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Small business marketing plans encouraging

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Finally, some good news about small business owners’ outlook for the future. Signs of increasing optimism have finally shown up as concrete numbers.

A study by MerchantCircle during the first quarter of 2011 shows positive expectations on all fronts.

The numbers certainly aren’t of the pop-the-cork variety. But as most of us know–for better or worse–when companies fear for the future, the first budget item to go is marketing.

At long last, small business owners are planning to spend more on marketing in the next few months. That  means they’re encouraged that their revenue will grow in 2011.

Of course, we’re happy to see the study. But that kind of optimism benefits everyone.

Business blogging don’ts

Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Building customer loyalty, Copywriting and content, E-mail marketing, Print materials, Selling tips, Special promotions, Web design Be the first to comment

Whether you’re creating or updating a Website, an e-mail marketing program, printed materials, or engaging in any type of social networking, providing content that your customers want and need is not only essential, but also highly cost effective.

Giving customers marketing materials that focus only on how wonderful your products and services are is a waste of your time and money.

Hubspot, a company that markets business software, offers some solid advice about business blogging. The company recently published a free e-book that highlights 13 mistakes that business bloggers make. Number 1 is not integrating your blog with your Website. Here’s number 2 :

“Mistake:
The content you publish on your blog is too heavily focused on you – your products, services, achievements, and why you’re awesome – and it’s seriously lacking thought leadership.

“Why It Hurts:
If people are visiting your blog expecting to find educational content and all they find is you talking about how great your products and services are, you’re not going to accomplish the same goals or attract as many readers as you would if you published thought leadership-based content.”

Amen.

To read or download the free 13 Business Blogging Mistakes & Their Easy Fixes, (registration required),  click here.

B2C marketing tip: Free shipping is a great hook

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An interesting item, written by Alex Mindlin, appeared in today’s New York Times. A new survey shows that by offering free shipping, small businesses gain an advantage normally enjoyed only by large retailers.

Kenshoo, a company that makes search-engine marketing software, recently analyzed 3 million online transactions. The company found that of consumers who clicked on search ads, the number of transactions was up 87%, while the size of the average purchase was down 10%.

What that means, Kenshoo explained, is that when free shipping is added to the mix for small retailers, consumers no longer worry about getting over a spend threshold to qualify for free shipping. They buy what they want from the merchant who offers free shipping, and then they move on.

If your company can afford to ship for free, or at least for a very low flat rate, it’s probably well worth considering–and publicizing everywhere!

To read the entire item, click here.

Tech news for small business marketers

Posted in Advertising, Building customer loyalty, E-mail marketing, Search engine optimization, Selling tips, Social media 2 Comments

Many of us struggle to keep up with the tech trend du jour. However, an interesting tech news item suggests we might want to slow down. Or maybe even re-think that strategy.

A major trend for 2011 is that many people are actually trying to “de-tech” their lives, according to a new study by ad agency JWT. While we’re all super-connected, some of us apparently are tired of depending on the computer or smartphone as our lifeline.

Ann Mack, JWT’s director of trendspotting, notes, “Two or three years ago, a major trend was mobile media as the ‘everything’ hub where all digital activity — communications, entertainment, gaming, our personal schedules — will reside. Last year, it was location-based technology.”

This year, as reported in today’s Marketing Daily, “there’s also a counter trend resisting that “everything” tendency of mobile digital technology to keep people connected. ‘There have been lots of studies on the effects of technology, how it leads to attention span problems and lack of creativity, and weaker language skills. People are becoming more aware of that and want to re-engage in the world. It’s not about being a Luddite, but more logging off or mono-tasking,’ she says.”

Despite this bit of tech news, there’s still encouragement for those who crave even more tech-connectedness in their lives.

Another 2011 trend noted in the study is “gamification,” or marketing via all types of games, in an effort to better engage customers.

To read the entire article, click here.

Good customer service isn’t a differentiator, it’s an expectation

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One of my favorite sources for marketing guidance is  OPEN Forum, which is operated by American Express.

In its marketing section, AmEx features articles from some of the top names in the field.  Among them: John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing.

Jantsch is always right to the point. He offers no-nonsense insights that can benefit any small business owner. The next few paragraphs are excerpted from his “7 Steps to Creating a Sure-Fire Marketing System,” which ran on Nov. 12th. Great advice, as always:

“Develop strategy before tactics.

“Most business owners take the idea of the week, tactical approach when a good marketing strategy is the most important aspect of any successful marketing implementation.

“Before you decide on direct mail or a Facebook page, you must adopt and commit to a marketing strategy. All tactical decisions should be filtered through your strategy to see if they make sense or support the overall marketing strategy…

“…a marketing strategy may seem foreign or out of reach, but it’s really little more than determining and narrowly defining your ideal client and creating and communicating some key point of differentiation.

“The challenge in this comes when business owners realize it means they can’t be all things to all people, and saying they offer good service isn’t a differentiator, it’s an expectation.”

To read the entire article, click here.