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Leverage these powerful channels to engage customers in 2018 Suha Saya January 9th, 2018 Dan Steiner

Mark Cuban is fond of saying, “Sales cure all.” In other words, no matter what challenge your business is facing, generating sales can help you get out of a slump.

This year is an exciting year for entrepreneurs. The U.S. economy is heating up and tax reform means even more money will be injected into the economy in the coming years – ensuring continued growth. So, how can you make sure that your company gets its share in a booming economy?  

Reengage previous customers with email marketing

The lowest hanging fruit in sales are customers that have already interacted with your brand. It’s important to reengage past customers as your product line evolves with time. Are they aware of all your new products and services, or how you’ve improved existing products to help meet their needs more effectively?

Email marketing is a go-to way to reengage previous and existing customers. An email address is normally required when submitting an online order, and the resulting customer database you’ve built is invaluable.

For inspiration, take a look at the most popular self-help content in your knowledge base. What are existing customers experiencing and engaging with? This data is important for product development, but it can also serve as a starting point for developing email marketing content that meets the customer where they are.

Take customers on a journey

There are so many ways to make money online. It’s an exciting time to work in digital marketing! But, don’t let your marketing firm push you into a position where you’re spread too thin. Just because you could make money in something doesn’t mean you need to do it right this second.

Instead, prioritize. The way that I decide what’s most important is by stepping back and considering the journey that I’m crafting for customers. Am I effectively communicating my brand’s values, commitment to service and passion for the solutions we deliver?

Self-published eBooks are awesome tools for communicating values!

Instead of sending customers a bunch of promotional emails with links to your product pages, why not earn their attention by offering them a look behind the scenes? An eBook is more powerful than a blog post because it provides a platform for communicating a long-form message.

Sir Richard Branson is the genius behind Virgin brands. As he scaled to international fame, he leveraged his name by publishing multiple best-selling eBooks; these include “Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business”, “Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” and “Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography”.

You don’t have to run a multi-billion-dollar international franchise in order to generate revenue and engage customers with eBooks. All you need is a topic that is relevant to your target audience – just like any form of content marketing.

If you’re a B2B company, then you’ve got it made in the shade. Self-publish a series of eBooks that cover lessons you’ve learning through managing your own business.

For traditional consumer brands, it’s a little more tricky. You need to figure out the kinds of in-depth problems your customers can’t solve for themselves by reading a blog post or watching a YouTube video. For example, if you sell home improvement hardware, you might publish a few eBooks that list in-depth steps and insights for homeowners looking to cut costs by completing portions of a remodel on their own.

You have to meet the customer where they are. Why are they going to buy your product or service? How can you help them tackle a situation that leads them to leverage your product or service? Self-published eBooks do an incredible job of communicating complex topics for customers that need advanced solutions.

Video content continues to dominate into 2018

With more than 1.3 billion users, YouTube isn’t a new channel. But the way it’s being used by brands is evolving. There are two rules to effective video marketing – your video needs to be as short as possible, and it needs to quickly educate the viewer in an approachable way.

The day of long-form product promos and vlogs with CEOs is over. Sure, there will be die-hard fans that want as much as you’ll give them, but new customers just getting acquainted with your product want to get in and get out – fast!

Supplement your content marketing with a robust YouTube channel chocked full of interesting, engaging videos. Track viewer feedback and stay engaged with them in the comments. You’ll find yourself generating a lot more buzz than you do with text and infographics.

Every channel you use to grow your brand needs to feed the same funnel. A unified customer communication platform allows for a diverse audience to reach your team via the path that they’re most comfortable – whether that’s video, blog posts or emails.

If you are willing to build new channels for communicating a story to your market, the customers will come in droves.

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5 growth hacking tips for small and minority-owned businesses to escalate success Suha Saya December 12th, 2017 Marcela De Vivo

Growth hacking for small and minority owned businesses is more important than ever. The modern marketplace is full of twists and turns at nearly every corner, from economic uncertainty to online visibility.r

For many small and minority-owned businesses, knowing what to do and when to do it can be challenging. However, it is vital for small businesses to grow and succeed.

