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Showcase your food optionsPinterest allows you to share as well as organize every interesting thing you see on the web. With the help of this pinboard-style social picture sharing site, you can produce and manage a wide variety of theme-based images, which may include interests, leisure pursuits, events, and more. Since users can ‘like’ photos, browse other pinboards to get ideas and inspiration, and ‘re-pin’ images to their own assortments, this medium can help you to drum up publicity for your business and brand.  Let us see how restaurateurs can benefit from Pinterest:

Posting pictures of food: Since Pinterest is more of a visual platform, this is the best media to display high quality pictures of the various unique food items offered at your restaurant. Visual impact is much effective to woo new clients and retain your existing ones.

Post events: It is essential for you to share pictures of the events you entertain in your restaurant. People are attracted by varieties that are offered and constantly look for something new. Hence, keep improvising and updating these pictures.

Post pictures of your restaurant: Most people look for the ambience of a place, especially when they decide to dine out.  The interior of your restaurant would certainly make a huge difference to the ambience followed by the food that is presented with an appropriate customer service.

Post the ingredients: Though you may have your secret recipes, you must mention the special menus that are unique to your restaurant with some of the key ingredients used in them. With the increase in health awareness, people do look into what they eat and how hygienic it is.

Post offers: There are times when you would offer free drinks with a meal menu or let the 50th visitor enjoy a free starter. When you use the Pinterest to post these offers, you can expect more people to take note of such offers, which in turn may increase the number of visitors coming to your restaurant.

Post images of work areas: This actually makes a difference in getting more people. Posting the pictures of kitchen and the work areas projecting the chefs at work etc, would give an idea about the clean kitchen and other food items. This in turn would motivate more people to visit your restaurant.

Plan contests: From time to time, you may plan a contest with people who follow you on Pinterest. Offering the winner a free night out or dinner could make more people interested and even give you some word-of-mouth publicity, not to mention the re-pins that your post may get.

Talk about special achievements: You can pin about milestones achieved by your restaurant like being in business for 10 years, or talk about other successful milestones like hosting a dinner party for your city’s soccer team, making it special for a guest’s birthday or anniversary etc.

Post about other things: It’s not wise to always talk about your restaurant, recipes etc. At times, you may go off topic to pin about a special news or your city’s sport team to show that you really care about the place your live in and want meaningful interaction with fellow citizens. Pinning about your family roots and why or how you came into the restaurant business are also good ways to break the monotony.

Pinterest can help you tap into new audience while retaining your existing clientele. You can even increase the number of visitors to your restaurant’s website by using this medium wisely. You can use a Pinterest follow button and Pin It button on your website to let your clients easily connect with you and share your content online. So, use the tips mentioned above to give your restaurant business a boost.

Good content comes from within

Bulk-Email-Marketing-ServicesWhen it comes to ramping up an email marketing campaign, one of the biggest challenges small businesses and nonprofit organizations face is coming up with useful content to send out to permission-based mailing list subscribers. Yes, you could send the latest sales pitch or plea for donation, but if customers aren’t ready to part with their money, what value does that newsletter issue bring them?

In this guide, we’ll give you tools and ideas for creating compelling content that will provide value to your email recipients and keep them opening your messages each time they arrive in the inbox.

Share Your Secrets
As a business owner or organization leader, you have a wealth of secrets to success that have brought you to where you are. Everyone loves to be in the know, so share some of those insights with your subscribers. A few examples of “secrets” that could serve as valuable content:

  • Restaurants or other food service businesses could share a few favorite recipes with their fans. The chef could share recipes of items on the menu or provide exclusive dishes to readers. Even general cooking tips — remedies for an over-salted recipe, perhaps — can keep an audience coming back for more.
  • Craft stores could provide do-it yourself guides to some of the finished products they offer. Crafty customers will love the new challenges and will come into the store to purchase the materials they need.
  • Liquor retailers can list drink mixes or offer wine pairings for special meals, particularly around the holidays.
  • Consultants can use their newsletters to share advice with fellow business owners on best practices for growing a business or growing a mailing list.

