Small Business

179 posts categorized

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.

 

October 18, 2014

Perks That Work: Getting the Most out of Your Employees

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Running a small business requires a lot more creativity than running a major corporation. Throwing money at every single problem is not an option. When your resources are limited, you have to think smarter and work harder. 

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but the adage is scant consolation for cash-hobbled entrepreneurs with grand ideas which simply can't be executed without a few hefty checks being written. All too often, budgetary constraints lead to a frustrating number of creative ideas being nixed at the proposal stage.

One of the ways in which SMBs feel financially strangled is their inability to offer the perks-of-the-job absorbed so easily by Fortune 500 companies. Competition for the best employees is fierce, but even if you can’t offer the same salary as the biggest brands in your industry, you can attract bright minds by offering the right perks.

It’s not all about free meals and X-Boxes. If potential staff members can see real world benefits as part of the package, and they have faith in your company culture, they may well take a smaller salary. After all, if they believe in your brand, they will understand that it’s only a matter of time before their wages will rise in line with the company’s fortunes. With that in mind, we’ve trawled the employee packages offered by a variety of small and medium-sized businesses to give you a few ideas for perks that really work.

 

Cycle to Work

D.C. company Summit LLC hit on an innovative way to keep younger employees excited about going to work. They saw that more than 50% of their workforce did not drive and responded by purchasing annual memberships to the Capital Bikeshare program. Of Summit’s 75 employees, more than half opted to sign up for the program, which costs $75 per membership. Like all good benefits, the advantages of the scheme were felt equally by management and staff: avoiding traffic and public transportation delays increased productivity by ensuring staff showed up earlier. The positive effect of exercise on cognitive function is well-documented. For the future health of staff and revenues, that’s a few thousand dollars well spent.

 

Free Laundry

Venice-based JibJab Media offer a free laundry service to all staff-members who arrive to work by 10am on Mondays. The contents of one laundry bag gets washed, folded and returned to employees the following day. Crossing such a simple chore off the daily lives of staff does wonders for loyalty, and it’s a relatively low-cost endeavor.

 

Mandatory Out of Office Hours

In this smartphone age, so many workers are expected to be constantly ‘on’ – and it’s a major cause of anxiety among those who feel they can’t switch ‘off’. One CEO has boldly coined the phrase ‘Zmail’ to describe his no-email policy between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Dan Calista, head of healthcare management consultancy firm Vynamic, asks employees with the urge to email at 11pm to write a draft and send it the next morning. The policy was implemented in response to an internal survey that showed 40% of employees were stressed out at work. Now, Vynamic reports a lower-than-average staff turnover rate, and they send regular reminders about the policy – before 10pm, of course.

October 16, 2014

How to Improve Text Message Security

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Mobile phone security risks are abundant with standard, unencrypted text messages among other elements of mobile use. Accordingly, more and more users are looking to encrypted phone call and text message options for privacy protection. A number of apps available for iOS and Android are designed to improve text message security, encrypting both text messages and phone calls. Let’s take a look at some of these apps, but remember no app can protect mobile devices from physical access. Unless a phone features a passcode, anyone handling the device can read messages, view pictures, check out call history, etc.

 

TextSecure and Signal

Created by former Twitter security researcher Moxie Marlinspike’s Open Whisper Systems, TextSecure allows users to message everyone on their phone list. End-to-end encryption is only available when talking to other TextSecure users; however, notifications are sent if the conversation isn’t secure. Available for free on Android, TextSecure utilizes independently developed algorithms, including those that create a new security key with each message.

 

Telegram

Described by its creators as the encrypted, cloud-based, quicker version of WhatsApp, Telegram makes it easy to share messages and media with up to 200 people at once. Choices include ephemeral chats, which are never saved, and cloud-accessible messages for users wanting to return to conversations. The “secret” chats leave “no trace” on the Telegram server.

 

Wickr 

Offering “military-grade security,” Wickr is for those who want to know their messages and photos aren’t readable past a certain time. Metadata is stripped from photos before they’re sent, and messages automatically disappear following a set amount of time after being read. The app makes customization simple and allows users to decide how many people they want to find them, create group chats, and “shred” remains of deleted files.

 

Surespot

Surespot features tools for independently managing different identities on a single device to distinguish personal and professional communications. Voice chat is also integrated, as is flexible photo control for locking, unlocking, and deleting photos from recipients’ phones. The app requires a password that cannot be recovered or reset. Users may look at one another’s public keys offline to ensure no “man-in-the-middle” attacks.

 

CoverMe

CoverMe securely stores a variety of media data, including passwords, photos and documents, and makes it possible to hide identities and phone numbers. Calling and texting with non-users is possible via the CoverMe phone plan, but only phone calls and texts with other users feature end-to-end encryption.

These and other security apps offer the text message security that businesses often require to communicate with employees and clients. And of course, they’re useful for the everyday user as well.

 

October 15, 2014

Mobile Marketing Mushroom in Ireland

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Mobile marketing campaign managers in Ireland are flush with success right now. The country is undergoing a mobile device boom, as consumers increasingly turn their attentions away from desktop and towards smartphones and tablets.

A study compiled by marketing company ZinMobi looked at some of the country’s leading retail, restaurant and fast food brands and found mobile marketing tactics were the most effective way of delivering the biggest ROI. ZinMobi’s boss, Brian Stephenson, said the results were indicative of a growing awareness of mobile marketing tactics, and a concurrent drop off in use of conventional methods. Says Stephenson:

“What excites me about these results is the way that brands have recognised mobile as the instant marketing channel with campaigns quicker to deploy, and delivering instant results.

“We believe that every business knows enough about its customers... to deliver highly-targeted and trackable campaigns,” he added.

The study also found that mobile marketing tactics were regarded as the quickest to set-up, and 61% of respondents said they delivered the fastest results. The research found only 10% of companies did not plan to be using some form of mobile marketing campaign by this time next year; right now, 26% of Irish companies do not use some kind of mobile marketing strategy. These figures clearly show a growing awareness of mobile marketing among firms who are late to the party.

Companies with a well-established mobile marketing strategy are expanding their current campaigns in order to better engage with consumers. Mobile coupons and special offers are proving highly effective methods of retaining and nurturing existing customers.

These trends reflect an overall swing towards mobile in Ireland. Mobile web access is up 59% on last year according to a report from StatCounter. The more consumers move towards mobile devices, the more we’re likely to see marketers follow suit and creating mobile-specific campaigns. Ireland, like the rest of the world, knows which way the wind is blowing.