After all, 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S. are small businesses, according to The Small Business Advocate.

There are 28.8 million small businesses in America, and 38.1 percent of small businesses are minority owned.

This is great, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 50 percent of small businesses don’t make it five years. On average, only 33 percent will make it 10 years or more.

How can you prevent your small business from being a statistic? One thing is for certain, your business needs to grow at a competitive pace to stand a chance. This means taking a proactive approach, from franchising to leveraging new tech, like AI chatbots.

Here are five powerful growth hacking tips to keep your small and minority owned business competitive for years to come.

1. Consider Franchising for Your Small Business

Small and minority owned businesses looking to grow exponentially might find franchising a valuable hack. Franchising may seem like a big task, however, it allows you to stay competitive.

You can also find franchising your small business to be very lucrative. Research by Franchise Direct estimated the gross of franchises to be $889 billion in 2015.

It is important for you to look at the state of your small business objectively first. If your business can be refined a bit more to be even more enticing to franchisees, it is best to begin there.

"But when looking at the question objectively, if franchising is your chosen expansion strategy, starting sooner will often have incremental long-term benefits,” explained Mark Seibert of Entrepreneur.

If you are looking to grow in 2018, franchising could be the best ROI for your investment. As long as you are willing to relinquish a bit of control to franchisees, you can bank on long-term benefits.

2. Go Live with Facebook Live Videos

Getting more social with your small business can have big growth potential. Social media plays a large role in the success of most businesses, and if you leverage these social channels effectively, you are guaranteed to have more success.

"Despite the fact that 92 percent of small businesses agree that social media is important for their business and that the majority use Facebook for their social media marketing, most also report that they don’t know whether their Facebook outreach is working,” said Suzanne Delzio of Social Media Examiner.

It is all about using social media marketing in a way that meets your business goals.

One of the latest growth hacking tips small and minority owned businesses need to implement is to combine influencer marketing with Facebook Live Videos. These short videos posted to an influencers Facebook page can then be amplified via Facebook ads to reach reach consumers in a more enticing and meaningful way.

When you add the power of videos to your social marketing mix, the reach and engagement will increase.

You can begin recording Facebook Live Videos showing off new products, services, or give your local community a look at the day-to-day operations of your small business. Or ask influencers to simply talk about your products and why they love them, or how they help. The most important aspect is that you make that local connection using videos.

3. Use Influencers for Growth

Integrating influencers into Facebook Live Videos is one of the best ways to reach a whole new audience. Finding relevant influencers to your small and minority owned business is optimal. They have a built-in community of followers already interested in products and services like yours.

In fact, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from influencers over marketing from businesses and brands.

 

Influencers give your small business instant trust and confidence to buy. By launching a Facebook video ad with your influencer promoting your products or services may seem pricey. However, the ROI for influencer marketing has been estimated at $6.50 per every dollar invested.

How do you find the influencers that will launch your small business growth? You can turn to local celebrities and well-known people in your community.

There are also influencer marketing platforms you can employ to find the right fit for your business. FameBit, TapInfluence, and Traackr are three online resources that will get your influencer marketing moving in the right direction.

4. Become Tech Savvy and Implement AI Chatbots

Technology is evolving faster than ever before, and small businesses need to stay up to date. Researching and integrating new tech for your business is an important growth hack for future success.

Branded AI chatbots are one of those technological advances that can take your reach to the next level. Brands and businesses large and small are developing and implementing AI chatbots for a variety of things, from connecting with customers in a more meaningful way, to automating daily processes.

"Bots are ushering in one-to-one marketing at scale,” Vivian Rosenthal of Forbes said. “What this means is that millions of people can talk to your brand without there being a human on the other end.”