In these examples, the main content of the message will feature content the reader can use in his or her own life or business. But that does not mean your entire email has to be devoid of a sales pitch. You can add a “sell” piece with a coupon block that can offer a percentage off the products and service mentioned in the newsletter.

Share Knowledge
Those in other consumer-oriented businesses might be thinking, what kind of tips can I offer? There are plenty of opportunities for you to provide knowledge-boosting content to your subscriber base.

  • Accountants can share their knowledge with customers. Finances and taxes are always a big concern for people, so share ways to get financially organized and better prepared to deal with the IRS come tax time.
  • A boutique could offer up unique gift ideas for that hard-to-shop-for customer. Think outside the box (pun intended) for gift ideas, particularly around holidays.
  • Spas can give readers home relaxation tips or ways they can keep that professional manicure looking good.
  • Home furnishing stores can provide customers with great tips on how to better decorate their home or how to find great values to make their house look great.
  • Consignment stores can offer tips for getting their used stuff cleaned up and ready to sell.
  • A doggy supply store could offer tips on pet health, hygiene for dogs, and dieting ideas for the overweight pup. List special events to get people — and their pets — into the store.

The takeaway here: Think about your business and ask what benefits you provide to your customers and clients. Then use your email communications to highlight those benefits to your customers in an informative manner.

Rely on Your Customers’ Expertise
Another option for content is to make your customers the experts. Sometimes, because they’re not as invested in and knowledgeable about your products and services as you are, they have a simplified perspective. Often, they value things about your products and services, or they have uses or tips, that you might not even be aware of.

  • Let your customers give advice. Instead of giving subscribers your tips, ask a few of your best customers what advice they would give to fellow customers. For example, a gardening center might send an email newsletter with customer tips and ideas for creating indoor gardens. The gardening newsletter could include related offers for plants mentioned in the newsletter.
  • Be an expert interviewer. Interview your customers about their experience or expertise and share the interview with your audience. For example, a travel agent might interview a customer who recently took a trip to a featured destination. In this case, including a few photos from the customer’s trip would be a great addition (after all, a picture is worth a thousand words.)

Turn questions into content
Customer questions posed to you through email, over the phone, on social media, or through any other channel are a perfect base for creating content. Chances are good that more than one person has the same question, so your answer can benefit many. Take the question and answer and turn it into an article for your newsletter.

For business-to-business organizations, monitoring social media sites — particularly Twitter and LinkedIn — for industry-related questions and trends can provide similar content. Take a question posed to a group and answer it in your newsletter. Doing so can demonstrate your expertise in your industry.

If it’s recommended that you get his or her permission before publishing the question in a public forum such as your email campaign.

Share your humanity
Nonprofit organizations can add content that takes the reader beyond just a plea for donations. Organizations should publish “mission statements” that bring the mission of the group to life. For instance, a local Leukemia Society could feature a child and family dealing with the disease. Doing so puts a real face on the issue for readers.

Profile staff members as well and share their story of why they’re involved in the organization. People like reading about other people, even if they don’t know them personally. And anytime you do a story about a person, make sure to include his or her picture. That makes the story come to life.

While the main body of your newsletter should be an article that ties to your mission statement, nonprofits can add a soft sell by listing ways subscribers can help without donating money. For example, they could donate used clothing, time, or goods. Make it obvious that there are many ways they can help.

Share content from others

Content from third-party sources
Not everything you offer in your email communications has to be original content. Sharing third-party expertise that can benefit your audience is a great way to deliver value without having to write it all yourself. Of course, when using third-party content, make sure to properly attribute where the content came from and link back to the original source. And don’t just repost another article. Explain why you like it, and what you hope your readers gain from reading it.

There are three kinds of third-party content:
Collectible Content, Pre-written Content, and Ghostwritten Content.

Collectible Content: Gather a handful of articles from the web that are related to your industry and the interests of your subscribers. In your newsletter, provide a brief description of each article followed by the link to the piece. This is a fast and easy way to put your newsletter together with quality content. All you have to do is share your opinion. It’s that simple.

A quick way to find content when you need it: consider saving articles from your favorite email newsletters and blog posts in a folder in your email inbox. This way you won’t have to look far for content.

