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  • How Many Emails Should You Be Sending Your Customers?

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by

    How Many Emails

    Seven? Maybe only five… or how about… ummm zero? Per week, month, quarter???

    Yeah, it’s confusing.

    Discovering an email cadence that works for your audience is no easy task. Marketing pro’s like Susan Rutgerson, the Director of Digital Campaigns at Endurance International Group, HostGator's parent company, dedicate their careers to knowing how to do this right, and still find it tricky.

    Rutgerson, who’s tasked with managing millions of email sends each month, says the answer isn’t as simple as once a week or twice a month. The answer, it turns out, is more about content and, more specifically, the value of that content.

    She says, “If the content in your email is highly valued by your readers, you might be able to email them every day, but if your content isn’t strong, once a month could be too often.”

    So, it sounds like there’s no hard and fast email marketing rule, but that to be successful, it’s about providing valuable content to customers.

    Is Email Marketing Still Relevant?

    Let’s back up for a moment and understand if email even still matters as a marketing tool.

    With online video and a social media boom that varies from platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat to real-time beacon technology, do customers give email the time of day?

    The research shows this answer to be emphatically “yes.” Worldwide email users are slated to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019, so business owners would be foolish to discount email marketing as a means of reaching their audience.

    [caption id="attachment_11356" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Number of email users worldwide Source: Statista[/caption]

    Customers also tend to trust emails they signed up to receive more than TV ads, branded websites, online video & banner ads. So, even while there’s more competition in the digital marketing space than ever before, email is indeed still thriving and continuing to grow.

    What Value is This Email Bringing My Customer?

    So, we’ve determined that email marketing is still relevant and that it’s a trusted source of information, but this still doesn’t get us to a precise number of emails we should be sending.

    Rutgerson recommends that before you hit send be sure to ask yourself, “What value is this email really bringing to my customer?” She says, “If you don’t have a good answer, you may want to re-think your strategy.”

    This question of value is the one that must be asked. It’s the closest any of us will get to truly understanding the power of email marketing and to landing on a specific number of sends.

    How to Determine Value?

    Value is inherently subjective, so how can we calculate what that means for each customer?

    A lot of determining value depends on time. Rutgerson explains that “Understanding email frequency has a great deal to do with where your reader is in their relationship to you.”

    For example:

    • New customers: Typically want more info on how to do X, Y, or Z plus new product updates or community-building engagement.
    • At-risk customers: May need special offers, bundled pricing, or testimonials that re-engage them.
    • Tenured customers: Expect less frequent communication, but richer content like case studies, white papers, or eBooks.

    Knowing your audience takes time and active research. Consider each email send a test, and carefully review your analytics to make improvements as you go.

    Oh, and never be afraid to simply ask your audience what they want. This could very well be the most valuable question of all.

  • Why Influencer Marketing Makes Sense for Small Business

    Friday, July 29, 2016 by

    Influencer Marketing

    Your advertising is being ignored.

    And customers are frustrated with media ads interrupting their everyday lives. So, they turn a blind eye to your advertisements.

    Consumers would rather listen to a celebrity or even a well-known blogger talk about your products and services.

    This is the rise of influencer marketing. Buyers desire organic conversations from those they admire.

    “Credibility means trust, and a natural way to earn an audience’s trust is to seek influencer advocates to help amplify your content,” says Inc. contributor Ilya Pozin.

    Perhaps it’s time for your small business to try influencer marketing.

    What Is Influencer Marketing?

    Influencer marketing focuses on using industry leaders to drive your brand’s message.

    Instead of marketing directly to your target audience, small businesses hire influencers to spread the word about their products or services.

    This type of marketing isn’t a new trend. Brands have been using this technique for centuries.

    “The idea of using someone else’s celebrity and/or credibility to help boost awareness or trial of products and services has been part of the marketer’s toolkit since at least 1760, when Robert Wedgewood of Wedgewood China began using endorsements from members of the Royal Family to boost pottery sales,” writes Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert.

