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Smarter Email Marketing

Why You Need an Integrated Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

By Rieva Lesonsky

marketing

Too many small businesses make a common mistake when it comes to their marketing efforts. Are you one of them? You are if you separate your marketing efforts into silos. Sure, you have marketing plans for your business and/or website, that may (should) include search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing, mobile solutions, SMS (text) marketing, voice search, video, events and social media, but often they’re independent of one another.

This may sound simplistic, but your marketing should not be siloed. You need a holistic, integrated, cohesive marketing strategy that connects your various marketing channels and platforms.

How do you develop an integrated marketing plan?

Step 1. Define your customer

Do you really know who your ideal customer is? There are so many factors that fill out the profile of your ideal customer, including demographics (age, gender, level of education, race, income, where they live, relationship status, if they have kids, etc.) and psychographics (which looks at characteristics like emotions, values, desires, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices.)

Take this information and craft a customer profile or buyer persona. Once you have a better idea of who your customer is and what motivates them, it’ll be easier to create marketing campaigns that connect with them.

Step 2. Define your objectives

The objective of marketing is not just to sell stuff. Marketing helps you:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Explain and inform what you do and how you do it
  • Attract customers
  • Form relationships and alliances
  • Increase sales
  • Improve customer engagement

This contributes to the most important reason businesses market themselves—to build trust among customers.

That’s your overall goal. But you need to have incremental goals, which can include the elements listed above, or others, such as expanding into new markets, attracting strategic partners, launching a new product/service, etc.

Once you identify what you’re hoping to accomplish, create a realistic plan that is specific to that goal and measurable. It’s not good enough to say, “I want more customers to come to my restaurant.” Instead, perhaps you want to attract more families on the weekends.

Step 3. Marketing

At this point you should know who you’re targeting, what message you’re sending, and how you plan to reach them. Not all marketing channels are equally effective. But if you craft the right message to the right channel, your chances of success will be higher. Delivering a consistent message is important to building your brand, but you can swap out photo assets and some wording to more finely target your intended audiences.

If you’re driving consumers to sign-up for your email list, it’s smart to send them to landing pages where the marketing message is amplified. If you use AWeber for email marketing, you can create multiple landing pages in minutes with the brand new AWeber Landing Page Builder. You don’t need a website or technical skills to get started with this software. AWeber’s Landing Page Builder is the quick way to get your business online and start converting visitors to email subscribers.

This is where the integrated approach comes into play. Siloed marketing efforts might involve multiple marketing channels, but the efforts are not coordinated or integrated. They don’t cross promote. Think about how much more effective your marketing would be, for example, if you amplified your direct mail messages with a follow-up email marketing campaign.

Step 4. Measure and repeat

Another mistake small businesses often make is not measuring the results of their marketing efforts. All the social platforms offer some type of analytics. So does your search engine. There are third-party tools that also offer analytics. And of course your marketing should include some type of measurement device, like A/B testing. AWeber enables you to split test subject lines, email designs, templates, images, body copy, call-to-action text and so much more. It can make all the difference in your email marketing efforts.

See what works and what doesn’t and use that knowledge to inform your marketing as you go forward.

Crucial elements of marketing

Social media usage has skyrocketed

For a medium that didn’t exist 20 years ago, social media is now ubiquitous. According to Hootsuite, 82% of North Americans are active social media users.

Once you establish your social presence, create a company social media policy. What will you talk about? What do your clients and customers want and/or expect from you? Who will manage your social platforms? How often will you post? Consistency is key to achieving your goals. Remember, social media works by getting other people to amplify your message.

Direct mail is hot again

Direct mail is making a comeback. Why? One reason is, ironically, trust. Younger consumers—millennials and zoomers (Gen Z)—don’t necessarily associate direct mail with “junk mail” the way older consumers do. The younger generation doesn’t receive a lot of actual mail, so sending physical mail is a way to stand out from the crowd.

But, as novel as it is, direct mail alone is not nearly as effective as it can be if you couple it with email. Media Post suggests starting with a direct mail message and following up a week later with email. It also recommends sending two emails for every piece of direct mail you send.

