Small Business

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November 25, 2014

How SMS Marketing Drives Black Friday Sales

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SMS marketing impacts Black Friday sales in a big way. Since it’s the biggest shopping day of the year and the beginning of holiday shopping activities, marketing campaigns announcing Black Friday sales are everywhere...including on mobile devices. And really, what better way to advertise Black Friday deals and events than with SMS? The vast majority of consumers own mobile devices, which they have turned on (and carry on their person) at all times. Ninety-five percent of marketing messages sent via SMS and MMS are opened, so crafting marketing campaigns around mobile devices makes a whole lot of sense, as many retailers have discovered.

Businesses use SMS to deliver sales alerts to customers, as well as exclusive coupons, video clips, and much more. All help ensure customer loyalty and holiday business; and when the holidays are over, businesses have a whole new database of customers opted-in to loyalty programs. This means alerting customers to sales events and new products all year long.

 

Black Friday: 2012

According to IBM, mobile shopping increased considerably in 2012 compared to 2011, with 24% of customers using a mobile device to visit retailer sites. Some 16% of shoppers used a mobile device to shop in 2011. In 2012 the iPad was the main device utilized for online shopping, followed by the iPhone and the Android. And while shoppers used social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to express gratitude about great deals and sales in 2012, that number decreased from the previous year. Shoppers referred from social networks made up .34% of online sales in 2012, a decrease of over 35% from 2011.

 

Black Friday: 2013

Last year, the amount Black Friday shoppers spent over the two-day Thanksgiving holiday rose 2.3% compared to 2012. Online sales also increased--20% from the previous year on Thanksgiving and 19% on Black Friday. Amazon.com attracted consumers by offering deals and discounts every 10 minutes, while Walmart processed some 10 million register transactions from 6pm to 10pm on that shopping day.

 

Black Friday: This Year

Social media may not play as prevalent a role in consumer shopping this year, however SMS marketing is certainly aiding retailers in their efforts to increase holiday revenue. Whether retailers will choose to implement new SMS strategies during the holiday season has yet to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: mobile marketing allows businesses to alert customers to Black Friday deals quickly, easily, and earlier than ever before. And with a simple click-through of a hyperlink, SMS receivers can make fast and easy mobile purchases. That means bigger sales, satisfied customers, and happier business owners this holiday season with SMS marketing.

November 24, 2014

6 Thanskgiving Ideas for Restaurants

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Thanksgiving is a tricky time for restaurateurs to negotiate. Many eating establishments simply close for the day, unwilling to compete with the home-cooked fare being prepared in homes across the country. 

For most restaurants, that’s probably a fairly sensible idea. But just because you’re closed doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize on the holiday. In fact, by giving your staff the day off and minimizing your overheads, and helping customers prepare for their family Thanksgiving meal, your business could turn a bigger profit closed than open. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some top tips for making the most out of this year’s Turkey Day.

Make Dessert

With so much food to prepare for the big day, the idea of outsourcing some of the culinary responsibility is very appealing. Why not use your expertise to sell desserts or side dishes to customers as a way of relieving the pressure? Take pre-orders so you know exactly how much you need to order, and ask customers to pick their dishes up on Wednesday before 2pm so you can close early, safe in the knowledge you’ve made some extra cash.

Provide Supplies

In the same vein, you can make the most of your unused assets when closed for Thanksgiving. Offer chairs, tables and utensils at knock-down rental prices. Even if you throw in the washing up, your costs will be minimal. 

Offer a Seasonal Incentive

Take a holly leaf out of Christmas’ book and run a promotional schedule that counts down to the big day. Starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving, offer customers a 20% on wine one day, a half-off coupon for entrees the next, and so on up until you close. It’s a good way to generate more business to see you through the Thanksgiving slump.

Christmas Meal Vouchers

With Christmas around the corner, why not tie in your Thanksgiving promotions to the upcoming holiday season? Unlike Thanksgiving, it’s not uncommon for people to eat out on Christmas Day, so offer a deal on the latter that only applies if they buy before the former. Use the opportunity to entice customers to sign up for text alerts – it’s one of the most effective mobile marketing tactics there is.