    What makes it so unique today is the power of social media. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat amplify messages from influencers. It also gives the customer a chance to connect directly with the individual.

    Moreover, influencer marketing activates word-of-mouth marketing. According to McKinsey, word-of-mouth is “the primary factor influencing between 20 percent and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”

    [bctt tweet="Word-of-mouth influences 20-50% of all purchasing decisions - @McKinsey #InfluencerMarketing" username="hostgator"]

    Customers aren’t impressed with your banner ads or direct mail flyers. They want to receive information from a trusted source.

    Influencers, like local bloggers, subject matter experts, and authors, can talk with your target audience on a deeper level.

    Your 30-second TV commercial might not resonate with the buyer. But a guru in your industry posting a tweet about your services can potentially send leads to your website.

    Here’s an example of Chris Brogan, a popular marketing consultant, tweeting about Staples.

    Influencer marketing isn’t a new business strategy. However, when executed properly, it can produce positive results in this digital economy.

    The Benefits of Influencer Marketing

    Influencer marketing is more than just another tactic in a marketer’s toolbox. It satisfies your customers’ needs, in return adding money to your bottom line. Research shows that influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel. It beats organic search, paid search, and email marketing. For every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses earn $6.50. And the top 13% are earning $20 or more. [caption id="attachment_11347" align="aligncenter" width="1458"]Influencer Marketing Agency Source: Tomoson Influencer Marketing Study[/caption] In addition, marketers report that they acquire better customers when implementing influencer marketing. This means buyers possess a genuine interest in their brands and are more willing to make a purchase. When you collaborate with influencers, you’re introduced to a new set of consumers. Some may have no prior knowledge of your brand. “You can reach people your brand might not otherwise be able to reach. Ad blocking and numbness to advertising and marketing are big issues. People trust those they know (experts, peers, and folks they’re connected to on their social networks) more than advertisers, so influencers can play a role there,” writes Michael Stelzner, founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner. Small businesses should take advantage of influencer marketing. It has the potential to reduce costs and increase revenues.

    Selecting Your Influencer

    The people you associate with your small business matters. You don’t want to ruin your brand name. Use business acumen and common sense when selecting a potential influencer. Identify influencers based on how they align with your brand’s mission and values. Do some preliminary research by following them on social media. What are they saying? How do they interact with their fans? When you're comfortable, contact a few influencers. Find their email addresses on Linkedin or with the tool Email Hunter. Be cordial and straightforward in your communications. State your purpose and the value of the potential partnership. “Although influencers are their own business, the majority aren’t businesspeople. Too much corporate talk can scare them away, and it’s best to arrange a face to face meeting/Skype call as soon as you can,” explains SocialChain’s Anna-Marie Odubote. As negotiations begin, consider how to compensate influencers. “When it started out, it was all unpaid, because people viewed it as more PR-focused than media-focused,” said Rustin Banks, co-founder and chief product officer at influencer marketing firm TapInfluence. Now, “each of these influencers is a media channel, and media channels need to be compensated.” [caption id="attachment_11349" align="aligncenter" width="688"]Paying Influencers Source: eMarketer[/caption] While free products may be enough for some influencers, most prefer monetary compensation. Agree to an amount that will satisfy all the parties involved. Take the time to locate a suitable influencer for your company. And agree to a compensation package that works for everyone.

    Campaign Execution Matters

    A market research firm found that “84% of global marketers expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming years.” Stay ahead of your competition by developing an effective campaign. Experiment with different types of collaborations. Here are a few:

    1. Sponsored Posts

    Work with influencers to create a sponsored blog post. The post can explain a current problem facing your customer. And the solution can be your brand’s services told from the influencer's point of view. On the technical side, sponsored blog posts support your SEO strategy. The backlinks will help drive traffic to your site.