Chatbots can automate customer support with the ability to answer queries in a timely and accurate manner. They generate new sales leads and drive those leads down the sales funnel faster. AI chatbots can even upsell and process payments.

Having artificially intelligent bots at the ready can also free you and your team up to take on more important tasks to help your business grow.

For example, a Facebook Messenger branded chatbot can engage with your customers on social, letting you automate your social posts for the month, leaving you more time to dedicate to other pressing issues.

5. Explore Funding Options to Invest in Your Future

Franchising, Facebook video ads, influencer marketing, chatbots, this all sounds expensive right? Funding and investing money into your small or minority owned business is a daunting thought.

Did you know that 75 percent of small business owners use their personal savings and finances for initial funding? According to BlueVine small business research, other funding options include 16 percent from banks, and six percent from family and friends.

It can be challenging to keep momentum in a competitive marketplace. However, it takes money to make money, and finding funding for your small business is a vital growth hacking tip.

Only 24 percent of banks approved loans for small businesses in recent years. Even your smaller community banks have a low approval rate, about 48.9 percent on average.

In spite of lending trends, there are funding options readily available. In fact, financing your marketing efforts for growth and success has an average ROI of 15 percent. This is music to the ears of any small business owner.

There are a variety of ways small and minority owned businesses can prepare for a successful future. The digital era has made nearly every industry and niche competitive, and what you implement to stay ahead of the pack needs to fit your business’ goals, aims, and mission.

Building a better business with sustainable success is all about looking to the future, and investing in your business at the most opportune time. These growth hacking tips will get you moving in the right direction. Are you ready to take your small business to the next level?

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7 creative ways to keep your brand top-of-mind (and why it’s important) Suha Saya October 24th, 2017 Anna Johansson

You might have a business that offers fantastic products and services: You get great reviews, you rarely hear complaints, and your customer service team handles the complaints you do get with speed and efficiency.

Unfortunately, all that effort could go to waste if your target audience of consumers isn’t familiar with your brand. If you want to make sure your satisfied customers keep coming back for more and attract new customers via referrals and visibility, you’ll need a strategy to keep your brand “top-of-mind.”

Why brand visibility is important

Why is brand consistency and visibility so important?

  • The psychology of brand loyalty. When people return to a company to make further purchases, it’s only partly attributable to their satisfaction with the specific product or service. Brand loyalty often depends on an almost personal relationship between the customer and the firm -- or more accurately, the “identity” of the business -- they’re buying from. To take full advantage of that, you have to have a recognizable -- and clearly visible -- identity, at the very least.

  • Retention vs. acquisition. In almost every service situation, customer retention is far less expensive than customer acquisition. Keeping your brand top-of-mind in your past clients is usually cheaper than trying to nail the interest and sustained attention of potential new customers. Ideally, the result will be delivery of multiple new purchases, rather than just one.

  • The slow fade of memory. After buying something from a store, especially for the first time, customers gradually tend to forget the name and brand they bought from. If you can keep your brand top-of-mind, you can prevent this slow decay and remind customers of your existence and value to them.

How to keep your brand top-of-mind

So what strategies might you employ to ensure your brand remains top-of-mind with your best customers?

  1. Printed takeaways. You can start by providing your customers with printed takeaways, such as calendars, which are easy to display and fairly functional. Such promotional items tend to aggregate around desks and workspaces, so you can arrange some carefully placed branded messaging in the corner of people’s workspace that will keep your brand visible for the indefinite future. Give these away at major events, or ship them to customers who have bought from you in the past.

  2. Regular content. Nothing grabs online attention like valuable content. If you can create new blog posts, white papers, infographics, and videos on a steady basis that are practical or helpful for your customers, they’re going to keep coming back to your site in the expectation of finding more. It takes time to build a loyal audience in this way, but it can definitely be well worth it.