You can make direct mail part of your automated marketing campaigns by setting up triggers to send direct mail after a prospect takes certain actions, just as you would with a drip email campaign. Both the email and the direct mail piece should use the same design elements and messaging to reinforce your brand and your offer.

Email remains king

As we’ve already alluded to, no campaign will work without a healthy dose of email marketing. According to stats compiled by 99firms.com:

  • 80% of marketers claim email is best for customer acquisition
  • Email marketing has a $44 ROI for every $1 spent
  • Global email users will hit 4.3 billion by 2023
  • Email is the preferred promotion channel for 60% of consumers

Underscoring these stats, eMarketer reports more than 90% of  internet users regularly send email, “making it one of the most common digital activities in the US.” And “data from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) indicates checking email is the most common activity on PCs as well as mobile apps.”

If you want your marketing to be truly effective, take the time to craft an integrated marketing approach. It may take you a little more time, but the payoff will be worth it.

In partnership with AWeber

Integrated stock photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Borrowing Tactics

tactics

How Retailers and Service Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Each Other

All businesses have tricks of the trade—tips and tactics that help them attract customers,  increase revenues and grow their companies. However, these solutions tend to be known and practiced within specific industries. Retail businesses, for instance, have their secrets to success and service businesses have theirs.

But what if we mix it up? Are there retail tactics and techniques service businesses can “borrow” to improve their businesses and vice versa?

Retail tactics

First let’s examine some of the proven tactics retailers use. This blog post on Vend offers 17 tips to increase retail sales. Some are equally relevant to service businesses. Let’s take a closer look at a few.

1—“Hire and develop employees who can offer exceptional customer service.” Almost every retail expert advises retailers to hire wisely, making sure all employees are “passionate and knowledgeable” about the product mix and trained to provide great customer service. Like retail employees, your service staff needs to be trained to recognize what your clients need and want and how best to deliver those to them.

While service businesses are likely hiring skilled staff knowledgeable about their industry, they often overlook the importance of providing stellar customer service. Whether you’re an accountant or financial advisor, run a graphics design firm or janitorial service, even if your employees are good at what they do, if they’re not equally strong working with people, your business could be in trouble.

2—“Promote corporate social responsibility (CSR).” Being a good corporate citizen should be part of every business’s core strategy. But it’s often easier for retail businesses to promote their CSR than service companies. Try these CSR activities to let people know your service business is dedicated to helping the community.

Service businesses with storefronts that attract customers throughout the day, such as hair and nail salons, spas, gyms, etc. can donate a portion of a day’s sales or profits to a charity or other worthy cause. Local schools often hold fundraisers at retail or food establishments. Perhaps your service business could host one in your facility.

If you own a car repair company or you’re a consultant, accountant, financial advisor, real estate agent, lawyer, graphic or web designer, tutor, dentist, etc. check out local community events. Many have booths where you can, while not dispensing advice, give out free, relevant checklists, such as general tax tips or how to stage your home for sale, how to go green, or five books every middle school child should read. This gives your audience value, which builds affinity for your brand.  Make sure your logo and contact info is on the documents and try to collect names and email addresses to build your email list. Of course,  make sure you ask for permission to email them.

If it’s appropriate, pick a cause that makes sense to your business mission and promote it. Contractors, home remodelers, interior designers, for example, could work with an organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Any service business can sponsor a local sports team (kids or adult) or a local marathon or other race.

The idea here is to be active and visible in your community.

3— “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” Retailers are always replenishing inventory, bringing in new products. This creates natural opportunities for them to regularly communicate with their customers. Savvy retailers employ a variety of communications methods, including postcards, text messaging, websites, e-newsletters, social platforms, etc.

Service entrepreneurs can use all those methods as well. Some service businesses have organic, seasonal opportunities to send communications. Accountants should be sharing tax tips both during the tax season and at the end of the year. Cleaning businesses should promote their services for “spring cleaning” and getting ready to host holiday celebrations. Car mechanics and repair companies can promote “how to winterize your vehicles,” while hair salons can promote new styles for prom, graduation or other seasonal occasions.

