Social Marketing for small businessesIf you want to create your business presence online, engage with existing and potential customers, enhance your reputation, and drive referrals via word of mouth publicity without spending a lot of money, social media marketing is your best bet. A careful study of the World Wide Web reveals that brands that target three strategies namely personality, passion, and transparency – either each as a separate entity, or in combination with the others, do great when it comes to making people sit up and take notice. Here’s an overview of how you too can benefit from them:

Personality: Your brand should have its own traits, which would help it to carve a niche of its own. Take the Skittles page on Facebook where you can find funny updates like ‘A world without Skittles would be like a circus without clowns if clowns fit in your hand, didn't squirm so much, and were delicious.' With such whimsical, and funny updates, this brand has already created a steady fan following and is working to bring all its social media marketing efforts (on other mediums like Twitter, Google+ etc) geared towards building a common brand personality.  

Passion: If you can link your business to something that your targeted clientele is passionate about, marketing on those lines will help you emerge as the favorite choice of your potential customers. A case study could be to consider how Red Bull markets itself on Facebook. Agreed that energy drinks are difficult to connect to a passion but this company, which boasts of the tagline - Red Bull gives wings to people who want to be mentally and physically active and have a zest for life, has done it successfully. In line with its functional beverage that is promoted to encourage daring feats, its Facebook page depicts a young person with a snowboard. The message that this is a drink for youngsters and people who love to enjoy extreme outdoor activities is loud and clear. Similarly, if you are into the food business, you can post recipes and food tidbits to encourage your novice fans to interact and check their own cooking skills, while posting some challenging tasks or food related contests for the seasoned ones.

Transparency: This is a stand taken by many major IT companies like Google, IBM, and Microsoft. You can also find some financial institutions and automotive companies using a transparent approach while sharing information and causes that they hold dear. Such strategy is likely to work best for categories and brands where the customers are serious about the information they yearn for, but are not necessarily enthusiastic about it. While deciding your company’s overall positioning strategy, you should remember that transparent brands are those that talk about the activities and other stuff they are doing in the real world. Thus, transparent brands actually perform the activities, unlike passion brands that associate themselves with certain activities.

So, decide which category your business belongs to, or what blend of the above will suit your business to plan your social marketing strategy accordingly.

Grow your email list and sales"A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers."
Source: Bain and Company

Experts agree and evidence shows that profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving repeat business. And since it is roughly six to twelve times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.

It’s All About Communication
How do you get repeat business and earn customer loyalty? Take a lesson from small businesses that long ago grasped the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication. They nurture their customers over time by learning and remembering individual preferences and interests. They acquire this customer information directly from customers through personal interaction. And they keep in touch with customers on a regular basis ensuring their business remains “top of mind.”

What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

Email Turns Prospects and Visitors into Loyal Customers
Email marketing enables you to proactively communicate with your existing customers, prospects or members instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website, visit your store or office, or call you on the phone. With email marketing you can solidify existing relationships, initiate new ones and convert your one-time visitors, buyers and members into repeat business and long-term customers or contributors. Perhaps you paid for search engine placement, sponsored a newsletter, rented an opt-in list, placed a banner ad or two, distributed a flyer or sent a postcard. Th rough email marketing you can pay-off your investment in those expensive and time consuming marketing efforts and improve the return on investment (ROI) of every dollar you spend to obtain new business and develop profitable customer relationships.

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective.

What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

Why is Email Marketing the Answer?
Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective. When you add email to your marketing mix, you spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles (e.g. direct mail or print advertising). And, with email marketing, you can communicate more quickly which means your time sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks - and you can see the results of your efforts instantly.

Email marketing is at it’s most effective when it’s used to build communications aimed at your existing customer list or permission-based “house list” as a means of customer retention.

Communicate More Information, More Often
Email marketing is an affordable way to stretch a tight marketing budget. It can cost as little as fractions of a penny per email! With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads, email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

Unlike direct mail, there is virtually no production, materials or postage expense. So, with email marketing, you can easily and affordably create more communications that are valued by your customer, and you can make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, greetings and more.