  3. Email newsletters. While you’re at it, try to get your customers to subscribe to an ongoing email list. You may even choose to opt them in whenever they purchase something or sign up for an account. That way, you’ll be able to send weekly newsletters which remind your subscribers about your brand (and give them other valuable pieces of information).

  4. Giveaways and promotions. Though this option can be a little more expensive, it could generate significant visibility. Start a new promotion, like a major sale, or host a giveaway of free items. You’ll generate plenty of attention among people who like to make the most of such opportunities, and your most loyal brand evangelists are likely to share the information so your work reaches further.

  5. Free gifts. If you’re regularly shipping packages to customers, think about the potential for throwing in free, random, unexpected gifts. Your customers will be surprised and delighted by them, and more likely to remember the entire experience. If you make the gift something practical and brand it, the freebie will constantly remind customers of your brand’s generosity.

  6. Social engagement. You probably already have a social media marketing strategy in operation, but are you engaging with your followers one on one, by answering questions or engaging in simple conversations? Reaching out to individuals is a powerful way to generate loyalty … and make your brand more visible to all their followers as well. This can be a bit time intensive, but you’ll create more loyal followers and attract greater interest from outside your usual audience.

  7. Renewal and reordering opportunities. Finally, consider drawing more attention to renewal and reordering opportunities. For example, you could send email reminders to let people know when their products have likely run out or expired, which would give them the motivation to reorder. This strategy only works with products that aren’t permanent, of course, but if you sell them, it can pay off handsomely. At least some customers will be inspired to buy something else, as long as they’re entering an order anyway.

The above seven strategies can help you tie your brand to the products and services you provide, and prevent the slow decay of interest and memorability that are too often the typical aftermath of a purchase. Try not to spam your customers, or make your brand so visible it becomes annoying, but reminding your audience of your existence on a regular basis is sure to drive further sales.

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Why soft skills matter for customer success Suha Saya October 19th, 2017 Thomas Ton

Wondering what soft skills are and why they’re important to have under your belt? Think of soft skills as an individual’s special attribute. You can have one or many superpowers that set you apart from the rest. These special characteristics are needed to succeed in the workplace. Regardless of what role you play, having soft skills will be beneficial to you in both your work and personal life.

Like everyone else, when it comes to making goals for learning new skills to improve ourselves in our current role, the first thing that comes to mind are usually hard skills. Soft skills are often undervalued and ignored because there’s so much focus on keeping up with the latest technology and having fresh technical skills so we can use to troubleshoot issues and contribute to projects. We should find a balance and shift our focus on achieving hard skills so that we can acquire or improve our soft skills first. Even if you’re talented and dedicated to learning, both type of skills can be hard to pick up.

Soft skills are harder to teach and is often referred to as “people skills” which you are born with. The following are examples of some soft skills that are essential for customer success.

  • Ability to listen

  • Accept feedback

  • Attentive

  • Communicate

  • Empathy

  • Friendliness

  • Patience

  • Problem solving

  • Reliable

  • Teamwork

Hard skills can be taught and acquired through learning and also something that can be measured and evaluated. The following are examples of some hard skills essential for customer success.

  • Certifications

  • Computer

  • Data Analysis

  • Data Migration

  • Foreign Language

  • Mathematics

  • Programming

  • Testing

  • Typing speed

  • Writing

Soft skills can be much more difficult to measure or evaluate and are often overlooked when it comes to your personal development goals and reviews with your manager. Your monthly or annual review might focus more on the applications or technology you’ve learned and ignore improvements in communication or patience. This imbalance makes it very challenging to understand what skills are required to be successful in customer success.

The majority of your time in helping customers is spent interacting with them. It’s great if you can type fast and troubleshoot advanced code, but if you can’t listen attentively or communicate clearly, you’ll struggle to be successful in your role. Although hard skills are valuable, customer success runs on soft skills.

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Nurturing the customer experience process by getting to know your customers Suha Saya October 17th, 2017 Josh Brown

You already know that optimizing customer experience is, by today’s standards, essential in order to maintain a steady flow of return customers.

