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  • 5 Ways To Promote Your Blog On Pinterest That Actually Work

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by
    how to post your blog on pinterest Do you want more blog traffic? Of course, you do! Social media is continuing to be a hub for people to connect with others around the world. Moreover, Pinterest is paving the way for bloggers to drive referral traffic and increase audience engagement. Research shows that “the half-life of a pin is 1,680 times longer than a Facebook post.” This means more people are interacting with your content months after you post it. “Interaction is so easy on Pinterest that other networks have a reason to envy it. The recipe of a successful interaction is a smooth delivery of information across the board... All you need to do is create new boards, add new pins, invite others and like and re-pin other’s pins,” writes Mike Dane, a digital marketing professional. It's time to send Pinterest users to your blog. Here are five ways to get you started. Create Your Blog  

    1. Create Multiple Boards

    On Pinterest, visibility is vital to attracting new individuals to your account. Even with a targeted audience, there are several interests that your pinners will possess. So, make sure you’re catering to those needs by developing multiple boards to gain their attention. For instance, if your blog is dedicated to all things cooking, create a board for slow cooker meals, one for dishes made under 30 minutes, and maybe another for desserts. This segmentation gives someone an opportunity to pick what they want and find it quickly. For example, HostGator has several boards devoted to website inspiration, ranging from blogging tips to design ideas for an arts & craft blog. Create multiple Pinterest boards   Another pro tip? Don’t limit yourself to posting your articles in only one board. More than 80% of pins are re-pins. Thus, sharing the same pins in several boards can help more people find your blog via Pinterest’s search function and category algorithms. “It’s okay to pin your blog articles to more than one Pinterest board, but spread them out over time and pin other content in between so your Pinterest feed isn’t just you pinning five pins of your blog post to different boards,” says Peg Fitzpatrick, co-author of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users. Want to give your fans a chance to find your blog posts? Drive traffic with multiple boards. [bctt tweet="80% of Pinterest pins are re-pins. Pro tip: reshare pins on multiple boards to increase visibility." username="hostgator"]  

    2. Post Creative Images

    Photos make up 92% of all Pinterest posts. So, you should really focus your energy on producing creative images for your followers. Start by formatting images properly. The ideal aspect ratio for Pinterest images is 2:3 with a minimum width of 600 pixels. Add a story-filled background to your images. For example, a recipe blogger might post a bowl of fruit on a checkered tablecloth in front of flowers. You want to set the mood for the person looking at the image, to entice them to want to read the blog post. Take photos up close, suggests blogger Ali at Gimme Some Oven. People should feel like they can actually experience the object on your Pinterest board. Pinterest image tips   Tie your images to seasonal or holiday events. Pinners are two times more likely to celebrate events and holidays. Plan your marketing strategy around pinning images that connect to special occasions, like Valentine’s Day or Halloween. Experiment with your pin images and track which photos resonate with your fans. Then create more of those. [bctt tweet="#Pinterest Photo Tips: Add a story line, take photos up close, and tie in seasonal events." username="hostgator"]  

    3. Write Descriptive Copy

    Pinterest isn’t all about photos. There’s space to write text to make people take a second glance at your work. For instance, article pins include a headline, the author’s name, and story description. These rich pins let you shape how people perceive your board. The headline should stick out to the reader. Use catchy, bold language that appeals to your audience. What would they like to read? If you have to shorten the original article title, do it! Use the same brand name on your blog on your Pinterest account. So, if everyone knows you as Betty the Gardener, keep the consistency. You don’t want to confuse followers. Lastly, write a description that’s interesting to the individual. You want people to feel compelled to click to learn more. Check out this example from the New York Times: Article Rich Pin   Freelance writer Elna Cain offers some additional tips to boost traffic:
    • Make it easy for pinners to find your pin with a spot-on description.
    • Give enough information to entice a pinner to click through to your blog.
    • Draw on the emotions of the pinner by using sensory-related words and positive sentiments.
    • Add a call-to-action in your description, like, “check out…” or “click to find out more.”
    Words matter, too. Take advantage by using descriptive copy.  

