How to Market Your Small Business with Customer Service

feedback_form_excellentHow big a part does superior customer service play in your marketing strategy? Do you consider customer service to be part of your marketing mix at all? The belief that marketing stops once you’ve enticed someone to come into your store, or give you a call, or send an email, is a mistaken one. Marketing is more than luring prospects to your business. It’s about persuading customers to return. Customer service is paramount in helping you achieve this. Today, providing high levels of customer service is more important than ever because, as we’ll discuss later, your clients are doing more of your marketing for you!

Re-evaluating Your Approach To Customer Service

Customer service should always be a priority, but in a marketing sense you might want to revisit your approach to the most important people in your business. Existing customers are an undervalued resource, and far more effort seems to go into attracting prospects. Think of the time and energy you spend on luring new customers through your marketing tactics, and compare that with the amount of effort you devote to marketing to people who have already done business with you.

Call it retrospective marketing if you like, but whatever you call it, remaining attractive and viable to existing customers should be a major part of your business strategy. Do not ignore this lucrative market. Following up and providing customer service after the fact can have a big pay off down the track. Contacting them and checking they are happy with the previous transaction should be a starting point. Staying in touch and keeping them aware of special offers, or new products and services, should be the next step. The existing customer liked you enough to do business with you once – why not do more to maximize your chances of repeat business? The amount of service you provide after the transaction could seal the deal….again.

When Your Customers Become Your Marketers

We live in an online society; we meet online, we communicate online, we entertain ourselves, we shop online…and we express our opinion online. So many websites and online forums now exist that we can, if we choose, express an opinion and confidently expect it to be read right across the world. It is word of mouth gone viral, and if you run a small business it’s a phenomenon you must be aware of.

‘Word of mouth’ no longer resembles village gossip, with a limited reach. When the internet is involved, and a huge audience is exposed to opinions about your small business, the opportunity to exploit it is too good to be ignored. To do this, and to ensure those opinions are favorable, you need to take your customer service to a higher level than ever before. By doing so, you are creating a form of marketing that money just can’t buy. It’s free, impartial and authentic.

Conversely, a drop in your customer satisfaction level can hurt your business big time. People are more likely to complain than they are to compliment, and when they take their complaints online, the fallout can be disastrous. Again, delivering better customer service as a deliberate part of your marketing strategy is key to minimizing the number of negative reactions towards your small business.

If you start to think of customer service as an integral part of your marketing mix, you will go a long way towards improving standards and increasing client satisfaction. You expect other parts of your marketing to be perfect, such as advertising and promotions, and by thinking of customer service in the same way, you will be more likely to make a conscious effort to lift standards in that area as well. Great customer service should be a priority anyway, but knowing it can be beneficial to your marketing mix should be all the motivation you need to actually provide it.

Cynthia Lee is a marketing and advertising strategist working with  Zoomstix branded USB sticks.  When not dreaming up new promotional ideas, she loves keeping an eye on the latest technology and gadgets, good food and furry animals big and small.  

How To Build Brand Loyalty and Get More Repeat Clients & Customers

For large and small businesses alike, brand loyalty is central to building a good business. Mega brand Disney describes brand loyalty as a reciprocal relationship that begins with the business  — be loyal to your customers in order to receive loyalty in return.  Why do you want to keep people coming back?

Heart

Consider these brand loyalty stats, including:

  • 25-100% profit increase from a 5% increase in customer retention
  • 65% of new business comes from referrals
  • Repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers

Keep people coming back as repeat buyers

According to one study by the Harvard Business Review, brand loyalty was a determining factor in only 25% of buying decisions. Some say brand loyalty is on the decline as a new generation of shoppers increasingly shop by price. A trend that is enabled by eCommerce.

Still, building brand loyalty is a worthwhile pursuit. Getting new customers generally involves marketing and advertising and can be an expensive pursuit. By comparison, bringing existing customers back is more affordable.