    2. Social Media Takeovers

    For a more interactive experience, host an influencer takeover on one of your social media accounts. It’s like a short-term celebrity endorsement. [caption id="attachment_11350" align="aligncenter" width="1458"]Social Media Influencers Source: Outbrain[/caption] For instance, the influencer can share exclusive posts on your Instagram account. The individual will promote your content and direct followers to your landing pages. The timeframe depends on your goals. The takeover can last for two hours or one week.

    3. Brand Ambassador

    Let influencers be an extension of your brand. Your target audience will value the partnership because they respect the influencer’s opinions. The goal is to transfer that built-in influencer credibility to bolster your brand’s image. For example, LuLulemon Athletica uses influential members of the yoga community for their brand ambassador program. Also, consider developing long-term relationship with influencers. It helps build a stronger connection. And reinforces brand recognition amongst your customers. “Working with an influencer more than once ensures that an influencer’s brand mention is authentic and trusted by their network which results in more engagement for the brand...we advocate that brands foster an engaged network of influencers so that they can run campaigns with an pre-existing, happy database of influencers,” says Kristen Matthews, director of all things digital marketing at GroupHigh. [bctt tweet="Three #InfluencerMarketing strategies: sponsored posts, social media takeovers, and brand ambassadors." username="hostgator"] Many small businesses will be diving into influencer marketing. Lead the pack by executing different campaigns.

    Learning by Example

    Influencer marketing centers around engagement. So, the best way to learn is to see real-life examples in action. Check out the brands below. 1. NatureBox teamed up with Rachel Parcell, the blogger behind Pink Peonies, on a sponsored blog post.

    2. Castrol collaborated with top tech YouTuber Austin Evans on their #VirtualDRIFT campaign.

    3. Snapchat influencer Evan Garber did a takeover of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship account.

    Now, it’s your turn. Use these examples as inspiration for your next campaign.

    Initiating Influence

    Drive your brand’s message with influencers. Leverage their influence to bring awareness to your products.

    Select an influencer who exemplifies your brand. Execute a strategy that meets your customer’s expectations. And don’t be afraid to learn from industry leaders.

    Start your marketing campaign. Influence your customer.

    Establish your own brand's influence with a spectacular website from HostGator.

    Get Started With HostGator!

  • What Are Chargebacks and How Can They Kill Your Business?

    Thursday, July 28, 2016 by

    What Are Chargebacks

    Your new business is up and running, your website is generating sales, and life is great, right? Maybe, but stay alert for a hidden threat many new merchants don’t know about until it’s too late – chargebacks. Like shark fins in clear waters, chargebacks are e-commerce hazards that can strike without warning. Protect your business by understanding what chargebacks are, how to prevent them, and what to do when you encounter them.

    What Are Chargebacks?

    A chargeback occurs when a cardholder calls their card issuer to dispute a charge on their account. If one of your customers files a dispute, you’ll get a notice from your acquiring bank that a chargeback is pending. You can either accept it or appeal it – we’ve got more information on that below. If you accept it or if the acquirer or card issuer denies your appeal you’ve got a chargeback. That’s not good.

    Why Do Customers File Chargebacks?

    Visa lists four main reasons for chargebacks in its 94-page Chargeback Management Guidelines document. (It’s not great beach reading, but read it anyway.) The top two reasons come from customers: disputes and fraud attempts. Authorization and processing problems can also cause chargebacks, so we’ll talk about good recordkeeping in a minute.

    Customer dispute chargebacks

    There are many reasons a legitimate customer may file a chargeback request. If their order never arrived, if it was the wrong item, if it was radically different from the product description, or if they were overcharged, they may request a chargeback if your customer service team doesn’t fix the problem.

    Friendly fraud chargebacks

    Criminals posing as customers order goods, pay with a credit card, and then falsely claim they never received their order. This “friendly fraud” is a real problem for online merchants and it’s getting worse. According to retail news outlet WWD, chargeback fraud is rising 20% per year, and more than half of people who successfully file a fake chargeback will do it again within three months. In other words, once there’s blood in the water, the sharks move in.

