SMB Marketing Tips

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May 28, 2014

Mobile Tech Saving Small Businesses Billions

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A compelling survey commissioned by AT & T claims small and medium sized businesses in the US have saved $67.5 billion a year by adopting mobile marketing tactics like SMS messaging and mobile coupons. Smartphone targeting has almost achieved full market penetration, with 94% of small businesses using them, up from 85% last year. Smartphones are saving companies 1.24 billion hours and $32.3 billion annually, according to the report.

Other mobile devices are having a similar impact on commerce. Tablets purportedly save $19.6 billion, and a staggering 754.2 million hours annually. Mobile apps have given back close to 600 man hours to small businesses, and saved them $15.6 billion per year.

Clearly, these figures spell fantastic news for budget-conscious startups. Entrepreneurs can now pump that surplus time and cash back into their business to increase productivity and improve customer engagement. Cost-cutting measures are welcomed by any business, of whatever size – but it’s the time saving possibilities that are relished most by survey respondents: 9 out of 10 small businesses who use mobile applications said the principal benefit was reducing man hours, and most of those estimate annual savings of up to $6000. 

Cathy Martine, AT & T’s president of enterprise business solutions said in an accompanying statement:

"In the current economy, mobile technologies are critical to enabling small businesses to save tremendous amounts of time and money by helping them do more with less. As a result, we're seeing more and more small business owners and employees turning to mobile technologies to not only keep them connected but to put them ahead of the curve." 

As a mobile marketing strategy, well-designed apps put brand recognition and awareness firmly in the hands of business owners, allowing them to offer a proprietary tool capable of boosting ROIs without absorbing the long-term costs usually associated with traditional marketing campaigns. The use of mobile apps has increased by 65% in the last two years alone. Some 77% are using multiple apps, and a significant 5% uses 20 or more apps, with GPS and mapping programs comprising the lion’s share.

One of the most striking benefits of mobile apps is the ‘open all hours’ appeal. According to the survey, the average number of days on which business is conducted via smartphone exceeds the average number of days the company is open for business. While small and medium sized businesses are open for an average of 5.7 days per week, close to half of all respondents with smartphones are making deals seven days a week.

The lessons are clear: if you are a small business and you still don’t have a mobile marketing strategy, now is the time to join the party. The results are proven to be fast and affordable, so get with mobile marketing now, and you will feel the benefit before the year is out. 

May 23, 2014

5 Mobile Marketing Don’ts

 

More and more small businesses are catching on to the manifold benefits of mobile marketing, and 84% of companies that adopt a mobile marketing strategy report an upsurge in sales.

With so many new players in the game, rookie mistakes are inevitable. If you want to avoid some of the more common errors made by mobile marketing newbies, read our top five fails so you know what not to do…

Blocking Mobile Traffic

This is surprisingly common. There’s some kind of screwy logic at play: businesses think that just because they don’t have a mobile version of their site, they should block mobile traffic altogether. Bad idea. Something is better than nothing, and smartphone users are getting increasingly nimble at navigating non-mobile sites on their devices, so don’t cut yourself off from a potentially huge audience.

Failing to Optimize for Mobile Search

That said, you really should be working towards having a fully optimized mobile version of your site, searchable on a mobile phone. Remember, people search very differently on a portable device than they do on a desktop. You can’t simply transfer the keywords you target on desktop browsers to mobile. People tend to search for brands and precise names and locations on mobile, because they’re on the move and have a specific destination in mind. Their searches are also more likely to be location-based. The addendum ‘near me’ is a common prompt in mobile browsers – use it to your advantage. Bear in mind too that long tail key terms like your industry + town/city are much cheaper and easier to rank for, so you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you fail to target them in favor of the big keywords.

Omitting Contact Information

It’s surprising how many people fail to put their address on the homepage. It needs to be easy to spot, and attached to an embedded Google maps link to help them find your store. Similarly, your phone number should be prominently featured and a clickable link. The fewer steps it takes consumers to contact you, the more likely they are to do so.

User Unfriendly Apps

Everyone’s chasing the glitzy prize of their very own app. Problem is, the market is now glutted with sup-par apps that don’t really help anyone. Contrary to our earlier assertion that ‘something is better than nothing’, ill-thought-through apps don’t count. An app download is a much bigger ask of consumers than a quick visit to your website. Unless you’re part of a major organization with the clout and budget to build a good app that works across multiple devices, skip it.

