« December 2012 | Main | February 2013 »

6 posts from January 2013

January 29, 2013

6 Text Messaging Tips For Accountants To Survive & Thrive This Tax Season

Ed. Note - We wrote this as a guest post that originally appeared on Intuit's Accountants Blog last March. We're republishing it here because it's just as relevant to this tax season!

---

Now that it's March, the busy tax season is in full swing. For accountants, this means a mixed blessing of brutally busy weeks combined with significant extra income. As with most industries, accounting has changed in the past decade as the Internet has become a progressively larger part of American culture.

Tax

This tax season, you can take an even deeper tech plunge and use text messaging to retool how you do business. The results can mean quicker work flow – leading to even more customers, or a slightly less stressful season for your office.

  1. Tax Advice Broadcast Start in the next few days with a periodic broadcast to your existing clients, offering a simple line of tax advice along with a countdown of how many days remain before the tax deadline. This won't bring in new clients, but might recapture a lapsed customer and make sure your regulars don't wander off.
  2. Early Bird Specials Offer a discount coupon via SMS broadcast to customers who come in and file early. This can extend your most profitable season while simultaneously making April a little less hectic.
  3. Receipts and Proof If your clients made any donations or deductible purchases via text-to-give or mobile platforms, their phone bills may contain a record of those transactions. Have them forward them in to your office along with their other documents.
  4. Ask a Simple Question One of the most frustrating parts of an accountant's March and April is the 10-minute client call to answer a one-minute question. It's nobody's fault, but it eats up a disproportionate amount of a tax professional's day. You can instead send a text message with simple, brief questions. It takes less than a minute, your client can respond when he's near his records, and you have a handy written record of the entire conversation.
  5. Status Updates It's reasonably simple to send a quick text to your clients as their returns pass through the various hurdles of tax season. Better, it's easy to set up a sequence of form texts. As each client reaches a new stage of the process, you can pull the trigger on the appropriate SMS in seconds. This personal-feeling service will help make sure that client comes back for next year's season.
  6. Early Warning System Even as early as December, you can start sending out text broadcasts with hints for identify, storing and organizing tax documents as they come in. This keeps you in a client's front-of-mind awareness with each message, and makes everybody's lives easier if they follow the advice.

New To SMS Marketing? Check out our Free SMS Marketing Resource Center to learn everything there is to know about text messaging for your business.

January 28, 2013

Take Your Constant Contact Email Marketing To The Next Level With The Ez Texting Integration

Shot-constant-contact-integrationWe're excited to announce the launch of our latest integration - one that we know so many of you have been waiting for - Constant Contact

Setting up the Constant Contact integration is extremely easy. Login to your Ez Texting account, click Integrations under the Advanced Features menu, and when that page loads you'll be able to add a new Constant Contact connection. After you've authorized the Ez Texting application you'll choose the lists you'd like to sync from and the Ez Texting Groups to add those contacts to. As with all of our integrations, you can sync manually or have us update the sync whenever you login to your account.

What's so great about connecting your Constant Contact and Ez Texting accounts? SMS Marketing and Email Marketing are perfect compliments to each other. By syncing your contacts between accounts there's no longer a need to manually export and import contacts. Everything is done in seconds - and can even refresh the list every time you login so your list is always up-to date.

While email marketing is great for long, rich content - and will never be replaced - text messaging allows you to reach those same contacts in a different, complimentary way. Short & Sweet (160 characters), universally supported, and with open rates over 90% within three minutes of receipt, text messages allow you to reach nearly all of your contacts, wherever they are, whenever you need to reach them. Text messaging is great for appointment reminders, mobile coupons, and time sensitive info.

If you're new to SMS Marketing, be sure to check out our Free SMS Marketing Resource Center, as well as dozens of tips, ideas, best practices and dos and donts right here at the blog.

You can also check out Ez Texting over at the Constant Contact Marketplace!

Cc-setup

Login now - or see all of our web app integrations.

January 24, 2013

7 Business Statistics Every Small Business Owner Should Know

As we begin a new year, it's a good time to analyze where you are and how that compares to where you want to be. Statistics are the single most effective tool for doing exactly that. Whether you're a veteran MBA or a first-year business owner, these seven numbers will give you a strong sense of how your company is performing. 

