Building Your List Can Be a Thing of Beauty

A step-by-step guide to collecting customer and member email addresses

social-networkWhether you’re a bookstore, a nonprofit arts organization, a wine consultant, or an accountant, you need a steady stream of business, referrals, or response from the people that keep your doors open.

That starts with staying in regular communication with your audience. When you build an ongoing dialogue, you increase the trust and comfort level they have with you. They look forward to hearing from you. You’ll stay top of mind with them.

As a result, they’ll become more loyal, spend more on your products and services, donate more frequently, and be more likely to refer you to their friends or colleagues.

Sounds great, right? The easiest, most effective way to build that dialogue is with an email newsletter. And that’s why it’s so important for small businesses to have and grow an email list.

Ready to get started?
This guide will walk you through the steps to quickly and easily capture the email addresses you need to build your list, connect with customers, and take your campaigns to the next level.

Here are some things you can do to build a permission-based email list, wherever you go, however your organization interacts with the public.

At your office or place of business

  • Ask every customer if they want to receive your email newsletter, promotions, surveys, or event notices.
  • Request customer email addresses at POS, when ordering online, or when checking out.
  • Use Constant Contact’s desktop widget, the Constant Capture tool, to instantly add customer email addresses when they check out.
  • Add space to your comment cards or surveys for people to sign up.
  • Put tent cards, wall, or counter displays in your place of business. Use a teaser, if applicable, about getting the inside scoop or exclusive offers from you.
  • Use a fishbowl on your counter to collect email newsletter sign-up forms or business cards. Offer a weekly or monthly prize, like discounts or gifts from your establishment or other local vendors. Let everyone know they’ll be added to your email list and announce the winners in your email newsletter.

Quick Tip #1
Want to build your email list faster?
Start a contest for your employees, staff, or volunteers with a prize to the person who’s collected the most email addresses from customers, clients, or members.

If you’re online and use social media

  • Add Constant Contact’s web sign-up tool to your website and add the Facebook sign-up tool to your Facebook Page so people can join your email list.
  • Ask your social media connections to sign up for your email list by providing a link to your sign-up form.
  • Share your latest email newsletter, offer, promotion, event, or survey on your favorite social network and let everyone see the great content you’re sending on a regular basis.
  • Create a “teaser” about your upcoming email newsletter and post it on social networks telling your connections what they’ll get if they subscribe.

When you’re at events, in the field, or networking:

  • If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, get Constant Contact’s FREE QuickView app so you can add new contacts on the fly at tradeshows, networking events, seminars, or even when you least expect it.
  • Bring a sign-up sheet to every public event you exhibit at or participate in: fairs, open houses, fundraising events, craft shows—any place where dozens of people are going to learn more about your business.
  • With Constant Contact’s Text-to-Sign-Up feature all you need to do is provide your special, customized keyword and your short code. The person will be prompted to send a text message with his or her email address to join your list.
  • Our QR code sign-up tool featureallows you to create a simple QR code that, when scanned by a smartphone, takes your customers, clients, members, and supporters to a mobile-friendly web sign-up form.

Quick Tip #2
Whenever you come in contact with a customer or member, ask if they’re subscribed to your email list. If not, sign them up by text message or with our iPhone app.

Here’s what to do with your email list!

  • Ask your customers or members what they want to hear about from you—consider creating a Feedback & Surveys campaign to collect this information quickly and easily.
  • Categorize your master email list into smaller lists that group people together by their interests. It allows you to get the right messages to the right contacts.
  • Host an event like a class, seminar, demonstration, client/member appreciation party, or fundraiser to establish a bigger presence in your community, get publicity, and attract new people. (Use an Events & Registrations campaign to capture registrations and online payments easily.) Ask attendees if you can add them to your email list.
  • Collect people’s birthday or anniversary dates. Every month, send a special discount or offer to those celebrating their big day.

Quick Tip #3
Many businesses send birthday promotions offering customers a discount or gift on their big day. Why not offer an anniversary promotion? You’ll attract couples who will be in a celebratory mood to splurge.

Designing a Marketing Email That Works

Designing-a-Marketing-Email-That-Works-1Tips for designing marketing emails that get opened and help your business grow

First impressions matter. And when someone opens your marketing email for the first time, what they see is going to determine what they do next. Chances are you’ll want them to read your email and take a next step. Maybe you want them to visit your website, register for an event, or buy something. This is where a beautiful, professional-looking email designed to drive action is crucial and that’s why we made a guide dedicated to helping you make the right impression with every email you send. We’ll take you through the reasons email subscribers delete emails and how you can encourage people to take those next steps.

 

The Reasons Readers Trash Your Emails

Let’s start off with a heartbreakingly obvious fact: people make snap judgements about whether or not to read your emails based on a quick glance. That’s how everyone reads emails these days. We choose an email message, give it a two-second glance, then decide if it’s worth our time. If it is, we keep it and read it. If not, we hit the delete key and send the email to the trash. How can you keep your email out of the trash? The secret is good design. In those first two seconds, email design is all your reader sees.

1. Forgetting to say hello

Your emails should feature an instantly-recognizable, consistent header image. Over time, your header image will be associated with the high-quality information you share.

Ideally, this email header should relate to the business or product your reader signed up to learn more about. So if you’re a dog groomer and you have a special email newsletter just for poodle owners, your header should identify the information you’ll share and look visually related to your overall dog groomer brand.