Takeout Deals the Night Before

Again, you are well-positioned to alleviate the pressure on Thanksgiving cooks by eliminating the need for themcto make dinner the night before. Offer mobile coupons for takeout boxes on Wednesday November 26. Even if you don’t usually offer a takeout service, it’s a winning mobile marketing strategy; you can make a selling point of the service being a one-off, never-to-be-repeated deal.

Close for the entire weekend

Here’s an interesting one. It might seem counter-intuitive to close shop for the days following Thanksgiving, but it can work wonders for staff morale, bringing them back to the restaurant with renewed energy. Remember, most people are thinking about retail - not restaurants - on Black Friday, and between shopping for deals they’re working their way through all the leftovers. Instead of risking a quiet couple of days, close on Friday and Saturday and return with a bang on Sunday for the start of the Christmas craziness.

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2014

The Weirdest Thanksgiving Marketing Ideas

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If Halloween heralds the start of the Fall/Winter spending bonanza, and Christmas marks the climax, Thanksgiving is the comfortable middle age of the season; it’s not always easy for retailers to capitalize on Turkey Day. Unless you’re in the catering industry, there’s no guarantee of a healthy revenue increase. Halloween has costumes and candy. Christmas has gifts and decorations. Both require lashings of mulled cider and other boozy delights.

Thanksgiving is a comparatively quiet time for consumers, which means you have to get extra creative with your mobile marketing strategy. To help you out, we’ve come up with some truly weird and wonderful ideas to help your business through the holiday with a healthy profit, and set you up for the Yuletide madness that kicks in on Black Friday…

Break a Record

With so many bizarre world records out there, breaking one is not as hard as you might think. If you’re in the footwear retail business, why not try shattering the Guinness World Record for the longest line shoes, which currently stands at 10,513 (heel-to-toe)? After all, you have access to plenty of resources, and you can tie in a giveaway for people who attend the event. For more seasonal records, try plucking three turkeys in less than 11 minutes and 30 seconds, or persuading a willing employee to break the world record for the longest hug (currently standing at 24 hours and 33 minutes). The more relevant to your industry the better, but whatever record you attempt it’s a surefire way to generate free publicity.

Cranberry Bucket Challenge

Riding coat-tail on a wildly successful meme is one way to tap into the online zeitgeist. If you can give it your own twist, even better. Arguably the biggest viral success of 2014, the ice-bucket challenge is so simple it can easily be modified – as Charlie Sheen proved with his version in August. Give it a Thanksgiving spin by encouraging staff and social media followers to dump Cranberry sauce over themselves. It’s messier (and more expensive!) than ice, but it’s also a lot more colorful and crazy. 

Mobile Turkey Hunt

Incentivize your online followers to sign up for mobile alerts by offering a festive bundle of prizes to anyone who can find a stuffed turkey in a major city (stuffed with fabric, that is, not hazelnuts and sage!). Run a 48 hour turkey hunt, and send periodic clues via text message to participants. The first to send in a photo of the bird wins. Not only is it a slightly off-the-wall mobile marketing campaign, it will grow your contact list and set you up for future efforts.

November 20, 2014

How Clubs & Bars Can Grow Their SMS Lists

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SMS marketing may be a new concept to club and bar owners, however many are finding the dramatic difference this strategy makes in terms of customer satisfaction, revenue and much more. Since text messaging is now one of the most effective forms of marketing available, let’s check out how bar and club owners can grow their SMS lists and therefore their customer base:

 

Focused Campaigns

Focused campaigns directly targeting those interested in your particular bar or club is a strategy that meets the needs of customers. Because of such direct targeting, no resource is wasted and the right messages go to the right consumers. And since SMS marketing lists generally require opting in, you’re assured the messages you send are read by interested customers, some of whom may visit your establishment the day the message is sent.

