Monday, February 6, 2017 by Shayla PriceToday, 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.
Monday, January 9, 2017 by Shayla Price
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 You don’t want to repel visitors with an out-of-date site.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 HomepageThe 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. 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) ContentYour 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 IssuesSales 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. Stopping the sale from happening isn’t good for business. Remove any roadblocks in your customer’s pathway.
4. Check Your Domain RegistrationIs 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.
5. Reinvest in Your Brand CommunityAs 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: Get reacquainted with your target audience. A dedicated community opens the door to business opportunities.
6. Evaluate Your AnalyticsAnalytics 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 WebsiteIt’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.
Monday, November 21, 2016 by Shayla Price
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.
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.
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.
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:
- The lead signs up for webinar through a form.
- The lead immediately receives an automated confirmation email.
- Three days prior to the webinar, the lead gets a reminder message.
- 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.
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.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016 by Shayla PriceWhat 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 ResearchCustomer 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 FeedbackSimplicity 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 ReviewsMost 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?
2. Twitter PollsSocial 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. Experiment with Twitter polls for your small business. It’s quick, easy, and requires no expertise to begin.
3. Email SurveysEmail 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 is a practical tool for collecting feedback. Keep your consumers engaged and stay away from frivolous questions.
4. Phone CallsA 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 FeedbackAvoid 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. 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 CustomersTo 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.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 by Shayla PriceSales, please. Your small business needs more sales to stay open. And it’s vital that your team focuses on a strategy now, rather than later. Social media is an effective method to grab the attention of your target audience. Moreover, Pinterest lets your consumers connect visually with your products. Learn why Pinterest is the best option for your bottom line.
Why PinterestResearch shows that the average order value of sales generated by Pinterest is 10% higher than any other major social platform. Pinterest offers your business the opportunity to showcase products. You can create multiple boards based on shopping patterns, consumer interests, or even holiday trends. Consider this social media platform the new form of window shopping. It’s up to your team to display what’s best about your services and overall brand. “Most people save or pin things on Pinterest in order to get ideas for future purchases, so if you are selling something online, you should have a well-established Pinterest presence. This is especially true if you sell physical items like apparel, accessories, gadgets, and the like,” states Chandru Rao, a researcher and writer at Around.io. [bctt tweet="The Average Order Value of Pinterest sales is 10% higher than any other major social platform." username="hostgator"] Work with your team to develop a Pinterest sales strategy. Monitor prospective customers’ habits and build awareness for your brand. It’s time to incorporate Pinterest into your small business plan.
Tips to Drive SalesBeyond brand interest, Pinterest is capable of persuading customers to make purchases. Below are five tips to get you started.
1. Use Rich PinsRich pins allow small business owners to include additional information to images. These enhanced pins offer you the chance provide consumers with real-time pricing and availability. In short, rich pins make it convenient for people to buy your items. They take the guesswork out of consumers’ product research. Rather than going to multiple websites, buyers can find product descriptions in one location. In the rich pin below, you’ll notice the product’s price, where it is sold, and a ‘Visit’ button to learn more. In addition, you can read comments from other people about the product. Don’t limit rich pins to your board. Add them to your product pages and blogs. “By adding the Pin It button to your product pages, you will automatically encourage Pinterest users to pin your products. This also goes for images on your blog posts and other pages throughout your website,” writes Kristi Hines, a contributing editor for Social Media Examiner. Embrace rich pins. Give your customers a better perspective of your services. [bctt tweet="Don't limit #RichPins to your Pinterest board. Use them on your website product pages and blogs." username="hostgator"]
2. Tell A StoryStorytelling is essential in sales. Stories engage people in conversations and spark interest in new concepts. Old sales tactics don't work anymore. They centered around feeding consumers boring information, like features and dimensions. Nowadays, customers want to know exactly how products will benefit them. And they want it told in a fun manner. For instance, Lowe’s offers a Pinterest board dedicated to gardening tips. Consumers receive timely content and direct links to the home improvement store’s products. “Be the celebrity expert in your space. Post content that makes you the expert in your space. Think in terms of providing information based on what you know and the service your business or products offers,” writes Entrepreneur contributor Grant Cardone. It’s vital to think like a consumer. Would you want someone bombarding you with information? The best stories take time to develop. And they leave the audience eager to learn what happens next. So, don’t inundate your boards. Gradually tell your brand stories.
3. Post High-Quality ImagesPinterest thrives on visuals. So, it’s imperative to share amazing photos. Studies reveal that images without faces get repinned more 23% more often. Therefore, avoid the human face. [bctt tweet="#Pinterest Tip: Images without faces get repinned more 23% more often, so avoid the human face." username="hostgator"] “We think of Facebook as a network of people, and Foursquare as a network of places. Pinterest is a network of things … and it seems like on a network of things, faces are actually a distraction,” says Curalate CEO Apu Gupta. Use multiple dominant colors in your images. Stick to reds, oranges, and greens. Stay away from landscape images. Instead, do portrait style. Vertical orientation with an aspect ratio between 2:3 and 4:5 works best. Aim to add real backgrounds to your images. Plain white backdrops are dull. Give context with a intriguing background. Below is a pin from Nike Women. Notice the company’s use of colors, background, and portrait style.
4. Target Relevant AudiencesKnow your audience. It’s the #1 rule for small businesses. If you fail to reach your target consumer, it’s unlikely that you’ll close the sale. Plus, you waste your team’s precious time and energy. You need to understand your customers’ likes, dislikes, and lifestyles. This includes studying their demographics, geographics, and psychographics. At the end of the day, your team should know when, where, why, and how your consumers make purchases. Once you grasp your buyers’ desires, you can build useful content. Post pins that relate to your products or services. For example, ESPN shares tailgating tips and tricks. The television network doesn’t sell food and party supplies, but their team understands how integral tailgating is to their sports consumers. Create a schedule for posting pins. Consistency gives your content a normal routine that people can follow. “The easiest thing you can do to grow your presence on Pinterest is to get into the habit of pinning consistently. While this tip may seem simple, it’s where most people fail with social media marketing,” says Brian Lang, founder of Small Business Ideas Blog. Start posting relevant pins. And target the right audience.
5. Try Promotions & ContestsEveryone likes a good promotion or contest. It gets customers riled up to participate in something different. For promotions, give your loyal Pinterest followers exclusive deals. Surprise them with offers they can’t find on your other social media networks. You may offer 10% coupons, free swag bags, or attendance to a once-in-a-lifetime event. Make people curious and hype up the promotion days in advance. For contests, learn how to earn your consumers undivided attention. Your goal is to get them to take action. Modcloth ran an effective Pinterest contest. The online women’s clothing retailer encouraged pinners to post various pins matching specific themes. Winners received a $100 store gift card. But be mindful of Pinterest’s contest rules. They have set guidelines to protect your small business and enhance the customer experience. For instance, don’t require participants to pin a specific image. And don't suggest that Pinterest is your sponsor. Do something different. Engage with promotions and contests.
Pin Your BrandPinterest is changing how customers shop with your small business. The social network helps people research before they buy. To drive sales with Pinterest, tell a story with your pins. Post high-quality photos of your products. And target relevant audiences. Drive more sales. Pin your brand. And while you're at it, follow HostGator's boards!