The holidays will be upon us before you can change your clock back! As a small business owner, this is an important time of year for many reasons. Although we think of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday as big shopping days for retail stores, the holiday season impacts service related businesses and non-profits as well. Many small businesses make much of their income during the holidays. Non-profits rely on Giving Tuesday and holiday events that focus on the generosity of donors. It's also a time to thank our customers for their loyalty.
I was an Authorized Local Expert speaker for Constant Contact for many years and the workshops I facilitated during the holiday season were always very popular. Attendees learned about the types of promotions and special events they could offer, how to time the promotions, harnessing email and social media to connect and expand their reach with customers.
This year I am happy to offer you, as a valued reader of my blog and newsletter, the Holiday Marketing 101 Guide, published by Constant Contact that you can read in the comfort of your office, your living room, or even in bed in your jammies. You will find a comprehensive approach to planning and executing your marketing plan, as well as ways to carry your efforts into the new year. Take a deep, cleansing breath. You don't have to do it all. Pick what feels right to you and your customers. Just click the button to download the guide here:
P.S. If you are not currently using email marketing, or are frustrated with the service you've chosen, I encourage you to take Constant Contact for a FREE spin using my direct link. If you decide to purchase I will give you a promotional code to use as my gift. Try Constant Contact today.
I grew up as the daughter of an entrepreneur. My Dad, Charles L. Grandey was an independent insurance agent and his agency was located in our home. This picture of our Chevrolet Impala (I believe) depicts the life of a business person vs. family guy. Magnetic door ads were just beginning to be used in the 1960's. My Dad, an innovator and always at the forefront of marketing, ordered these sweet rolling ad banners from a local print shop and everyone knew when he was driving around town. The ski rack on top was for me, as I loved to ski and the road to Mount Mansfield in Stowe, VT was always open!
Dad was rarely without his fedora (wool for winter and straw for summer). He was a big part of our community, a member of Rotary, on the administrative board of our church, civic committees including the Water and Light and Soil Conservation. I never thought of him as having a political agenda -- he just volunteered to serve his community wherever he could. I'm sure there were many heated discussions at some of these meetings, but people respected each other's opinions and worked for the good of the community.
My father probably always hoped my brother would follow in his footsteps as an entrepreneur, taking over the family business. As fate would have it, my brother was more into education. He would never know that I was the one with the entrepreneur gene in the family!
Some of the many nuggets of information I learned from Dad included:
Put your customers first and show up when you're needed
As an insurance agency in Northern Vermont, he insured a lot of family farms. Every time the local volunteer fire department's siren sounded he walked up to the fire station to find out where they'd been called and would drop everything to be present at a barn fire to reassure his clients that all would be OK. Sometimes I went along for the ride, as the community surrounded the affected families.
Don't judge or assume
One night at dinnertime, someone knocked on the door to our home (not the office) and Dad welcomed the visitor in, leading him to the office. I remembered that he was wearing green work clothes, dirty farm boots and smelled badly. After he left I probably made a rude teenage comment about him and Dad looked at me and said, "Don't ever judge someone by the way they look. Bennie is our area's first millionaire. You never know someone's real story. Bennie was a chicken farmer whose farm was just outside town. You honestly had to roll the windows of your car up when you went past the coops. He had an inground pool and laundry hanging on the line and he gave land to all his family to farm.
This is the most difficult lesson I learned from Dad. He worked very hard, won multiple awards for his agency growth, brought in a partner who later purchased the business and business name of Grandey Insurance Agency. He also missed a lot of family events, rarely took a vacation and had 3 heart attacks before he was 60. After his retirement and selling the agency, he took up antiquing and enjoyed having a little shop, talking to customers, doing some picking - it was just his style. Luckily, he lived until he was 86, but it was not without the family trying to help him avoid the "stress" of self-employment. Today we have many ways for entrepreneurs to reduce daily stress - yoga, meditation, holistic health services, etc. We don't always pay attention to ourselves, though. Working hard is OK, but we must pay attention to the toll it takes on ourselves and our families.