    4. Focus on Timing

    Research revealed that to optimize audience reach on Pinterest pinners should post 10 to 15 times per day. As your fan base grows, deliberately timing pins becomes important to providing a consistent brand message to your platform. You’ll soon learn that pinning at any time isn’t a good strategy. Bloggers can waste lots of effort posting pins whenever they think is the best. Instead, take a pragmatic approach. Examine your website traffic to uncover when are the best days and times to post your pins. [bctt tweet="When's the best time to post on #Pinterest? Look to your blog traffic for the answer." username="hostgator"] “The smart strategy is to look at your traffic stats for your own blog to see when you consistently get the most traffic, and then plan to pin during those times, because that’s when your audience is surfing the web and most likely to spread the word,” states Beth Hayden, a social media expert. And remember, every sector is different. The time that works well for retail bloggers might not work best for financial bloggers. In the chart below, experts found that the best time for the food and beverage industry pinners is between 11am and Noon Eastern time. Best time to post on Pinterest   Gain more traffic by optimizing when you post your pins. It will help your followers and your blog.  

    5. Engage With Your Community

    Similar to most social media networks, engagement is always critical to influencing people to visit your site. The interaction shows people you’re interested in their opinions. Use the comment section of your pins to answer questions and thank your followers. And encourage people to like and save pins and follow you. By doing so, you’ll gather information on what they enjoy most and how to better cater to those desires. The average user stays on Pinterest for close to 15 minutes at a time. That’s remarkable since most people get bored on social media after a couple of minutes. For your active fans, ask them to curate your board with you. It’s an effective way to collaborate with people and lets their followers discover your blog. Here’s a group board focused on blogging. It has more than 50+ people adding their voices to the Pinterest conversation. Group Pinterest Board   Involve your community in the creation of your boards. It helps with engagement and brings new fans to your blog.  

    Start Growing Your Blog Traffic

    Bring attention to your blog today with the help of social media. Use Pinterest to attract people to your posts. Create multiple boards based on your readers’ interests. Post eye-catching photos that will make people take a second look. And engage with your community to lure people to your site. Grow your blog now. Update your Pinterest account (and while you're at it, follow HostGator!)
  • 5 Effective Ways To Increase Your Blog Readership

    Monday, February 6, 2017 by
    Increase your blog readership Today, readers have several options to choose from when it comes to blogs. And with so many choices, it’s up to bloggers to separate themselves from the competition. The goal is to build a readership that believes in your values, shares your content, and engages with your community. “If you want to build a better blog, you need a thriving audience based around your blogging community. And you can only build a great community around your blogs when you have active readership,” states Harsh Agrawal, founder and CEO of ShoutDreams, Inc. Increasing your blog readership is possible. Here are five ways to get started. Create Your Blog  

    1. Create Quality Content

    Creating remarkable content is one of the top priorities for bloggers. Without it, your blog will lag in comparison to others in your industry space. But what is quality content? And how do you produce it? The best content speaks directly to your audience. It will address their interests and provide solutions to their problems. When writing blog posts, make sure you avoid jargon and convoluted details. Stick to telling stories that will earn and maintain the person’s attention. “Quality content is easy to read and understand, and matches the preferences of the audience for which it’s intended. Using a tool like the Readability-Score will help you ensure your content matches the reading level, expectations and preferences of your audience,” writes Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. Research shows that “40% of people will respond better to visual information than to plain text.” So, experiment with adding photos, infographics, and even GIFs to your posts. [bctt tweet="40% of people respond better to visuals than text, so add photos, infographics, GIFs to your blog." username="hostgator"] Joy the Baker blog is very effective at including mouthwatering pictures along with its recipes. Readers not only receive step-by-step directions on how to prepare meals, but also see enticing images to encourage them as they cook. Food blog image content To grow your audience, first focus on producing quality content. Give people a reason to scroll through your posts.  

    2. Ask Readers to Subscribe

    One of the reasons why your blog readership isn’t increasing is simple. You’re not asking readers to subscribe. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking people will do something without a distinct call-to-action. Offer readers the option to subscribe to your RSS feed or to sign up for your email announcements. [bctt tweet="One reason why your blog readership isn’t increasing? You’re not asking readers to subscribe." username="hostgator"] There are several ways to persuade your casual visitors to become devout readers. You can insert a subscription call-to-action within the post. This tactic makes it unavoidable for the individual to forget to sign up. You also can include a static sign-up form on your sidebar, so no matter what page the reader lands on he or she can take the necessary steps to subscribe. In the example below, Ramit Sethi of the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog takes a different approach, he uses pop-up boxes that offer readers a small gift to convince them to take action. Email subscribe popup How can you lure more people to become active readers? Try giving away a free ebook, a quick checklist, or access to an exclusive event. If you want more readers, then start asking. And give your subscribers something in return for their loyalty.  