QR Codes

No. They seem attractive because they’re free, but they’ve been ruined by poor execution on the part of many, many businesses. Consumer faith in QR codes has plummeted, and they are now little more than odd relics of the late noughties cluttering up billboards and lampposts around the world. Unless you’ve got some compelling new twist on the concept, leave the QR codes in the past where they belong.

 

 

May 21, 2014

Using SMS Messaging to Field Complaints

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Dealing with dissatisfied customers is probably the most important part of customer service. After all, theses are people whose business you have already won and upon whom you are basing future projections. Your growth depends on them. You have to get it right.

Until very recently, virtually all customer complaints – in whatever industry – were lodged via phone or mail. These days, many companies have live online agents to help you deal with problems, and the phone complaint lives on, but according to Pew Research, 31% of consumers prefer texting over talking. Another survey found that 75% of consumers would rather text with customer support agent than use social media. But why is SMS messaging so popular with consumers?

A text conversation neatly sidesteps the late 20th century bugbear of negotiating multiple menus and directives to enter personal data when trying to connect with the right person. Web sessions only last for a finite amount of time before timing out – then the whole process has to start again. With SMS, agents can switch seamlessly to a live call if necessary. Moreover, texting is seen as a more intimate method of communication, as it’s associated with conversations between friends and families. 

Text messaging also allows for a trail of communication with clear dates, times and numbers – useful when trying to resolve a particularly complicated dispute.

It’s not just commercial ventures that are latching on to the possibilities of a text-led user service. Local councils and community groups are fielding all sorts of enquiries from members of the public who prefer to communicate this way. In Charlotte, Michigan, local authorities have even opened a text service for citizens to report problems in the region.

So if you’re yet to join the text revolution, consider how much time and resources you could save by making SMS messaging your customers’ first port of call for service needs.

May 20, 2014

SMS Messaging: How Not To Spam

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Whether you’re running a major corporation or a start up, SMS messaging and other mobile marketing tactics should form a major part of your overall marketing strategy. The overwhelming popularity of cell phones – and the high open and read rates associated with texting – means mobile marketing is the most efficient way to reach large numbers of people. It just happens to be one of the most affordable types of consumer engagement, leveling the playing field for smaller businesses to compete with the big fish.

Trouble is, all these positive attributes means it’s tempting to overdo your mobile marketing strategy. Sure, you want to offer your contacts something of value, and send them personalized messages with coupons and special offers attached, but you don’t want to be a pocket-sized irritant, vibrating your way into the daily lives of loyal customers. Without realizing it, your texts can go from being welcome notifications to spammy intrusions. So you need to plan your mobile marketing campaign carefully and thoughtfully.

It happens all too often. Even well-established brands have made the fatal mistake of overdoing their ad campaigns. Once the annoyance you provoke reaches a tipping point, people will simply opt out of your list – and you’ll probably lose them for good. The effectiveness of your campaign depends wholly on the way your customers view the messages you send. Even if the message is sent in good faith, as soon as it’s labeled as spam in the mind of the reader, it’s game over for your relationship.

There are a number of ways to protect your company from being associated with the dreaded term. First and foremost, your messages must be relevant and succinct. That’s a given. Take the time (and resources) to craft a snappy message and your ROI will increase. After that, avoid the following spam pitfalls and you won’t go far wrong:

  • Buying lists of numbers. It’s not only bad business, it’s illegal. Remember, every customer must explicitly opt in to your list before you can send messages to their phone.
  • Sending pointless information. You might think that transmitting news about your latest company social event is a good way to impress clients with your corporate culture, but this information is of no use to them. Every text you send takes time out of their lives, so you’d better be offering them something of value.
  • Texting too often. Bombarding customers with messages - even useful ones – will eventually annoy them. Don’t let your SMS campaign become part of the white noise that customers filter out, or you might as well not bother launching a campaign in the first place.

Do it right, and text is an invaluable strand to any mobile marketing strategy. Do it wrong, and you’ll cause more harm than good.

 

May 16, 2014

Keeping Your Reputation in Check

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Reputation management is a key part of any comprehensive marketing campaign. Where more traditional marketing techniques actively promote your business, reputation management attempts to stem any negative feedback or outright calumny that may haunt your online presence.

When you think about how easy it is to go online and spread false or ill-founded information about an individual or a business, it becomes obvious why reputation marketing is so invaluable. To wit, an example:

Joe Pubblico runs a small chain of Italian restaurants. They are well regarded throughout the local area, and even attract visitors from far-off places. The food is fantastic, and the ad campaign is well executed. Their mobile marketing strategy includes regular discounts (and discounts for regulars!) and they let people know about special offers via SMS messaging.