    [bctt tweet="Over 50% of people who successfully file fake #chargebacks will do it again within 3 months." username="hostgator"]

    How Do Chargebacks Hurt Your Business?

    Chargebacks cause harm in the short run and over the long term. With each completed chargeback, you lose the revenue from the transaction, any merchandise you shipped or services you provided, and you’ll almost always owe a chargeback fee to your acquirer.

    If your chargeback ratio (chargebacks to total transactions) reaches a certain point, you’ll either pay higher processing rates or lose your merchant account entirely, often with much less notice than you’d like. If that happens, you’ll have to find a processor who’s willing to work with “high risk” merchants – at high-risk rates -- to keep your business from sinking.

    How Can Your Business Avoid Chargebacks?

    You can reduce your chargeback risk by following five simple steps to keep your legitimate customers happy and discourage fraudsters from taking a bite out of your business.

    1. Provide clear information to customers

    Your product descriptions and images should be accurate so shoppers aren’t disappointed when the goods arrive. Your shipping and return policies should be visible on every site page so shoppers know what to expect before they buy. Make sure the billing descriptor that appears on customers’ credit card statements is recognizable; use your shop name or another term you’ve told customers to expect to see.

    2. Track your shipments

    Package tracking helps everyone. Customers won’t assume their package is lost if they can track its progress, and fraudsters are out of luck claiming the package never arrived if you have proof it did. (There are plenty of WordPress plugins out there to help you manage shipping - check out our post here.)

    3. Provide great customer service

    Customer service contact information should appear on every page of your site and on the receipt in every package you ship. Round-the-clock help and a customer-friendly attitude can reduce the risk that customers will go straight to their card issuer to solve their problems.

    4. Screen your transactions for fraud

    Your processor, a 3rd-party fraud-prevention service, and/or your own in-house team can watch for red flags like shipping and billing addresses that don’t match, high-value purchases by a new customer, many small purchases from the same IP address in a short period of time, and purchases from locations that are known to have high rates of fraud.

    5. Keep detailed transaction records

    The more information you record for each transaction, the better. Some things are required, like the date, amount, cardholder name, and other basics. Go above and beyond to include what card issuers call “compelling evidence” – delivery signatures, customer service emails that prove receipt of the item, customer IP addresses and phone numbers, and more. Each issuer has its own rules, which you need to study. (See below.)

    What Should You Do If You Get A Chargeback Notice?

    Submit supporting information quickly

    Get your evidence to your acquirer within the time limit they set. If you’re late, you lose out, even if the chargeback would otherwise be unsuccessful. This is where good recordkeeping and organization literally pay off.

    Evaluate the chargeback

    Whether the chargeback is approved or denied, study it to see if there are things you can improve to avoid similar chargeback requests going forward.

    Want to learn more about chargeback prevention?

    Get the details on each card issuer’s chargeback process and fraud-prevention tips:

    Your acquiring bank can be a resource for chargeback prevention, too. Talk to your banker about ways to shore up your fraud controls and head off future attacks.

  • How to Protect Your Data from Your Employees (and Yourself)

    Thursday, July 21, 2016 by

    Protect Your Data

    No matter how careful you are about protecting your business information, there’s always a risk someone will break into your system to steal customers’ payment and password data. Although years of international data breach studies say theft is usually external, some of your staffers’ work practices (and yours) may unintentionally make it easier for outsiders to breach your security. Here are some habits you and your employees should break.

    Putting off updates

    It’s so, so tempting to dismiss those time-to-update notices from your antivirus program, your operating system, and your applications. You’re busy, it only takes a quick click to clear your screen, and you can get back to work. The problem is that putting the update off can become a habit, and that leads to extra risk.