    3. Host Creative Contests

    You get a prize! You get a prize! And you get a prize! Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. People love competing in competitions with the chance to earn cool rewards. Think about the last time you entered a contest. The anticipation drives you crazy. And if you’ve ever won a contest, you probably were ecstatic and told all your friends. [bctt tweet="Contests are the hallmark of active community participation. Use them to draw people to your blog." username="hostgator"] When hosting a contest, create rules that are simple for everyone to understand. Tell readers what they need to do to participate and how prizes will be determined. It’s also wise to post deadlines in bold, red font. Rewards should appeal to the readers’ interests. If you’re a food blogger, a cookbook or a private cooking lesson would be perfect. If you’re a sports blogger, try a team jersey or an autographed cap. Protect your blog from any legal action. To ensure you’re adhering to local laws, contact your legal team or hire an attorney to discuss online contests. Use competitions as a tool to draw people to your blog. It’s an added perk to building relationships with readers. Contests really work to increase readership. When we hosted our HostGator Holiday Weekend Giveaway during Black Friday, we saw 4 times as many blog signups than we typically do in a similar timeframe.  

    4. Build a Social Media Community

    Your blog isn’t just a conversation between you and the reader. It’s also an opportunity for readers to meet and talk with one another. As you build your brand, invest time in creating a social media community for your audience to share and discuss topics together. This engagement will bring camaraderie and expand your blog’s reach. [bctt tweet="Your blog isn’t just a convo between you & the reader. It’s also for readers to talk w/each other." username="hostgator"] Select one to two social networks that your readers love. Then, observe how they use the platforms in their everyday lives. As you gather this information, focus on how your blog can add to the conversation. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, you might post weekly polls about what’s hot and what’s not. And don't feel like every social media interaction needs to be about your brand. It’s actually better to focus on the reader’s interests. “Build a personal communications plan that will enable you to stay engaged with your community. You don't need to be the center of the conversation, but your community members need to know you are there and that you CARE. Ongoing, reliable communication is vital in helping you build and maintain long-term relationships,” says Ravi Shukle, the community king at Post Planner. Aimee Song, a Los Angeles-based interior designer, engages with her readers on Instagram. With more than 4 million followers, she posts inspirational images around her apparel and jewelry lines. Instagram Community Building Take advantage of social media to jumpstart your readership. Community building leads to an active audience.  

    5. Partner with Brands

    You can’t accomplish your goals alone. Therefore, it might be time to enlist the help of others. Partner with brands that already engage with your targeted reader. From clothing retailers to local bookstores, your audience can be found interacting with various brands. Find out where people shop, play, and eat. Then, contact those businesses to learn about or propose partnership deals. But before you take the plunge, make sure the brand fits your values and represents a positive perception. You don't want to be attached to a partner that devalues your readers’ goals and lifestyles. “Taking ‘vanity projects’ that aren’t actually a good fit for your readers doesn’t help anyone. Look for opportunities to find a brand that’s an ideal fit for your readers, regardless of the name recognition the company already has,” states Jeni Elliott, founder of The Blog Maven. Also, decide how you will collaborate with brands. You can focus on advertising space on websites. Or you may want to host a Facebook Live event together. It’s essential to discuss the stipulations of the agreement. Your blog and your partner should both benefit from the relationship. Take your blog to the next level. Team up with a brand to increase your blog subscribers.  

    Boost Your Readership

    It’s time to get more people interested in your content. So, adopt a plan to grow your audience. Create quality content that connects to the reader. Ask people to subscribe with easy to find sign-up forms. And host contests that engage people to visit your blog regularly. Build your blog community to increase your readership.
  • Spruce Up Your Website With This New Year Checklist

    Monday, January 9, 2017 by

    Website New Year Checklist

    With the New Year comes new goals for your business. And as you begin to reevaluate your finances and hire new employees, it’s important that you maintain your website, too. You don’t want to repel visitors with an out-of-date site. “One of the most often overlooked components—yet one of the most critical—to any successful website strategy is ongoing maintenance. While the initial website project is critical to creating the right foundation, the ongoing maintenance and upkeep is where you’ll really see your website shine,” writes Don Cranford, principal and director of technology at Katalyst Solutions. Maximize your return on investment by giving your website extra attention. Here are a few best practices to help you in 2017.  

