Startup & Small Business
Written by Jeremy Jensen
Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Living in a city built around a tourism based economy has shown me the businesses who survive aren’t those with the best marketing strategy, but those who have managed to retain loyal customers, both local and returning visitors, throughout every season of the year.
The feeling a customer gets coming back to the business often means more than the quality of the service being offered. For instance, one of the most popular coffee shops in my town thrives due largely in part to offering a location in which people want to be seen. As a self-proclaimed coffee critique I can tell you the difference in product would not be enough to create this much separation in popularity. The trick is in the x-factor, in this case providing a hub in which people can see friends, come to get work done, and really gain a secondary experience through visiting the business altogether.
However, earning the adoration of customers is easier said than done. Like any metric in business it involves a variety of factors, a lot of which boil down to good customer service and unique products of high quality. Small businesses are making a come back, and if yours is to contend in the realm of people defining themselves through brands and products it’s important to start gaining customer loyalty right now.
Here are some great tips to get you started.
Focus On Your Most Valuable Customers
Value can be a subjective term, but in this regard a valuable customer should be measured strictly on what they offer your business financially. Think of those who have recurrent faces first, the ones that are consistently coming back to your business and providing regular revenue. I like to think of these customers as ‘buffers’ because in times when business is slow they provide the difference between a strong month or just barely making it.
Financial value may be variant depending on what you’re selling, also. A coffee house may have valued customers based on them appearing most mornings for a cheap cup of coffee; a painting business on the other hand may have a most valued customer just by getting a couple gigs a year. In either circumstance both add up to lifetime value and your energy and attention needs to cater to those already serving your success.
Taking the time to show appreciation and remembrance for their regular support also turns into referrals as word of mouth, which is the most valuable form of marketing.
Invest In Your Customers Loyalty
While this is an old trick, providing reward incentives has proven to be one of the most effective ways to bring customers back in times when they have options for products. Large companies like Safeway have advanced rewards programs by offering discounts on gasoline when you spend money in their grocery outlets.
Many unit based businesses will offer frequent shopper cards, on which you’ll receive a free product after so many purchases. I know when I’m hungry I’ll tend to see if I have any punch cards in my wallet knowing my purchase will be even more valuable later.
Listen To Their Feedback and Actually Make Changes
This one can be tricky depending on how you’re choosing to receive feedback. Less than 5% of customers will respond to surveys when sent out via email, or posted on Social Media. Rather, take the time to scour sites on the Internet where reviews have already been posted, and take action to improve areas that seem to have recurring complaints or suggestions. Not every gripe has to do with the integrity of your business, but more often than not there’s areas of your regular operation that go unnoticed to staff and employees.
What I like to call a two-for-one is putting a survey on the receipt and offering a small discount on the customers next purchase just for returning the survey. Let the customer know you want to hear from them personally and that their return is extremely valuable, because it is!
Meaningful Customer Service
Do you ever feel like certain customer service requirements are a little overboard? Perhaps less genuine even?
Part of gaining a customers loyalty is making them feel a sense of personal connection to your business and that their time spent there is with recognition. Many small businesses put emphasis on employees learning their frequent customer’s names, along with encouraging conversations that contain more depth than just asking how their day is going. Humans crave attention, even if that’s coming from someone who only knows them in one environment.
As your business becomes more well known, try employing these tactics to ensure your product or service means more than just business as usual. Working to gain your customers loyalty will add up to more than just dollar signs for you, it will make your business meaningful to the lives of others which is a great feeling.
Written by Kevin Wood
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Creating a landing page that works is easy, but creating a landing page that converts is going to take a little bit more work.
In this post we’re going to examine what a landing page actually is, and how to build one that speaks to your customers and converts.
What Is A Landing Page?
A landing page is a page that your users are going to land on from some traffic source across the internet. This could either be from a social media post, a guest blog, or an ad.