The benefits of repeat buyers include:

  • Increased market share
  • Higher profits
  • Goodwill among customers
  • Increased word-of-mouth

How to influence brand loyalty

There is no one size fits all formula for building brand loyalty and strategies constantly change. Companies do this all different ways from loyalty rewards programs to creating brand experiences, but here are a few considerations:

Consistency: Quality products and services will help you get customers, but consistently delivering on those promises will help build loyalty. Deliver on your brand’s promise not just in your products but in all aspects of your business and in each interaction with customers. Customer service is an opportunity to deliver on your promise to your customers.

The role of shared values: According to a Harvard Business Review study, 64% of consumers sited shared values as the primary reason for having a relationship with a brand, making shared values the largest driver of brand loyalty. So that means, letting people know what your business stands for outside of making money is necessary for creating brand loyalty.

The engagement myth: There is a popular thought among marketers today that greater engagement leads to brand loyalty. The truth is not everyone wants to have a relationship with your brand. Some people do, and others don’t. Rather than increasing the number of interactions with everyone, whether they are social media posts or emails, you will do better figuring out who in fact wants to have a relationship with your brand. Then you can focus your loyalty building efforts on those people.

 

Three Tips for Running Your Own Business from Biggie Smalls as Interpreted by Marc Ecko

Drawing inspiration or reference from a modern-day philosopher, the late, great rapper Biggie Smalls (A.K.A Notorious B.I.G.), Marc Ecko has some advice for entrepreneurs.

Ecko and B.I.G.

B.I.G. illustration from allhiphop.com

Hip-hop fashion mogul, graffiti artist, founder of Complex magazine and all around wildly successful business person (Marc Ecko Enterprises is a now billion-dollar global business, but he started with relatively little), Marc Ecko knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. That’s why he wrote his recently-published book, Unlabel, a guide to commercializing your personal brand without selling-out.

In this Skillshare class, Marc shares some lessons about succeeding in business. A creative mind, he extrapolates these principles from the lines of a Biggie Smalls’ song, Ten Crack Commandments. That’s right, though Biggie was talking about street drugs, Marc Ecko says this has everything to do with you – the new entrepreneur – and below is a sample of a few of the lessons that Marc extrapolates from Biggie’s lyrics.

See all 10 “commandments” in this Skillshare class.

Starting Your Own Business? Well, Don’t Do This

Don’t get stuck in linear thinking

The line from the Biggie Smalls song is, “Never let no one know how much dough you hold.” The obvious interpretation of this line is that you don’t want to let people know how much money or success you have, for it might inspire jealousy. Marc goes a bit deeper though and interprets this line to mean something else. Noting the tendency for entrepreneurs to seek validation in finite numbers, Ecko suggests that to be successful you have to stop counting. Stop counting your money, stop counting your wins and your losses, stop counting your Facebook likes and Twitter followers. As Ecko points out, the notion that x + y = z does not always add up, and when you manage your own expectations in a linear way you get caught up in the downside.  As he points out, there are no straight lines in nature. So why design your own expectations in a linear fashion? Entrepreneurship after all is a journey.

Don’t get too comfortable

Again, in this one, Marc extrapolates meaning, this time from Biggie’s commandment “ Never trust nobody.” The concept of trust in business is a delicate one as Ecko points out. Entrepreneurs and business people have to decide who to trust and how much trust to extend. Trust, indeed, is a precious commodity and some would argue that all success is based on one’s capacity for strong relationships and these are always built on the bedrock of trust.

Trust too little and you risk being paranoid, which will not enable powerful relationships but instead destroy your credibility. But trust too much and you can get burned. For Marc this is mostly an issue of being too comfortable. Let’s follow him along this train of thought. The etymology of the word trust goes back to the word comfort. And  just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no comfort in business, at least according to Ecko. Are you allowing yourself to be comfortable in business? If so then there’s a good chance you’re not being “intellectually sober” enough to succeed.

Never get high on your own supply

On the topic of intellectual sobriety, here is a concept that is easy to grasp, “Never get high on your own supply.” To demonstrate this point, Ecko shares the story of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars trilogy. In his talk Ecko asks, Who killed Jabba the Hutt? He points out while it may seem that Princess Lea killed Jabba the Hutt, it was actually Jabba’s own hubris that  led to his demise. There is a lesson in this. Starting a business is exciting, and it’s easy to fall in love with your ideas and the hope they hold. But don’t let it get to your head. In other words, never get high on your own supply.

