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Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube—all the hottest social networks today are highly focused on visual content. For small businesses, the rise of visual marketing tools presents a great opportunity to tell the story of a brand through different media. But for those folks who may not be visually inclined, coming up with ideas to showcase your business with photos and videos may be challenging.
If you’re struggling to think of ways to incorporate visuals into your marketing campaigns, here are 5 ideas to kickstart your creative engines.
1. Showcase Your Products and Services
Chances are, if you run a business with a storefront, you have physical products and services that you can photograph and film. And consumers are hungry to take in visuals before they make a visit to a local business or purchase an item online. So get snapping and recording!
2. Give a Face to Your Business
Sharing pictures and videos of your staff will help give a face to your company and encourage sharing among employees and their friends on social media. Remember to tag the photos you post (with permission, of course) for maximum exposure.
3. Solve Problems
Do you have multiple customers who complain about a similar problem or point of confusion? A few how-to videos can be a huge help, and an effective way to engage viewers. These days, it’s easier than ever to create informational video content—all you need is a smartphone, a steady hand, and a plan.
4. Highlight Patrons
As evidenced by the “selfie” craze, people love to share photos and videos of themselves. Tap into your customers’ desire to be in the spotlight by posting photos and videos of patrons visiting your store, using your products or services, or sporting your business’s branding.
5. Ask Customers to Share Visuals
Consumers also love to capture their own photos and videos and upload for friends, family, and strangers to enjoy. Tap into this trend by running a contest asking customers to submit their own visual media related to your brand for a prize. You can also create simple campaigns to crowdsource content on your social accounts.
The Bottom Line
Visual marketing is a key way to engage with current customers and new consumers, bringing your business to life and showing some personality behind your brand. Luckily, it’s not hard to get visual with modern technology at your disposal.
Did you know? SinglePlatform distributes photos along with business listings information and menus across the web. Learn more about how we can help you distribute visual content to engage consumers.
Developing and communicating an identity for your small business is important, but building on that identity to reinforce your brand authority is just as essential. Consumers’ standards are higher than ever, and they want to interact with businesses they feel are value-oriented, real, and plugged in.
There are a variety of ways to develop these attributes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Invest in Quality
Every part of your brand, from the products and services in your store to your company's website, contributes to customers’ perception of your business. If you pursue the highest quality in every aspect of operations and marketing, it will show—and will also lend credibility to your brand.
Develop a Unique Selling Point
Differentiating your business with a unique selling point or perspective can have as much impact on brand authority as investing in quality. Think about what you can do to go above and beyond the competition in both your main business and in your ancillary services and benefits. The more value you can add, the more you'll appeal to consumers.
Engage on Social Media
Connecting with customers where they spend time online is an easy way to build your business’s authority. If you have things to say or share that are relevant to your audience, consumers are more likely to take you seriously—and to engage with you in return.
Create Useful Blog Content
Publishing engaging, memorable posts on a company blog is a great way to increase your site traffic and strengthen your brand’s authority. Guest blogging on other sites can also help you get your brand in front of a larger audience and establish your business as a reliable source of information (or entertainment, depending on what kind of business you have).
Leading brands got to be where they are today by being consistent in terms of value and quality, but also in terms of their product positioning and what they stand for. From communications to design to service, it’s important that your business offers a standard experience that customers can get familiar with quickly.
Commit to a Cause
If giving back to the community is something near and dear to your heart, consider what your business can do to support a cause. Tying a personal passion into your business will contribute to your brand’s authority and appeal to consumers who are socially conscious.
The Bottom Line
The best thing you can do to build brand authority is to be genuine, engaged, and consistent in your business's products, services, support, and communications. We've covered a few ways here, but the possibilities are endless. Don't be afraid to get creative!
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Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:
[Holiday Retail News] Small Business Saturday Generates $5.7 Billion
News Source: Businessweek
Businessweek reported that last weekend’s Small Business Saturday brought in $5.7 billion of revenue in the US, according to a preliminary survey. Revenue from this year’s event was projected to come in at $5.5 billion.
Additionally, 41 governors declared support for the event this year, and over 3.3 million Facebook users have liked the Small Business Saturday Page since its inception last year.
Key Takeaway: Both consumers and officials turned out to support Small Business Saturday in a big way this year. For businesses that ran marketing campaigns around the event, the investment seems to have paid off.