    That’s because whenever an update notice goes out, hackers see it, too, and they start looking for businesses and networks that don’t quickly patch their software. According to the global 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, most of the attacks against out-of-date software happen within three months of the update announcement.

    If your team puts off updates to avoid work slowdowns, schedule updates to happen automatically overnight or at another time when your employees are offline. (Critical updates, of course, should happen as soon as possible.)

    BYOD without bringing device security

    Do you and your employees use your own mobile devices, tablets, and laptops to work while you’re outside the office? If you have a “bring your own device” policy (BYOD), you also need a BYOD security policy to protect your business information on those devices. Specifically, you need to ensure that you have control over which business data your staff can access on their own devices and have a way to remove that data if they resign, are fired, or lose their device. Just like your business network, employees’ devices should have up-to-date security programs and software to protect their data and yours.

    Exposing data to physical theft

    In the push to update your digital security, remember that physical security matters, too. If a bad apple finds the smartphone you left on the plane, the tablet sitting in your parked car, or the laptop you leave your desk, they can literally walk away with your data.

    Insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey experienced this in 2013, when thieves stole two employee laptops and compromised data for 840,000 health-insurance clients. CSO Online reported that the machines sat in plain sight, attached to desks with cable locks that the thieves cut, and with no data encryption to protect customer records in case of theft or loss.

    Your employees should make sure to store laptops and other devices out of sight and under lock and key. It’s up to you to ensure the devices use the necessary password and encryption tools. (You can generate a secure password here.) While you’re protecting your current hardware, make sure you require employees to wipe data from old machines that are being replaced, too.

    Clicking links in phishing emails

    The wave of phishing attempts is higher than it’s been in more than a decade. Phishing attacks trick email recipients into clicking on links that install data-stealing malware on networks. It can be hard to distinguish a genuine email from a phishing attempt, especially for employees whose jobs involve opening many emails (customer service, for example). The 2016 DBIR looked at millions of results from organization-sponsored phishing tests and found that about 12% of test messages led an employee to click on an infected link or attachment. Of those, just 3% reported the problem to a manager.

    The DBIR recommends strong email filters as the first line of defense, because employees can’t click on malware links they never see. The report also recommends training your workers to be on the lookout for phishing attempts and to let you know when they click on suspected phishing links.

    Befriending strangers on social media

    There’s another type of phishing your employees should be aware of, especially if they mention your business name on their personal or professional social media accounts. Thieves can create fake profiles, make friend requests, and then monitor posts for information they can use to guess passwords to employees’ personal and business accounts. They can also share links and files that contain malware. If your staffers click on these while using your business network, you’re going to be infected.

    SocialNomics recommends that social media users only accept friend requests from people they know. The Better Business Bureau advises against following links or downloading files from strangers on social media.

    Leaving paper records accessible

    After all this talk about hardware, email and social media, and network security, it may seem odd to wrap things up with paper. However, until the day comes when no employee keeps a work password scrawled on a sticky note and every employee diligently shreds documents before disposal, paper will be a low-tech way for thieves to access your network and sensitive data.

    The DBIR recommends that you “rein in the paper” as much as you can. Ban workers from posting passwords where they are visible to customers or passersby/ third-party workers like cleaners and caterers. Make shredding discarded documents a companywide habit.

    For more information about small-business success, check out the Startup & Small Business section of the HostGator blog.

    Keep your website protected from malware and data thieves with SiteLock from HostGator. Get a certified SiteLock logo and increase your web conversions by 15%! Learn more here.

  • Using Social Media To Get a Job? LinkedIn Isn’t Your Only Option

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by

    Using Social Media To Get A Job

    We’ve all spent countless hours “Like”-ing our friends new puppy and retweeting our fave celebrity tweets, but have you considered using these social media platforms to find a job?