Landing pages are specialized pages that are designed to get your users to take action. Most unnecessary elements are cut out and the focus is appealing to the user so they’ll act on your call-to-action.
Landing pages will help to educate your customers and turn them from window-shoppers to potentially paying customers.
Building A High Converting Landing Page
Creating a landing page is simple. Most website templates have the ability to select a ‘landing page’ layout which will create a very simple page for you.
The layout is easy; the real work comes from the copy, the media, and any other page elements.
1. Enticing Headline
Right from the get go, you need to capture the essence of your landing page with a headline that gets users to keep on reading. Your headline needs to sum up what your page is about, as well as create some emotional tension so the visitor will continue to read to the bottom of the page.
2. Create A Sense Of Urgency
You can create landing page urgency through a variety of methods. One way is by having a countdown timer, or having your offer expire after a set amount of time. Another method is to limited your downloads or sign-ups to a certain number.
This sense of urgency will encourage the user to act quickly.
3. Build Trust Through Credibility
You can showcase your credibility in many ways. One of the most common is through showcasing testimonials from past clients and customers. Another common means is to highlight endorsements from other business-owners in your niche.
You can even highlight your credibility by displaying your number of social media followers, or subscribers if the number is high enough.
4. Inspiring Call-to-Action
If people make it to the bottom of your website then you need a call-to-action that inspires them to take action. Most calls-to-action are displayed as buttons, so you’ll want this button to stand out, and be clear and action-oriented.
Also, make sure your call-to-action only has a singular course of action.
5. Test And Refine
The first time you build your landing page you’re going to be guessing based upon past interactions with clients, and your own intuition. By tracking and testing small variables on your landing page you’ll start to build a higher-converting landing page over time.
When you’re testing make sure to only isolate and test a single element at time. It may take longer this way, but it’s the only way to ensure you know what is and isn’t working.
Over time, with the data you collect it will be much easier to design a high-converting landing page the first go-around.
Written by Alex Ivanovs
Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
Starting a business based on an idea that you think could improve the lives of others is a very exciting, yet difficult, task to embark on. With several hundred million companies already built by enthusiastic people such as yourself, the question of whether my idea is good enough is definitely a burning one.
All questions aside, there is still the need to decide upon the business strategy, and more importantly — how the new business is going to be funded. Will you have to sell your car? Get a mortgage loan? Invest all your life’s savings? None of these would be a first for many other people, but thanks to the rapid growth of industries such as startups, small business, and crowdfunding — there’s now an opportunity for anyone to become a business owner, given that their ideas is good, and could potentially stick.
It certainly can save you from a potential disaster, and there are several other advantages of reaching out to other establishments for an investment plan that could get your idea off from the paper and out in the real world.
This is a classic technique for raising money for a new business idea, and is considered one of the safest ones. The way bootstrapping works is that you mostly do all of the work yourself, so this is the one way of acquriing funding where you actually have to put your skills and knowledge to work for you. Some of these may include:
- Writing technical content for sites that resonate with your idea.
- Using your design skills to freelance, help out other businesses.
- Establishing an early online merchandise store to sell items like shirts, stickers, etc,.
- Getting heavily involved in social media around the networks that resonate with your idea.
It’s all the basic stuff, it certainly is going to be a lot tougher, but in the end you call feel good about yourself — knowing that all the funding was acquiring thanks to your own set of skills, and you don’t have to answer to anyone about losing some here and there.
We recommend that you check out Jon Yongfook’s story of bootstrapping his startup, and how he was able to do it. Getting the initial funds is only half the battle, not paying yourself for several months is something completely different. Jon explains that in his report beautifully.
The second best way of getting that initial funding is by launching your business through a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Indiegogo. A crowdfunding platform takes away all of the strain of having to raise money through your own skillset, and instead you can focus on promotional and marketing campaigns to make sure that your project does get funded in the end. The biggest advantage here is that you also build a community around the business you’re trying to launch, giving you the initial customers without having to do much else — and we have seen some great success stories with this type of funding before.