2. Hard-to-read fonts

Your email newsletter’s main goal is to communicate, but what if the words are hard to read? Be sure to avoid these two errors:

Using fonts that are too small.
This is especially important if some of your readers are older, and may have eyesight problems. And with so many emails being viewed on smartphones, it makes sense to increase font sizes.

Using too many fonts.
Combining too many different fonts makes your email look messy. Pare it down to no more than two fonts, and only use the italic and bold styles to add variety.

3. Color catastrophes

For your email to look professional and inviting, you have to master color. The biggest color mistakes are choosing ones that are overly bright or florescent. Don’t use too many colors, either. Use a color palette with two dominant colors and tone down the rest.
Finally, don’t use light text on a dark ground. The most readable combination is dark text on a light ground.

4. Muddled information

When a reader glances at your email, they should know right away which information is the most important, what they should look at next, and what’s the least important. Make this obvious by using a large, bold headlines for newsletter’s main topics.

5. Awful images

There’s nothing that says “an amateur designed this email” like cheap-o clip art.

6. No base to stand on

Featuring your contact information, your company mission, and your social media profiles in a consistent footer area in every email makes you look professional.

7. Frequent makeovers

Once you’ve got an email looking good, resist the urge to keep changing it. Choose a look and stick to it for a while so people recognize who the email is coming from.

 

Make your emails ‘keepers’

Use these tips to create a recognizable brand experience with every message you send. It’s the best way to ensure that the great information you share doesn’t end up in the virtual trash heap.

Email Design in Action

So, what does all of this look like in action? To find out, we intereviewed Mari Irizarry, the Director of Communication for ReelWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to offering teen filmmakers the resources they need to turn their dreams into a reality.

1. Email newsletters aren’t the same as regular newsletters
When ReelWorks started sending email newsletters, the content was very similar to regular, direct mail newsletters. “We thought emails had to mimic newsletters,” Mari says. “But we decided it’s more about grabbing attention, not creating a big newsletter with different links and pages.

2. Things need to be focused
Emails from ReelWorks slowly evolved into focused, concise newsletters. “We found out that the longer the email was, the less likely it was for people to actually get the information in it,” Mari explains. “If we send out emails about a specific topic, then it can reach the right people a lot better.”

3. Make things visual
Mari started using email newsletters as a way to showcase ReelWorks’ projects. “Putting up a nice image really helps grab attention,”
she says. Mari was able to take the design tips she had learned over the years and create the Reel Works newsletter that goes out today.

10 Strategies for Social Media Marketing Success

load-roarTurn Your Social Buzz into a Loud Roar

In the evolving world of social media marketing, it can be hard for a time-starved small business or organization to keep pace and know what to do when it comes to connecting with customers and members on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Yelp.

While there’s no “one-size fits all” approach, we’ve assembled 10 best practices for social media marketing success that will help your business or organization, whether you’re just getting started or trying to take your efforts to the next level.

 

1. Have a Goal

Like most marketing and business efforts, it’s good to have a goal in mind as you delve into social media marketing. It doesn’t have to be anything audacious like increase sales 30% year over year. Something more along the lines of improving company/brand awareness; adding a new channel to interact with customers, members, donors, and prospects; or improving search engine optimization (SEO) will work just fine.

It’s important to keep in mind that the return on investment with social media marketing cannot always be measured in hard dollars. While one can offer deals and make sales, the real power of social media marketing is in building relationships and remaining top of mind with existing customers. Plus, the viral nature of social media can help you find and connect with new customers.

A July 2010 study by Gartner found that 74% of consumers rely on some type of social media network to guide purchasing decisions. That’s because people rely on what others have to say about a product or brand before making an investment themselves. The survey points out that marketers should use social media networks to target the people who influence others’ purchasing decisions. Doing so may not have a direct ROI attached to it, but it can indirectly help influence sales.

If you’re new to social media, set achievable goals that will allow you to get your feet wet and start building connections with your existing customer base. As your comfort level and social media savvy grow, so too can your goals.

The real power of social media marketing is in and remaining top of mind with existing customers. building relationships

2. Know Who You Are and Portray Yourself Consistently

Before diving into social media for your business or organization, you should decide what kind of image you want to portray through your various social media outlets.

Some argue that social media should be free and easy going, and marketers should take a casual approach. Others disagree and think users should maintain a more serious, buttoneddowned approach. The path you follow is up to you and your business or organization’s culture. Either way, be sure to stay consistent with the brand identity you’ve established.

No matter which way you fall on the casual versus serious choice, make sure your posts sound human. After all, you’re connecting with other human beings. Social media marketing gives you a unique opportunity to humanize your brand and to show your customers, members, or prospects that there are real people behind the product or service — people just like them. Use a conversational tone and forget the marketing talk.

This helps people relate to your business or organization, and that goes a long way toward getting people to know, like, and trust you. When people know, like, and trust you, they are much more likely to share your message with their friends. And it’s word-of-mouth (i.e.: the network effect) that makes social media marketing such a powerful marketing strategy.

Additionally, you’ll want to portray yourself accurately in your social media profiles. If you’re using the company logo as your avatar, make sure it’s the most up-to-date version. If you’re using a photo of yourself, try using one that is no more than 18 months old. Chances are good you’ll meet some of your social media followers and fans in real life, so you’ll want them to be able to recognize you.

