13 Step Road Map to Maximize Business Results with Hyper-Local Marketing

It’s a no brainer. Local businesses that want to maximize their business results should implement hyper-local digital marketing.  Identify your most critical local markets, and deliver compelling localized  messaging, content, programs, offers, and calls to action based on the area or  neighborhood.

 

In this article, you’ll learn…

  • 13 tips for effective local marketing
  • How reaching a local audience can drive business results

More folks turn to the Internet than any other medium—including newspapers, TV, or word-of-mouth—for local information, according to the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, a whopping 83% of local search users contacted businesses offline, with 46% of consumers making contacts over the phone and 37% visiting the businesses in person, and half of all local business searchers eventually made purchases, according to TMP (15miles) and ComScore. Numbers like those demonstrate how digital marketing can take local businesses to a whole new level.

If you are a local business looking to grow (and who isn’t?), follow this digital road map and get hyper-local (with amazing results).

Read more here

 

Learn and Earn Word Of Mouth Marketing For Your Business

If you could master what has been identified as one of the most valuable forms of marketing, the one that most people trust above all others Word of Mouth Marketing 4and the one that is most likely to deliver sales for your company, would you instead choose to ignore it or leave it to chance?

Why would you simply choose to sit back and hope conversations will just happen organically about your brand? If you want to win the marketing race you need to unleash the power of word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

Most of the time, your talkers will come from the everyday actions you take to be a great business – they recommend their friends because they really like you. But sometimes you have to be more proactive about earning those talkers and getting them to spread the word.

Word of Mouth Marketing-GraphLook at the facts. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of  marketing.

According to Susanne Fanning, President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry, marketers need to focus on the three E’s: Engage, Equip, Empower.  If you can master these, you can become the most beloved and talked about product in your category, which will ultimately lead to increased sales. “We’ve seen a good WOMM campaign generate thousands of conversations, recommendations and triple sales in just a year (yes, even for the boring products).”

Engage—Give your fans the gift of you. Engage with them. Listen to what they are telling you. Be part of the conversation about your brand. Be a presence in your fans’ lives. @NikeSupport is a prime example of customer service done well. They constantly respond to followers on Twitter, whether it’s about their apparel, Fuel Band or other products. Every few minutes, you can watch them respond to someone new.

Equip—Give them reasons to talk. It can be amazing products, great service, insider knowledge, social elevation, incredible stories, unbelievable facts or even funny disclosures. It’s on you. It really depends on you understanding your consumers and what they like about you and providing whatever it is they need from you. Apple revolutionizes technological devices and delivers amazing products to its consumers, allowing them to naturally rave about the newest iPhone. Another area to excel in and that’s on the rise is social customer service.

Empower—Give consumers different ways to talk and share. Let them know that they are important to you and that sharing their opinions is important to you. Help them find ways to share within their circles and find ways to help move their conversations around. Lay’s is an excellent Word of Mouth Marketing 2example to highlight how they empowered their fans to “Do Us a Flavor,” and allow consumers to create a new flavor of potato chips to hit store shelves. Over 3.8 million submissions were sent in 2013 making it one of the biggest marketing campaigns for PepsiCo owned Frito-Lay.

As is typically in these times, technology has increased social connectivity making it easier for consumers to do your marketing for you. A post Word of Mouth Marketing 3that takes just a few minutes for a fan to write will be seen by hundreds of friends who trust them, and it can rapidly travel out to thousands more. Very well planned messages have been shared by millions within the span of days.

Look at the Epic Split video by Volvo featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, the video was released on YouTube on November 14, and on the first day the film was viewed over 6.5 million times and shared over 32 thousand times. Then in four weeks it was shared over 6 million times across social networks. It quickly became the most shared film on YouTube. The clip has received extensive media coverage from all over the world as well, and has been the subject of approximately 20,000 editorial pieces online thus far.

It is simply not possible to achieve these kind of results without technology. The results are undeniable; consider the fact that those who read these posts as well as yours could potentially have hundreds of offline conversations with friends, families and acquaintances.

Engaing, Equipping and Empowering  your customers will fuel conversations and drive passionate Word of Mouth marketing that will make a huge difference for your brand and your sales.

Send us examples of your Word of Mouth achievments and be on the look out for Part 2 next week as we share these and more powerful WOMM success stories.

 

Suzanne Fanning is the President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry. Her social strategies have been featured in Advertising Age Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, and PR Week.

