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9 posts from October 2012

October 31, 2012

The Best Holiday Season Ever: Week 5

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. Note - Sorry about the late publishing date this week, but we've been digging out from Hurricane/Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse Sandy

Click here to read earlier entries in this series. Though you've joined the class half-way through, you can still turn a lot of these ideas into easier work and higher profits. 

This week features Halloween on Wednesday, so a lot of our time will focus on preparing for, running and recovering from that. As in previous weeks, we're looking at three tasks:

  1. Promoting and Running a Successful Halloween Event
  2. Gathering Data With a Halloween Contest
  3. Week Two of Your Pass it On Event

Crowded-store

Halloween Event

Different businesses and communities will have different appropriate events. A day care might host a not-too-scary haunted house, while a local bar could run a sexy costume contest. If you're in the right location, you can always take part in the safe trick-or-treating street festival most towns are doing these days. 
Whatever the event, you need to make sure it involves the following key points:

  • A signup sheet or quick reference code for all visitors with a clear call-to-action to join your text message broadcasts.
  • Flyers or postcards announcing upcoming events and specials -- which you will announce via text and social media channels.
  • Inexpensive door prizes, and discounts for bringing new friends to the party.

Keep in mind that sales and fun during the event are not the real goal of your Halloween shindig. Your real goal here is to increase the number of people who know about your business, and to learn how to contact as many of them as possible. 

Halloween Contest

Not everybody will be able to come in on Halloween Night to join your big event, but you don't want to leave them out. Broadcast your Halloween photo contest via SMS, social media and emails. Again, what the contest is about will depend on your audience. Kid-friendly contest might be about costumes, or photos of jack-o-lanterns. Adult businesses might be considerably more risque. 

The point here is engagement and participation, so offer a discount or free prize for all participants and a bigger gimme for the winners. Also offer an additional benefit for any new subscribers to participate, and for people who bring in a friend. 

Pass It On Week Two

Last week you put the word out about your subscription drive, which you'll run this week right alongside your party and contest. This may seem like a lot of work, but it capitalizes on the energy of the holiday and you'll get more participation. 

You set up tiers of prizes, for escalating people brought in as subscribers, likers or otherwise signed up with your media channels. Each day this week, announce the results and send one message on each major channel about the prizes and the deadlines. By the end of the week, you should have a significant increase in the number of people signed up to hear about what's going on with your business. This means more people participating in your bigger sales days going into November and December. 

How's this working out for you, readers? Tell us your stories and ask us your questions in the comments.

October 24, 2012

The Best Holiday Season Ever: Week 4

Entry By Jason Brick

See all entries in this Series to catch up if you're joining us mid-season. This series is meant to help you use the slower pre-holiday weeks to ramp up for high performance from Black Friday to New Year's Day. 

This week we start prepping for the first big holiday of Q3 and 4: Halloween. We'll riff off that enthusiasm and start launching two of our most important tools for success on the bigger holidays in the coming months. You'll spend your time on the following tasks:

  1. Halloween Hints Text Series
  2. Pass It On Week One
  3. Hiring Holiday Staff

If you're coming in late in the game, this is a week you can't afford to skip. You'll need to double-time it this week and next to make sure you're up to speed.

Best-holiday-season-halloween

Halloween Hints Text Series

Three times this week, and three times next, broadcast an SMS message to your subscribers with a seasonal hint related to your business. Don't be salesy on this. Make it informational. Ideas include safety tips for family outings, news about local events, even reviews of movies coming to the local revival theaters. The idea is to get people looking forward to your text messages as a source of news and entertainment. Once you establish this thought, you'll get a much better response rate. 

Pass It On Week One

This week, you leak the news about your big subscription drive for next week. Put the word out in social media, SMS messages and print flyers in your shop. Set up three to five tiers of prizes, each for bringing in a new person for your social media and SMS communities. You'll run the contest next week. This week, choose what the prizes and deals will be -- and let everybody know what to expect. 

Hiring Holiday Staff

Not every business needs extr a help during the holiday season, but most do. Now is the time to interview and select that help. Do it earlier, and people will flake out on you. Wait much longer, and all the good help will be taken by other shops. Before advertising in general, reach out to former staff who left on good terms -- especially kids who went away for college or quit after summer work .
Let's hear some reports from the front. Who out there has success stories or tales of terror? Questions about how to make this work the best? Comment below to join the conversation!

October 22, 2012

6 Ways Your Business Can Get the Most Out of Your Employees

Entry By Jason Brick

For most industries, staff is both the highest single expense in the budget and the single most important investment. Whether you're hiring minimum-wage laborers or filling an advanced think tank, how you handle this investment makes a direct and significant difference in your bottom line. 

squeeze tight

Even if you're happy with how your team works, consider these six ways to get still more out of them – while helping them feel even better about their jobs. 