What does hubris look like in the world of an entrepreneur? It may be an inability to listen to advisors, the pursuit of notoriety or a belief that you are an untouchable super-genius. This last one can lead to a failure to work hard, which could certainly pose problems. So remember, in the words of Marc Ecko, hubris killed Jabba the Hut. And in the words of the late great poet and artist Christopher George Latore Wallace, lovingly known as Biggie Smalls, never get high on your own supply.

 

Nine Ways to Make More Sales This Holiday Season (Get Started Now)

Regardless of the economic climate, a massive amount of revenue is always generated during the holiday season. In fact, the holidays can account for almost half of a retail store’s annual earnings. With the stakes so high, marketing teams find themselves under tremendous pressure to step up their game.

Christmas in the distanceHowever, this doesn’t mean the holidays are a total free-for-all. Especially when dealing with days considered sacred by billions, a certain level of finesse is required. Thankfully, as long as you adhere to core marketing principles, effectively advertising during the holidays is something you can accomplish.

Tips for Increasing Holiday Revenue

Although tactics vary, successful marketing usually boils down to providing consumers with value and convenience. More often than not, the best way to achieve this during the holiday season is by helping to alleviate the stress that comes from a lengthy shopping list. Listed below are a few tried and true methods for increasing conversions. For more strategic information consult Amazon’s Ecommerce Holiday Guide.

Set the Proper Aesthetics: Aesthetics play a crucial role in creating a conversion friendly environment. Brands typically generate a vibrant holiday atmosphere by customizing logos and shopping carts. Although this is wise, remember to project a distinct holiday feel across social media channels. If done correctly, all visual elements of your brand will radiate the holiday spirit without appearing tacky.

Repackage Items and Offer Holiday Bundles: Items that would normally get ignored have the potential to stand out during the holiday season. To make the most out of this opportunity, spend time breathing new life into your inventory. Ideally, you should market your products as the perfect gift for a specific niche.

Another wise approach is to group items of a similar nature together in a holiday bundle. Consumers tend be very fond of this, mostly because it allows multiple people on a gift list to be crossed out simultaneously. Businesses, on the other hand, benefit from the liquidation of low-selling merchandise.

Wishlist: Offering a wish list tool is especially important during the holidays, as people are thinking about gifts for others and themselves. After all, “what do you want for Christmas?” is repeatedly asked every year. A wish list allows a people to answer this question without feeling awkward about it.

Perfect All Things Shipping: The importance of offering reduced shipping rates during the holiday season has been well established. However, one must handle this strategically. For example, free shipping should only be made available after a minimum purchase amount is reached. Taking this route gives a shopper incentive to spend more money while still generating a sense of value. Aside from shipping rates, be sure to display return policies and expected delivery times clearly. Failure to do this leads to a headache that lasts long after the holidays are over.

Driving Quality Traffic

While having a loyal customer base is hugely important, during the holidays people are buying for themselves (which means going back to their favorites brands), but they’re also buying for others, which might mean trying new and different brands. Because of this, it’s important to attract new customers—ones who are searching for brands their loved ones might like. Focus on implementing some of these proven strategies for driving those wandering customers to your site.

Paid Social: In a recent survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents indicated they use social media for shopping advice during the holidays. When coupled with the fact that social networks have made extensive improvements to advertising platforms, holiday revenue generated from social media could soon reach unprecedented levels. Capitalize on this by utilizing paid social campaigns to promote holiday coupons and special offers.

Paid Search: If you haven’t already secured competitive keywords, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to rank highly by the holidays. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t profit from the exposure search engines provide. In fact, retailers witnessed a 36% increase in paid search revenue last year.

On Cyber Monday 2012, for example, ad clicks increased by over 40%. Still, it’s important not to jump into this blindly. If you wish to make the most out of PPC opportunities, ensure that you understand the fundamentals of launching a paid search campaign.