Another great place to find articles to share with your audience is Google News. You can enter a search term such as “small business marketing” and the news database will pull up all articles related to small business marketing posted within the last few days. Just pick the ones that work for your audience.

You can automate this process as well by having Google News email you a list of the latest articles on a particular subject each day. Just enter a search term into Google News and then scroll to the bottom of the web page to sign up for instant, daily, or weekly alerts. And of course, your favorite social media sites can provide great suggestions for articles. If you see someone tweet or post an article, save that URL in a document and refer back to it later.

Before linking to a website, keep in mind that some online publications may have a reprint policy that includes linking. Generally, though, in this age of interconnectedness, it should be more than alright to link to an article you’ve found, just as long as you don’t claim to have written it yourself.

Pre-Written Content: There are many articles written by experts that are available for you to reprint (for free!) in your email fact, the web is filled with these types of articles. You just have to know where to look for them. Two recommended sites:
http://www.ezinearticles.com
http://www.ideamarketers.com

If you use an article from these sites, you will need to publish it in its entirety and include the author’s name. At the end of these articles the author always includes a paragraph link. Usually these links are harmless and just lead to the author’s web page for products or services. Be sure to check out these links before publishing the article so that you’ll know what content your audience will see.

Ghostwritten Content: The third option is to hire someone else to write your articles for you. It’s not as expensive as you may think. Best of all, with ghostwriting you retain all rights to the article and you can put your name at the top as the author. Just give the writer a subject, word count, example of what you believe good writing to be, and a firm deadline.
Wondering where to find quality writers? Here are a couple places to start your search:
http://www.elance.com
http://www.guru.com

Keep in mind that you’ll want to consider in advance what themes and ideas you want the articles to cover. This way the content will be higher quality and will truly stand the test of time.

Share your content through social media

Re-purpose your content across social media
Hitting Send on your email communication does not signal the end of your content’s life cycle. You can continue to use it across multiple social media channels in an effort to reach more customers, members, and prospects by linking to it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or whatever social media site(s) you use.

Conversely, you can use social media to promote upcoming email content and drive subscribers. A day or two before your email is scheduled to go out, tease what the email is going to be about and direct fans, friends, and followers to sign up if they want to get this valuable information.

There are many ways a business or nonprofit can generate compelling content that will keep customers and members opening and interacting with their email campaigns. Once you have a handful of ideas, you’ll find the process is easier than you thought and you may even have more ideas than space to use them, which is a good problem to have.

Social-NetworkingTill a few years ago, marketing meant spending a deluge of money on a top notch advertising campaign, something which only big companies could afford. Then came the internet that changed everything with the concept of online marketing. Again, big companies with fat coffers and attractive websites scored the goal, which small entrepreneurs could hardly afford. However, a new revolution surfaced in the recent years with the arrival of social networking. Money was no longer the major concern as anybody and everybody could enjoy the benefits of social networking. Connecting with people and getting your message across was never so easy. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc provide you with instant connectivity and the power to reach out to thousands of people in no time at all.

Unlike the monologues of traditional advertising campaigns where businesses used to bombard customers with their message, social networking paves the path of multiple conversations. You can use the same to boost your sales as these platforms help in:

Communicating with your prospective and existing buyers: You can create a direct channel to connect with your present customers’ base and woo the prospective ones. Let them know about special deals, discount offers, end-of-season sales etc before others get to know about the same. Such an act will build trust and help you to forge a strong business relationship with your clients, resulting in augmented sales figures.

Listening to your customers: Encourage your customers to speak and act on what they have to share. If they praise some of your offerings, show a proactive approach by asking their suggestions for bettering the same. On the other hand, if they criticize a specific product or service, ask them how the same has failed to match their expectations so that you can set things right. Remember – participation is the key to effective social networking campaigns. So, make people feel important by seeking their opinion and act on their feedback to prove that you value their judgmental power.