 

Technology Trends That Can Level the Playing Field

Writing an article about technology can be quite challenging as the pace of change in today’s tech world is difficult to fathom. By the time many of us feel we are on top of things, we encounter a whole new series of apps and devices that we “must try”. In many cases, technological developments can save us time and money but other times we seem to get bogged down in attempting to grasp it all.

Doug Cofiell blog image

Doug Cofiell CEO Ivystone Group LLC

Three short years ago I wrote an article about prioritizing technology in your business. The major topics in that article included the importance of your website, the permanence of social media and rise of tablets as a business tool. While the adoption of tablets in our industry has been slower than expected these three areas have certainly increased in importance in most businesses. More trends continue to emerge and there are countless developments that can be highlighted.

In an attempt to summarize some of the broader ideas without going into exhaustive detail I’ve highlighted three areas that are important to understand when making decisions about your business. These are not new trends but they will drive business decision making for many years.

  1. The Continued Rise of Mobile. Whether it is the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and “phablets” (those huge phones we are seeing out there) or the emerging Wearables market; the world is becoming more mobile. With WiFi networks readily available and costs falling there is no slowing down this trend. According to a recent study by Millennial Media and comScore, the ratio of mobile devices to people on earth is nearly 1:1.  Mobile is changing the way we work, shop and interact. We are no longer tied to a desk but we are more connected than ever; putting in more hours as our devices allow constant connectivity. With the computing power of today’s smartphone being greater than the computing power that ran the Apollo Space Missions, expect commerce to continue to be transformed as applications get more sophisticated.
  1. Shifting to the The Cloud is certainly an overused term but the shift to this type of computing does have profound effects on business. Because programming is centralized and can be accessed on any device it fosters the mobile culture and provides scalability to smaller organizations. The easiest way to think of the cloud is as a big shared service where you can pay as you go rather than making big infrastructure investments. Most of us use cloud based services everyday whether its photo sharing or music streaming. This trend will continue to grow in importance as businesses attempt to become more flexible and innovative
  1. Use of Big Data or more accurately Smart Data. Another term that is getting tossed around quite a bit and is relevant to most decision makers. As the cost of storing data continues to drop towards zero, companies are using these big databases to analyze patterns and customer trends. The implications of this are not completely downstream yet but all this data will help us understand our customers better and allow us to reach the audience we truly want to reach.

You can find many different cases of where companies use large quantities of data to make decisions. Here’s an example of smart data use on the product development side from Techtarget.com. Express Scripts, which processes pharmaceutical claims, realized that those who most need to take their medications were also those most likely to forget to take their medications. So they created a new product: Beeping medicine caps and automated phone calls reminding patients it’s time to take the next dose.

These three trends fit together with our mobile lifestyle being enhanced by the power of cloud based applications providing data that enhances the user experience. As each area grows in importance, they become more intertwined. The best part for an industry like ours that is made up of small businesses is that these trends all level the playing field; allowing small companies access to the same programs as larger competitors. Businesses can look and feel much bigger than they are by taking advantage of services that are readily available in the cloud on their mobile devices.

Lastly, a note of caution about technology in general. Back in the early 1900’s Gertrude Stein said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”. I am afraid of what she’d say in today’s world given that the amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Technology is transforming the way we do business but it is important to maintain the core tenets of what makes you successful. If we remember to disconnect every once in a while maybe we can keep our common sense!

 

Doug Cofiell is CEO of Ivystone Group LLC, a professional sales agency providing wholesale gift, home and fashion accessories to retailers across the United States. Selling to independent retailers, large national chains and designers under two distinct brands; Ivystone and Simblist Group.

Google Maps-A Big Deal for Small Business

Leverage Google Maps in a way that can benefit your small business.  Check out the obvious Google Maps function (Google Places), to the more creative ways to navigate your small business to bigger and better things -all within Google Maps functions.

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate With Google Maps

 

google 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate with Google Maps

Source: Business-Management-Degree.net

Tips for Building Better Passwords

Love them or hate them, passwords are the initial line of defense in our daily digital lives, usually playing the leading role as gatekeeper to our precious online information.  This inevitability leaves people stuck attempting to remember several passwords and manage them properly, something that usually means they’ll create an easily remembered and crackable password once and use it everywhere.

While online security professionals can enforce policy on a password’s length, expiration and use of character types, typically only a small segment of the population creates truly strong passwords they will remember and avoid using elsewhere.

There are ways to build better passwords with simple changes that can add strength to your current password status.  Note this phrase: two-factor authentication is a big deal in the security world.