[Social Media News] Facebook Adjusts News Feed Algorithm to Emphasize High Quality Content
News Source: Mashable
This week, Facebook made a new round of updates to its News Feed algorithm that controls what users see in their main stream. The changes place a greater emphasis on relevant content such as news articles, rather than generic content such as memes.
Facebook will also begin to display related articles underneath an original post for users who click on a link from their feed.
Key Takeaway: These News Feed changes reflect a broader demand from users for more relevant, interesting content across social media. Make sure that the content you’re sharing on your business's Facebook Page is helpful, entertaining, or otherwise engaging for your audience. If so, Facebook will reward your Posts with greater visibility in your followers’ News Feeds.
[Restaurant News] Recent Survey Shows Gift Card Purchases on the Rise
News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News
A recent survey by GiftCardRescue found that consumers are purchasing more restaurant gift cards as the economy rebounds. The study showed increased rankings from food chains such as Darden Restaurant Group, Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, and Panera Bread.
According to another survey by the National Retail Federation, more than 80% of consumers plan to purchase at least one gift card this holiday season, a 4% increase over 2012, and overall gift card spending per consumer is expected to rise as well.
Key Takeaway: The food industry is primed to see an uptick in business as the economy becomes stronger. If you run a restaurant, café, bakery, or other food establishment, be sure to have some gift cards ready for shoppers who are looking for a convenient gift option this holiday season.
[Social Media News] Twitter Launches Retargeted Ads
News Source: TechCrunch
On Thursday, Twitter announced the launch of a new feature called “tailored audiences”. This feature allows businesses to retarget ads on Twitter to people who’ve shown an interest in their products or services.
These ads rely on tying a user’s identity on Twitter to their activity on a personal computer. Twitter will analyze the cookies from a user's non-mobile-web browsing activity and then retarget to that user on a smartphone or tablet when they log into Twitter with the same credentials. This gives businesses the ability to run retargeted ads on mobile, which has been difficult to do since mobile web activity can’t be tracked the same way that PC traffic can.
This feature was tested with a small group of businesses over summer, but is now available globally.
Key Takeaway: Twitter ad targeting up to this point has left much to be desired. With this new tailored audiences feature, businesses will be able to run ads for a much more specific, engaged audience—and on mobile devices, where retargeting has traditionally been impossible.
Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!
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As 2013 winds down, we not only look backward to take stock of all that has happened, but also begin to look forward to the new year and all that awaits us. It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and set goals for 2014.
You may already be done with the bulk of your business planning for next year. However, there’s still time to nail down a marketing strategy that will set you up for success. Here are 6 key trends to be thinking about as you develop your plan.
Trend 1: Visual Marketing
People in the social media industry have been talking about the merits of visual marketing for the past few years. In 2014, it’s primed to take center stage. If you’re not already incorporating images and videos into your social media channels and marketing campaigns, now is the time to try your hand at visual content.
Trend 2: Inbound Marketing
Historically, businesses have focused their marketing efforts on outbound marketing—that is, marketing efforts aimed at a large audience with the goal of converting a small percentage to paying customers. Examples of outbound techniques include advertising, trade show attendance, purchased email lists, and cold calling.
In recent years, marketing has been shifting away from a traditional outbound model to an inbound model, which focuses on helping your business get found by people already interested in your industry. This type of marketing aims to make your business visible on search engines, social media, blogs, and listings sites as you create and share compelling content for consumers to interact with.
In 2014, the shift away from outbound marketing to inbound will be even more pronounced. Make sure to budget for the time, personnel, and money needed to invest in developing solid inbound channels.
Trend 3: Mobile Marketing
In October, we discussed the growth in mobile device usage for local search and mistakes to avoid when developing mobile marketing campaigns. Numerous studies conducted in the past year all point to the importance of mobile search for local businesses. If you’re not already present on mobile, make sure to plan for it in 2014! (Pro tip: SinglePlatform can help you with this.)
Trend 4: Brand Authority
In today’s saturated market, it’s not enough to merely say that your business provides products or services worth using—it’s up to the business owner to prove their brand’s authority over time.
This process is not something that happens overnight. It involves investing in a number of areas, including messaging, service, and content. We’ll cover the specifics of how to build brand authority in another post later this month.