For a mid-priced franchise, Pubblico’s is about as good as it gets. The notices on Yelp, GrubHub and other culinary user review sites are all excellent. Trouble is, Joe has a personal falling out with an old friend. It’s nothing to do with business, and the restaurants continue the same high level of service their customers have gotten used to. But Joe’s ex-friend holds a grudge, and has a lot of time on his hands. Using different names, he leaves multiple bad reviews on the aforementioned sites in which he claims Joe’s outlets offer poor service, worse food, and have a problem with pests.

After years of building his business, investing money in SMS messaging and online mobile marketing campaigns, Joe is threatened with ruin by these defamatory claims. While it may be time consuming and ultimately pointless to pursue the removal of anonymous reviews, one thing Joe can do is generate his own good publicity online. If executed in the right way, a reputation marketing campaign will serve to push down the negative reviews and leave only the fair reviews.

SMS messaging can play a part in this reputation restoration. After all, Joe has a long, loyal list of contacts whom he can reach out to, either to ask for online support, or simply to warn them of the defamation that’s going on regarding his business.

However Joe does it, the bottom line is this: great reviews convert new customers, bad reviews put them off. Studies have shown that more than 70% of potential customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. For small business owners, developing a five star reputation through SMS messaging and other forms of mobile marketing is the hardest thing they need to do - but keeping that reputation doesn’t necessarily come easy.

 

May 07, 2014

5 Ways the Recruitment Industry Uses SMS Texting

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As professionals in the recruitment industry know, the best employment candidates are often extremely busy, as they are frequently sought after by numerous employers and headhunters who are in direct competition with one another. Being able to successfully compete for a candidate's time and attention can mean the difference between matching companies with the right applicants and having a deal fall through. Luckily, more and more recruiters are learning that SMS text message marketing is a highly effective way to communicate quickly and efficiently with candidates. SMS texting is also an invaluable tool for communicating with B2B clients and internal administrative staff.

Here are 5 ways the recruitment industry is finding SMS to be an invaluable tool:

1. Costs

SMS messaging saves recruiters a fortune because SMS texts cost just a fraction of what phone calls do. With automation and mass texting, SMS also saves money by keeping time and productivity at an ultra-efficient level.


2. Communication
SMS is an efficient and simple means of communicating with clients, candidates, and staff. With a single text, communicate with all employees or candidates, and control just how often to reach out to specific contact groups while avoiding unnecessary repetition.

3.Relationships
Job application follow-up clearly improves applicant and client relations, and there’s no easier or more intimate way of communicating than SMS. While consultant communication with clients and candidates has traditionally been done face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice, a shortage of time and other resources can limit the capacity for such interaction. However, we live in an age when clients and candidates may even prefer SMS texts, as they are less intrusive than phone calls or in-person meetings. Plus, integrated SMS allows recruiters to effortlessly merge personal data into messages to tailor them for specific recipients, making personalized communication easy and fostering better relationships with candidates, clients, and staff members.

4. Productivity

Integrating SMS into recruitment workflow saves administrative overhead costs by improving productivity. Instead of spending the time it takes to make numerous phone calls or send messages from mobile devices, staff resources can instead be spent in more productive ways. It is simple to upload a list of applicants from existing databases and then send automated mass messages. These messages can always be customized later if desired.

5. Attendance
By making SMS reminders part of standard procedure, candidate no-shows and staffing problems can be dramatically reduced. As a result, brand reputation is better protected, and applicant reliability increases.Integrated SMS text messaging also allows important job assignment details from existing software systems to be easily incorporated into customized, detailed messages. Therefore, with SMS text messaging, there's no need to worry about whether staff, clients, and candidates know exactly where to report, when to report, and how to prepare.

For those in the recruitment industry, keeping track of the many different players and moving parts that are involved in a typical hiring opportunity may require a vast amount of work. Thanks to SMS text messaging, however, a quick, effective, and cost-saving way of coordinating logistics and staying in touch is always within reach.

May 06, 2014

How SMS Sweepstakes Campaigns Are Helping Boost Business


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Sweepstakes campaigns can be an excellent means of promoting brand recognition and awareness, thus bringing customers through your door. Traditionally, these sweepstakes marketing campaigns have been carried out through print media, but technology makes it possible to reach a much wider audience today.