Educate Your Customers
Information and education make your customers and prospects much more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Why force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information they need? Your email communications can help lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details and/or a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides a short-term benefit.

For most businesses, a well-educated customer uses products and services to their greatest advantage. And, guess who will be the first in line to buy when something new becomes available?

Foster Long-lasting Relationships
Email is an easy and inexpensive way of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers. And the benefits of these relationships are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs.

Good email marketing wins over consumers:

  • Well-executed permission email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes toward companies.
  • 67% of US consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission email marketing.
  • 58% of consumers said they opened those companies’ emails, while 53% said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.
    Source: Emarketer

Even better, they may look to you as an expert. Th is develops trust, opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their pain points with you. Using the information you gain from your prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not currently be addressing.

With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads,
email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

Easily Measure and Improve Your Results
The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent, emails opened, bounce backs, unsubscribes and click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks and, even more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your off er, thus improving results going forward.

What About Spam and Privacy Concerns?
Studies show that both senders and recipients increasingly prefer email marketing.

  • Email is the increasingly preferred method of communication for businesses. In a recent report, Gartner predicts that 80% of companies engaged in direct marketing will send at least one email campaign by the end of 2004.
  • According to DoubleClick, permission-based email is far and away the preferred method of online communication for consumers. 75% rated it as their preference, with only 25% preferring postal mail and 0% choosing telemarketing.

The hottest topic in email marketing today is spam. As corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) work to control the amount of unsolicited email entering their systems, they may inadvertently filter out legitimate emails.

In industry language, this type of error is known as a “false positive,” and the result is that some emails sent to people who have requested them don’t ever reach their destination.

But, let’s put that into perspective. Even with spam’s impact, a good email communication sent to your house list will still be opened by over 40% of the people it’s sent to. Given typical response rates to traditional marketing tactics, that’s as much as 40 times better than the percentage of people who read your newspaper ads; respond to your direct mail; or return your unsolicited phone calls.

Email marketing represents the first time in history that we’ve ever been able to cost effectively communicate with our entire customer and prospect base on a regular basis. Not only that, but thanks to the inherently democratic nature of email (i.e. the big businesses don’t get any more space in the email inbox than the rest of us), email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

Email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

An Email Marketing Service Makes it Easy and Affordable
There are Web-based email marketing services, like Constant Contact Email Marketing, that are inexpensive and designed to make email marketing easy for the non-technical user. These types of services take care of the heavy lift ing to allow you to do what you do best – promote your own product, service or cause. An email marketing service delivers your emails with proper protocols, maintains relationships with ISPs and has a full-time staff to gain the highest deliverability rates for your email. Finally, a good email marketing service is Can-Spam compliant and offers a complete solution including list management and real-time reporting.

In Conclusion
Email marketing offers business owners an opportunity to reach out to customers and prospects, and increase customer retention in ways that were simply not possible just a few short years ago. Whether you use a service like Constant Contact, or hire an agency to handle the entire process, email marketing should be an important part of your customer relationship efforts.

Sign up for eMail Marketing for FREE for 60 days, and we'll put a FREE "Subscribe" form on your website to start gathering your visitors email addresses!

email1If you have ever felt out of your depth in a discussion about email marketing, rest assured you are not alone. These top 25 common email marketing terms and definitions below will help you expand your email marketing vocabulary and make you look and feel like an expert.