I honor my Dad, miss his quiet strength and sense of fair play, community, and commitment to providing a good life for his family. I miss his humor, like the time he made my guy friends shovel the porch roof after a landslide of ice and snow fell on it the day after he knew they'd been partying. They did it because it was Charlie who asked, not because they wanted to be freezing their **sses off in zero degree weather.
A recent study by the Direct Market Association found that email marketing delivers a $38 return-on-investment for every $1 spent. In fact, email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel – including social and search according to a report by Monetate.
I have been using email marketing in my business for over 19 years ((yes, it's been around for that long!) If you've ever attended one of my workshops you may have heard me talk about the importance of your "marketing hub". In the world of marketing, you own two things -- your website and your mailing list. They are the hub. Social media channels are important, but since you don't OWN them you cannot CONTROL them.
Whether you are new to email marketing, or you've been using email to reach your audience for a while, here are 3 ways you can improve your results.
1. Know Your Audience
Not everyone is your customer and your customers are not all alike. Email marketing is a "one to many" tool, allowing you to reach a large number of people through one message yet speak to them individually. Make sure you are writing for one subscriber, not your whole list.
Not this: "To all of you who are looking forward to spring . . ."
But this: "Are you looking forward to spring as much as we are?"
People are more likely to subscribe to your mailing list if they will receive content that is relevant to them. If you owned a pet shop, you wouldn't talk to cat owners the same way to talk to dog owners, would you? In this case, you would segment your mailing lists based upon interest. Ask subscribers if they are a dog owner, cat owner, bird owner, reptile owner, etc. Let them self-select what list they join based on relevant content. Create private lists, too (ie. clients, event attendees, etc.)
2. Less Is More
Creating a robust mailing list takes time. Email marketing is a permission-based tool. You must ask for the privilege of receiving someone's email address. Where do you ask? Everywhere. Ask permission on restaurant menus, packing slips, at the cash register, on event registrations, in person at networking events - and on your website. The amount of information you ask from a subscriber can affect how fast your list grows. In the above graphic, the example on left was from a non-profit's website. Asking for a street address, phone and fax number could be too much information. Only ask for what you need. Would a zip code or state field help you without asking too much? Would adding a birthday field encourage sign ups? Maybe, especially if you offer a birthday surprise!
In addition to the fields you choose for your opt-in form, it's also helpful to let your subscriber know what they will receive and the frequency of the mailing. For example, if you are a yoga teacher you may send daily meditations to your mailing list. This is fine as long as your subscribers want that content delivered to them. Whatever the frequency you choose, be sure to keep your promise.
Why do you open certain emails from brands and skip over some, or unsubscribe (or hit the spam button) for others? The answer is simple - relevant content, stuff that's important to you. It doesn't have to be long, in fact, less is generally more. No one has time to read lengthy emails and people prefer watching video more than reading anything.
In addition to segmenting your mailing list to provide more relevant content to your audience, there are other ways to take your email marketing to the next level. Constant Contact, the company I use and recommend for small businesses email marketing, makes it easy to personalize your messages, from greeting your subscriber by name, to automating a series of emails based on user opens and clicks. Whatever information you collect becomes part of the database used to populate your emails. Going back to the example of the pet shop, if you asked your subscriber what their dog's name is when they sign up, you can include it in your message. Who doesn't like to have someone remember the name of their pet?
By the way, my dog's name is Riley. She's the sweetest Golden Retriever you'll ever meet. You can find hundreds of pictures of her on her Facebook album, "The Life of Riley".
The digital world doesn't stand still and finding ways for our businesses to be found online can be challenging. Google announced in December that Google+ is shutting down on March 7th following a data breach and low consumer usage. Each social media channel has a different appeal and demographic but among the top platforms based on usage are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of all the channels, Facebook still has the broadest usage and widest demographic. However, small businesses are often frustrated with Facebook's algorithm which continually makes it harder to be seen in a crowded marketplace. The push to a "pay to play" model has made it difficult to use the platform without paying for Facebook advertising. Still, having a presence on Facebook makes sense for most small businesses in order to create brand awareness and relationships with potential users of our products and services. The good news is that Facebook is a quality not quantity network. Posting 2 or 3 times a week can be sufficient as long as the content is relevant to your audience.