While email marketing may have initially been considered a solution to the unfortunate “junk mail” reputation that has traditionally plagued sweepstakes campaigns, it's a sad fact that we need look no farther than our inboxes today to understand that email is suffering the same fate. While search engine marketing may be the hi-tech answer to some quandaries that traditional marketing cannot solve, sweepstake campaigns, by contrast, may be unique in that most potential customers do not typically seek them out.

SMS Sweepstakes Campaigns Give Consumers Just the Nudge they Need

This is where SMS text messaging sweepstakes campaigns come in, especially for industries like fast food and retail clothing, which draw customers in to their chain of stores on a fairly frequent basis. While customers do not necessarily need to eat their meals at fast food chains or to purchase a new shirt every several weeks, the cost of these small luxuries is not perceived as prohibitively high for most consumers. Hence, it only takes a small amount of brand suggestion to get customers through the door.

One thing that has become a constant necessity in the eyes of most consumers today, on the other hand, is mobile phone access. People carry their mobile devices with them at all times, which is why almost 100% of the text messages people receive are opened and read. That fact makes SMS texting an invaluable strategy when it comes to a successful sweepstakes campaign, especially for industries like casual restaurants and retail shopping that so heavily rely on consumer suggestibility.

Recent Successful SMS Sweepstakes Campaigns

Among the companies recognized as carrying out the top SMS sweepstakes campaigns recently are Hooters, JCPenney, and popular bourbon whiskey manufacturer Jim Beam. Hooters' campaign offered consumers the opportunity to win a trip to a destination of their choice. Jim Beam, as part of its nationwide Live Music Series, ran a campaign urging users to enter to win a VIP trip to the last summer concert by opting-in to its SMS program with a special keyword texted to a shortcode.

Sweepstakes winnings need not be extravagant or expensive, however. JCPenney won its place in the spotlight for its own sweepstakes campaign merely by running an Easter promotion encouraging customers to attend a one-day in-store event to receive a free pair of children's bunny ears. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is that consumers, when left to their own devices, will spend their time and money where and how it needs to be spent; however, they are open to suggestion when it comes to having the opportunity for a pleasurable experience.  That pleasurable experience may come in the form of a delicious side of french fries, a new outfit, a free trip, or a festive pair of bunny ears for Easter.

Consumers won't necessarily have time to seek out comfort and fun twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but when a simple text message can remind potential customers just how easy it can be to partake in such pleasures, they are certainly open to suggestion. SMS text message sweepstakes campaigns, therefore, are a great way for companies to put their brands, as well as what those brands can do for consumers, front and center in potential customers' minds. 

May 05, 2014

When to Use 'Textese' in SMS Marketing

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Text messages have certainly changed the way we communicate. Rather they've changed the way many of us communicate much of the time, but not always. “Textese” may be convenient and even fun some of the time, but in most cases it should not be used in SMS text marketing.

“Textese” Eliminates Extra Words at the Risk of Also Eliminating Customers

Unfortunately, while it is true that SMS texts are short and it may therefore be tempting to use abbreviations like “R U” in text marketing messages, if you end up losing business as a result then the last “LOL” may be on your company. After all, an opted-in SMS text message audience can be a hard-earned goldmine when one considers that almost one hundred percent of material sent via SMS text messaging gets opened, read, and, in many cases, acted upon.

For most businesses, however, so-called “textese” acronyms, such as the ever-popular “OMG,” are probably completely outside the normal tone  used to communicate with clients. Trying to sound “cool” or “hip” is not worth the feeling of dissonance that you may create for many of your otherwise longstanding and loyal customers. If you feel tempted to use “textese” merely in order to save space, on the other hand, you should consider writing a shorter text message that will instead lead customers to a landing page that gives more detail about your product or service.

Making What “U R” Saying Perfectly Clear

In addition to the risk of alienating recipients by using a tone that sounds out of character for your brand, there's also a high risk that the consumer who receives the message will literally have no idea what your message even means. While SMS text messaging has gained great popularity, with almost one hundred million people now using text messages, the fact is that half of those users are above the age of twenty-five and are therefore not necessarily up on the latest in textese. In fact, more than half of these users fully acknowledge their utter lack of fluency in textese. That's why the rule of thumb is, for most SMS text message marketing campaigns, when in doubt, leave the textese out.

A Few Exceptions

There are some exceptions, however. For marketing campaigns that are based around the concept or practice of texting itself, there are many clever ways to employ “textese” with an audience that you can be sure will follow what you're trying to communicate and will be on the same page with you as far as the tone is concerned. And, of course, when your target audience is that under-twenty-five demographic, textese can be a perfect way of communicating the feeling of young, irreverent fun and energy. For instance, textese may hit just the right note for the clubbing industry, events, parties, etc.