  1. Stop "Helping" - True, sometimes your people need help that only you can give. Most of the time, though, it's a problem they have full authority and resources to fix on their own. Letting them gives you more time, and helps them feel more ownership for their position and the company. 
  2. Be Generous With Information - Don't keep secrets about your company's performance, goals and direction. The more your employees know, the more they'll trust you and value your efforts in the company. Better still, they might be able to use that information to find unexpected solutions and opportunities. 
  3. Find Money for Training - Whether it's covering the cost of classes at the local community college or bringing in an expert to teach your team new skills, training builds employee self-worth and their value to the company. Even something as simple as training someone to do a job you've done personally can reap high rewards. 
  4. Set Clear and Attainable Goals - Few things are more frustrating -- or more common -- for employees than being "called on the carpet" for not meeting goals they didn't know about. For each team and employee, set clear performance metrics including a definition of how they are measured. Be certain to include a concrete explanation of the rewards for meeting those goals on time. 
  5. Listen, and Act On What You Hear - Almost every company solicits employee opinions, but it's rarer for employees to see those opinions actually affect the company's direction. Take time to really talk with your people about what they like and dislike -- and make what changes you can. If you hear a frequent request for something you can't change, make a point of explaining the reality that makes change impossible. 
  6. The Little Things - Low-cost, simple changes to your workplace environment can go a lot farther than you're probably thinking. Some examples include free lunch once a week, access to laundry and gym discounts, relaxed dress code, summer hours and permitting house-trained dogs on site help create a culture that retains and inspires. 

October 17, 2012

The Best Holiday Season Ever: Week 3

This is part three of our series to get you ready for the holiday rush season. Find Week 2 right here , or start from the beginning here.

This week we start getting the word out and collecting names, as well as a little house cleaning. You'll focus your efforts on three areas:

  • Running an SMS Savings Poll
  • Conducting a Social Media Drive
  • Deep Cleaning Your Back Areas

This week is like the beginning of a chess game. Your moves won't be the ones that directly win the match, but they position you to be more efficient and powerful later down the line.

Best-holiday-marketing-customer-polling

  • Running an SMS Savings Poll
    Brainstorm four different ways to offer savings to your subscribers throughout quarter four. Examples might include buy one/get one, a free small item with a larger purchase, high percentage discounts on set items, or discounts for buying in bulk. Whatever you decide, use your knowledge of the business to select the four that will mean the most profit for you. 

    Then broadcast an SMS poll asking your subscribers to select the deal they like best. Honor that poll so your most engaged customers feel a sense of ownership and belonging. This will immensely increase how many people show up for your sale events. 
  • Conducting a Social Media Drive
    SMS, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all reasonably effective marketing tools -- but none are as effective as all four together. Starting on Monday, offer something special -- such as membership in your elite team from last week -- to anybody who signs up to follow your social media feeds. Announce the deal in every platform you use, and give an extra bonus to anybody who gets a friend signed up. Moving forward, you'll broadcast your announcements on every platform you have. 
  • Deep Cleaning Your Back Areas
    If your facility is messy at the beginning of the holiday season, it will be a disaster by the end. Spend time this week going over all your non-public areas with a fine-tooth comb. Throw out things you don't need. Organize areas for better storage. Dust. This new cleanliness is proven to help your team feel more energetic and focused...and you might find some forgotten products to add to your clearance pile. 

Readers, how are we doing so far? What's your experience with the program? Comment below to help us help you better!

October 11, 2012

Six Text Message Coupon Ideas For A Mobile Halloween

Entry By Jason Brick

SMS Marketing works best if you can link it with what's going on in the world around you. That's why you should comment on "politically safe" news items in real time to start a conversation. With Halloween, the zeitgeist is all about parties, fun, kids and cheap scares. Throw a few of these text message coupons and events into your rotation to get some extra treats for your business, too.

Halloween-sms-coupon-ideas

Doubt Halloween is worth paying attention to? The National Retail Federation the average American consumer will spend $80 this year on Halloween decorations, constumes and candy – adding up to $8 billion Dollars in retail sales!