 

Incentives

Incentives are a huge part of attracting customers, so adding an exclusive coupon code or deal for consumers in text messages is an ideal way to get the positive response you want. Feel free to get as creative as you want, from codes that translate to free drinks to deals that include discounted entry.

 

Blogging

Everyone is blogging these days...including bars and clubs. Use this medium to grow your client base and spread your message. Write about upcoming events and specials, holiday parties, happy hour, and anything else that’s relevant. Include funny images of employees, amusing top 10 lists, and more. Add information about text message opt-ins at the end of each blog and watch your SMS list lengthen.

 

Social Media

Social media tools are yet another effective way of reaching consumers and letting them know about your SMS list(s). Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram...use these tools to let people know why they should join your list and how it will benefit them.

 

Referral Bonuses

Increase your customer base via referral bonuses. Provide existing customers with free food, drinks and other specials for referring friends and family to your business. Not only are you growing your SMS list, you’re also ensuring existing customers remain happy.

 

Wrap-Up

Bar and club owners are utilizing other means to let customers know about SMS lists, such as print media. Advertising in newspapers and magazines are two options, though you may want to go beyond print and use email or other means. Whatever you decide, know that SMS marketing lists are a fantastic way of increasing business as well as brand awareness. 

November 18, 2014

6 Business-to-Business Mobile Marketing Ideas

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B2C mobile marketing ideas are everywhere, but what about B2B marketing options? If you're trying to come up with business-to-business mobile marketing ideas, check out six useful possibilities:

 

1. Add a Mobile Website Focused on B2B

The importance of a mobile website cannot be underestimated, as it’s the foundation for all mobile marketing. Creating one is not difficult, and provides a fantastic option for other companies to learn more about your business. Use a mobile grader tool such as Marketing Grader to find out how well your site is doing and what adjustments, if any, are necessary. Make sure to target business owners by understanding their needs and developing an applicable mobile version of the site.

 

2. Create Specific Banner Ads

Use banner ads to your advantage in more than one way. For example, run a banner ad that creates an email when clicked instead of a web page. Have the email pop up on the user’s mobile device with your sales department’s email address and content reading “Tell me more about order with a 15% discount.” A mobile banner ad targeting various demographics is another option, including those specific to entrepreneurs in certain locations or those workers who only use iOS or Android.

Another mobile banner option is one that adds an event to the user’s calendar. The event is added only if the user clicks the ad.

 

3. Use a Customized App

Have a trade show or similar event coming up? Create a customized app that allows attendees to find your booth(s) or otherwise navigate your event easily. An ideal way to connect with and engage your audience, you’ll impress attendees with your attention to detail and dedication to helping them find the event informative and fun.

 

4. Integrate Social Media 

All social media platforms are “all over” the mobile ‘verse--Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +. Don’t forget about mobile when posting social media updates, as many of your fans and followers are likely reading them from a mobile device. Create posts with time-sensitive exclusive offers, as well as other promotional updates.

 

5. Launch an SMS Campaign 

Why not use SMS to stay in touch with customers? While other avenues are better for general advertising, SMS is ideal for creating specific messages for a highly-targeted group of customers or prospects. Make sure to include clear call-to-actions as well.

 

6. Implement QR Codes

Adding QR codes to collateral is an excellent promotional option for trade shows and other events, as well as general marketing. 

Try these and other B2B marketing ideas and see if business doesn’t improve. 

November 07, 2014

How to Reach Millenials with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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In the world of mobile marketing, much hay is made of millennials and how to reach them. They’re supposed to be wily, committed to free content and spendthrifts. They spend a lot of time online – but not so much money. But is this demographic really so mysterious and elusive? Are there really 12 types of millennial that you must identify and target at all costs in order to thrive?!

At this point, a group of 22-year-olds grimace, roll their eyes and go back to texting their twelve types of friend about how baby boomers ‘just don’t get it.’ The problem for boomers and Gen-Xers is that millennials have grown up in a connected world. They’ve never known anything else. Their interactions with the online world are more sophisticated and diverse than any of us can understand. There’s no point scanning the latest research paper on how long those 22-year-olds spend on their tablet. It’s more complex than that.