    1. Revamp Your Homepage

    The homepage is the bread and butter of your brand’s online presence. People visit your website to learn more about your company’s products, team, and mission. So, when visitors arrive for the first time, you don’t want to scare them away. Instead, your goal is to offer an experience like no other. Update your design by tweaking the navigation of your site. Anticipate where consumers will click and provide clear calls-to-action to help them locate what they need. Eliminate any wording that doesn’t benefit the visitor. Too many words can distract customers from their intended reason for checking out your site. In the example below, HostGator customer Hiatus Spa + Retreat uses its site to say more with less. Coupled with a few words and vivid imagery, the spa chain invites the customer to learn more. Successful landing page example Make the best first impression by showcasing a modern, uncluttered homepage. It’ll give clarity and accessibility to your visitors.  

    2. Revive Old (But Useful) Content

    Your marketing team has spent countless hours creating content to educate and entertain your customers. And once it’s posted, you probably move on to the next one and then another. But if you’re creating 10x content, like I know you’re doing, your old content still has value to new and existing customers. Rather than producing new content, revive your old, but useful content. Work with your team to add the latest trends to an old blog post. Insert new data into an infographic containing outdated statistics. Or you can transform one content form into another. Kim Garst, founder and CEO of Boom! Social, offers the following suggestion, "Compile a bunch of blog posts on a particular topic, and promote them as a multi-day e-course. Each day, send one email (blog post) to your new subscribers to help them accomplish whatever goal you have promised to help them achieve.” Don’t be afraid to revisit your content archives. Give your audience an opportunity to experience the content again.  

    3. Fix Any Checkout Process Issues

    Sales matter in business. If you’re not driving revenue, you won’t sustain in the marketplace. To attain your aggressive sales goals, your checkout process must possess no friction. Friction is any obstacle causing your consumers to think twice about continuing with their purchase. It can be a technical issue, like a page not loading fast enough. Or it may be a psychological trigger, like they don’t trust your site security. “There are many reasons a customer will abandon your site during the checkout process. Top of the list, after technical problems, is that you ask for too much. Too many steps in the process, too much information, having to create an account to make a single purchase— you are too needy, and this relationship is over,” says Jeremy Said, a conversion expert. If you discover that customers hate creating member registrations, one solution is to try a social login. This one-click alternative will help consumers move through the checkout process faster. Easy checkout form   Stopping the sale from happening isn’t good for business. Remove any roadblocks in your customer’s pathway.  

    4. Check Your Domain Registration

    Is it that time again? You know what I’m referring to. Yes, your domain registration! No matter how many email notifications you receive, somehow renewing your domain falls through the cracks. But no worries. Contact your hosting provider to learn when your registration will expire. If it’s due soon, go ahead and pay for the renewal. You might want to sign up for auto-renewals for future registrations. And remember to update any contact information—business name, address, and phone number. It also may be time to purchase a new domain for upcoming brand changes. So, ask your provider for details about availability and prices. Sometimes the smallest things in your business are overlooked. Make sure your domain is registered to offer uninterrupted service to your customers. Domain Name  

    5. Reinvest in Your Brand Community

    As your business grows, it’s essential to keep your brand community engaged. Your customers want to interact with your team. In 2017, pledge to give your consumers the engagement they deserve. Respond promptly to comments left on your blog posts, and ensure that no complaint goes unanswered. Experiment with starting or reorganizing your loyalty programs. Brand ambassadors serve as an extension of your company. If they’re not satisfied, you may expose your business to unwanted negative publicity. In addition, expand your community to generate new ideas. To do this, install a pop-up box on your website asking visitors to join your exclusive newsletter. Here's an example from Bebe: Customer loyalty email signup Get reacquainted with your target audience. A dedicated community opens the door to business opportunities.  

    6. Evaluate Your Analytics

    Analytics is the ultimate tool for examining the health of your website traffic. It’s vital for your team to know how your visitors and qualified leads find your business. Organic search or Facebook? Avoid moving analytics to the bottom of your to-do list. Jenn Soloway, senior art director of Strategic Insights Brand Marketing, gives her perspective: "Website analytics and website maintenance updates go hand in hand when it comes to truly owning your website. With this combination, pain points that can add up over time and lead to an expensive—and time-intensive—relaunch can be addressed as part of an ongoing maintenance plan.” Compare your traffic from month to month and year to year. Assess your current campaigns and develop a plan to target sources that bring the most return. You may even need to change your SEO strategy.  