  1. Above-the-fold - The part of a web page that is visible without scrolling. It is generally more desirable placement on a Website because of its visibility. If you have a “join our mailing list” tag on your Website, you should place it “above the fold” making it easy for visitors to opt-in.
  2. CPM (Cost per thousand) - In email marketing, CPM commonly refers to the cost per 1000 names on a given rental list. For example, a rental list priced at $250 CPM would mean that the list owner charges $.25 per email address.
  3. CTR (or Click-through rate) - Th e percentage (the number of unique clicks divided by the number that were opened) of recipients that click on a given URL in your email.
  4. Conversion rate - Th e number or percentage of recipients who respond to your call-to-action in a given email marketing campaign or promotion. This is the measure of your email campaign’s success. You may measure conversion in sales, phone calls, appointments etc.
  5. Email blacklist - It is common for an ISP to a use a blacklist to determine which emails should be blocked (see “email blocking”). Blacklists contain lists of domains or IP addresses of known and suspected spammers. Unfortunately, these blacklists also contain many legitimate email service providers. Just a few spam complaints can land an email service provider or IP address on a
    blacklist despite the fact that the ratio of complaints to volume of email sent is extremely low.
  6. Email blocking - Email blocking typically refers to blocking by ISPs or corporate servers. Email blocking occurs when the receiving email server (e.g. Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail etc) prevents an inbound email from reaching the inbox of the intended recipient. Most of the time the sender of the email receives a “bounce” message notifying the sender that their email has been blocked. ISPs actively block email coming from suspected spammers.
  7. Email filters – “Filtering” is a technique used to block email based on the content in the “from:” line, “subject:” line, or body copy of an email. Filtering soft ware searches for key words and other indicators that identify the email as potential spam. Th is type of blocking occurs on a per email basis.
  8. Email newsletter ads or sponsorships - Buying ad space in an email newsletter or sponsoring a specific article or series of articles. Advertisers pay to have their ad (text, HTML or both depending on the publication) inserted into the body of the email. Email newsletter ads and sponsorships allow advertisers to reach a targeted audience driving traffic to a website, store or office, signups to a newsletter or sales of a product or service.
  9. Email whitelist - A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved to deliver email despite blocking measures. It is common practice for ISPs to maintain both a blacklist and a whitelist. When email service providers, like Constant Contact, say they are “whitelisted” it means that their IP addresses are on a specific ISP’s whitelist and are confident that emails sent using their service will be delivered.
  10. False positive - A false positive occurs when a legitimate permission based email is incorrectly filtered or blocked as spam.
  11. Hard bounce/Soft bounce - A hard bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a permanent reason like a non-existent address. A soft bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a temporary issue, like a full mailbox or an unavailable server.
  12. House list (or Retention list) - A permission-based list that you built yourself. Use it to market, cross sell and up-sell, and to establish a relationship with customers over time. It is one of your most valuable assets because it is 7 times less expensive to market to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Use every opportunity to add to it and use it.
  13. HTML email - Sending HTML email makes it possible to include unique fonts, graphics and background colors. HTML makes an email more interesting and when used properly can generate response rates up to 35% higher than plain text.
  14. Open rate - The percentage of emails opened in any given email marketing
    campaign, or the percentage opened of the total number of emails sent.
  15. Opt-in (or Subscribe) - To opt-in or subscribe to an email list is to choose to receive email communications by supplying your email address to a particular company, website or individual thereby giving them permission to email you. The subscriber can often indicate areas of personal interest (e.g. mountain biking) and/or indicate what types of emails they wish to receive from the sender (e.g. newsletters).

    Single Opt-In (with a subscriber acknowledgement email) - The most widely accepted and routinely used method of obtaining email addresses and permission. A single opt-in list is created by inviting visitors and customers to subscribe to your email list. When you use a sign-up tag on your website, a message immediately goes out to the subscriber acknowledging the subscription. This message should reiterate what the subscriber has signed up for, and provide an immediate way for the subscriber to edit interests or opt-out.