Now more than ever, customers demand a personalized, consistent experience each and every time they engage with a brand.

On your end, this means — above all else — that you absolutely need to know who your customers are, both as consumers and as individual people. In doing so, you’ll be able to meet and exceed their needs and expectations at each step of their experience as customers.

Here, we’ll discuss three things you must know about your customers to optimize their experience with your organization, and get them to keep coming back for more.

3 things you need to know about your customers to improve their experiences with your brand

Think back to the last time you had a truly memorable experience as a customer.

To a time that felt like the people behind a company were so in tune with your needs that it felt like they actually knew you, and were able to give you what you wanted before you even asked them.

It felt good, didn’t it? Well, it didn’t happen accidentally. The company didn’t just get lucky.

Chances are, the company’s marketing and sales teams work tirelessly to discover everything they possibly can about their customers - in turn allowing them to provide a streamlined experience to every person who engages with their brand.

Let’s discuss the important things you can learn about your customers in greater detail.

Who they are as people

First things first:

Your customers are not dollar signs or sales numbers; they’re people. And they deserve to be treated as such.

Not only do they deserve it, but they expect it. According to our 2016 State of the Connected Consumer report, 66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.

It’s essential that you keep this in mind at all times - from the moment they engage with your brand for the first time to long after they’ve purchased from you.

Look back to your consumer personas to ensure they note the following about your customers:

  • Demographics: Information about a customer’s age, gender, family status, education, occupation, and income

  • Geographics: Information pertaining to where a customer lives, both in terms of location and environment

  • Psychographics: Information regarding a customer’s personality, lifestyle, and social class

Having a better understanding of this data will enable you to tailor various aspects of your brand (e.g., content, advertisements, and offers) to specific “types” of people, making your offerings more likely to resonate with your customers at every touchpoint.

How they act as consumers

Another aspect of customer personas is behavioral data, which focuses specifically on how a person acts as a consumer.

Behavioral data focuses on the following factors (among others that aren’t pertinent to our purposes):

  • Purchasing behavior: Spells out the mental process a person goes through when deciding whether or not to make a purchase

  • Occasion/Timing: Pinpoints when a specific customer is most likely to make a purchase

  • User status: Defines a customer based on the amount of purchases they’ve made from your company

By knowing when and how your customers are most likely to engage with your brand (with or without the intention to make a purchase), you can be prepared to hit them with an offer that seems tailor-made just for them - nurturing them ever closer to actually making a purchase.

What they need — and expect — from you

Understanding, anticipating, and acting on a customer’s needs and expectations as they engage with your brand will almost certainly increase their propensity to do business with your company - both at present and in the times to come.

First, you need to have a clear idea of the goals they hope to accomplish and the pain points they wish to alleviate by using your product or service. Sometimes, these goals or pain points are obvious (both to your customer and your company). Other times, your customer might not even recognize they have a problem; this puts the onus on your marketing and sales teams to educate a prospective customer and get them to make a purchase that will help them solve their issue.

Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - you need to know what a customer expects to receive from your company outside of your actual product or service. And you need to be ready to completely exceed these expectations at every touchpoint.

Depending on - as we’ve spoken about - who your customers are, as people and as consumers, they might expect individualized attention from a service representative, or they might want a quick and easy checkout process. You can consult various data points to better understand these expectations, such as:

  • Industry benchmarks and standards

  • Past engagements with customers that fall into similar segments and profiles

  • Customer surveys and reviews of your company

Not only can consulting these data points help you gain a better understanding of your customers’ expectations, but it can also make you aware of areas in which your service has fallen short in the past. In turn, you can work on improving these areas in the hopes of improving your future customers’ experiences with your brand.