Trend 5: Personalization
In November, we covered a few different ways that you can personalize your communications. Personalization is hot right now, and will remain so in the new year. This ties in with the aforementioned inbound marketing and brand authority trends. Today's consumers want to interact with businesses that are relevant, engaging, trustworthy, and include a human element in their business marketing.
Trend 6: Less Is More
Consumers deal with a growing amount of virtual noise every day. As a small business, you may be tempted to try and stand out from the crowd by being bigger, more extravagant, and flashier when it comes to marketing. But the success of campaigns from Apple, Google, and other major brands has shown that simplicity is often the best tactic when it comes to messaging.
The Bottom Line
There’s no secret formula when it comes to creating a successful marketing plan. However, it is important to incorporate current trends into your efforts to make sure your time, effort, and budget are spent wisely.
Have specific questions or exciting ideas when it comes to small business marketing? Share them in the comments!
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It’s December, which means that the holiday travel, shopping, and feasting season is in full swing. For small businesses in the food industry, the resulting increase in store visits and orders in the last month of the year is cause for rejoicing. But during the hectic season, it can be difficult to think of interesting ways to draw in new patrons and engage existing customers.
SinglePlatform’s small businesses in the food industry have taken advantage of the holidays in a variety of ways to boost their business, reward their consumers, and give back to the community. Here are a few marketing ideas to consider for your own business:
Holiday Gift Cards
Beyond encouraging customers to dine with you or make purchases during the month of December, you can also encourage business in the new year with holiday gift cards. Many SinglePlatform clients promote gift cards as a stocking stuffer or last-minute gift idea.
Host Holiday Parties and Meals
Help alleviate your customers’ holiday hosting stress by opening your doors for large group parties and meals. You can:
- rent out your entire establishment for private events, or accommodate smaller gatherings with reserved rooms
- offer special menus for pre-holiday, post-holiday, and day-of holiday dining
- or even, as one of our more creative clients did, host an “ugly Christmas sweater” party to get some use out of previously neglected gifts and keep the festivities going through to the start of the new year
Even those people who aren’t ordinarily inclined toward craftiness get into the DIY spirit around the holidays. A few of our local businesses have hosted in-store craft events for adults and kids alike.
Donations to a Local Charity
Several of SinglePlatform’s clients participated in donation drives of toys, canned goods, and other items to benefit their local communities. This is a great way to give back to those in need during the holidays, and an easy way to contribute positively to your brand’s image.
The Bottom Line
However you choose to market your business during the holidays, make sure it’s meaningful for your customers and your community, in addition to being meaningful for you.
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Facebook is no longer just for connecting with friends. Consumers are increasingly turning to the social network to search for and interact with local businesses.
Business Pages give merchants the power to connect with existing customers and drive repeat business while also reaching a broader audience that can turn into new customers. Whether people are using a search engine like Google or Facebook’s Graph Search to find a business in your local area, it’s important that your Facebook Page is up-to-date and complete as possible so consumers can discover your business.
Here’s how to set up your business’s Facebook Page to ensure maximum discoverability:
1. Choose the right Page Type and Category.
You’ll want to choose your Page Type based on how your audience views you. For example, if you’re creating a Facebook Page for a museum that’s also a nonprofit, you’d want to choose the Page Type that includes “museum” rather than “nonprofit” if that’s how your audience is trying to find you.
2. Choose the best name for your Facebook Page.
It’s best to use your business name, as this will serve as the title of your page. It will show up when you post a status update or make comments. You can also include a short description here if it makes sense. For example, “Giuseppe’s Fine Italian Dining.” You’ll want to avoid stuffing your page name with keywords, as this comes across as spammy and people may be less likely to engage with your Page.
3. Include your address and phone number.
This information will help get your page indexed for local search results. In addition, Google places higher importance on pages with this information.
4. Include a subcategory.
If you selected “Restaurant/Café” as your main category, be sure to narrow it down with a subcategory, for example, “Italian restaurant.”
5. Include a description with the appropriate keywords.
Fill out the About section, Mission, and Company Description fully. All of this information is searchable on Facebook and other search engines, so you want to make sure it’s accurate and complete.
6. Choose a unique Facebook web address.
This is the URL people will enter to get to your Facebook Page. It follows a format like this: http://facebook.com/username. URLs are heavily weighted by search engines, so choose a web address that reflects an aspect of your business. For example, Giuseppe’s could use http://facebook.com/Giuseppes.