All service businesses should have information to share. The easiest ways to do that are via their websites and email newsletters. If you don’t yet have an email newsletter, try out AWeber’s Smart Designer tool, which makes creating email newsletters as easy as clicking a button. It automatically builds a ready–to–use, branded email template for your business based on your website design or social media page, so you don’t have to spend time designing a template from scratch.

4—Sell products. Obviously, retail companies are in the business of selling products. Service businesses can easily add a retail component. Whatever products you sell should be relevant to your business. Accountants can sell accounting software. Most salons already sell products (nail polish, shampoo, etc.) but you can add other merchandise your customers would like, such as hair accessories, jewelry, scarves, etc. Maid services can offer specialized cleaning products. Some service businesses, particularly ones specializing in offering information, such as marketing companies, can sell subscription newsletters or e-books.  Almost any service entrepreneur can find books of interest to sell to their clientele.

If you have an office, you can sell these products there, but setting up an e-commerce component on your business website is easier than ever these days.

Service business tactics

5—Be the expert. Since service entrepreneurs are usually specialists in their fields it’s easy for them to position themselves as industry experts. They can augment that by teaching workshops or classes or becoming a go-to source for local media.

Retailers can easily do that as well. Depending  on what you sell, you can become the local expert on the best toys for kids, beauty, fashion, and food trends, design ideas (furniture and décor), houseplants consumers can’t kill, recommended reading, etc.

Underscore your expertise by highlighting what you know on your website and in e-newsletters. You too can promote your expertise to local media, using press releases or just sending a note via email. Be active on social media—use it not only to promote sales, but to “show off” your bona fides.

6—Social proof.  Unlike retailers, service entrepreneurs generally sell something that can’t be seen. Therefore, explains our friends at Small Business Trends, they find other ways to get their prospects to see the value in what they’re selling.

Social proof is one solution for that. Consumers feel better about making a purchase (B2B or B2C) if they know other people have made it as well. Service business owners do this by using testimonials in their marketing materials. In fact, including social proof in your email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to drive more sales through email.

Retailers can do this by showing how others have bought—and used your products. Ask your customers to send pictures for you to post on your website. If you sell clothes and accessories, consumers can send pictures of themselves in their outfits. If it’s home décor or furniture, etc., they can send you pictures of how your products look in their home or yard.

Ask your customers to post these pictures on their social platforms as well, tagging your business. Of course, you’ll need to amplify their posts. Also monitor the ratings and review sites, so you can promote the good reviews and try to fix the bad ones.

7—Focus on feelings. Another tip from Small Business Trends for service businesses is to focus on prospects’ feelings, because “emotion fuels most of our decision making.” Think about how financial advisors appeal to people’s emotions about major life moments, like having a baby, buying a house, retirement, etc.

Retailers can appeal to consumers’ emotions in your marketing materials. Using language like “this rug will make your home feel cozy,” or “show the world you’ve made it by wearing this elegant watch,” or “make your pet feel loved by feeding them organic food.”

Most consumers buy products that make them comfortable and safe. Especially with big purchases, you don’t want to push them out of their comfort zone. However, if you sell inexpensive, impulse items, you have a little more leeway to sell them merchandise that makes them feel glamourous or sexy or adventurous.

Borrowing business tactics from industries other than your own can help make your business stand out from your competitors. Consumers prefer to do business with companies that aren’t doing the “same old thing.”

In partnership with AWeber

Small business tactics stock photo by ESB Basic/Shutterstock

 

Getting Your Business in Gear for 2020

By Rieva Lesonsky

As we head further into 2020, the consensus seems to be it will be a good year for small businesses. “The economy is strong,” says Sharon Miller, managing director, head of small business for Bank of America, “driven by consumer spending. According to Bank of America data, consumer spending is up 5.5% on $3 trillion worth of transactions, which will help drive momentum in 2020.”
And in a new poll of small business owners from BizBuySell, many business owners are optimistic—with 34% of them saying the small business economy will improve, while only 15% expect it to decline. The one caveat is 23% are “unsure.” The uncertainty seems to spring from concerns about a “potential recession,” which ranks at the top of the list of things they’re worried about for 2020. In fact, 48% say they’re either “very concerned” or “concerned,” and another 32% are “slightly concerned.”