    Confirmed Opt-In (a.k.a. Double Opt-In) - A more stringent method of obtaining permission to send email campaigns. Confirmed opt-in adds an additional step to the opt-in process. It requires the subscriber to respond to a confirmation email, either by clicking on a confirmation link, or by replying to the email to confirm their subscription. Only those subscribers who take this additional step are added to your list.
  16. Opt-out (or Unsubscribe) - To opt-out or unsubscribe from an email list is to choose not to receive communications from the sender by requesting the removal of your email address from their list.
  17. Permission-based email - Email sent to recipients who have opted-in or subscribed to receive email communications from a particular company, website or individual. Permission is an absolute prerequisite for legitimate and profitable email marketing.
  18. Personalization – Addressing individual recipients by first name, last name or both dynamically in an email. Personalization can also include a reference to previous purchases, or other content unique to each recipient. Avoid using personalization in the subject line of your emails as this is a tactic widely used by spammers.
  19. Privacy policy - A clear description of a website or company’s policy on the use of information collected from and about website visitors and what they do, and do not do, with the data. Your privacy policy builds trust especially among those who opt-in to receive email from you or those who register on your site. If subscribers, prospects and customers know their information is safe with you, they will likely share more information with you making your relationship that much more valuable.
  20. Rental list (or Acquisition list) - A list of prospects or a targeted group of recipients who have opted-in to receive information about certain subjects. Using permission-based rental lists, marketers can send email messages to audiences targeted by interest category, profession, demographic information and more. Renting a list usually costs between $.10 and $.40 per name. Be sure your rental list is a true permission-based, opt-in list. Permission-based lists are rented, not sold. Don’t be fooled by a list off er that sounds too good to be true or by someone who tries to mislead you by calling their list “targeted” or “clean” without certifying that it is permission-based.
  21. Signature file (or sigfile for short) - A tagline or short block of text at the end of an email message that identifies the sender and provides additional information such as company name and contact information. Your signature file is a marketing opportunity. Use it to convey a benefit and include a callto-action with a link.
  22. Spam or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) - Email sent to someone who has not opted-in or given permission to the sender. Characteristically, spam is unwanted, unexpected email from a sender unknown to the recipient.
  23. Targeting - Selecting a target audience or group of individuals likely to be interested in a certain product or service. Targeting is very important for an email marketer because targeted and relevant email campaign, yield a higher response and result in fewer unsubscribes.
  24. URL (or Universal Resource Locator) - A website, page or any other document address or location on the Internet that indicates the location of every file on every computer accessible through the Internet.
  25. Viral Marketing - A type of marketing that is carried out voluntarily by a company’s customers. It is oft en referred to as word-of-mouth advertising. Email has made this type of marketing very prevalent. Tools such as “send this page, article or website to a friend” encourage people to refer or recommend your newsletter, company, product, service or specific offer to others.

Scan it!

In case you are unfamiliar with the term QR code, it is basically the short form of Quick Response code. These codes contain information about a product or a thing, similar to a barcode. In order to reveal the information, all one has to do is to get his or her hand to a camera phone and focus on the code. The camera will automatically reveal the hidden information, be it text, message, or music. This is already widely used in countries like Japan. However, in the US, it is a relatively new technology. QR codes can also be quite useful for small business owners. Read on to learn how.

Real World-Web World Combination: Thanks to QR codes, you can help buyers and potential customers visiting your factory outlets learn and browse your company website. All you will have to do is to embed the website information in the QR Code and place them on the products available in your factory. When the buyer scans the code with their camera phone, they will immediately be redirected to your website, and can easily access the information provided there. Thus, you can make a combination of both the real and the web worlds. It will also increase your web traffic.

Promotion: QR codes are a great way to promote your brand and get customer attention in a new and innovative way. You can create a game or contest around it. If you are organizing a contest, place the code in various places, and ask participants to find out clues as they scan as many codes as possible. The person getting the highest number of codes with varied information will win. The codes can contain information and pictures related to specific products.

Double Way Advertisement: Through QR codes, you can do a double advertisement of sorts. This will be a combination of print advertisement and online ones. In a print ad, you can include the QR code in the advertisement. Just make sure that it gets the attention of the readers. You can put the link to some of your online video ads inside that code. Once the reader scans the code, they will be taken to that page. Thus, you will get dual chance to advertise your brand and products.

Simplicity: The functionality of QR codes may lead you to think it is a complex technology, but in reality, it is based on very simple technical rules. You will not have to buy high end hardware to use this code. Despite its simplicity, it is one of the most efficient weapons in your business arsenal.

Cost Effective: Making QR codes doesn't have to involve any financial investment. You can use several of the online QR Code generators like Kaywa , Zxing, Delivr or GoQR.me. Then insert the QR code file onto your material to be printed or promote the HTML code link. All that the buyers will now have to do now is download a code reader like any of these listed, many of which are free. Try one out and while sitting in front of the screen, scan my QR code above to find out how it can be used.

READ: Ideas for Utilizing QR Codes in Marketing and Advertising

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