    A New Year, A Better Website

    It’s time to roll up your sleeves. The New Year is a time to reflect and reassess your business’s needs, which includes your website. Revamp your homepage to gain immediate attention from visitors. Fix any friction issues influencing potential buyers to abandon your shopping cart. Also, reinvest in your brand community by responding to blog comments. Start 2017 off right! A better website is where you should begin.
  • 7 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts to Follow

    Monday, November 21, 2016 by

    Email Marketing Dos and Donts

    How impressive are your emails?

    It’s time to build a personal connection with your customers in their inboxes.

    According to MarketingSherpa, “72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media.”

    Email is an effective medium to send timely messages to customers. Your team can communicate promotions, new product releases, and even show some customer appreciation.

    “Week in week out, you have to prove your value to your email subscribers. Know your readers so well that you can empathize with their struggles. Ask questions. And offer help,” writes Henneke Duistermaat, an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach.

    Let’s make your next email marketing campaign worthwhile. Explore the do’s and don’ts below.

    HostGator Website Builder

     

    Email Marketing Do's

    Yes, email marketing varies from company to company. But there are underlying guidelines that exist to make every campaign better.

    Work with your team to find your best practices. That means analyzing data and monitoring customer behavior. In the meantime, use the following tactics to begin your journey.

     

    1. DO Create A Strategy

    Like any business function, you need a plan.

    It’s not in your best interest to conduct email marketing blindly. If you do, your small business will lose money and time.

    Gather your team to discuss the purpose of your campaign, the likely outcomes, and what success looks like.

    Setting definite goals ensures everyone is on the same page. Plus, if during the campaign the results don’t match your desired outcome, it offers proof to adjust your strategy.

    Also, be mindful of how you represent your brand in every email.

    Forbes contributor Kate Kiefer Lee says,“Your email campaigns should match your brand’s look and feel. If you’re using a template, you might want to customize it to include your company’s colors and logo in the header.”

    Start developing your email campaign strategy. It will guide you throughout the entire process.

     

    2. DO Segment Your List

    Mass marketing is useless in our economy today. Shoppers desire personalized experiences that cater to their individual needs.

    The same holds true when sending an email. Customers are different. And they don’t want to learn about tennis shoes when their interests only include tank tops.

    Therefore, email a customized message to specific consumer groups.

    “Segment your emails strategically. For each one of your marketing campaigns, the key is to create messages that support your unique business and marketing objectives,” writes Krista Bunskoek, former director of public relations at Wishpond.

    Below is an example of how a small business may segment customer groups by interests. It starts with what the target audience likes. Then, it’s adjusted based on their habits in the sales funnel.

    Customer Segments

    Segmentation works to provide customization. Take advantage of the benefits.

     

    3. DO Use Automation

    The days of sending one email at a time are gone.

    It was time-consuming and mentally exhausting. Thanks to technology, email automation tools make small business teams efficient.

    Create email drip campaigns to automate your interaction with consumers. You can develop specific workflows to keep customers engaged with your brand.

    For example, when someone signs up for your email list, set up a welcome workflow that automatically sends them a message thanking them for joining. You could even include a promotional discount to encourage sales.

    Email Welcome Workflow

    The diagram above from Marketing Cloud shows a more complex workflow. However, it streamlines how you engage with webinar attendees. Here’s the email series:

    1. The lead signs up for webinar through a form.
    2. The lead immediately receives an automated confirmation email.
    3. Three days prior to the webinar, the lead gets a reminder message.
    4. Three days after the webinar, the lead receives a follow-up survey.

    Automation takes the guesswork out of email marketing. Save your team time.

     

    4. DO Be Mobile-Friendly

    A Litmus report found that 55% of email is now opened on a mobile device.

    While desktops still offer consumer value, mobile devices are a way of life. Most people carry their phones with them 24/7 — to a business meeting, dinner outing, and even the restroom.

    Mobile devices are an extension of us. And that’s an opportunity for your small business.