Newsletter: From the 90s until now, the inbox consistently remains one of the best places to engage with consumers on a personal level. During the holiday season, your emails should make subscribers smile, reminisce, and of course, get excited about your holiday offers.

Blogging: It doesn’t matter if you’ve established e-commerce site or a small town brick & mortar store, blogging is something that cannot be dismissed. Leverage this platform during the holidays by immersing readers in relevant content and strategically placing calls to action. For some excellent tips on how to blog throughout the holidays without offending anyone, check out this excellent article.

Bigstock’s blog starts rolling out holiday themed free images during the appropriate seasons to celebrate. Both theming the blog accordingly as well as giving something to those looking to follow suite is always going to go over well.

Associate with Non-Profits

Writing heartwarming blog posts and tweeting holiday cheer is great, but it proves meaningless if your words aren’t accompanied by action. For this reason, one must never ignore the power of associating with reputable charities.

Whether you help sponsor a charitable event or donate a portion of your holiday earnings to a good cause, make sure to demonstrate that your brand is concerned about more than simply generating revenue. Remember, people are much more receptive to a business that conducts itself as a responsible corporate citizen.

In the end, it’s entirely possible for a business to meet holiday sales projections without sacrificing sincerity in the process. It’s largely just a matter of providing value and knowing where to spend your advertising dollars. By going into the holidays with a respectful, concrete plan of attack, you’ll find yourself with plenty of reason to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.

No More Self Promotion – How to Properly Use Twitter as a Business

twitterHopefully by now, if I started to harp on about the business benefits of Twitter, then I’d be preaching to the converted. You all know that Twitter is great for self-promotion and linking followers back to your website. You’re perfectly aware that it’s fantastic for networking and keeping up to date on what’s hot in your industry. But what you might not realize, and what needs to be emphasized, is what a powerful tool Twitter can be for customer service, for building real connections with your clientele, and engaging them in conversations that emphasize your expertise.  Considering that noise, too much self-promotion, and spam posts are the top three reasons given by Twitter uses for unfollowing people or businesses, it’s definitely time to think before you tweet. No longer will tweeting links to your blog posts cut it, and gone are the days when you could shamelessly chirp on about your fantastic sale. These days, if you want to be really heard on Twitter, then you’ve got to earn your part in the conversation. If all this is making you a little nervous, fret not. By adjusting your Twitter tactics, and paying attention to the subsequent tips, you’ll see your number of followers grow, your credibility soar, and your business reap the benefits of transfixing the Twittersphere.

Assist Your Customers to Keep Them Happy

Good customer service lets your customers know that you care about them, improves your reputation and leads to repeat business. Twitter can help you deliver excellent customer service, as its lightning-fast nature allows customer issues to be resolved in a jiffy. A customer with a problem is likely to get extremely irritated spending an age listening to hold music while being charged for the privilege, whereas a customer that tweets a question, gets on with his or her business, and is supplied with an answer in a reasonable timeframe could even be pleased enough to tweet again about their positive interaction with your business. It’s cheap, effective and to the point. So how do you do it effectively?

Track your brand

Use a tool such as Hoot Suite or Tweetbeep to track the conversation surrounding your brand. Monitor all keywords that could relate to your brand and its features, so that you can quickly respond to any negative rumblings.

Make your presence known

Let your customers know that you’re trying to engage with them via Twitter by asking them to follow you and placing a button allowing them to do so prominently on your website. If they don’t know they can reach you there, your presence is pointless.

Give quality responses as quickly as possible

Respond to any negative tweets regarding your business quickly, using an “@reply,” remembering Twitter’s public nature. Transparency is the key; anyone can see your conversation, so be as pleasant and helpful as possible. If a customer is particularly upset, reach out to them on a more personal level to prevent escalation.

Engage and be authentic

A half-hearted response is worse than no response at all; it lets your customer know that you’re aware of their problem, but you don’t care enough to resolve it. Listen to your customers, and engage with them on a personal level (more on that in the next section).