With that said, here’s a primer on passwords, easily shared with business colleagues or family members who like us might need a reminder about the importance and practice of online security.

Why are passwords important?                            Password Security

Having a password is the most basic level of protection you can have for the information you are storing in services or applications, be it your personal Facebook account, your online banking site, or your company’s customer tracking system. The problem is that everything is online now, and everything needs a password. So it’s tempting to make your password simple and easy to remember. Perhaps you have a go-to password you’ve used for everything since college. Or maybe you write your password down so you don’t forget it.

If you do any of those things, you’re probably in the majority, not the minority. Creating long, complex passwords that are unique for every service you use is a challenge, and remembering them all is near impossible.  (Learn about Last Pass, a password tool highlighted in the video below).

The problem is that simple, easy-to-remember passwords are also easy to “crack.” That’s likely why a major study found that 76 percent of network intrusions (breaches) in 2012 involved weak or stolen passwords.   A fix may be easier than you might think. For starters, head to Intel’s Password Grader to see just how easily cracked your current password is.

Once attackers have your password, they have access to your account and any information stored in it. From there, they may be able to do all sorts of things, and what was intended as a form of protection could become a threat in itself. For example, if you use the same password across multiple sites, once an attacker has compromised your information on an unimportant one, they can turn around and use it on a site you do care about.

Or say you use different passwords, but the same security questions. They could find the information for your security questions and then set up a fake “change password” request using your information and actually lock you out of an important account.

Bottom line: passwords are an important security measure for every aspect of your life, the key is to make them workable for you yet extremely difficult for offenders to crack.

How can you protect yourself?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk and increase the protection offered by passwords.

Tips for passwords to protect your security

What NOT to do when creating online passwords

 

Retailers: The Point of Sale Industry is Rapidly Changing – Are You Onboard?

To move forward into 2014 as a successful retailer you can’t just assume the key will be in stocking products in demand.

What do the consumers of 2014 want from their retail experience?

Customers want their needs to be served in the most efficient and intuitive way possible and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems are absolutely proving to be excellent channels to achieve this primary need.

The most widespread trend that will be taking over in 2014 will be the integration of mobile options. The days of waiting in long lines during peak retail seasons are numbered. Recognizing the need to adapt to the changing landscape of the eligible client-base – a younger and ‘always-on’ customer – mobile point-of-purchase systems are proving to be a win-win. Not only do tablet or smartphone POS systems streamline services and enhance guest satiMobile POSsfaction, this consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems.

Additionally, the touch screen aspects offered by most mobile POS devices are more intuitive than traditional systems. Mobile POS systems do not require complex configurations or the need for a back-up server. Most employees are efficient with smartphones and tablets, which not only saves time from a staff training perspective, but also offers self-service for customers, yet another example of increased efficiency and differentiating value in the storefront.

Another trend we expect to see hit the POS space in full force next year is the integration of more loyalty programs and customized advertising and marketing promotions to engage with customers at each stage of the purchase process; from driving impulse consideration, all the way to the final purchase. Loyalty programs have been picking up momentum for the past couple of years and are now becoming fully integrated into on-site POS systems, both mobile and traditional. With customer loyalty software programs launching in every type of retail venue imaginable, cashiers are able to sign customers up within one to two minutes, meeting the easy and quick transaction consumers’ today demand while also reminding them of the added-value offered by the vendor.

Excerpts of the above were taken from Jay Graham’s article in Retail Info Systems.

If I can help you in your purchase and understanding of how a POS can make your business more efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Shawn Thompson

sthompson@merchantsolutionsauthority.com

www.merchantsolutionsauthority.com

Winning Holiday Strategies for Retailers and Brands

Winning Strategies for Holiday Planning 2013To help retailers prepare for the busy upcoming holiday season, Retail Touch Points has compiled the 2013 Holiday Outlook Guide, featuring insights from a number of leading industry experts, case studies, including a variety of tips and tactics that will help deliver a joyous holiday season to retailers, brands and consumers.

This year the guide focuses on 11 different topic areas, including:

  1. Omnichannel
  2. Mobile Commerce
  3. Mobile Apps & Sites
  4. Pricing
  5. Inventory
  6. Personalization
  7. Outbound Marketing
  8. Showrooming
  9. Workforce Management
  10. Payment

Download a complimentary copy of the Retail TouchPoints_Holiday_Outlook_Guide_2013.

Use the guide to plan a successful holiday sales strategy.  Make plans to engage with your customers early and consistently throughout the season.

