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A family member had created his website years ago, but it was riddled with typos and outdated information.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.
Have you ever received an email from a brand where you were greeted as "Dear valued subscriber", or "Dear friends and family"? How valued did it make you feel? You may wonder why this cute little guy is staring at you. Everyone loves guinea pigs, right? Maybe . . . maybe not. Let's talk about personalization.
75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from retailers that personalize their message (Accenture: Personalization Pulse Check Survey). The sender of that email may have forgotten about the importance of making the message personal to the recipient. Our job as marketers is to provide relevant content designed to create action - a phone call, visit to your website, sign up for an event or buy a product. When content is irrelevant, the subscriber is likely to unsubscribe from your mailing list, or worse, hit the spam button.
So, how can we make our emails more interesting for our readers? Here are 6 tips to get you started:
1) Segment your lists: Include an option on your sign up form to allow subscribers to self-select lists that are most valuable to them. A pet shop may include questions, "Love dogs?" and "Love cats?" to let the subscribers choose what kind of offers they'd like to receive based upon their interests. A yoga instructor may have a mailing list called "studio news/class updates" and another called "daily meditations".
2) Personalize your greeting: This one is easy. It starts by asking for a first name on your sign up form and making that a required field. Note: Only ask for information you truly need on your sign up form.
3) Personalize your subject line: Consider using your subscriber's first name in your subject line to spark interest. "Hey Liz, need a getaway?" This would get my attention, at least enough to open the email.
4) Send relevant, personalized content: I've got nothing against guinea pigs, but I probably don't want to read about how to care for them. Send me a message on how to get Riley to stop digging holes in my yard and I'm all over that. Talk to your customer using words like "you" and "your", and talk less about your business. Make it about them.
5) Personalize the sender: An email coming from Acme Lawn Care is less likely to be opened than one coming from a real person like Joe Brown, Acme Lawn Care. Unlike big corporations, as small businesses, we have the ability to connect with our customers on a more personal level.
6) Add some style: More than 50% of emails are opened on a mobile device and subject lines are getting shorter as a result. Emojis have gone way beyond multiple smiley faces in a Facebook post or a thumbs up in Messenger. They are also becoming more mainstream in email subject lines, used as a way to get the reader to stop scrolling and pay attention. Emojis also make people smile which is good. Here's what my subject line could look like: "Hey Liz,🏖️need a getaway?" The beach umbrella lets me know that the content of the email may take me to my favorite spot in the sand. Use emojis wisely and sparingly. Here's a good resource to find an emoji for anything: https://emojipedia.org . Emojipedia lives on my toolbar for easy access.
Remember my motto, "Marketing should be fun, not painful!". You can do this!
Earlier this month Easthampton held its 5th Annual WinterFest. As the chair of the event, one of my roles was to communicate with venues, performers, participants, vendors and volunteers. Using email marketing, online registration tools and social media, I worked with my committee to make sure the day ran smoothly. Of course, planning an outdoor event in February in New England often involves the possibility of weather interfering with activities -- too much snow, not enough snow, melting ice, cold and windy conditions -- it all happens and we've learned to plan for contingencies.
Luckily, we were fortunate to have perfect weather. As the day unfolded, I made my way to many of the 15+ venues, monitoring volunteers, resupplying programs, checking donations, All in all, everyone seemed to be having a great time, so our job was done, right?
While we could have relied on our observations during the event, did we really know how well we did?
The day after WinterFest I emailed surveys to attendees, volunteers and vendors at our craft fair to ask for feedback. By segmenting the surveys, I focused on specific content that was pertinent to the recipient. I also made the surveys anonymous to encourage participation. The responses we received will help our committee plan venues, signage, pricing, volunteer needs and more for next year.
Surveys can also help our small businesses and non-profit organizations. We can ask our customers, clients and donors how we're doing, gauge interest on new products or services, and get valuable feedback on fundraising events.
A big reason why businesses don't survey is often due to the fear of hearing negative comments, similar to fearing bad reviews on Yelp or Facebook. Please don't let that fear discourage you from using surveys. The information you receive is important and any negative feedback can help you make positive changes.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Ready to get started? Decide what kind of survey you want to send (customer satisfaction, event follow up, product survey, etc.). Choose a survey template. Hint: If you use Constant Contact for your email marketing you may already have surveys built into your product, or it can be added. If you don't have an account you can try it free here.
Other options include Survey Monkey, Zoho, Google Forms, and Survey Planet. Some offer free versions which have limited capabilities or export options. Happy surveying!
Last summer I celebrated my birthday by getting back to my creative roots. I always wanted to learn to paint watercolors. I think I may have posted something on Facebook about my idea and shortly after found myself walking out of Valley Art Supplies in Easthampton with my first watercolor painting kit. A friend of mine invited me to her art studio to "play" with my newly acquired paints and we spent a relaxing, fun afternoon together while she taught me how to prepare my paper, lay down a wash and plan my painting. Watercolor must be applied from light to dark, so before the first brush stroke is laid, you really need to plan the entire project.
What does this have to do with marketing, you may ask? Well, whether you're creating a watercolor painting or marketing your business, both require careful planning.
Here are some signs that you may be in need of a strategic digital marketing plan:
I publish a motivational quote on Facebook every Tuesday at 11:11 AM. I've often been asked how I chose the timing of the post and I respond, "There is no magic significance. It just helps me be consistent." The image shown here was from this week's post. As I turn the calendar to September, I've been thinking a lot about time. September signals a new season, one that's filled with renewed energy and, for small businesses, often comes with a renewed commitment to end the 4th quarter of the year strong.
Scheduling an email campaign, sales promotion or event all depends on the best timing for your audience. We tend to underestimate how timing can affect the outcome of our hard work. I've been asked twice in the last couple of weeks to help promote an early September event for which no outreach had begun. The timing for the first event was difficult as it was to occur the day after Labor Day, after a long weekend, in the midst of school starting. The second event required a tremendous amount of foundational structure, including a website that needed to launch prior to the event. The first session was planned for September 11. My advice was to push the start date out a week due to the sensitivity of holding an event on the anniversary of 9/11. Unfortunately, change meant that the last session would be held over the Columbus day long weekend.
For many small businesses owners, the 4th quarter represents their highest income during the year. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and for non-profits, Giving Tuesday are all opportunities for not only big retail, but also for small retail and service-oriented small businesses.
By now, you should have your 4th quarter goals in place.
What will you offer - a discount, a customer appreciation event, etc? How will you promote - print paid advertising, local calendars, email promotion, Facebook events, groups, paid advertising? Do you have the in-house staff to support your efforts or will you outsource?
If you're unclear about your goals, I'm always happy to chat.
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.