Start focusing on CX now

We alluded to two major points throughout this article:

  • Modern consumers expect to be treated as an individual

  • The customer experience process is quickly becoming the differentiator among similar brands in most industries and is essential for building customer loyalty

No matter what products or services you offer your customers, your main focus needs to be on helping people at all times. By offering the same level of service to leads, prospects, and return customers alike, you increase the chances that you’ll continue growing your loyal customer base for some time to come.

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The benefits of mobile expansion for your small business growth Suha Saya October 13th, 2017 Nick Rojas

One of the most difficult areas for small businesses to address properly is marketing. Marketing is more important than ever in the digital age. Over 80 percent of American customers conduct research online. If you want to reach those people and make them paying customers, then your company needs a digital marketing strategy. To create an effective one, you’ll need to spend some resources on mobile expansion. That’s because mobile searches are more common than those conducted via desktops. Using the right services and apps to enhance your mobile marketing abilities is essential for small businesses hoping to be competitive.

The benefits of mobile expansion for small business growth are numerous, but they are accompanied by certain challenges. Learning how to deal with these challenges effectively can help you use the full potential of mobile marketing to your advantage. In the following paragraphs, we’ll look at how to expand your mobile marketing efforts effectively. We’ll also look at some of the costs and risks involved so that you can minimize them.

The Steps to Effective Mobile Marketing

Strong mobile marketing requires several steps that are common to virtually all companies. Take care to satisfy the following requirements whenever you are trying to expand your mobile reach:

  1. Create an Effective Mobile Website: your mobile website is different than the website your customers will see if they visit you from a desktop—at least, it should be. Still, many companies do not have measures in place to ensure their mobile visitors are redirected to a page optimized for their devices. The best way to do this is to use a third-party service to set up a distinct and dedicated mobile page. You could also have the people in charge of your digital marketing put code on your existing homepage that determines the screen size of each visitor and sends them to the corresponding version of your page.

  2. Use Location-Based Apps: Apps are an integral part of mobile marketing, and many of them take the user’s current location into account. Foursquare is just one example of an app that tailors each user’s experience based on where they are. If you want your mobile customers to find your brand, you have to do more than create your own mobile page. You’ll also want to make sure your brand is represented on apps that use location-based services to suggest or check people into nearby businesses, so that they can find you easily.

  3. Experience Mobile Marketing as a Consumer: The better you understand your device, the better you’ll be able to empathize with and anticipate the actions of your customers. Play with your own device, and keep track of the way its various functions guide you towards certain companies. You can find out a lot about what to emulate (and what to avoid) by putting yourself in your average customer’s shoes. Try running a voice search for products similar to the ones you sell, and see what the first few results all have in common.

  4. Upgrade Your Marketing Tools: There’s certainly some intuition involved with mobile marketing, as well as some trial and error. However, you can cut down on the amount of guesswork you’ll need to do by taking advantage of a few modern tools. Platforms like Salesforce can help you create one-to-one customer journeys with custom apps, powerful mobile website analytics, and more. Consider investing in such tools to make sure that your marketing efforts can be tracked and improved.

Financing Your Mobile Marketing

One of the most important parts of strengthening your mobile marketing efforts should be making plans for how you’ll pay for them. If you’re going to hire a company who can optimize your mobile website or invest in leading CRM software, you’ll need to have the required capital.

Some small businesses approach banks, but to avoid large monthly payments and extensive loan periods it can be better to look elsewhere. Another effective strategy is to apply for a short term working capital loan through a private lender. Some of the better lending companies will approve you more quickly than banks, and require only small daily payments that make it easy to retire your debt. Other companies will also approve you without collateral, and require only six months of company history instead of the two years asked for by many banks.

There should be no doubt that mobile expansion is critical for the success of modern small businesses. Knowing the details of how to approach it and how to finance it will allow you to make the most of this exciting avenue for growth. Remember to build a functioning mobile site, take advantage of location-based services, and use the right tools to reach your target market. If you can, you should find that any investment you make in your mobile marketing pays off handsomely.

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