Let us hear about your own insights and successes.

For an abundant selection of wholesale gift and home products for your retail operation, connect with Ivystone and Simblist sales teams.

 

Retail Touch Points delivers cutting edge content directed towards acquiring, serving and retaining customers in the new world of multi-touch retailing.

Brick & Mortar Retailers – Still the Desired Destination for Shoppers

Great news from a recent study by Synqera, where results show that more than two-thirds of Americans prefer to shop in traditional, brick and mortar stores than online commerce sites. The survey found that shoppers gravitate towards retail locations that offer more customized shopping experiences, but the dreaded “checkout” remains the number one pain point for 73% of U.S. consumers.

Personal service is a big factor that drives customers to brick-and-mortar retail stores, Synqera found 80% of shoppers say they’re more likely to shop in a store that provides a customized experience for them.  Custom coupons at checkout was a requested by over 76% of respondents.

Two-thirds of consumers are more likely to shop in a store where they receive personal suggestions while shopping.  While 75% make more purchases if they are in a good mood while shopping.

Take heed and make certain your salespeople actively engage with customers, greeting them when they enter, suggesting add-on products to go with what they’re purchasing, or offering advice and insights. (This is a great way to combat showrooming – if customers know they can get the info they need from your sales staff, they won’t have to turn to their phones to look it up and possibly find the product somewhere else for less).

Showrooming is very real and very damaging for retailers that can’t easily compete with e-retailers.  In an effort to combat it, insights like those that Synqera found can help to pinpoint where retailers should focus their time, money and innovation, even in the most unlikely or obvious places, like the checkout line.

There are also ways to make suggestions without salespeople. For instance, you can display groups of products that complement each other together, such as a camera with accessory battery packs, straps and cases. You can use signage to suggest “Buy two, get a third free,” “Check out our sales items in the back of the store” or “Sign up for our email newsletter and save $5 off your next purchase.” You get the idea; suggestive signage both inside and outside the store becomes crucial to sales success.

Suggestions help engage the customer with your store.   The more actively engaged the customer is inside your store, the better they feel about shopping there.

Synqera_Brick&Mortar_customer_experience_infographic

Brick & Mortar Customer Experience Infographic

Why Does Free Cost So Much?

The old adage “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is a reminder that while something on the surface may sound free it may actually be very costly. This is especially true with Point of Sale (POS) systems. Some of the most recent marketing ploys I have heard have been where one company “gives away” a POS but then requires you to process your credit cards exclusively through them at an excessively high rate.

freeI have also heard of another company that would “give you the POS software  for free”, only if you purchased the equipment from them along with a support agreement. Make certain your new POS does everything you need it to do and don’t purchase features which are not needed.

A good Point of Sale should pay for itself by increasing product turn and helping to increase margins.

For more information on POS and Business Solutions contact Shawn Thompson at Merchant Solutions Authority:

sthompson@merchantsolutionsauthority.com

www.merchantsolutionsauthority.com

p.s. Be sure to look for Shawn and the Merchant Solutions Authority table at the summer markets!

8 Solid Ideas to Add Customer Names to Your Email List

Grow your list, grow your engagement. A clean, well-managed email list can be your best asset, whereas “dirty” lists with out-of-date information are a leading cause of deliverability failures and are sure to damage your sending reputation.  Adding customer emails to your list

List hygiene is the process of removing “bad” addresses in a timely manner. Good list hygiene practices are essential to avoiding spam traps and keeping your bounce rates low – key drivers of your reputation. There is no better way to assure consistent deliverability success than by regularly cleansing your list of hard bounces, unknown users and other inactive addresses.

Businesses and brands need to check their email list size on a regular basis. It’s a good to track three metrics: net growth of your email list, net growth of email IDs for your direct mail file, and a steady increase in opens and clicks -this implies some form of interest in your email campaigns.

Take a hard look at your preference strategy. There are three tips on capturing preferences: ask them (your customers), observe them and group them (into categories). Use your preference page on your register or in a notebook on your check-out counter, to ask the consumer about their other channel preferences.  Don’t forget to inform them about your social media sites-where you post info about your business.

Take these extra steps: First, put up your preference page to sign up for email on your social media sites and websites.  Second, use popular social sites  (make sure it is where your customers are also hanging out) and include testimonials and content from your customer/vendor base within these sites and on your email campaigns. Third, post your email campaigns on your social media sites.

Here are 5 additional quick tips for using email marketing to promote and grow your business.