Small-business-statistics

  1. Return on Investment This is how much money you make compared to how much you spend for any business investment, expressed as a percentage. ROI= ($ Earned / $Spent) x 100. The higher the number, the better your employee, program or improvement. Run this not for your company, but for various investments to see which ones deserve the most energy.
  2. Marketing Conversion Rate You can't tell exactly how many eyes see your marketing message, but you do know how much you're spending. Divide that by the number of customer contacts you get from any given marketing endeavor to know how much each contact costs you. Use it to know which initiatives are working the best.
  3. Sales Conversion Rate This is the number of sales you make divided by the number of customer inquiries you receive. It's most useful when you run it at different levels -- such as for initial calls, for first-time visits to your shop and for engaged sales conversations. By comparing the different levels, you can tell where your sales process has the most room for improvement.
  4. Previous Performance Comparison A less complex formula, this statistics helps you gauge your progress and make predictions for coming weeks. It's a matter of comparing your performance in one week with the corresponding week from previous years. As the year progresses, it provides a reasonable gauge of how you can expect future weeks to go.
  5. Variable Expenses The only basic statistic on this list, it's here because of its importance to controlling your company's success. Variable expenses are those that change from month to month, such as utility bills and supply costs. Holding them down is literally free profit.
  6. Daily Acts of Promotion You won't find this in many marketing textbooks, but it's a great way to measure one of your most important jobs as a business owner. Simply count how many times per day you make a significant contact with a potential new client. Handing out a business card or calling to "check in" are two examples. Set goals and hold contests between your marketing team.
  7. Net Margin This one is worth knowing daily, but takes a little preparation to be useful. Figure out how much your regular expenses like payroll and utilities cost each day, then add any costs unique to that day. Subtract it from how much cash came in. That lets you know whether you made money or lost money for your efforts. Businesses with a longer-term cash cycle can do this weekly, monthly, or however often their flow makes the most sense.

January 22, 2013

4 Surprisingly Effective SMS Marketing Campaigns From 2012

One issue with SMS Marketing is it's a bit of a grind. You send out message after message. Sometimes you see a few extra customers. Sometimes you get a fun response. Most of the time, though, it just feels like extra work. 

Sms-surprise

But you can take some inspiration from success stories. Just like winning the lottery (even better than winning the lottery, since it's more likely to happen to you ), knowing about how others did well can help you believe you can do it, too -- and give you some ideas about how to make it happen. 

  1. Ace Hardware Knows Which Way the Wind is Blowing
    Ace Hardware is a national brand with local or regional ownership. Westlake Ace, a franchise owning 88 stores across 7 states, allowed SMS subscribers to opt-in for weather notifications based on ZIP code. These warnings not only provided valuable weather information, but also notes about how to prepare -- and what to buy at Ace Hardware -- to be ready. It resulted both in higher sales as storms approached, but in a huge subscriber increase as people got friends to sign up for the weather warnings.
  2. Coca-Cola Goes Mad in March
    People drink Coke while watching TV, and Coke has figured out that people drink Coke Zero while watching sports on TV. During March Madness (the NCAA Basketball championship tournament, always held in March), Coke sprang for on-air announcements during the game related to prizes and codes printed on various Coke Zero/Diet Coke products. The end result meant interacting with the brand and the game simultaneously. It's not as though Coke really needed more brand awareness (it's the most-recognized logo in the world), but the March Madness initiative didn't lose them any ground.
  3. Land's End
    The clothing catalog giant went big for Mother's Day with an SMS campaign that reads like a "Nagging Mother" joke. In the week prior to the day, they sent three different reminders to get a gift for Mom...and a note that a Land's End gift card would be perfect for just such an occasion. This one didn't increase subscriber lists significantly, but boosted sales of both gift cards and merchandise.
  4. San Diego Chargers
    Most teams have an SMS list to let fans keep up with the team throughout the season, but the Chargers went one step further. During the off season, subscribers receive updates about star players and training regimens, alerts on local appearances, and opportunities to get involved in polls and trivia contests to win Chargers swag. If there's a better way to keep in top-of-mind awareness when not immediately relevant, we haven't seen it.

What about in your area? Do you have colleagues or competitors who really nailed SMS this year? Tell us about them in the comments below, and how you plan to beat them in the coming months.

January 14, 2013

Supporting SMS Marketing With Pinterest

Pinterest-sms-marketingDespite its rapid growth, Pinterest isn't as well understood as many of the other social media networks that can support your text message marketing. It's not for everybody, but certain industries and projects go well with Pinterest's highly visual format. If you're thinking about adding the site to your SMS marketing campaigns, it's best to keep a few things in mind. 