  1. Costume Contest
    For a new spin on an old idea, hold an image contest where subscribers respond to your broadcast with photos of their costumes. Go one step further with themes, or even an impromptu costume contest where contestants must respond within five minutes of your broadcast.
  2. Party Supply Depot
    If your business offers anything somebody might need for a Halloween party, offer some kind of discount on those items -- especially if paired with a higher-ticket part of your stock. Be creative with these deals. It's okay to stretch the point to get a customer.
  3. Solstice/Samhain/All Hallow's Eve
    Remember that Halloween isn't the only (or even the oldest) holiday at the end of October. Depending on your customer base, you could offer coupons and events throughout the week by hitting all the major festivals of this part of the season.
  4. Horror Movie Poll
    This one's pretty self-explanatory. Have subscribers use text messaging to vote on their favorite horror movies, with those who voted for the winner (or loser) getting a special discount. Split it up into themes ("Best Slasher Flick"/"Most Unintentionally Hilarious") for more participants, more winners and more content.
  5. The Great Pumpkin Hunt
    Take a photo of a porch jack-o-lantern somewhere in your city and broadcast to your subscribers. Offer big prizes or discounts to people who can bring in -- or respond with -- a photo of the same pumpkin. As Halloween night progresses, broadcast hints and clues to help people find it.
  6. Don't Forget the Cleanup!
    Various tricks and pranks combine with general party mayhem to make November 1st a major clean-up day for lots of people. If your business offers cleanup help, supplies, or respite during a work break, offer a coupon to bring the crew in. If not, offer discounts to people bringing in a picture of what a disaster their home has become.

What Halloween broadcasts have worked best for you? Comment below with your cleverest/most successful/most disastrous witching hour ideas.

October 10, 2012

The Best Holiday Season Ever: Week 2

Entry By Jason Brick

See Week One of this series to take you from early October to Black Friday itself and the best holiday season of your business's life. Don't worry if you're starting late -- you'll just have to do a little double-timing to catch up. 

Holiday-week-2-planning

This week is all about setting wheels in motion. As the holidays approach, you'll be neck-deep in events and sales -- so use this time not just to get things moving, but to take a little rest before things get too heavy. In addition to your regular business and operations tasks, you're going to take on four assignments:
* Set Your Event Calendar
* Start Your SMS Countdown
* Set Up Your Elite Team
* Identify Your Clearance Items

With these finished, you'll be set for this week, well on the road to holiday sale success.

  1. Set Your Event Calendar
    Using last week's schedule of events, sit down with your calendar and decide what dates you'll put each event on. For example, Week Five has a Halloween Contest and a Halloween Event, and Week Eight includes your Black Friday Bonanza. Write the dates down and share them with your key staffers.
  2. Start Your SMS Countdown
    Beginning this week, make a note at the end of each SMS marketing broadcast of the time left until your next major event. Something quick like "Just 8 days until our Halloween Contest! Be ready!" If you're short on characters, send a countdown message on its own. If your SMS service allows it, you can plug in the reminders for the entire season, scheduled to launch on appropriate days.

    As your details coalesce, put some information on your website and include the link in some of your broadcasts. Use the countdown to build awareness and excitement among your subscribers.
  3. Set Up Your Elite Team
    If you don't already have one, this is a group of "super-subscribers" willing to go the extra mile for your business. Set up a distribution list among these key employees and customers, be it email, social media, or another text group. Collect the names with a combined invitation on SMS and social media, along with the promise of extra goodies to come. This team will be instrumental in the success of many of your events in the coming weeks. If you already have an elite team, set a goal to double enrollment in the next few weeks.
  4. Identify Your Clearance Items
    Dig through your stores and find the stuff you're not going to move any time soon. If you're a restaurant, identify a handful of quickly-made, high-margin items. Tag them with post-it notes or make a list, whatever will help you remember them as things move forward. You'll use these for your giveaways, prizes and clearance sale in the coming weeks.

We invite reports from the field, be they questions, comments or complaints. Comment below to start the conversation.

October 04, 2012

Integrations Have Arrived: Sync Your Account With MailChimp & Highrise

For the past few months our development team have been hard at work on a number of projects - and today we're excited to announce the availability of a feature that we know will be extremely popular - Integrations.

What's an integration? Instead of manually syncing contacts back and forth between Ez Texting and the various web applications that your business uses, you can now keep those contacts in sync automatically. Setup is simple, straightforward and takes less than a minute. After that, our system handles the rest.

Ez-texting-integrations
We're launching our first two integrations today:

  • MailChimp - What's even better than email marketing campaigns and SMS Marketing campaigns? Sync'd email and SMS Marketing campaigns. Our integration zips your email contacts stored in MailChimp into your Ez Texting account with a couple of clicks.
  • Highrise - Store your business contacts in Highrise's CRM? With a few clicks you can automatically sync them into your Ez Texting account. Got clients with overdue bills? Nothing reminds people like a quick text message!

Learn more @ Ez Texting, or login to your account to start syncing contacts now!