Connect with your Customers to Improve Your Image

To be a successful brand on Twitter, you have to be credible, and one way of doing this is to develop a reputation as a trusted source of information on your particular subject, says Michael Brito, for Mashable. Remember, too much self-promotion is a sure fire way to annoy your followers, so follow the 80/20 rule when tweeting. Eighty percent of your tweets should be conversational, personal, or beneficial to your followers, leaving just 20% for outright self-promotion. Keeping to this magic ratio doesn’t have to be difficult, and here’s how:

Be part of the conversation

A great way to gain followers and influence people is to enter into relevant conversations surrounding your business. Again, use tools like Tweet Deck to monitor relevant conversation surrounding your business, get a feel for its tone, discover influential users, and, when you’re ready, interject your opinions. Providing a unique perspective and pointing to pertinent content online adds value to a conversation, giving your business credibility. Follow the major players, and if you continue to impress, they’re likely to follow you back.

Initiate discussion

Even if you’re in a “boring” niche, it’s possible to think outside the box and discover what’s relevant to your customers. If you sell soap on a rope, you don’t always have to talk about soap on a rope. Think about your target demographic (OK, perhaps I chose a bad example) and discuss other topics they’re likely to be interested in (bath mats?).

Point to relevant content Even if you find it difficult to create useful content yourself, mention others who do and your Twitter cred will increase significantly.

Remember You’re a Brand

To a make the most out of Twitter, it’s important to give your account the attention that it deserves. From your Twitter ID to your Bio, you need to convey, and protect, your brand’s message with every last breath.

Spruce up your background image

Find an appropriate image for your background to help you define your brand from the offset. It’s a great place to show off your work, and should reflect what you, as a business, are all about.

Write a social media policy

If you’re using Twitter for business purposes, then a social media policy is a must. Write a set of guidelines that detail how you and your employees should and should not use Twitter (and other social media platforms) to prevent situations arising that could damage the reputation of your brand. Make sure it’s comprehensive and specific. Define words like ‘appropriate’, be clear on confidentiality, and ensure that anyone posting on your company’s behalf is extremely familiar with it.

And Finally…

Twitter, when used properly, can do wonders for your business, so be sure to use tools like Tweet Deck to find out what works and what doesn’t. What were your most popular tweets? Why? If you can figure this out, and repeat it, you’ll be on your way to social media superstardom.

Marketing Your Business Online?

Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis – two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Streamline administrative tasks and convert more site visitors to customers with SimplifyThis.

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5 Reasons Why Pinterest is Good for the Fitness Business

To those who have yet to be acquainted, Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that adopts the concept of pinning all sorts of ads and notices onto a pinboard. Users can create and customize boards, organize them under categories, and re-pin – which would mean repost or share on Facebook or retweet on Twitter – from other boards.

Pinterest More and more business owners have been latching onto Pinterest to promote their goods and swear by the phenomenal increase in business. The fitness business is one such industry that should benefit handsomely from this unique social networking model. Here’s why.

Pinterest is image-driven

Let’s face it, beautiful is compelling, and Pinterest is brimming with just that. Just log on to the site and the power of visuals becomes immediately apparent: you definitely feel like clicking on all the pretty images. Imagery can:

  • deliver information quickly
  • build motivation
  • create an indelible mental imprint – it is that powerful.

If done thoughtfully, pictures can truly communicate thousands of words better. Are yoga poses not better understood if pictorially demonstrated rather than through paragraphs of words? In the same way, a motivational meme on working out is more forcefully imprinted if it includes a ripped body, a well-shaped butt, or tight abs. The visually driven concept of Pinterest encourages the creation of inspirational vision boards of the ideal body, which is the ultimate end of any fitness program.

Pinterest has millions of users

Pinterest has more than 70 million users worldwide. What business would not want to tap into that?

Pinterest loves linking and organizing

On Pinterest, the number of categories a user can create is endless. While pictorial content is king on Pinterest, videos are welcomed, too. A fitness center can create a board for workout demos, another for prescribed diets, and so on.

What’s more, Pinterest seems to have been made for making connections. A link to the business website or Facebook page (or Twitter profile) can be included with each pin (i.e., a post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter). This handy feature can be optimized by pinning a sneak peek of the entire content found on the official site. Repins and tags will also enable more followers to discover your account.