Social media marketing gives you a unique opportunity to humanize your brand.

 

3. Be Where Your Customers/Members Are

Social media marketing is important because today, customers want choices where they interact with brands. For example, some may like to follow a brand on Twitter but not on Facebook. Social media gives them that choice, so it’s important to have a presence where your customers are looking to interact with you and other businesses. How do you know which sites are right for your business or organization? The simple answer is to ask your customers or members. When they come into your place of business or when you see them at an event, ask what networks they use. If they make a purchase, add a social media question to your feedback survey to collect information about what networks they use.

If asking isn’t an option, you obviously want to look at the big three first. With 750 million active users, Facebook is probably the first place to start given its sheer size. Twitter, with 200 million users, and LinkedIn, with more than 100 million users, round out the top three.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have features that allow you to search for friends on the respective networks by email address. A business or organization can use this feature by uploading its email contact list to the service to see how many matches come up. You may not want to use this method to instantly follow and/or connect with people, though. Instead, use it as a survey tool to see what network(s) most of your customers are using.

Another way you can identify where your customers and members are engaging is to look at your social sharing data: On which sites are people sharing your content? After all, it’s one thing for a customer to belong to a social network, but if he’s actually using that site, then that’s the place you want to be. This information can be an important part of making your decision.

But don’t just stick to the social networks. People these days are checking in using services like Foursquare and Gowalla, and posting reviews on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List. It’s a good idea to make it as easy for them to do so as possible. Search for your business on sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch, and Gowalla and claim your page so the information about your business is correct. (GetListed.org is a great resource for learning more about these sites.)

It’s one thing for a customer to belong to a social network, but if he’s actually using that site, then that’s the place you want to be.

4. Tell Your Customers and Members Where You Are

Unless you have a famous name (like LeBron James, Ashton Kutcher, or Bill Gates) or brand, your customers, members, and fans need to be told where they can connect with you through social media. Put links to your social media pages on your website, in your email newsletters, and in your personal email signature. For stores, restaurants, and other businesses where people congregate in person, put out signs telling people where they can connect with you on social media.

Start with your loyal customer base: the people who are already signed up for your email newsletter. It’s your loyal customers who are most likely to find you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter; these are also the folks who will share your posts and help you connect with their friends and connections. Think about it: If you stumble upon an organization’s Page on Facebook and it has numerous fans, including a few of your own friends, you’re likely going to become a fan of it yourself, right? Seed your social media connections with your existing list to give yourself a head start on growing the number of fans and followers.

In short: Any place you connect with customers and members is a good place to mention that they can connect and interact with you online.

Put to your social media pages on your website, in your email newsletters, and in your personal email signature. links

 

5. Don’t Just Join Conversations. Add Value to Them

Social media is just that: Social. It’s about having conversations and engaging with people. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn excel at making conversations easy to start and easy to join.

What you don’t want to do is jump into the middle of a conversation just for the sake of doing so or to make an obvious sales pitch. What you should do is add value to the conversation at hand by sharing your expertise and knowledge as it applies to the situation.

With Twitter, this applies to “retweeting” other people’s comments. If you do retweet something and there’s room under the 140-character cap, add a comment of your own to the forwarded tweet. There are many user timelines that are made up entirely of retweets and no original thought. Would you want to follow someone like that? Probably not. Make sure to add some value and original thought to your tweets, and other social network posts, to differentiate yourself from the pack and demonstrate your expertise (and personality).

You can (and should) reuse content from other sites, though. It’s highly recommended to share on social media:

  • New blog entries
  • Email newsletter archives
  • News and feature articles that relate to your area of business
  • New features on your website

The key is to share content (even at 140 characters) that provides value to your followers and keeps them engaged. Otherwise, they could tune you out or stop following you altogether.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn excel at making conversations easy to start and easy to join.

6. Be Relevant

Relevancy is one of the gray areas of social media. Given the casual atmosphere, it’s easy to post everything and anything, but do your customers and members really want to hear about your bad day? As a business or organization participating in social media, you want to stay relevant to your business and, where appropriate, locale.

This does not mean you need to write only about your business or organization. For instance, a restaurant might post about food topics in general, including business trends, tips for preparing food, etc. The key is to not litter your wall, tweets, or status updates with just sales pitches.

As a local business or organization, you can post about happenings in the greater community. Did the Little League team you sponsor win the championship? Post a note of congratulations. A member of the community do something noteworthy? Congratulate them. Or, is there a big national event going on or a trending topic, like the Super Bowl or an election? Write a tweet that relates to that, and if it’s appropriate, use the related hashtag (e.g., #superbowl). After all, it’s what everyone is talking about; anything you can do to be a part of social media conversations helps increase your exposure. Keep in mind the human element and what connects us to each other as people.

Anything you can do to be a part of social media conversations helps increase your exposure.

7. Be Engaging

Social media networks — and by extension, social media marketing as a whole — tend to be more casual and conversational in tone and approach. People gather on sites like Facebook and Twitter because they have common interests, because they want to be part of a larger conversation, or because they want to be in the know. It’s not formal communication, like a press release would be. Accordingly, messages are shorter, friendlier, and in many cases (but not all), more fun.