October 03, 2012

The Best Holiday Season Ever: Week 1

Entry By Jason Brick

The secret to a great holiday season is to start your work well before the holidays are underway. This gives you the longest "lead time" to set up your facility, train your staff and inform your customers. In many small businesses, October represents a retail slump -- meaning now is the perfect time to get started on holiday preparations. 

Best-holiday-sales-season-ever

This is the first in a multi-part series that will take you through Black Friday to help you get your business ready for the best holiday season ever

Week One

This week will be all about preparation: setting your calendar, informing your staff, understanding concepts. Though every business has its own separate details, all sorts can benefit from taking action on their Subscribers, Events and Facility every week. Below you'll find a basic schedule for this holiday season plan:

  • Week One (This week): Understand, Prepare and Ge t Your "Game Face" On
  • Week Two (Next week): Start SMS Countdown, Set Up Your Elite Team, Identify Clearance Items
  • Week Three (October 14 - 20): Savings Poll, Social Media Drive, Deep Clean Back Area
  • Week Four (October 21-27): Halloween Hints, Pass it On Week One, Hiring Holiday Staff
  • Week Five (October 28 - November 3): Halloween Contest, Halloween Event, Pass it On Week Two
  • Week Six (November 4 - November 10): Collector Series Week One, Social Media Poll, Deep Clean Front Area
  • Week Seven (November 11 - November 17): Collector Series Week Two, Clearance Event, Re-Arrange Sales Area
  • Week Eight (Thanksgiving/Black Friday Week): Big, Bad, Black Friday Bonanza

Helpful Hints

As you get ready for your Best Holiday Season Ever, keep a few things in mind. They'll help you "stay the course" as things get increasingly hectic week after week.

  • Stay on schedule -- it can be easy to procrastinate in October work intended for December, but that defeats the purpose of this whole process.
  • Use down time -- you'll have some slow periods in the first weeks of this process. Enjoy and use this "calm before the storm."
  • Look for opportunities -- this program is by no means complete. There's plenty of room for your to tailor the framework to your situation. One advantage of having this kind of plan is it gets your mind looking for ways to make it even better.
  • Watch your numbers -- following a long-term plan without watching and assessing your statistics is like driving fast without headlights. Keep track and make changes as the need becomes evident.

Any questions, notes from the field, ideas for improvement, or other comments? Jason and the entire Ez Texting staff will watch this series with special care to help you stay on track and succeed.

October 01, 2012

9 Classic Business Books that Aren't Actually About Business

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. Note - Last week we posted 9 Classic Business Books You Should Have Read Years Ago — and this post is the followup. If you missed the first, we highly suggest you read it now!

Classic-business-books-not-about-business
Reading is an important form of education for most small business owners, but not all business reading has to be about business. Check out these titles, ostensibly in other sections of the library that can stimulate your business mind just as effectively.

  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    This classic book of military strategy was recommended by Michael Douglas's Gordon Gecko character in Wall Street. You always knew business was full of conflict. This manual tells you how to win them.
  2. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
    Don't let the title fool you. This hippie-flavored text is full of actionable ideas for improving your personal effectiveness, focus, energy level and relationships with people.
  3.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
    "Machiavellian" means "brutally effective" for a reason. Another centuries-old book, this one describes how to run a principality for maximum gain. As it turns out, principalities and businesses aren't terribly different.
  4.  The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
    A pop-scholarly work on globalization and modern communications, it's one of the best for wrapping your mind around how people work in this century. Business owners operating without his insights are at a disadvantage.
  5. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Gladwell uses case studies of successful ideas and businesses as the core of this book, but it's really about how people think and groups react.
  6.  Drive by Daniel Pink
    Pink spent years looking at the research on what really motivates people, and found some surprising facts. It will help you identify the kinds of incentives your staff needs, and how to apply them.
  7. The Book of Five Ringsby Miyamoto Musashi
    Where The Art of War discusses battle at the mass scale, Five Rings is about personal combat. Musashi's lessons can just as easily be applied to the "singles combat" of negotiations and meetings with human resources.
  8. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
    A guide to moving serenely through the tribulations of life. The Agreements -- Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Do Your Best -- are equally applicable to successfully navigating the rough waters of business and entrepreneurship.
  9. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
    When people say somebody is smart, most of the time they mean that person communicates well. Especially in this age of easy self-publication, social media, blogging and text marketing, knowing how to write is a skill all business owners need. This is the go-to book on the topic, recommended by the likes of Stephen King and "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty.

These obviously aren't the only non-business books you can use for business. Other blogs have recommended everything from The Bible to Dr. Seuss. What reading would you recommend?