In all cases, keep in mind just how casual the tone of “textese” – curse words and all – really is. Be certain that you, yourself, know what all of those letters in that acronym actually stand for; if you're not a hundred percent certain that your audience will be okay with all of those words, then don't take the risk.

April 27, 2014

New Payment Platform Could Revolutionize Mobile Marketing

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As businesses shift focus towards the mobile wallet, developers have raced to meet their needs, but there hasn’t been a truly comprehensive payment system that also tackles customer service issues before, during and after purchase. Until now.

This week saw the launch of Retailer iQ, an analytics and targeting platform developed by Coupons.com. According to the press release, it aims to change the shopping experience for consumers and retailers by making it ‘digital, mobile and personalized.’

Retailer iQ combines a number of innovations in one:

  • Personalized recommendations for products
  • Personalized coupons
  • Integrated shopping lists
  • Targeting capabilities
  • Real time analytics
  • Digital receipt via SMS messaging

None of these capabilities are new in themselves, but this is the first time they’ve been successfully combined – and the implications for mobile marketing campaigns are significant. Retailers can use the platform to reach consumers when they’re about to head out, during their shopping experience, and after they’ve gone home. The analytics capabilities allow brands to identify relevant, personalized offers which they can issue to consumers on the move via mobile marketing coupons.

Retailer iQ has already been used to great effect by Walgreens, who trialed the platform in more than 8,000 stores nationwide. Users can redeem mobile marketing coupons at point-of-sale, and receive follow-up offers according to their tastes and preferences.

But Retailer iQ’s star player (from most retailers’ perspective) is the paperless receipt and promotion function that keeps brand and buyer connected well beyond the cash register in store. At checkout, consumers have the option of receiving an e-receipt, delivered via text message or email.

For consumers, one of the key attractions is the shopping list capability. As well as storing and managing items, it incorporates personalized offers based on purchasing history. All managed via a dashboard, the experience is digitized from start to finish.

As more consumers switch to the convenience of online purchasing, mobile marketing tactics like geo-targeting and coupons are meeting their needs, and platforms like Retailer iQ are helping drive a new type of shopping experience.

April 18, 2014

How to Create an Intuitive Interface

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When someone refers to an ‘intuitive interface’ they really mean a program that they intuit easily. Computer programs can’t intuit anything. The widespread use of the term reflects an appropriately anthropocentric view of the technology that we did, after all, design and build in the first place. So now we’ve thrown some grist into the pedants’ mill, let’s concede that ‘intuitive interface’ is the commonly understood expression. But what does it refer to, exactly? How can we measure which interfaces feel intuitive to users and which don’t?

The key questions to ask of the people using your interface are:

 

  • What do they already know?
  • What do they need to know?

Imagine someone comes to use your interface for the very first time. If what they already know is all they need to know – job done, your interface is intuitive. If a user doesn’t know all they need to know, but the design helps them without them being aware of receiving any guidance – congratulations, you too have an intuitive interface.

How to Do It

Developing your understanding of what users generally find most intuitive takes a methodical approach to testing. The easier an interface is to use, the more people will use it.

A good example of a popular intuitive interface is Ez Texting’s SMS marketing service. Ez operates on the notion that a mobile marketing campaign should not be difficult. The clue’s in the name, kids. Ez Texting’s software is incredibly simple to use, and avoids any industry jargon or technical language. The choices available will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had an email account; choices like ‘send text message’ and ‘scheduled and sent texts’. 

What Ez Texting have done right is foster a sense of knowing what you need to do as soon as you see the screen. Want to add a new group? Guess what – click the link that says ‘add a new group.’ That’s intuition. It works wonders in terms of keeping people on your site.

How Not to Do It

There are plenty of examples online of decidedly unintuitive interfaces. You’ve probably used one – or at least started to use one before giving up. For an all-time classic intuition fail, we must turn to one of the oldest electronic communication tools there is: the hotel phone.

I’m sure you’ve been there. Sitting in a hotel room, you go to make an outside call and hit ‘9’. Only this hotel felt that ‘5’ would be a much better choice. More original, perhaps, but not the intuitive choice.

The most intuitive interfaces favor familiarity over originality. Just because you have discovered an impeccable logic in doing things in a new way doesn’t mean your users will prefer it. Intuition doesn’t work that way. Improve your understanding of what the majority of people prefer and you are close to creating a truly intuitive interface.