Here are 5 ways to harness the power of Facebook for your business:
This is the story of how one small business took control of their online marketing and lived up to their brand.
The owner of a well established, family owned construction company was finding it difficult to keep up with everything he needed to do to manage his crews and find time to keep up with his marketing. He had a professionally designed logo, lettered trucks and a business card, but that is where things became a little messy.
A family member had created his website years ago, but it was riddled with typos and outdated information. He had a Facebook page, which included a snapshot of him standing in front of a wall dressed in a T-shirt and unshaven. The page sat abandoned with only65 likes, no posts and linked to a domain that didn't exist.
An online search came up with a few very positive Yelp reviews. Unfortunately, he never claimed his Yelp listing. and didn't know they existed. He had no Google listing which prevented him from being found in a search of his competitors. A Better Business Bureau listing revealed an A+ rating, and a YP listing was also unclaimed.
The owner also was frustrated and wanted to dump AOL as his current email provider, but didn't know what to replace it with. That's when he called me.
WHAT WE DID.
These changes helped a small business live up to the quality and the promise of its brand. They are now ready to take on the new year looking as great online as they do in person!
It's easy to let the lure of summer let us kick back a little, slow down, unplug, maybe take a well deserved vacation. This is a good thing, assuming we've let our marketing continue on auto-pilot, as I wrote about in my last post.
September is right around the corner, which means that the last quarter of the year also looms on the horizon. What you do NOW to create and maintain your marketing strategy and campaign execution can make a profound difference in your end of year numbers.
So, what can you do in the middle of August to prepare to hit the ground running when it's "back to business" in September?
The first thing to do is create a visual roadmap for September - December. This calendar will allow you to map out everything that may affect your business and marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season.
Begin by adding special dates (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (if you sell online), Giving Tuesday (non-profit giving), etc. Look for special recognition days, weeks or months that are important to your industry and could be used in social media.
Will you be planning any special events, ie. customer appreciation day, a sales event, workshop, pop-up shopping day? If so, look at your calendar to strategize a date that is far enough in advance to be able to market sufficiently.
Once you know what event you will hold, break out the tasks that need to be done. You can do this on paper now and add it to a digital task list later, or an excel or Google sheet which can be shared with others. What is the task, who is responsible, when is it due? If you're depending on others to create print material, update your website or create a campaign online, be aware that they may be busier as well. Don't wait until the last minute to place the work order.
Your social media, email, and traditional marketing campaigns need to support your seasonal "offer". Timing is everything. Don't overlook the time needed to produce, print and ship marketing collateral. What can you pre-schedule and what must you do manually? Inboxes are inundated with offers at this time of year. Do you have a strategy for resending an email to your subscribers who did not open your offer?
It may feel a bit overwhelming now to think about fall and holiday marketing, but with a little planning now, you can reap the benefit of a fatter bottom line on December 31st. You can do this!!!
If you are a solo-preneur, finding time to do everything you need to do on a daily basis to market your business can feel daunting. When it's time to take a few days off, have you thought of how you will keep your business "running" while you're away? Ask yourself these questions.
How "unplugged" will you be?
1. Create a vacation auto-reply for your email.
You can use a basic out of office message, but why not toss in a little marketing when you have the opportunity. An out of office message that includes marketing goes something like this:
Hello and thanks for your email. I’m currently away until mm/dd with limited / no access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [NAME] at [EMAIL or PHONE]. In the meantime, did you know I have a monthly e-newsletter? Yep, you heard that right! A monthly dose of all your favorite [COMPANY] content sent right to your inbox. To ensure you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, sign up for my newsletter here. [insert email sign up link] I’ll be sure to get back to you when I return on mm/dd. Thanks,
2. Create a voicemail greeting for your work phone.
If you use the same phone for work and pleasure, being away from the office can be a bit tricky. The best advice is to NOT pick up the phone and encourage callers to leave a voice mail.