The ‘amount of time spent’ is such a common metric that many mobile marketing campaign managers have ceased questioning it’s validity. For millennials in particular, the amount of time spent on a specific device is far less important than what they are doing on that device. Let’s break it down:

Laptop

Millennials stand alone among the generations in their preference for laptops over desktop computers. According to Pew research from 2011, 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop. The laptop is their primary portal for shopping, web browsing and watching movies and TV shows.

Tablet

The tablet unites all demographics under the age of 65. Though only 4% of adults own one, that statistic remains constant for people of all generations. For millennials, it’s a luxury item used primarily for entertainment purposes – and often in conjunction with other activities, such as watching television. 

Television

Ah, yes, television. Lest we forget, young people still watch traditional television sets in huge numbers. The rise of prestige TV, in conjunction with an increasingly diverse array of options, may have heralded the end of the family viewing experience, but individually we’re watching more than ever. And instead of uniting the nuclear family, TV shows are uniting people of the same age. If you’ve got the budget, don’t make the mistake of ignoring traditional television advertising. The millennials have been dubbed Gen FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), an indication of the power of multimedia as a social glue.

Smartphone

The smartphone is like a fifth limb for Gen Yers. They’ll just as happily use an iPhone to watch a YouTube video, and the market is awash with apps aimed squarely at young people. There’s nothing they don’t use smartphones for, but the commonest activity – by far – is the humble text message. Time Magazine recently suggested that the average American aged 18-29 sends 88 text messages per day. For anyone devising a mobile marketing strategy aimed at millennials, that statistic is a mouth-watering one.

Millennials are by far the most likely group to own more devices and to use more functions on them. From a marketer’s perspective, there’s little point just blithely shifting budgets to digital. In order to reach millennials, you need to understand how they engage with the digital world, and recognize that they are calling the shots.

November 06, 2014

Gif-ify Your Texts with Popkey

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For millennials, it’s no longer enough to simply send a text message. There has to be some other ingredient. A video. A photo. A song. Look at any SMS thread from an under 30 and you’ll likely see a string of weird and wonderful emojis. 

Now it’s GIFs. The resurgence of GIFs is something few would have predicted ten years ago. In the mid-noughties, GIFs were outdated, a relic from Web 1.0. As soon as the internet had been around long enough to start witnessing retro fads, the GIF was back with a vengeance.

A new iPhone app is helping users easily find and share animated GIFs in order to express their emotions via SMS. PopKey takes advantage of Apple’s GIF-supporting Messages app in true style. 

It’s not the first GIF app, per se. Ultratext and others have come before it, but PopKey is the first to successfully integrate GIFs into a text messaging keyboard, without having to open a separate app. Here’s how it works: 

Users switch to the PopKey keyboard and search for an appropriate keyword. The results returned will be a list of static images which, once clicked on, will preview the GIF as a thumbnail. Simultaneously, PopKey copies the animation to the phone’s clipboard for easy pasting. Even if you like a particular GIF but opt not to use it, the app saves it in a favorites folder for easy future access.

There are a few drawbacks. PopKey’s GIFs aren’t particularly high-res. The app chooses speedy transmission over quality. And although you can upload new GIFs to the app, it requires you to grant access to your contacts and invite them to the service – something not everyone is willing to do. It also brands every GIF with the PopKey logo. Understandable, but slightly annoying.

But compared to emojis, PopKey’s GIFs get the job of conveying emotion done with a little more style, and a cool retro flourish.

November 05, 2014

Can I Start a Business in Canada if I’m Not Canadian?

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Yes.

That’s the short answer. Now for the caveats. ‘Starting a business’ can mean a few different things. How much red tape you have to wade through before getting your enterprise off the ground depends on what your current situation is. Are you launching a brand new company? Or are you simply looking to expand an existing operation into the Canadian market? 