If you too are worried about a recession, you cannot hold back on your 2020 marketing efforts. Marketing is the key to attracting new customers and retaining current ones. So, it’s smart to start the year by formulating a marketing strategy—one that encompasses all aspects of marketing.

But first, you need to make sure your various marketing channels and strategies are integrated into one marketing plan—an omnichannel approach. Whichever marketing methods you use—whether it be mobile, email, content search engine marketing, voice, direct mail, public relations, advertising, social media, etc.—they need to be intertwined—not in separate siloes.

New marketing methods to try

One of the most underused marketing channels by small businesses is video. The Search Engine Journal says, “With the popularity of YouTube, dynamic imagery, and AR, video content and visual storytelling will continue to rise in 2020.” Plus, 87% of consumers say they want businesses to use more video when they communicate with them.

Perhaps the most underutilized marketing method is voice marketing. Sure, it’s relatively new, but small business owners need to add voice marketing to their marketing plans this year.

ComScore predicts about 50% of all searches will be via voice and 30% of searches will take place without a screen this year. And in a new survey from Capgemini, 24% of those surveyed say they’d rather use a voice assistant than visit a website.

If you market to younger consumers—they’re already hooked on voice—65% of 25-49 year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Before you deploy a voice marketing strategy, you need to make sure your local listings are up-to-date. In some cases the voice assistant will actually read the consumer your business listing, so accuracy is key.

You can’t ignore social media

At this point you may think you have all your social bases covered, but do you? In the newly-released Digital Marketing Trends report from Vivial, more than one-quarter of small business owners say their lack of knowledge about marketing is hindering their current marketing efforts. When it comes to social media, for instance, while most business owners say their social media marketing has been successful, only 40% run paid ads on social. Vivial says, “Using a mix of organic AND paid content is key to build followers and fans on social platforms. Hyper-local targeting, user-generated content, videos, smart influencer partnerships and social communities are other ways small businesses can enhance and build out social media marketing strategies.”

A report in The Manifest shows how involved consumers are with businesses on social channels—74% actually follow businesses on social media and 96% of these consumers engage with the companies they follow. Underscoring why paid ads on social can be key—The Manifest report says 67% of consumers have made a purchase after seeing an ad on social media.

Smarter email marketing

According to eMarketer, emailing is one of the most common digital behaviors, and still delivers the highest ROI for businesses. Instapage, which creates personalized landing pages says personalizing your email marketing is key this year, especially because 52% of customers say they’ll find somewhere else to go if their emails aren’t personalized.

But bringing your emails into the new decade also means it’s time to transform static email messages into dynamic webpage-like experiences. AMP for Email technology lets email marketers make their messages interactive within the inbox, so recipients can have more dynamic experiences and don’t have to leave the message for a browser to get more information about an offer.

AWeber has been using AMP for Email technology since it was announced. Check out the cool ways they’ve upped their email game with AMP for Email for inspiration.

And, they’re making it easier for their customers to tap into AMP for Email as well. AWeber just incorporated an AMP for Email-powered drag & drop element into its message editor, making it easy for anyone—regardless of their technical know-how— to make their emails interactive with the click of a button. The tool is called the AWeber Image Carousel, and it let’s users drag the element into their email template and add images to present in the carousel. This adds visual context without taking up more space in an email.

If “amping” up your email marketing was one of your New Year’s resolutions, AWeber devised a plan to help you get started, before January’s resolve turns into February’s distractions. If you need more help, you can register for their webinar about how to use the AWeber Image Carousel on January 17.

But, wait, there’s more

No 2020 small business marketing plan is complete without addressing other vital marketing components, such as content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute provides 90 content marketing predictions for 2020 that are very helpful.

The competitive landscape for small businesses gets more challenging every day. The key to keeping up—and standing out—is marketing. The more you cross-promote within your marketing channels, the more equipped you’ll be to have an outstanding 2020.

In partnership with AWeber.