7. Include a menu, list of services, or product list.
When people discover your Facebook Page, it’s likely they’ll be interested in what you offer. If you use a service like SinglePlatform, you can include detailed product and service information directly on your Facebook Page. This makes it easy for potential customers to find what they’re looking for without having to leave Facebook to visit your website or other listings pages.
Want to learn more about how you can get discovered and generate new business on Facebook? Download our free eBook “Facebook for Small Business” today.
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As an entrepreneur, you work hard day in and day out to manage various aspects of your business: inventory, finances, quality, service. But one of the most important factors in success is one that you have limited control over: your reputation.
While you can spend lots of time and energy creating a solid brand image and telling your story to potential customers, the truth is that they’re more likely to listen to their peers—even anonymous peers online—than you when it comes to forming an opinion about your business.
It’s daunting to consider how much influence the public has over your reputation. But although some things are out of your control, you alone have the power to manage your reputation—both the positive and negative aspects.
Here are 4 tips to help you get started with reputation management:
1. Create a Forum for Direct Feedback
Want to avoid seeing rage-filled posts about your business on a public forum? Make sure that it’s easy for customers to come directly to you to share their grievances. If it’s impossible to reach you by phone, email, or social media, a customer may go from mildly dissatisfied to seriously unhappy. And unhappy voices tend to make the most noise.
2. Ask Customers for Feedback Soon After a Purchase
To encourage positive feedback online, ask customers to write a review or share their experience on your social media channels shortly after a purchase. Patrons are more likely to take the time to gush about your business if they have a positive interaction fresh in their minds.
3. Monitor Key Review Sites
Keeping abreast of both positive and negative comments means monitoring the websites where customers are writing reviews. Identify a few top sites to look at on a frequent basis; you can also set up Google Alerts to see where your business name appears on pages across the web.
4. Respond Quickly to Negative Feedback
No matter how great your business is, there will always be some people who write negative comments and reviews. While you can’t prevent them from airing their complaints, you can be proactive in responding to them.
Investigate each piece of negative feedback to see if there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed. If so, contact the customer promptly and take whatever steps needed to rectify the situation. If not, then decide whether or not to engage with the person. Each case is unique, and only you will be able to discern the right response in a given situation.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to reputation management, being proactive is essential. If you help cranky customers resolve their issues quickly, you can turn potentially damaging feedback into a big win. Likewise, if you encourage happy customers to review your business when they’ve recently interacted with you, you’ll be able to build up a collection of positive feedback to offset any negative reviews that others share.
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Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:
[Mobile Payment News] Square Gets Rid of Flat-fee Monthly Payment Option
News Source: The Wall Street Journal
Mobile payments company Square announced this week that it is eliminating its monthly flat-fee credit processing option for small businesses. All customers will now pay a per-swipe fee of 2.75%.
Previously, small businesses with transactions of $21,000 or less per month could choose to pay a monthly flat fee of $275 for the service.
Square stated that the change in payment options was prompted by customers who said the “caps and limits” of the flat fee were “inhibiting growth,” according to spokeswoman Lindsay Wiese.
Key Takeaway: Small businesses using Square may find it difficult to keep using the product with this change in pricing. However, Square’s decision isn’t too surprising—the majority of competitors in the payment processing space have historically only offered percentage-based fees. For smaller merchants, accepting credit payments from customers may still be a ways off.
[Social Media News] Pinterest Adds New Place Pins
News Source: Read Write
Pinterest announced on Wednesday the introduction of a new type of rich pin called Place Pins. This pin type allows users to add Foursquare data to new or previously pinned images in order to tie them to a location. Users can add maps to their boards and add pins to specific locations.
Place Pins are the latest in a slew of rich pins developed for recipes, products, articles, and movies.
Key Takeaway: With this new Foursquare integration, it’s more important than ever for your small business to be present on both Pinterest and Foursquare. Make sure consumers can find you wherever they’re looking, and make it easy for them to share your business with others in a way that takes advantage of the latest social media features. Your business will reap the rewards in social word-of-mouth marketing.
[More Social Media News] LinkedIn Adds Showcase Pages for Companies
News Source: TechCrunch
LinkedIn unveiled a new feature this week called Showcase Pages. This feature allows companies to create individual pages focused on a specific product or service, rather than having all of their items grouped together on the Products tab of their Company Page.
With this change, users now have the ability to follow specific Showcase Pages for products or services they’re interested in, rather than receiving all updates published by an entire company.