Who It's For
Pinterest works best for businesses that communicate well with pictures. Interior designers, architects, artists, tourism bureaus and wedding venues are some examples of companies that often do well on the platform. 
Businesses that don't have visually compelling products, and almost all service companies, are usually better off focusing elsewhere. It's hard to put up a compelling photo of your legal or accounting services.

The Basics
Users browse Pinterest to look at photos arranged in categorized "boards" (think photos pinned to a bulletin board). If an image catches the eye, that user can click on it to link to the site where it's hosted. That's how Pinterest marketing works. 

With SMS, you can send a single image from a board to your subscribers, with a link to that board as part of the message. Your mobile users can then navigate to view an entire board of compelling images of your products, then follow those images to a website where they can make a purchase. Bonus points for combining the opportunity with some kind of limited-time discount, poll, contest or other key SMS strategy.

The Five Rules of Pinterest Marketing

  1. Don't Post Proprietary Images
    Pinterest's EULA says any image you post becomes their intellectual property. Only post images you own, and only those images of yours you won't mind seeing used elsewhere. 
  2. Use the "Recent Activity" Feature
    This lets yo u track social sharing of your images over the past hours or days. Use it after Pinterest-related broadcasts to gauge the effectiveness of any given batch.
  3. Double-Check Your Landing Page
    Remember that your SMS subscribers will most likely view your landing page from a mobile device. If you don't have a mobile-optimized version of your website, check your landing page from a variety of devices to make sure it's attractive and easy to navigate.
  4. Get Social
    Share images from other uses, mixed in with your promotional content. As with other social media platforms, users who only ever post advertising are quickly ignored by the crowd.
  5. Use Only Your Best Images
    You'll be competing for attention with high-quality, compelling images from all over the world. Put only your best stuff up there.

Don’t miss the other entries in this series: Supporting SMS Marketing With LinkedIn, Supporting SMS Marketing with Twitter and Supporting SMS Marketing with Facebook

January 02, 2013

52 Weeks Of SMS Marketing Ideas

As the New Year begins, remember the importance of a full-year content calendar. Here are 52 weeks of SMS Marketing campaign ideas to get you started:

notebook
  1. New Year resolution contest.
  2. Come in from the cold.
  3. Aren't you glad the holidays are over?
  4. Happy Martin Luther King Day!
  5. Crazy weather photo contest.
  6. Bring a friend discount. 
  7. Valentine's Day celebration.
  8. Know your presidents quiz (in honor of Presidents' Day)
  9. SMS Haiku contest.
  10. Ugly dog photo contest.
  11. Spring forward to Daylight Savings Time.
  12. Spring Equinox = buy one/get one free.
  13. Holy week.
  14. Spring Break (exact date may be different in your area)
  15. First flowers photo contest.
  16. Bring a friend discount.
  17. Earth Day information quiz.
  18. May Day practical joke photo contest.
  19. Early Mother's Day event.
  20. Armed Forced Day appreciation discount.
  21. Memorial Day weekend.
  22. Memorial Day picnic hangover recovery week.
  23. Summer's coming student appreciation discount.
  24. Early Father's Day event.
  25. Summer Solstice = big bulk discounts.
  26. Biggest summer vacation plans contest.
  27. Independence Day celebration.
  28. Discount if the temperature beats a record.
  29. Worst summer outfit photo contest.
  30. Enjoy our air conditioning sale.
  31. Summer picnic supplies discount.
  32. Outdoor extravaganza sidewalk sale.
  33. Bring a buddy discount.
  34. Summer stuff clearance event.
  35. “What I did this summer” text essay contest.
  36. Labor Day celebration.
  37. “Good moms, good moms, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they go to school?”
  38. First leaf of fall photo contest.
  39. Autumn Equinox = but one/get one free.
  40. First local high school football game (might vary by region).
  41. "I left my jacket at school/work" contest.
  42. SMS holiday countdown.
  43. Holiday savings poll.
  44. Halloween hints series.
  45. Halloween contest.
  46. Collector series week one.
  47. Collector series week two.
  48. Black Friday Sale.
  49. Last minute holiday shopping.
  50. Winter Solstice = lowest prices of the year.
  51. Christmas greetings.
  52. Happy New Year!

Not all of these ideas will work for every area and every business. Use what works for you and insert your own ideas when you have better ones. The important part is to systematize your SMS presence with a content calendar. The better you plan your marketing, the more it will pay out over the year.