3. Send an email to your mailing list subscribers.
The timing of this email may depend on your type of business. If you let people know you're on vacation in 5 days, you may get last minute requests for service just when you're trying to lighten your work load. I prefer to send this shortly before I will be unavailable for a period of time. The content for this message can be similar to a voice mail out of office greeting, Consider including support service contacts.
4. Pre-schedule social media content.
Just because you're away, doesn't mean that you can't be marketing. There are apps available to help. Here's a pretty comprehensive list of free and paid apps you might want to consider: sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-scheduling-tools/
If you are only posting to Facebook, did you know that you can schedule posts directly from Facebook? Just create a post, but instead of clicking on Publish, click the down arrow beside it and choose Schedule. You can choose the date and time you want the post to appear. All your scheduled posts will show up in Activity.
5. Pack the essentials.
There are times when you may want flexibility to do a little work. Be sure to pack your wall charger, solar charger, laptop or tablet. If you need wi-fi, know where hotspots are available, or better yet, avoid the public wi-fi network altogether and add tethering to your mobile phone plan.
GDPR is a new European Union data privacy law (short for the General Data Protection Regulation) that goes into effect on May 25, 2018. Its purpose is to create a harmonized data privacy law across all the EU member states. As a small business owner, if you email EU subscribers, you must take steps to comply with the new regulations or face stiff fines.
If you use Constant Contact as your email service provider, rest assured, the company is certified under the EU-US and Swiss-US Privacy Shields and transfer and protect the personal data from the EU and Switzerland consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Shield program, governed by the Federal Trade Commission and approved by the EU Commission.
If you do not provide goods or services to EU there is nothing you need to do. This IS a good time to review how you obtain subscribers to your mailing list and how you communicate to your subscribers what information you collect.
Read more about steps recommended by Constant Contact and what they are doing to make sure you are compliant:
There has been a lot of news lately about protecting our privacy online, major websites being hacked and data stolen. As a small business, you may not have given much thought to how your website interacts with visitors. You may have heard about SSL and encrypted data, but thought it didn't apply to you as you aren't e-commerce.
What is SSL, anyway and do you need it?
SSL stands for Secured Sockets Layer and appears in your browser window as https://www.yourwebsite.com instead of http://www.yourwebsite.com. Basically, it’s how you communicate with customers so they can browse, buy products or services, and share information safely with you online.
But, you don't sell products online, so you don't need SSL, right?
Wrong. Do you have a newsletter signup on your website? Do you have a contact form? Do you have a member area of your website that is password protected? Any information you collect from your visitors should be done in a secure environment.
Last fall Google announced that it would begin warning visitors if they visit a website that is NOT secure. This is due to go into effect with the release of Google Chrome 68 in July. So, even if you don't use Chrome, many of your website visitors do and may be scared away from entering your website. Apparently, other browsers (Firefox, Safari) will be following suit soon as well.
One more reason to act now is that Google may downgrade your page rank if you continue to use an unsecured server.
So, how do I get an SSL certificate and what does it cost?
You can contact your web developer for assistance or your web host. If you used a DIY service like Wordpress, Weebly, Wix or SquareSpace, there is an easy free fix. The cost for an SSL certificate ranges from about $60 to $150/year.
Liz Provo and Mass Marketing Resources has been named a Solution Provider All Star Award winner by Constant Contact, an Endurance International Group company.
The annual award recognizes the most successful 10 percent of Constant Contact’s customer and Solution Provider base. Constant Contact Solution Providers are businesses that provide services tailored to the needs of small businesses or nonprofits—everything from web developers, to online marketing consultants, to advertising agencies and more. Criteria used to select this year’s All Stars included the following during 2017:
“I am honored to once again receive this award,” shares Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources. “I love to share my knowledge about email marketing with my clients and watch them become better marketers."
Mass Marketing Resources provides email marketing and social media services to small businesses and organizations looking to develop stronger relationships with their target audience.
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.