    Optimize your emails to be mobile-friendly. That involves ensuring the design fits the screen, the word length is manageable, and the loading time doesn’t take forever.

    Moreover, include a single column layout and add a call-to-action at the top of the email.

    [bctt tweet="55% of email is opened on a mobile device. How do your emails look?" username="hostgator"]

    Mobile users are constantly moving. They juggle multiple tasks at once. And they don’t have the time to read a 10,000-word email. Grab their attention fast and offer worthwhile content.

     

    Email Marketing Don'ts

    Now, you know what to implement. But what about the tactics to avoid?

    As you begin executing multiple email marketing campaigns, you’ll learn what not to do. Keep a running list available for your team.

    You don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Here are a few techniques to stay away from:

     

    1. DON'T Spam

    This rule is simple: Don’t spam. It’s unprofessional and illegal.

    The CAN-SPAM Act is an United States law that establishes the rules for commercial email. It gives recipients the right to not receive unwanted emails from companies.

    Email spam fits the following three criteria:

    • Anonymity: The address and identity of the sender are concealed
    • Mass Mailing: The email is sent to large groups of people
    • Unsolicited: The email is not requested by the recipients

    “Make sure your own spam filter doesn’t stop the opt-out requests coming through. Once you’ve received them, make sure you honor the request within 10 business days. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message,” says professional writer Brenda Barron.

    Spam negatively impacts your email campaigns. Don’t do it. (Check out our post on 7 tips to avoid complaints of email abuse.)

     

    2. DON'T Write Boring Subject Lines

    Research shows that “63% of retailer subject lines are generic, and they're losing brand value—and sales—as a result.”

    Customers receive lots of emails per day—messages from coworkers, friends, and your competitors. Therefore, they’ve read thousands of subject lines. And they instantly know if they want to open an email or not.

    Your team only has a few seconds to make a good first impression. So, do it right.

    Aim for simple, concise subject lines. Try something controversial. Numbered lists provoke consumers to open emails. And use action verbs.

    Action Verbs for Subject Lines

     

    3. DON'T Forget to Track Emails

    When running an email marketing campaign, don’t forget to track the progress of your success. By analyzing the data, your team can gain valuable insight on how to improve.

    Are customers opening your emails? Is your bounce rate significantly high? Do certain consumer segments prefer Campaign A over Campaign B?

    Click-to-Open-Rate is one important metric to monitor. It’s the percentage of subscribers who clicked a link in the email as related to the total number who opened it.

    “Successful email marketing campaigns are more of a marathon than a sprint. That means you should be constantly fine-tuning your message to elicit a more engaged response, and CTOR rates are instrumental in judging and making course corrections in that process,” states Andrea Fryrear, founder and chief content officer at Fox Content, Ltd.

    Draw conclusions from your observations. And keep track of your email stats.

     

    Follow the Guidelines

    Upgrade your email marketing campaigns. But before you start strategizing, know what to do and not to do.

    Segment your list to personalize the experience. Create mobile-friendly emails. Avoid spamming people. And drop the boring subject lines.

    Follow these guidelines. Send better emails.

  • The Best Ways to Survey Your Small Business Customers

    Tuesday, November 8, 2016 by
    Best Ways to Survey Customers What are your customers thinking? One way to find out is to actually ask your customers. By surveying consumers, your team can learn how to improve the shopping experience. From customer service to product inventory, discover what makes your target audience excited. Their opinions do matter. And by soliciting feedback, you can transform your small business. “A great product and excellent customer service begin with getting to know who your customers are and what they need. To get that done, you have to gather customer information, and surveys are just what the doctor ordered for that,” writes Zoe Uwem, a content marketing strategist. Let’s explore how to survey your customers.  

    Role of Customer Research

    Customer research equips your team with the knowledge to serve your consumers better. It’s an essential part in helping your small business grow. When collecting information, decide what you want to learn and the best route to gather the feedback. You want the process to be simple for the customer, but reliable enough so that your team can make business improvements. Ross Beard, former marketing manager at Client Heartbeat, offers meaningful advice: “It’s important to remember that a successful customer survey has high survey response rates, and accurate, actionable customer feedback. Only then will you be able to use customer surveys to make better business decisions to help increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer churn” Consider how the research will impact the customer. Then, develop a plan to meet those goals.  