    The social stats: Companies rely on social media to screen potential candidates. According to Adweek.com, 93% of companies use LinkedIn, 66% use Facebook and 54% use Twitter for recruiting. It’s way easier for a company to use social media and, on average, requires 20% less time for an employer to find a new hire.

    And get this: roughly 30% of the time if a job candidate doesn’t have a social media presence, they won’t get hired. Sure, it depends on the type of job, but better to appear socially savvy than not.

    [bctt tweet="30% of job candidates who don't have a social media presence won't get the job." username="hostgator"]

    When we think about social media and job-hunting, there are some dos and don’ts:

    Do: Retweet/share an inspirational TED Talk.

    Don't: Retweet/share an endless stream of Kardashian family photos.

    Listen, we won’t judge you if you dig the Kardashians, but think about which of those two options makes you a more appealing job candidate.     

    We recommend beginning with one social media outlet to start your job hunt and then progressing to other platforms. Be consistent, and remember that you are your brand.

    Which Social Media Platform is Best for Your Job Search?

    LinkedIn

    LinkedIn is the most widely used platform for job hunters and employers. Use LinkedIn to post resume info, interests and achievements. You can search LinkedIn to find people who work in your field or for a specific company. And did you know there’s an app for that? LinkedIn offers a free app you can use to search for jobs by keywords, location and industries while on-the-go. You can also follow your favorite companies and receive hiring notifications. The app syncs with your LinkedIn profile and can make job recommendations based on your profile. LinkedIn also offers a paid Premium account where you can compare yourself to other applicants and even get estimated salary info.

    Oh, and to look even fancier on LinkedIn, add your skills and get endorsed for them by your colleagues. Need more endorsements? Try endorsing others. People usually react in kind.

    LinkedIn Endorsements

    Twitter

    If you already use Twitter for fun, consider creating a separate Twitter account for professional use only. Use hashtags to follow industries and companies in your field. Let people know you’re job hunting by using hashtags such as #Jobs, #Hiring, #Careers. You can follow industry trends by using specific hashtags: #Marketing or #Accounting. Follow industry leaders and if you find a person who tweets good advice, tell them. Think of this as a networking opportunity. Don’t just be a follower but create your own following by tweeting industry-related facts that you’ve learned.

    Facebook

    Increasingly, employers are using Facebook to screen job candidates. If you don’t want that top five accounting firm to see what a crazy (I mean, crazy) good time you had in Cancun, make sure your settings are private and delete any questionable pictures or posts.

    If you want to stay public enhance your job profile by adding work experiences under the “About” section of your profile.

    Search for friends who know people at companies you like. Join groups from your college and high school and let them know you are job hunting. So you don’t bore your non-professional friends, create a professional group from your current Facebook friends and share industry-related news with them.

    Instagram

    Instagram is a must for creative professionals. And Instagram portfolios are a thing. You can even link your Instagram account to your LinkedIn profile so employers can see your body of work.

    Pinterest

    Awesome for consultants or freelancers, Pinterest is a great place to show off your copywriting and graphic design skills. Set up your profile with pics of your own designs, infographics, and industry-related products that interest you.

    If you’re really proud of the work you’re presenting via social channels, link to them from your resume. Social media gives job applicants the opportunity to show themselves as a thoughtful, well-rounded person; so much more than just a piece of paper.

    Snapchat

    Okay, maybe it’s a long shot, but Snapchat is becoming a more legit way for companies to make money and for people to get found. Just ask Michael Platco who turned his goofy Snapchat pics, drawings, and storytelling into a massively successful freelancing career with clients like Walt Disney World.

    In today's world, anything is possible, so get out there, get social and get the job of your dreams!

    Ever land a job through social? Hit the comments and tell us about it!

    Besides social media, a sure way to stand out among other job candidates is with your own website. Leverage your online presence by showcasing your work. Build your personal brand today with a web hosting plan from HostGator - starting as low as $3.95/mo.

    Get Started With HostGator!

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    Written by Jennifer Carlisle