If you really want to derive value from social media, you need to engage with people. Like any conversational interaction, listening is the key to being effective. You need to listen to what people are saying to you and about you. When appropriate, be sure to respond.

But social media marketing is also about sharing your expertise, news, and even promotions. You can show your followers that you know your business and industry by posting links to related articles, notes about other complementary businesses, and by interacting with others on the networks in which you participate. Don’t just post information; ask people what they think of the article you’re posting. Ask thought-provoking questions that will encourage a dialogue. Post photos or videos that show what’s going on with your business or organization, and encourage your friends, followers, and fans to do the same.

Social media is a two-way dialog, not just a one-way communication. Make the most of that whenever and however you can.

 

8. Be Active

How often to post is another gray area in social media marketing. Do it too little and followers may not notice. Post too often and they may get annoyed.

When posting something to Twitter, such as a link to a new blog post or special deal, you may want to post the same information more than once in a given day. Twitter feeds can be a fast moving stream, so if a customer doesn’t see your original tweet, he may miss out. That said, while it’s alright to post something a couple times a day, it’s important to change up the wording a bit each time to freshen up the content. Otherwise, you’ll look like a spammer and people may unfollow you.

For Facebook, a single link to a blog post or deal of the day is enough since those posts tend to have a little more stickiness in a user’s news feed. The same goes for LinkedIn updates.

Generally, you can post multiple updates to Twitter, one or two to Facebook, and one to LinkedIn over the course of a given day without the risk of annoying the followers on each site. But don’t post just to post. Make sure what you’re sharing is going to engage your fans, followers, and connections, and will be worth sharing.

Like with email marketing, knowing your audience will help you determine how often to post.

While it’s alright to post something a couple times a day, it’s important to change up the wording a bit each time to freshen up the content.

9. Respond in a Timely Manner

The frequency advice only refers to original posts. You can, and should, reply to people’s questions and posts as often and as quickly as possible, particularly when they mention a problem with your business, organization, product, or service.

Twitter in particular is used to lodge complaints all the time. Often, people are just venting and not expecting a response from the company they’re complaining about. But, if you’re tracking your company name, Twitter handle, and/or key product terms via Twitter Search, you can easily spot these complaints and respond. (NutshellMail from Constant Contact is a great tool for monitoring Twitter Search results without having to constantly sit at the computer.) We recommend, responding within a single business day if possible. Any longer and your response could fall on deaf ears.

When you respond, it’s recommended that you nicely ask how you can help the person, then attempt to take the conversation offline, or to another channel like email or an instant messaging client (meaning not in a public social media conversation) to deal with the nuts and bolts of the issue. You don’t want a he said/ she said debate littered across Twitter, where it can be picked up by search engines and read by anyone, or posted on your Facebook wall, where it could have a longer shelf life.

Two things to keep in mind when it comes to using social media for customer service issues:
1. Keep a thick skin. You’re going to run into negative comments. Don’t take them personally, and try to turn that unhappy customer into a happy one.
2. Respond to the positive comments as well. If someone gives you a glowing review, respond with a thank you. It shows that you’re paying attention to all of your customers, not just the squeaky wheels.

When you respond, it’s recommended that you nicely ask how you can help the person, then attempt to take the conversation offline.

10. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It’s a best practice to share links to relevant articles, blog posts, and other content with your audience. Social media networks make this an easy thing to do. One thing to remember, though, is to cite the source of the link if it’s not your own content. This is particularly important with Twitter, where shortened URLs can obscure the site being linked to. The best practice here is to add the person or source’s Twitter handle (if known) when linking to third-party content. Doing so offers two benefits: One, you’re not pulling a bait-and-switch by passing someone else’s content off as your own (yes, the person clicking the link will realize it soon enough, but that doesn’t make it right). Two, the person you’re crediting will see that you’re sharing his content with your own customers/members/followers since the tweet will show up in his “Mentions” timeline. (This person may decide to follow you as well.)

This is not as much of an issue with Facebook since it automatically includes headline, description, and even image thumbnails from the target page when one shares a link, making it more obvious who the shared content is from.

It’s a best practice to share links to relevant articles, blog posts, and other content with your audience.


When it comes to social media marketing, it’s good to remember that it’s just another — but very powerful — tool in your marketing arsenal, and not a cure-all or replacement for other strategies that are already working for you. These best practices will help you improve your social media marketing, but ultimately, it’s about doing what’s right for you and your business or organization. You know your customers best and what they expect from you. Delivering the content they want and engaging with them, no matter what the channel, is the most important thing. Over time you will learn from your fans and followers what works and what doesn’t.

So get out there, experiment, and learn by doing!

When it comes to social media marketing, it’s good to remember that it’s just another tool in your marketing arsenal.