Pinterest is just inherently good for business

A Bizrate report claims “69% of online consumers found an item they’ve purchased or wanted to purchase” on Pinterest, compared with only 40% on Facebook.

Boticca, a jewelry retailer, declared that Pinterest became their top social network referrer, accounting for 10% of the total sales. This was after they embedded “pinning” buttons across their website. Seasonal or holiday boards can also be created, which can include information on promos, discounts, contests, and freebies.

The cost of using Pinterest is not measured in dollars but in minutes. Though it is free to use, a business will still need time to spend on generating interest and traffic through pictures and maintaining links to the business website. This may need to be done on a daily basis, or at regular intervals within the day, depending on the campaigns in place.

Marketing your fitness business online?

Let clients book classes directly through your website with SimplifyThis – two in one booking and invoicing software.

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Creating your small business website on WordPress

Everyone has a website these days, and if you’re a small business owner, you’ll need a website too. The task of creating your website can be daunting, here are some tips to make it easier:

website chalk boardStart with a process

Building a website is similar to building a house. You start with a foundation and then build upon that. As aspects of your website are built, going back and changing things may be difficult. Imagine, you build a new house and then after the basic structure is built, you decide you’d rather have four bedrooms than three. Not so easy to go ahead and make that change. Similarly, with a website, what seem like small changes can in fact be substantial changes. For this reason, it’s important to do everything in some sort of order. To prevent delays and confusion in your web development project, whether you are building your WordPress website yourself or working with a web design firm, you’ll want to identify a process that you will follow. A basic process could include:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Collecting content
  • Developing the site
  • Deploying the site on a server
  • Testing

A word about planning your website

All website builds should start with a good dose of planning. What will you put on your website? Spend some time looking at other websites in your category for ideas. Make note of different functionality you would like your site to have.

  • Do you want people to be able to sign up for appointments directly from your site?
  • Do you want people to be able to connect with you on your social networks from your site?
  • Do you need a map so people can find your location?

Spend some time thinking about  all the functionality you will need. Decide also what the pages on your site will be, and which ones will appear along the top navigation of your site. In order to be able to plan what will go on your site, you will need to take the time to identify who your audience is – who will be visiting your site, and what will they want to learn when they are there.

Designing your site

If you’re not a designer yourself, you may need to hire one. It will be important to let this person know what the goals of your site are, and what you are trying to communicate. The best website designs are built on a solid brand strategy. Alternatively, WordPress offers thousands of themes – different looks for your WordPress site. Browse WordPress themes that are appropriate for your type of business. For instance, if you are a fitness instructor, Google best WordPress themes for fitness instructors and have a look at all of the pre-made designs that are already available to you. You will be able to make cosmetic changes like colors and fonts and sometimes even layout to the theme.

Read: Three tips for designing your website

Collecting content

Once you have a design picked out and you know what is going on your site, you or someone on your team will need to go about creating the actual words that will go on each page. You will need to give this content along with any images that you would like to use to your web designer in an organized fashion. Or if you will be loading the content yourself, it will only be helpful for you to gather or create all of this content ahead of time.

Read: How to Write Great Web Copy for Your Brand

Developing and deploying the site

Developing the site means programming the site to appear in web browsers. If you’re working with WordPress, the site will come programmed. Still even with WordPress, you or someone you hire will need to configure certain settings to get the site to behave exactly as you’d like it to.  This would be a bad time to decide you want changes to the design. By this point you want to move ahead with the plans you have already mapped out. Load the content that you created or collected in an earlier phase into the site – WordPress makes it really easy.  Once that is done, you will need to pick a hosting company and work with them to get your site Online. Remember always review your site closely, make sure all of the functionality works as you’d like it to. And then, finally, go live with your brand new site.

Building a New Site for Your Business?

Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis – two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Streamline administrative tasks and convert more site visitors to customers with SimplifyThis.

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Being a D.I.Y Small Business Owner in the Internet Age

With the internet making so many marketing tools available to laypeople, many small business owners take charge of their own marketing. If you’re part of this vanguard of the D.I.Y. entrepreneur, here are some tips you can follow as you market yourself online.