Email marketing stock photo by FuzzBones/Shutterstock

 

Beating the Post-Holidays Blues: 10 Ways to Boost Your January Sales

By Rieva Lesonsky

The holiday shopping season is off to a rollicking start. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) 189.6 million consumers shopped the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday—a record number. Projections are that trend will continue—in fact, eMarketer predicts will ring up sales of more than $1 trillion over the holidays.

But does all this largess in November and December mean January sales will suffer, getting your New Year off to a less than auspicious start? Not necessarily—with a little effort you can lay the foundation for success in 2020.

Consumers often need extra incentive to spend in January. They’re dealing with the credit card bills from their holiday shopping sprees, trying to keep New Year’s resolutions to spend less and fighting frigid winter weather.

So, what can you do to fight all that? Here are 10 tips that might help:

1—Plant the seeds now. Cultivate customers. When your store is crowded with December shoppers, start cementing your relationship with them—both your regular customers and the new ones that discovered you for the first time. Capture their names and add them to your email lists. Once you have them signed up, craft more engaging emails with these tips from AWeber.

2—Get involved with the community. Host a fundraiser for a local school or charity. Donate a part of your profits to the cause. This will not only bring people into your business but will show your community you’re giving back.

3—“Woo” your new customers. How do you lure first-time holiday shoppers back into your store in January? Send them a thank-you email this month while their shopping experience is still fresh in their minds. But you’ll likely need to sweeten the pot a bit—include a promotional offer that starts in January.

4—Promos. Speaking of promotional offers, consumers are always looking for a bargain these days. Offer all of your customers a reason to come into your store in January, whether it’s a clearance sale, a product that complements what they purchased during the holidays, or just a simple “we want to get to know you better” discount.

5—New year, new look. Is it time to give your marketing messages a New Year’s makeover? Check out the AWeber Smart Designer, which can help you create new email templates in a flash—while reflecting your brand and saving you money on design. This great tool works so quickly, you can create your new look this month and be ready to launch in January.

6—Embrace the future of email marketing. It’s now possible to incorporate dynamic, interactive elements in your email marketing with AMP for Email. AWeber recently added one of the most popular AMP for Email features—an image carousel—to its drag & drop email builder, making it easy for marketers to provide more visual context without taking up additional space in messages.

7—Help people keep their resolutions. Depending on what type of business you own, you can tap into common New Year’s resolutions. If you own a restaurant, promote the healthy options on your menu. If you’re in the wellness, fitness or beauty business, you can craft a campaign around the idea of “taking some me time.”

8—Out with the old. Clear out your slow-moving merchandise. Bundle products together creating bargain packages.

9—In with the new. January is the perfect time to “test” some new products, menu items, services. Don’t shake things up too much but look for items that are complementary to your current merchandise mix. Service businesses should consider adding retail products.

10—Gift cards. As we mentioned in our last post, gift cards are a popular gift item this holiday season, with the NRF predicting 59% of consumers plan to buy gift cards. So, for the rest of this month, promote the sale of gift cards. You could offer a small discount, or a larger one if people buy a multi-pack. Gift cards are the gift that keeps on giving. They not only bring people back into your store or onto your website, but people generally spend more once they’re there than the face value of the card.

Whatever you do, you need to promote it. An integrated campaign of social media and email marketing can be crafted quickly this month and deployed in January to reach the most customers.

In partnership with AWeber.

January stock photo by MidoSemsem/Shutterstock

 

How to Drive Holiday Sales

By Rieva Lesonsky

holiday

The countdown is on. In just a few days the official holiday shopping season kicks off. And it’s expected to be a strong one for retailers. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey reports consumers will likely be spending more than $1,000 each this year, a 4% increase from 2018. And NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast expects overall holiday retail sales will grow 3.8%-4.2% for a total of $727.9 billion-$730.7 billion.

Between Thanksgiving day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday consumers are gearing up for a 5-day shopping spree. Indeed, eMarketer predicts Cyber Monday will be a record-breaker, with sales hovering around the $10 billion mark—which would make it the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history.