Getting More Organic Facebook Traffic

Facebook-organicIf you have developed a website for your business, perhaps you have also created a social media presence for the same. But merely creating a Facebook page for your business won’t do. You need to be regular on the social media platform in order to achieve the desired amount of traffic. While there are a number of ways to drive forced traffic to your website or to the social media pages of your website, like PPC (Pay Per Click) or Google Ads, it is always advisable to get more organic traffic. The more organic traffic you get for your website, the more it benefits in the long run. Since Facebook is one of the leading social media platforms, used worldwide, you might like to get more organic Facebook traffic for your website. But with the recent announcement on behalf of Facebook, regarding the reduction of organic reach for pages, it has become all the more difficult to get more organic Facebook traffic. Here are some ways that can still help you bring organic traffic from Facebook:

Ensure a steady stream of content at regular intervals
One of the key strategies to get more organic Facebook traffic to your website is to update the site regularly. If your website never changes, you will have to struggle a lot in order to drive genuine traffic to your website. Posting fresh and unique content on your website is important not only for effective social media marketing, but also for better search engine optimization. Even if you can't update your blog every day, consider posting a business tip of your genre, curating top 5 helpful articles in your niche, a news bite with a picture etc, at least once a week, to give something meaningful and useful to your website’s regular visitors. Scheduling your posts at times when there’s less competition (at 11:30 pm or beyond) can also help you get more organic traffic.

Make sure your users can easily share the content on Facebook
If you want to generate more Facebook traffic to your website, you must ensure that it is absolutely easy to share your content on Facebook. Consider adding Facebook share buttons or a social share plugin. One type of plugin that you can use is the Digg Digg plugin. It lets you display all the essential buttons, and also floats along the side of the post just as the readers scroll through the articles. You can also add static share buttons right at the beginning and the end of the post.

Optimize your posts
Basically, there are three ways to optimize your Facebook posts and include a link to your website. Most people simply post a link and let the link pull in the metadata and image. But in case the image on your website isn’t sized optimally in a 1.91:1 ratio, the pulled up image will be shown in a smaller size in the news feed. Another way is to post an image and then put the link into the status update along with a little blurb with reference to the link. In this case, every time the photo is shared, the small description too will travel with it, thus giving you a bit more control on the outgoing message. What’s more, the news feed can show the images in a bigger size. Changing your posts to text-only post with a link is yet another way though social media experts believe that it’s unlikely to work well in the future as Facebook’s new algorithm shows fewer text posts from pages.

Optimize all the other places on Facebook, where you can add links to your website
In order to drive more organic traffic to your website, consider putting links to your website in other parts of your Facebook page that your audience might be visiting. Consider using your 'About Us' page to direct people to the other pages of your website. You can also add links to the photo descriptions and milestones.

These are some of the most effective ways to drive organic Facebook traffic to your website. If your marketing budget permits, you may even advertise on Facebook to get organic, targeted traffic for your website.

5 Simple Tips for Mobile-Friendly Emails

mobile-emailSmartphone usage is sky-rocketing, and with it, so is the number of people that are reading email on a mobile device.

According to Litmus, 43% of email is now opened on a mobile device. That number is up 138% from 2010, and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s going to continue to grow.

This means that you need to be creating emails that are mobile friendly. A mobile-friendly email is an email that displays optimally between a desktop/laptop and a mobile device, ensuring that it will look great regardless of where your customers and prospects read it.

1. Be as concise as possible in both design and content
Having a clear and concise message should be a staple of any email, but it’s even more important when designing for mobile. Screen real estate is very valuable on mobile (this is going to be a common theme), so keep the design very clean and simple and focus on the essentials.

2. Use a single column template
Because of the limited real estate you get with a mobile device, it’s generally better to use simple layouts. Often times with multi-column layouts (2 columns and more) your readers will have to zoom or scroll on their smartphone to see everything. Using a single column template will make your content much more flexible for all screen sizes.

3. Use a single, clear call to action
Make sure to include a clear call to action, and put it near the top of your email. Tell your readers what you want them to do, and make it really easy for them to do so. Whatever the action you want them to take, just make sure it’s loud and clear. And remember — with mobile, the finger is the new mouse, so make sure it’s really easy to click.

4. Avoid tiny fonts
Make sure your text can be read easily. Use a minimum of size 11pt font for body text and 22pt for headlines. We also recommend using a strong contrast of colors, like dark text on a light background. Many people turn down the brightness level on the mobile device to help conserve battery—and they are often reading on the go outside in the sunlight—so a strong contrast of colors will be easier to read.

5. Take it easy on images
Only use the images that are essential to your email. Here’s why: Apple’s iOS automatically enables images to display by default, but many other mobile device platforms—like Android—turn images off by default. If your email has a bunch of images in it, they might just look like chunks of white space. Because of this, we always recommend including image descriptions (also known as alt text) to let people know what the image is even when it’s not being displayed.

A good tip is to always preview your email and make sure it still looks great, even if none of the images are displayed.

Working smarter on Social Media in half the time and effort

social-media-schedulingAs people are spending a lot of time on different social media websites, businesses - both big and small, are trying to leverage these platforms to attract attention and get leads that they can convert into sales. But many often make the mistake of spending hours on these platforms without any planning or preparation, which makes their effort and time bring nothing in return. If you too are thinking about using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram to create a buzz for your offerings, drive more traffic to your website and get leads which can be converted into sales, you need to work smarter, not harder.

You can use social media for a lot of things such as:

  • Discovering potential business associates
  • Educating and enticing existing as well as potential customers
  • Posting real time updates abut product launches or new offerings
  • Reposting press releases
  • Blogging about the business

If you are ready to do all these and more, here are some tactical methods that have been proven to produce twice the amount of social media benefits with only half of the effort:

Creating a schedule
With a well-planned social media calendar at hand, you can immediately cut down the extent of consistent effort that you need to put in throughout the day. Remember - the inherent advantage of social media is also its disadvantage. It’s true that social media can keep your brand message accessible to everyone, 24x7, but this requires consistent output and daily effort on your part. Therefore, you should set aside time for your social media campaigns, preferably an hour or two, to deal exclusively with various features, starting from finding interesting news and images, sharing interesting happenings of your business/niche, to  connecting with fans and followers. Using tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your social media posts can reduce your effort as you won’t need to manually publish them. This way, you can produce two or three times as many posts as you would have otherwise done.