Companies can create up to 10 Showcase Pages. The feature comes at no extra cost, although the hope is that companies will pay to promote their new Showcase Pages with sponsored updates or ads on LinkedIn.
Key Takeaway: If your business has several products or services, this new Showcase Pages feature will help you provide more detailed information to prospective customers. It will also give you the ability to post updates for users interested in a particular product or service, allowing you to tailor communications to your LinkedIn followers in a more sophisticated way.
Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!
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On social media, many people have been sharing one thing they’re thankful for each day in November. While we’re a bit late to the game, we’d also like to take the opportunity to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for.
Here are 7 things that make us give thanks, one for each day left leading up to Thanksgiving.
1. Our Customers
We work with amazing small businesses all over the United States, and we’re constantly blown away by their passion, drive, and dedication. We’re thankful each day that we have the opportunity to partner with such a fantastic group of entrepreneurs.
2. Our Leadership
There’s a quote from Goethe that says, “A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.” Our leadership team has done exactly that. Not only are our leaders dedicated to helping great businesses and developing relationships with great publishing partners, but they’re also committed to building a great team and company culture. Which brings us to #3…
3. Our Staff
SinglePlatform would not be where it is today without the enthusiasm, hard work, and creativity of its employees. (No, we’re not just saying that because we work here. It’s really true!) Each of our staff members deserves a huge shout-out and thanks for everything they’ve contributed this year.
4. Our Parent Company
Whenever we need help, Constant Contact is there to give us assistance. If we need advice, they’re there to counsel us. And they share our deep passion for helping small businesses connect with consumers online. We’re thankful for everything that Constant Contact does for us and all the great people we collaborate with there!
5. Our Office
We’re fortunate to have a great office space in Battery Park in New York City, right by the river. We even have views of the Statue of Liberty. It’s easy to take our location for granted, but today, we give thanks.
6. Our Culture
SinglePlatform’s culture is the opposite of boring and stuffy. We work hard to achieve our business goals, but we also have fun together during happy hours, parties, and company outings. We’re thankful to work in a place where we’re excited to come into the office every day.
And last, but not least…
7. Our Readers
Producing content wouldn’t be much fun without an audience to appreciate it. We want to thank you for reading and sharing our articles with others.
What are you thankful for this November? Tell us in the comments!
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Offering discounts, rewards, and other special perks has long been a standard marketing tactic to drive new business. But generic offers aren’t as effective as they once were.
According to a Gallup poll administered earlier this year, customers are increasingly underwhelmed—and even annoyed—by generic promotions. 66% of respondents said that offers were too general, 41% were irritated by unwanted offers, and 53% received offers for a product they already used.
The fact is, consumers are being bombarded by so many communications from so many businesses that it’s easy for them to tune out. Luckily, there’s a way to create more meaningful interactions that will get your audience to pay attention—a little personalization is all it takes.
Here are 4 simple ways you can start using personalization to benefit your customers and your business.
1. Personalized Interactions
Making your interactions personal can be as simple as using a customer’s name in an email or while checking out. A more sophisticated kind of personalized interaction might entail using a customer’s previous purchase history or requests to make recommendations during their next transaction or reservation.
2. Personalized Offers
Coupons and discounts are great—but not if they’re for a product or service a customer will never use. Use your customers’ previous purchase history or an online survey to assess what individual customers are interested in. Then you can be sure to create offers that people will be excited to take advantage of.
3. Personalized Loyalty Rewards
Just as with offers, loyalty rewards can be tailored to the interests and needs of specific customers. If someone is buying a latte from your café every day, give them a free latte after their tenth purchase. If someone is buying school shoes for their kids, give a discount on children’s sports shoes. If you don’t have the technology in place to track specific customers’ buying behaviors, surveys are a great way to find out what would be valuable to your audience. You can even ask for some quick feedback during checkout.
4. Personalized Follow-ups
A personalized interaction, either face-to-face or online, will make a great impression with a customer. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to follow up and keep the conversation going. Follow-ups can range from an exit survey after a transaction, a personalized request to follow your social media channels or sign up for your email newsletter, or a simple thank you for visiting your establishment.
The Bottom Line
Personalizing your communications, services, and offers will make customers feel that they individually matter. If customers feel that you care about them for who they are as opposed to what they buy, they will be more motivated to care about your business in return.