If it’s the latter, you can do it without even setting foot in the country. The rules for established foreign businesses vary from province to province. Even if you don’t currently have a preference for which part of Canada you register in, it’s imperative to compare the rules and regulations for each province - you may well change your mind. Visit the corporate registry for starting extra-provincial companies in British Columbia and see how it fares against Ontario. Rinse and repeat with the other eight provinces. If you wish to do business in more than one province, you will need to register separately with each. Here’s a list of provincial registrars across the country.

If you are starting from scratch, things get a little more complicated. Broadly speaking, there are two options for launching a brand new company in Canada as a non-citizen: become a citizen or form a business partnership with one. Let’s take a look at each option.

1) Immigration

If you want to live in Canada anyway, you can incorporate your business interests into the immigration process by applying for business immigrant status. There are two types of business immigrant: self-employed persons and start-up entrepreneurs. Again, you can’t be too thorough in your research here. Look into each type of immigrant status and decide which is most appropriate for your situation. 

2) Partnering with a Citizen

If you have no intention of moving, you can team up with one or more Canadian business partners. At least 25% of the company directors must be resident Canadians. If your company has fewer than four directors, at least one must be a resident Canadian. Contact the provincial registry for the territory in which you want to do business and follow the requirements therein. The key thing to note is whether or not you plan to incorporate your business federally or provincially. Consider how far your business could expand – it might be worthwhile registering federally from the get-go (bear in mind you still have to register with each province individually if you incorporate your company at the federal level).

There are numerous benefits to launching a business in Canada. Government subsidies for tech startups are much talked-about, and can make all the difference during those crucial first 18 months. If you’re lucky enough to get it. However you go about it, research all the options thoroughly to ensure your Canadian adventure will pay off.

October 26, 2014

Why is the Hospitality Industry so Slow to Embrace Mobile?

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience.

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale.

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars!

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

October 23, 2014

Smalltown America: The Tech Industry’s New Home?

 

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The internet revolution has worked wonders for entrepreneurs with big ideas and small wallets. And while the tech giants are still keen to project a certain cache by basing themselves in huge economic centers like Tokyo and California, start ups are finding fewer financial impediments to realizing their dreams in less illustrious surroundings.

One of the tech industry’s new suburban outposts lies to the far west of Chicago, in and around the Fox Valley. Towns like Naperville, Aurora and Elgin are fostering the new bright young things of software development, web marketing and business.

These places have a centralized support network designed specifically for tech workers, mimicking the ‘all in it together’ mentality of their Silicon Valley counterparts.

If the spirit of technological collaboration is alive and well in Illinois, it’s positively thriving in Colorado. The state’s tech industry employed 162,600 people in 2012 (according to a TechAmerica Foundation report). That’s 8.7% of the private sector workforce, making Colorado the third biggest contributor to the national tech economy. In 2012, Colorado’s tech payroll amounted to $15.8 billion.

Tech wages are 98% higher than the average private sector wage, and the industry is the 7th-best paid in the United States. This skilled workforce is generating solutions to everything from the energy deficit to space travel. The further out of the big industrial centers tech companies base themselves, the lower the overheads - and the higher the potential wages. No wonder talented tech workers are eschewing the glamor of Silicon Valley in favor of better paid jobs in surroundings that are perhaps less illustrious - but also less cut-throat.

This tech diaspora has been facilitated in part by SEO campaigns that are increasingly targeting niche markets for highly specialized - and regionalized - products and services. Most tech companies are no longer aiming for world domination; they simply want to maximise their ROI by advertising only to those people with a high likelihood of purchasing their product.

Industry analysts are convinced that towns like Naperville have the capacity to become key tech hubs. Tech workers are starting to see the benefits of working in smaller towns, where they can commute quickly to and from work - without sacrificing their resume or salary. And why not? After all, their products and services are opening up a global village in which everybody can be a major player, irrespective of geographical location. To sell this new reality without believing in it is a contradiction too big for the bright young things of tomorrow’s technology industry.