Collection of quality content
Finding quality content that’s unique and interesting at the same time to keep your readers hooked is a key challenge of social media campaigns. This job is usually very time-consuming too, which makes it all the more difficult for busy business owners. However, you can use some tools and techniques to reduce the amount of time and effort that’s put into finding and posting interesting articles, blogs, snippets, infographics and images. For example, you can bookmark interesting content while you are browsing or save them using the Evernote button in your browser, in case you use it.

It pays to allocate a fixed time to find content on various platforms. You may schedule 5 minutes each to find articles or copying information relevant to your niche while browsing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Again, you can set 10 minutes aside to browse Google and find news related to your services or products that are interesting things to share.

Setting about 10-15 minutes aside to visit top 5 or 10 blogs and websites in your niche to copy quotes, links to content etc can also help you collect good information.

You may even consider hiring a virtual assistant or ask an employee to do these tasks and respond to the queries, feedback and peeves of your fans and followers.

Sharing it frequently
This is the ultimate hack for less-effort/more-content. You should ideally share the content across different social media platforms more than once a week, preferably at different times of the day. There’s a logic to this simple technique. Different people will see different social media posts, depending on what time they are being posted. Sharing the same content more than once will give you three to four times more mileage than what you will get from a single post, which you share only once.

To work smarter and get more done in less time, you can use a tool like Hootsuite that allows you to post to multiple accounts with a single push of the button. For automatic posting and scheduling of content, another efficient tool to use is Buffer. Yet another smart way is to use the scheduling tools offered by Socialoomph. It has a decent monitoring platform too, which you can leverage to track keywords.

Conclusion
With these tips, tricks and hacks, you can get more done on social media with half the effort. In fact, increasing output on social media while reducing effort is simply a matter of being smart and productive. Social media can be a great way to save time and bring business your way, rather than being just another way to spend endless unproductive hours. By harnessing the reach of social media and working smartly, you can attract new customers, get quick and insightful feedback, improve customer service and even find more free time for the things that are most important in life and business.
Now that you know it all, are you ready to work smarter, not harder?

Facebook Real Estate Marketing Ideas

realtors tips for using facebookReal estate marketing has always been about connecting with people and selling them their dream homes. Over the years, changes in technology have ensured a shift in real estate marketing techniques. Most businesses in this domain these days have their focus strictly on the virtual world. The advent of social media marketing, especially on sites like Facebook, has further opened a brighter and wider future for real estate marketing in the virtual world. However, as with any other kind of marketing, it is important to implement innovative and unique ideas when marketing your real estate business using Facebook.

Here are five simple yet innovative ways in which you can use Facebook to market your real estate business and make it profitable:

Use more pictures and videos: Real estate marketing is all about visuals and the more visuals you use, the more attractive it will be to your followers. Pictures and videos are the best ways to get information across to your followers in the most interesting way. Additionally, interesting pictures help convert even the most boring information into something interesting and fun. For instance, if you have a post on statistics, adding a graph or a funny picture makes it fun for the readers whilst also being informative. There are several tools available today to help you post videos and photos easily. While you can definitely use the Facebook and the YouTube tools, you can also explore options like Instagram, Vine etc., which are great ways to add videos and pictures to your Facebook page.

Useful content and tips: While it is essential to make your followers aware about the various listings, it is equally important to build a relationship with them. This can be done by posting content and tips that your readers will find interesting and useful. These could be about home décor or could be pictures of two different home scenarios or even home inventions and trends that are in vogue. It is important to keep these posts short and often accompanied by pictures to make them interesting and attractive.

Neighborhood details: Real estate marketing is not solely restricted to selling homes. Rather, it includes selling neighborhoods as well. Therefore, it is imperative that you include small snippets or details about the various neighborhoods in which you have listings available. These could include interesting anecdotes, some special facts about the neighborhood, celebrities living there, if any, and other similar facts and snippets. You should make these posts short, crisp, interesting and to the point. Using photographs of celebrities living in the area or posting pictures of famous places, including restaurants, theaters, parks, museums etc are great ways to promote the neighborhood. Additionally, you can always talk about the various special features offered by the neighborhood in question, including factors like safety, availability of various resources etc.

Using Events and Weird Holidays: Another great way of ensuring that you are well connected with your followers is to showcase the events that are popular or forthcoming in the neighborhoods where you have listings. This would make your posts interesting and would definitely attract more traffic to your website. Additionally, you could create custom made graphics using your brand and tag it with some interesting yet weird holiday that is related to your industry. The internet will reveal several such holidays, which you can use to make your posts and brand more interesting.

Personal connection: Real estate marketing is all about how well the buyers connect with the seller. In the brick-and-mortar world, this is extremely easy as you directly meet and greet your clients. However, in the virtual world, this may become difficult, as you are only known through your page. Therefore, it is important to share information about your life as a real estate professional with your followers to make it seem real and stay connected. Also, take note of special events (birthdays, birth of a baby, anniversary etc) in the life of your followers and make sure to wish them. This will keep your name on top of their minds when they think about buying or selling a house.