    How to Collect Customer Feedback

    Simplicity is key when asking for customer feedback. Your buyers are busy; they don’t want to waste time with tedious surveys. So, stick to formats more familiar to your customers. Here are four methods to get your team started:  

    1. Product Reviews

    Most companies see product reviews as a marketing tool to lure in more customers. But they are also effective for improving your inventory. “Reviews can also support your competitive benchmarking efforts by helping you determine what customers like or dislike about your product, service, or brand, compared to what they like or don’t like about your competitors,” writes Chris Campbell, CEO of ReviewTrackers. Request reviews from your buyers post-purchase. Ask for their opinions on what made the product better than others on the market. Here are a few recommended questions:
    • What did you like about this product?
    • How can we improve this product?
    • Would you recommend this product to a friend?
    Amazon gives customers the chance to leave detailed messages. The ecommerce giant also has a star rating system.   Amazon Fire Tablet Review Take advantage of product reviews. They provide a gateway to customer research.  

    2. Twitter Polls

    Social media is the online hangout for most people. Right now, there are 2.3 billion active social media users. If you’re seeking feedback from consumers, go where they live: Facebook, Twitter, or even Snapchat. What makes Twitter so awesome is that people and brands can create their own polls. You can ask unique questions, and your customers can respond in less than a minute. “Polls could be a great way to get bite-sized pieces of product feedback in a more fun, snackable way,” says Ash Read, content crafter at Buffer. “Try to think about scenarios within your product, learnings you’re after or hypotheses you’re looking to validate that can be broken down into simple four-answer questions and put them out there as polls.” The Oakland Raiders used polls to learn their audience’s future content preferences. The football team asked fans to select which player they wanted in their next behind-the-scenes training video. Once the votes were tallied, the franchise delivered on their promise.   Twitter Polls Experiment with Twitter polls for your small business. It’s quick, easy, and requires no expertise to begin.  

    3. Email Surveys

    Email is a popular channel for distributing surveys. But most of the time, they are convoluted messages that consumers just see as spam. Businesses attempt to ask too many questions. They stuff 20 questions in one email. Then, teams seem puzzled by the lack of high response rates. “You need to be ruthless when it comes to cutting unnecessary questions from your surveys. Every question you include should have a well-defined purpose and a strong reason for being there. Otherwise, it should be put on the chopping block,” states Gregory Ciotti, marketing at Help Scout. To escape your email surveys woes, create a painless survey. Embed one question directly within the email. That’s how Lyft does it. The ridesharing company asks one question that requires the customer to rate their experience on a scale from 0-10.   Email Survey Email is a practical tool for collecting feedback. Keep your consumers engaged and stay away from frivolous questions.  

    4. Phone Calls

    A study found “that customers who took part in a customer satisfaction survey by telephone were more loyal than those who did not take the survey.” This is an opportunity for your small business. Despite living in a fast-paced society, people still like talking on the phone. And some of the best customer feedback comes from just picking up the phone and communicating directly with customers. Why? Because we’re so accustomed to automated messages and hearing robots giving us information. Select a few customers to contact today. The telephone engagement should be short, no more than three minutes. State your purpose for calling and have a conversation. And just a reminder: specific federal, state, and local laws exist to protect consumers from receiving calls from businesses. Some consumers are on do-not-call lists. So, reach out to your legal team before initiating a mass customer contact program. Give your consumers some real human contact to gain their feedback.  

    Take Action on Your Feedback

    Avoid gathering all your feedback and leaving it unused in a unnamed folder on your computer. Take action with the information you've received. “Don’t stick survey results in a binder and forget about them without analysis. Share the results — including verbatim customer comments — and what these results have taught you with your entire staff,” writes Julia L. Rogers, Huffington Post contributor. Think of customer feedback as a loop. Your team should be constantly listening and prioritizing issues based on what you’ve learned. Then, resolve the issues and adjust your product or service. Customer Feedback Loop If possible, follow up with dissatisfied customers. Reconnect with them to show how their suggestions contributed to new improvements. It shows consumers you take their feedback seriously. Feedback is a valuable resource. Take action.  

    Ask Your Customers

    To serve your target audience, you need to conduct research. And sometimes the best way is to simply ask your customers questions. Understand the role of customer research for your business. Collect feedback by asking specific questions on product reviews. Use Twitter polls to quickly gather information. And don’t be shy; pick up the phone and call buyers. Learn how to serve your customers better. Survey them.