?
  • Do you know someone who is in pain and you can help them overcome it?
  • Is there something exciting you want to experience or help others experience?
  • Is there a part of your community you want to see changed?
  • Is there a part of your city you want to see changed? Or even your country?
  • Have you always wanted to do something but you aren’t sure what?
  • If money was no object, what would you be doing (in your business, your job, your personal life)?

These prompting questions can be asked any time of day or night to help generate ideas. What often happens with ideas is that they come to you at times when you least expect it. You may be catching up with friends, watching a move, reading a book, doing some exercise, or even taking a shower when you have a brilliant idea hit you like a lightening bolt. When this does, as soon as you can be sure to capture as much of the idea in a notebook so you can review it later and share it with others

Once you have some ideas then it is time to share these in that safe space you have created. By sharing ideas, you can build off others’ knowledge and passion, and see what synergies may be between all the ideas. Synergy means that together there is a connected, and through that connection, greater achievement can be made then the separate parts acting independently. So, pair up with those who like your idea and can add to it with ideas of their own.

Finally, once you have some ideas and have seen about aligning these with any others that are relevant, you can then get to the point of seeing how to make the ideas become a reality. What resources do you need to make it happen? If you don’t have all the resources yourself, consider how you could get it. Certainly in business, this is part of partnerships and even buying in specialist help on a particular area. If it is an idea with your community, then perhaps it is finding out which of your neighbours and friends have the time to get behind the idea.

When creating an environment to come up with ideas, go crazy. Brainstorm ideas on a variety of topics, and then create the safe space in which to share these ideas with those you trust. In doing so, you have a greater chance that your creativity can flourish and help you identify ways to be more efficient, more effective and have more fun in what you do.

Selling Online and Offline for Retailers

I just read this short article on the dangers of inconsistent customer service by online retailers , when compared to the in-store experience. An excerpt from the article:

“Some major American retailers faced negative consumer sentiment after establishing their online businesses as siloed operations. Separate management teams with different strategies and profit and loss statements lead to numerous customer service issues.

US retailers faced specific problems with customers attempting to return items bought online in-store. Unintegrated loyalty card programs also created issues when customers assumed their online purchases could generate rewards.”

The full article can be found here:

http://www.marketingmag.com.au/news/view/aussie-retailers-must-learn-from-us-1371

It is all well and good to manage the financial aspects of online selling as a sub-entity within your business, but your customer will want the same service from online retailers as well as in-person shopping. They will also want to be able to seamlessly operate in both areas.

Does your online business strategy provide this solid customer service experience? If not, what needs to change?

Does School Kill Creativity for Kids?

Here’s some food for thought. Is our current education system killing creativity for kids? Are we doing our society any justice by encouraging the focus on scientific and linguistic learning whilst down-playing the importance of class room creativity?

Here is an interesting presentation about this issue, and well worth the 19 minutes to watch. It is thought-provoking, funny and raises some serious questions about creativity and innovation, and the value we as a culture put on creativity.

Thanks to TED.com for the video and for allowing others to share it.

What are your thoughts?

Creating Traffic for your Website

Web Marketing can be considered by some to be an unknown process that only a rare few know how to do. It is true that search engine marketing requires a specific skill set, but there are ways in which you can market your website effectively to increase traffic.

Internet sales continue to soar, particularly in certain market segments and more and more, the first place people go to in order to learn about your business is the internet.  If they find a well designed web site that is full of features, that works fast and draws them in, that can be a tremendous tool for promoting your business.

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What is a Trade Mark?

Trade marks are what distinguish one business and its products from another.  They allow goods and services to be recognised and selected by the trade marks that they bear.

Good trade marks are memorable and distinctive.  They will be remembered by the consumer, who has either seen an advertisement or used the product.  They then allow that same consumer to look out for products bearing that same trade mark when shopping.  As such, it is important that businesses can protect their trade marks from competitors using something similar.

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CRM Software Reviews

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM for short, is the term given to the process that a business uses to manage its interactions with customers. Why it is so popular and is one of those corporate buzz words is that it helps organisations systematically track the activities they have with their customers and prospects.

You most likely already have a system in place to help you track your customers’ needs and the conversations you have with them. At the most basic level, it is usually a pen and paper. If you have a desk littered with reminder notes about people to call or email, then you can most likely relate to the frustration that this basic CRM system causes.

Putting into place a system that helps your people manage customers can be a complex task. Hopefully after reading this post this task will seem much more doable.

Do you Need a System?

Firstly, assess whether your business is of such a size that it requires the use of a specific CRM system to help manage customers. As a rule of thumb, I would suggest if you have over 20 active customers and are continuing to connect with more potential customers each week, then you would benefit from a Customer Relationship Management system. If your business has a low number of active customers (regardless of their size) you may be able to function very effectively with a mash of written notes and a database such as Access.

What CRM System should you use?

If you have decided that a CRM system or CRM software for small business will help you, you have some options to look at. Basically, you will be looking for some type of software that can facilitate the tracking of customer details and the history of interaction with them. There are some software options available that are applicable for many different business types and some that are industry-specific. Both these streams have options for Software as a Service (SaaS) – which is basically a web based crm software solution.

For a detailed review of CRM software options available, check out ZNET’s review (see below). This review discusses SugarCRM, Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, Oracle and Infor.  SugarCRM has both an open source option and an enterprise option. This piece of software is also very powerful, but we recommend that if you are serious about using any software for your CRM activities, to utilise a paid service. This is your customer history here, so it is worth investing the time and money into streamlining it.

> CRM suite by ZNET

> SugarCRM

SaaS Options

The options listed above, plus a huge amount of results in Google, will show you CRM software solutions available on a monthly fee amount. The pros for this approach is:

  • Low upfront fees to get started
  • No specific IT knowledge required to install software
  • Available from any computer with an internet connection
  • Active support by the software developers
  • Flexible account options to fit into your business needs (i.e. different plans)

The cons for using this approach are:

  • Possibly more expensive over time than buying software outright
  • May be limited with features compared to traditional software available.

Once you have decided which option you will use, spend some time understanding the system and adding your customer details.

If you have used, or are using a CRM software package that you think is worth mentioning, login and leave a comment below.

Being different gets noticed

Its short. Its quick. And its really cool. The next time you are making your way through the train transport system where you live, imagine that the scene below took place and you saw it. How intrigued would you be with it all? And, how many people would you tell about it?

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What is Twitter?

Looking for a really easy way to understand what the craze is behind Twitter – what is the definition of twitter and how does twitter work? Check out this quick 2 ½ minute video that does just that.

Enjoy!

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