While these are some of the important ways in which Facebook can be used by real estate marketing professionals, it is by no way an exhaustive list. However, this is a good place to start your journey while adding other ideas along the way. So, put on your thinking cap, blend some creativity with fun and information to make, and use the tips above to make the most of Facebook for driving traffic and getting leads for your real estate business.

 



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Marketing a Product no one Has Ever Heard of or Understands

thing-a-ma-bobMarketing a product is difficult. It becomes more so if no one is aware of or hasn't ever heard of the service or product that you wish to launch. Since your target audience has simply nil or very little understanding of what the product/service is that you are about to offer, and may not have any idea about your business, you must put in a little extra effort to help make your target clients understand and eventually appreciate your business and its offerings. If you are clueless about where to start from, here are some quick and easy tips to follow:

Find out the right approach and follow it religiously: Don't go with conventions. Avoid following methods that are cliché. Since the product or service that you are offering is not something very traditional, following the conventional methods of marketing products won't do any good. For instance, if you offer mobile applications for events, make sure you clarify who can use it, and how they can benefit the most from your product. Consider explaining why it is essential to develop a mobile app for all the available platforms like Windows, BlackBerry, IOS and Android. The key is to do thorough research about the behavior of your target audience, try to figure out how much knowledge they have about the related aspects and act accordingly.

Education is important: Educating your audience is one of the most important tasks that you have to do in order to market your product/service. Determine who comprise your target market and then educate them with informative stuff like videos, images and infographics. Make sure that these materials clearly state the purpose of offering this product or service and why your customers should use it. Consider engaging your target customers on different online platforms as this will not only help you explain the features of the product/service, but also generate interest among people about your offerings.

Create a buzz: Since people are not familiarized with the product/service that you are going to offer, you should create a buzz and ensure that your target clients hear about it as frequently as possible. Too much repetition will create familiarity, as a result of which they will be curious to know about the product/service and its varied features. There are a number of affordable advertising solutions that continue re-appearing (like Guerrilla text ads on Google and other search engines of your choice) and can help you establish the brand in your customers' mind. Try to be regular on different social media platforms (such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc) and post fresh and unique content about your offerings. You can also try attending several events and conferences frequently in order to make your brand and offerings popular.

Target specific demographics with your ads: For Facebook ads, use ad targeting options while pinpointing the “interest targeting” attribute to ensure that people having an interest/searching for something similar to your offerings are seeing your ads. For your YouTube videos, find people who may be interested in watching your videos and buying your product and run your ads there. Remember – you have to target specific demographics, find where your target clientele visit online, and pinpoint those places (websites, search engines, photo sharing sites, video sharing sites etc) to run your ads.

Rely on statistics and facts: It is just not possible to argue with a report that is well researched and includes valid figures and facts. Consider doing a thorough market research and include the facts and statistics in your promotional content. This will make the marketing material more credible and inspire confidence both in your business as well as your offerings. Make sure to mention the source of the external information that you are using. It is also advisable to mention the date and other details, when needed. If you are using any images, figures or graphs, ensure that they are both copyright-free and royalty-free.

For an innovative product/service that no one has heard of, you won’t get any direct inbound search that you can capitalize on. However, you need not despair as you can use the tips above to market your unique new offering. So, plan your advertising and marketing campaigns on these lines and execute them successfully.

Using Customer Journey Mapping to Grow Your Business

Journey-MappingSome recent business trends have displayed how almost all businesses these days are trying to become customer-centric. In this quest, they consider the customers' feedback to be one of the most important factors to determine their future business strategies. The customers too are leveraging contemporary digital innovation and getting involved with their chosen businesses using different mobile devices. No wonder why businesses consider customer experience management a crucial factor in their growth and expansion plans in an increasingly complex and competitive business landscape. In this scenario, customer journey maps have emerged as a popular element of the customer experience puzzle.

What is it?
A customer journey map is one of the most helpful tools to understand the reaction of your customers. Using it, you can understand what your customers exactly think about your offerings by tracking, observing and describing their interaction with your product. When well researched customer journey maps are prepared, they can provide you with a perfect outside-in analysis of your customers' perspective and what their desired outcomes are. However, you should remember that such maps need significant client insight-driven inputs and internal buy-in to be useful.

Factors to consider
In case you are planning to use customer journey maps to get useful insights that drive action, eventually leading to concrete improvements in your business, these are the certain factors that you need to consider:

Be clear about your objectives: Customer journey map is an excellent tool to know the gaps between what your customers expect and what their actual experience is. It also helps you to find avenues of improvement so that you can work on those. Like many other projects, in customer journey mapping too, you need to begin with the end in mind. Hence, it is important to know exactly what you want, after which you should set the goals and act accordingly.

Know your customers well: A journey map effectively shows how a customer thinks and what he/she feels about your product. In order to understand this properly, you need to look from the perspective of a single customer. It is considered to be the most effective if you can look at the situation from the perspective of a research-based customer personality that represents the needs, objectives and desires of a broader section. It is one of the most important aspects of representing the relationship effectively. Also, know what your customers want or require from each of the interactions while they are moving through the journey and how they can move from one stage to another with ease and speed. You should also be able to understand what the customers feel or think and what they expect from you at each step of the journey. Unless you have a clear idea about the needs, wants and objectives of your customers, the map would fail to characterize the relationship effectively.