Kickstarter constantly update their data and the amount of completed projects would scare most banks. They are upfront about their fee, it is 5 percent if you are successful.There are many other crowd funding options now that Kickstarter have blazed a trail. They include crowdcube and Seedrs. Transparency and building a community are the main benefits the negatives are that you might have a large number of investors. — Elaine Thompson
3. Angel Investors
These are the guys who have several decades (most often) of experience in a particular field, they’ve made their money from creating their own businesses in the past, and have moved on to helping others to do the same by funding their projects. Ideally, you want to reach out to an Angel Investor once you’ve exhausted all your personal resources, such as friends, relatives and other connections.
Getting funding from angel investors isn’t easy, but it can be done if you take the right approach and are a good match with their interests. And the benefits can beyond the money for your business, but their expertise in both in business operations and your industry niche. — WSJ
However, no Angel Investor is going to write you a check just because you ask. You have to come prepared, and by prepared we mean full market research, a strategic business plan, and already established progress on trying to get the business off the ground. And because an Angel Investor is giving you his own money from his own pocket — expect this process to take several weeks, up to several months to get a clearance for the check; nobody wants to invest in something that won’t turn profit at some point of its development.
Other than what we have looked at already, there are government grants, banking loans, even startup incubators — which are usually aimed at people who are really up to par with the latest development in their industry, and are willing to invest the next few years of their life in building an idea. Entrepreneur magazine has a special sub-section of their site where they talk all about raising funds, and we highly recommend to indulge in that content as it will be invaluable to getting your idea funded.
Alex Ivanovs is an online entrepreneur who has been writing about technology, business and developer topics for over a decade. He currently manages CodeCondo — an aspiring community for designers and developers.
Written by Kevin Wood
Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
You can either look at branding as a buzzword, or something very valuable for the continued success of your business. For the sake of this post we’re going to investigate the latter definition.
Every company has a brand whether they’re aware of it or not. However, not every company has a brand that matters. In this post we’re going to examine what makes brands matter and how to transform your brand from boring to brilliant.
What Is A Brand?
The moment a person thinks about your brand the feelings they feel, or the thoughts they think are the backbone of your brand. Your brand extends way beyond your logo and what font you use on your website.
Think of Apple. The moment you think about their company, or hold on of their devices in your hand you automatically think about simplicity, sleek design, attention to detail and beauty.
What kind of feelings do you make your customers feel?
Sadly, most brands aren’t making their customers feel anything. Most brand are bland and don’t inspire action in one direction or another. The worst feeling your customers can feel when interacting with you is ambivalence.
In another way you can think of your brand as the experience you deliver to your users.
Make Your Brand Matter
How do you exactly engineer a brand that makes people stop in their tracks? It takes more than a fancy website and sleek logo. It takes asking the right questions to get to the center of why you do the work you do, and what it looks like.
1. Why Are You Different
Different is good. People have more choices than ever. By trying to cater to every style of customer you end up appealing to no one. By taking a stand about what you believe in you can create a brand that others believe in as well.
This goes in line with what makes you different. Why would a customer choose you over the competition?
2. Discover Your Values
Your company values run deeper than your products and services. Your values are your core reasons for doing business in the first place. Why are you doing what you do?
Is it for freedom, for love, or for making a difference in the world?
Patagonia has a deep environmental ethic that runs throughout their entire business. As a result, every aspect of their business caters to this ethos. From their website, to their products, to their images and even storefronts.
3. How Will You Communicate This?
In what style will you communicate this message? Will you be stylish and clean, or brash and crude?
Whatever you choose is up to you. But, it will come across in your web copy, your overall design and how you interact with your customers.
Building a brand that people care about takes time. It takes being honest, and it takes brining every aspect of your business into alignment. However, the results are well worth-it. By building a brand that matters you’ll start to cultivate passionate brand evangelists who will do most of your marketing for you.