Update Your email List

As Adweek notes 2019 will have five fewer shopping days and one less weekend between Black Friday and Christmas this year than last. In fact, Adweek says 2019 is the shortest holiday season since 2013. To make up for that lost time many businesses have already started their holiday promotions—I’ve been getting weekly “Black Friday” emails for a weeks now.

As long as you’re planning your holiday marketing make sure to include Green Monday (December 9), which has no real meaning—it’s a day eBay created, but consumers expect good deals and Free Shipping Day (December 17) as well.

So if you want to grab your share of the holiday sales juggernaut, your marketing needs to start now! If you’re running behind, don’t worry, it’s not too late. You can still craft an effective email marketing campaign—and fortunately email is one of the most productive marketing methods.

To gear up for this busy season, you’ll want to make sure your website is mobile-ready—and your marketing materials should also be formatted in a mobile-friendly format. Last year, 54.4% of online purchases made on Thanksgiving day came from smartphones—the first time more people shopped on mobile devices than laptops and desktops.

If you can, quickly update your email list. Send an email asking people to sign up now, so they won’t miss any holiday discounts or promotions.

Countdown to Cyber Monday

Since Cyber Monday is expected to break sales records, it will likely pay off to target an email campaign for this super-shopping day. AWeber details a 5-email content calendar plan that will help you put your Cyber Monday campaign together quickly. You should read the post for details, but here are the basics:

  1. November 29: send a “teaser” email
  2. December 1: send a countdown email
  3. December 2: launch your promotion in the morning
  4. December 2: resend your promotion in the afternoon
  5. December 3: send a post-promotion email

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Does your business offer gift cards? It should. Gift cards are a great way to boost holiday sales. And they work for almost every public-facing business, not just retail stores and restaurants. Salons, spas, gyms, food delivery services, cleaning services, etc. can all profit from gift card sales. And gift cards are not just for physical outlets either. They work just as well on websites and can be set up in a matter of hours.

The good news is gift cards are in high demand. The NRF says 59% of consumers plan to buy gift cards this year, topping their list of most popular holiday gift items. Like other products you need to market your gift cards—promote them on social media, in your marketing materials and on your emails. You can even offer gift cards as promotional incentives, for instance, spend get a $5 gift card for every $75 you spend. Selling cards in bulk to corporate customers is an easy money-maker.

The real secret of why gift cards are so valuable, other than some people never bother to redeem them, is consumers usually spend more than the face value of the card when they redeem them.

Top Factor Driving Online Sales

If you want to increase your online sales, you have to offer free shipping. According to Mintel, a global market research company, free shipping is the number-one factor for consumers considering making an online purchase. In fact, 48% of consumers will spend more to reach the free shipping minimum (you determine what price point you’ll offer free shipping at). Offering free shipping isn’t really a choice these days—the NRF reports 75% of consumers expect free shipping—even on orders under $50.

Incentivize Your Customers

Most consumer surveys show customers want:

  • Discounts, coupons
  • Loyalty rewards
  • Faster checkout
  • New product notifications

These notifications are key to keeping your audience up-to-date and engaged with your brand, especially around the holidays when shoppers are looking for the best deals.

But, if your customers haven’t yet opted-in to receive your emails, sign up form incentives can also be a great way to build your email list and set the stage for strong relationships with your audience.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need loads of blog content or eBooks to provide valuable freebies. For instance, checklists or printables don’t take hours to put together, but they provide a lot of value. If you’re looking for outside-the-box ideas that don’t require tons of effort, this blog post from AWeber is chock full of actionable, creative incentive ideas that will help grow your email list.

Send Personalized Recommendations

Aren’t you more likely to buy something when a company sends you a recommendation perfectly tailored to you? Sending recommendations is made easy with an email service provider that offers automations. Maybe a subscriber clicked a link that gave you insight about what they like. Great! Make sure they receive emails about it.

Remember, the relationship with your subscribers doesn’t end with a Cyber Monday sale. Make sure your customers are opting-in to receive email and keep building those relationships by providing value in your email marketing.

In partnership with AWeber

Holiday stock photo by MJTH/Shutterstock