Interact with your employees: Once you know exactly who your target customers are and what they want, consider building a personal view of the relationship. Create a customer-centric, cross-functional group that will be able to map out the customers' view of the journey. This should include important aspects like transitions, opportunities, issues and touch-points. Maps that are driven internally help you analyze the relationship between you and your customers to a great extent. It will also help you to identify the inputs, outputs and the key interactions.

Interact with your customers: A majority of businesses don’t focus on gathering a detailed customer perspective. But it gets quite difficult to proceed with your goals without a thorough view of what is important to your customers and what isn't. If you can't figure out what works and what doesn't, your journey map will lack the perfect view of what your customers think. This will, in turn, lead your employees to make decisions depending on flawed or incomplete information.

Opt for a customized map design: There are various ways of creating a journey map based on your brand, your objectives, the depth of facts and figures displayed, and the span of the journey mapped. Since this map will be a widely shared piece, its design should feel and look important to your people. Therefore, design it by using a language that your business and people understand and work with. Such a customized map will make it easy for the people who have to use it.

Use these factors to create customer journey maps that will help you take specific actions to improve your customers’ experience, thus giving a boost to your ROI. However, make sure not to get lost in the vast details that these maps bring to the table. Else, you will fall prey to analysis paralysis.

Social networking sites top Realtors are using

Millions of people use social networking sites everyday for various reasons. While some use them to stay connected with friends and family, some others leverage them for business or career. As more and more people are spending virtually every waking minute on some or the other social networking sites, using their computers, mobile devices and smartphones, businesses find this a great opportunity to use these sites to stay connected with their existing clientele, while attracting potential clients as well. If you have a real estate business, here are some social networking sites that you should target to take your business to the next level:

Real-Estate-Social-Media-Infographic

General Social Networks

Facebook: You can either create an individual profile or a business page (with relevant information about yourself/your business, photographs etc), after which you can connect to other users/businesses with similar interests, experiences etc. Make your posts fun, interesting, useful and thought-provoking to encourage people to come back and even share them with those in their own networks.

Twitter: At this microblogging site, the key is to communicate your desired message in a short, precise way within 140 characters. When you post on Twitter, you can include hyperlinks to your real estate website or blog, which will take people interested in your offerings right to your sales/opt-in page. However, you should encourage people to engage with you/follow you by sharing useful tips, local real estate information, great deals and discounts and other such things that can act as conversation starters. The best way to leverage Twitter is to find people in your community and start reaching out.

LinkedIn: This is a professional network and believed to be the best bet for expanding your real estate business. You can build a network of past friends, colleagues, bosses, clients and industry experts. With three degrees of separation, you can reach out to a huge extended network of your first connections. Even the ‘Answers’ section can help you craft a reputation as an industry expert if you start answering questions asked by others. Another way to use LinkedIn is to ask people (your past clients/bosses/colleagues/project managers etc) to endorse you and write recommendations of your work. You may even consider joining relevant groups on LinkedIn (such as the National Association of REALTORS) where you can meet like-minded people and share/test ideas with others in the industry. 

Google+: This fast growing social network gives realtors an opportunity to share and engage in conversation with others. You can create “circles” such as “Real Estate Agents in Arizona’, ‘CA Local Connections’, ‘Family’ etc where you add your connections to keep groups of people having a similar attribute together. You can also create a business page specifically for your real estate ventures.

Social Networks for Realtors

The following are social networks targeted specifically to bring those in the real estate business together:

ActiveRain: This social network offers referral building and networking opportunities for real estate professionals and their clients. The objective of this platform is to help empower people by providing requisite tools, which they can use to promote their real estate business and connect with peers all over the country. Thus, even the newest of real estate professionals can use it to ensure that s/he is found on the Internet.

Real Town: This is one of the most respected and oldest real estate networks, which features a variety of online communities as well as an extensive bouquet of community created content including real estate related articles from syndicated columnists, industry experts, RIS Magazine, NAR, vendors and the members.

Flipping Pad: Designed exclusively for real estate investors, this is a great site for you to build relationships with other real estate investors, be in your locality or across the country. On this site, you can list your Pads (flips) quite easily.  In case you are a wholesaler or a rehabber, this site can help a lot by bringing new leads your way and giving you an opportunity to network.

Photography and Video Sites

Pinterest: This social bookmarking site lets you create boards to share various aspects of your business and elicit interest of prospective clients. Starting from listing best practices of your industry via infographics to sharing images of property you want to sell, useful tips, tricks and information etc, you can do a lot on this platform.

YouTube: This video-based social network can help you showcase your images and videos with voiceovers to get to the forefront of relevant real estate searches made online. Remember to use keywords specific to your business and create compelling videos or slideshows to grab eyeballs.

Flickr: This is a social networking site and a storage place for photos, rolled into one. You can use it to post pictures of your locality where you do business as well as property images to help people find them and get inquisitive.
You can also find several online real estate news sites, which offer varying degrees of social media elements as part of their services, such as  RIS, REALTOR Magazine, Inman, Realty Times, NRN and NewsGenius, to name a few.

So, take your pick from these social networking sites and start using them to create an online presence for your real estate business, in addition to building an efficient marketing channel to promote you offerings.



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