Encouraging people to publicize your offerings: Word-of-the-mouth publicity helps a lot in getting the word out about your offerings. It adds to the credibility factor too as common people and not someone associated with the business is praising the products or services. So, to increase your sales, you should encourage your fan base or people in your contact list to spread the word. You may even offer some freebies or special deals for people who can successfully promote your offerings on the web. You can take a cue from Coca-Cola’s Facebook fan page that has taken the unorthodox step of displaying content generated by their users, while many other brands shy from doing the same.

If you are now wondering how you can get started with your social networking campaign, these steps can help:

  • Create an account for yourself as an individual on some social networking sites
  • You may create another profile for your business
  • Add people to your friend list
  • Expand your friend list. Add friends of friends, people from your industry or people interested in the kind of products or services you deal with.
  • Make your business page informative and interesting
  • Create a group about your business. Invite people to join the group. The more the members, the better will be your reach. Options like Become a Fan in Facebook enables a user to express his/her liking for your product or service. It creates a fan base, which in turn can act as your potential customer base. What’s more, new users also get drawn in through these existing fans.
  • Include blogs in your group. Fill it with all the latest updates and activities regarding your business. Add a personal touch so that your viewers feel more at home. Ask for reviews of your products or services from existing customers. This way, you can get assess to the mood of people, and have an insight into what works well and what doesn’t. Avoid sending bulk emails as it would lead to spamming.

As in any business marketing, you need to concentrate on a few basic things in your social networking campaign to make your business flourish:

Identify the target market: Conduct a thorough research into your business area and finalize on your target area. Identify your potential customers and try to reach them instead of taking your products and services to everyone.

Keep track of the changes in the market: You must be aware of the present market trends. You need to have knowledge about everything that may affect your business. A creative mind and smart innovation will give you the edge over your competitors.

Act on time: It’s a cat and mouse game. The faster you reach out to the people, the better it is for your business.

Have an open mind: Prospective and existing customers can often help you see something that you have either ignored or missed. So, it pays to have an open mind, listen to the people and act upon their feedback or suggestions. Remember – the willingness and agility to learn and interact effectively with people is the essence of social networking.

Though any one can create a social networking page, you need to identify the ones that can offer maximum leverage to your business. If you want to know more, stay glued to this place.

Harnessing Social Networks to Boost Sales - Part II Continues here.

forum1More and more people these days are looking for new and innovative ways to drive traffic to their websites. If you too are looking to do the same, try forum participation to lure people into visiting your site.

To begin with, you will need to find out some relevant forums that promote or talk about products or services that you deal with. It always pays to have a focus on the type of traffic that you want to attract. Since many web surfers surf casually, attracting them won’t serve your purpose as such people are likely to leave the site in a hurry. What’s more, since these casual surfers are usually not performing an intentional search to look for a product or solve a problem, they are unlikely to dig deeper into your site even after they have landed there. So, it pays to take time and make a list of potential forums that can give you targeted traffic.

While short listing forums, consider the membership size and the level of active member participation. Though people often tend to go for bigger forums, there are some smaller forums that are more intimate and tight knit. So, decide for yourself if you want to be a no one in a big group or a big fish in a little pond. Another point to note is how active other members are in responding to the queries or posts by members of the community. If you find many forum posts with high viewer ship but few responses, this may be the sign of a closed clickish forum. However, it could also mean that more active members are required, a need that you can fill.

Once you have got your list, create accounts in these forums and start posting interesting posts or comments on the existing threads. Most forums need you to have a minimum number of posts or activity before you can start your own thread. So, be patient and work carefully in the initial phases as spamming or commenting without adding anything meaningful to the discussion may get you into trouble. This initial phase is important to build your credibility and get noticed by the other forum participants. If you can do this right, you will soon have a following on such forums who will take note overtime you write or post comments. What’s more, these people are likely to use the website link in your signature to check out your site and may even become your clients.

By getting backlinks from quality and relevant forums, you can increase your link credibility, which in turn will help you to have high search engine rankings. Some forums even have experts as participants where you can get your queries, if any, answered and know about some time-tested tips and ticks.

In brief, forum participation can not only give you some useful insight into your own niche but even help you get traffic and a better search engine ranking for your website. So, join the league and start using this tool to take your business to newer heights.