SupermanEmbrace technology

This tip isn’t for every entrepreneur as many have already embraced technology. It if for those of us who are a little late to the party. Those of us who maybe would prefer to stay away from technology altogether – you can’t be bothered with Facebook because it’s too time consuming and you don’t know WordPress from Tublr. The fact is, it’s a digital world, and trying to resist technology will only hurt your small business. So much of what we’re doing as business people and as consumers happens online, and unless you have the budget to hire someone full time to keep up with all of it, and even then, it will behoove you to know as much as possible. If you need to take some classes, take some classes. You can even do that online for little to no money. A few things you definitely want to know:

These are tasks that are easy for everyone, if you only take an interest in knowing how to do it.

Google everything

It’s easy when dealing with technology to get overwhelmed and to give up. You don’t know how to re-size an image you want to post to your website? Don’t get upset. When that happens, you need only to breathe and Google the solution.  It is a hallmark of our times that all of the information we could possibly need is really right there at our fingertips. Get good at Googling and never sit by idly frustrated that your technology isn’t working. Good chance that you’re not the only one who has had that problem, and people are blogging and creating videos about the solution you are looking for. Consider Google the user’s manual to everything.

Stay strategic

There are only so many hours in the day, and at the same time, there are so many different ways you can spend those hours. Online it’s especially important to remain strategic, that means, identify your goals and then decide how you will achieve them specifically. Do not veer off and start trying something that isn’t in your strategy. Know why you are taking the actions you take.

Don’t try to do everything

It’s easy for small business owners to become very tactics-oriented. With so many tools available out there, entrepreneurs sometimes feel a rush to use the newest tool they hear of. The truth is all of these tools, such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, take time to use effectively. Rather than trying to do it all – that will only exhaust you –start  by picking one or two tools that make the most sense for you. Then, stay strategic in your use of them.

Marketing Online?

The web is here to make your life easier. Tasks that once involved an administrative staff now can be handled directly through your website. Take appointments directly from your website with SimplifyThis, two in one appointment booking and online invoicing software. Turn more website visitors into customers with SimplifyThis.

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How to Simplify Your Website to Focus On Your Product

Responsive web design is a major current and future trend in web design, as Internet users continue to become more reliant on the ability to access websites while on the go, and to easily accomplish tasks on those sites. This reliance is a perfect shift for ecommerce, because now consumers are eager to make purchases quickly and impulsively.

That’s why web and mobile sites should be simple and uncomplicated, so that users can accomplish their goals. Online shoppers are usually looking for a specific product, so a simplified ecommerce site eliminates any distractions from finding that product. To gain a sense of inspiration from what others are doing in their ecommerce designs, peruse these webstore case studies.

Below is a demonstration of different techniques that designers are using to simplify their sites in order to emphasize their products and services.

Technique #1: Large Search Field in Middle of Home Page

image001

Bigstock Photo takes advantage of the power of a search bar. Every ecommerce site needs one, and it’s often the first tool that users look for on a page. So why not make it easier for them to find by placing it in the center of the page? This method reduces time users have to spend looking for the search field or deciding what to do next. It immediately makes the decision for them and directs them to travel further into the site.

Technique #2: Customizable Product Feature

image002

Vanmoof minimizes the prominence of its navigation bar in order to focus on the product customization feature of its site. Users can immediately begin building their own personalized bike if they don’t want to browse bikes that are already designed. It’s an uncomplicated process that makes users feel as though they’re getting exactly the product they want – without having to work for it.

Technique #3: Showcase Your Products

image003

Amazon’s webstore client, Argo Tea, jumps right into showing off its products and giving helpful information about them. This is an example of a good understanding of a brand and its audience, because simply showing a type of tea might not entice shoppers to make a purchase; instead, providing relevant information about the tea interests visitors in finding out more of the benefits offered by each kind.

Technique #4: Use White Space to Emphasize Product

image004

Not only does this technique immediately place the main focus on Oak Street’s product, but the attractive and ample use of white space also creates an impression of sophistication about the product – catering to its target market. By offering a large image right on the home page without much accompanying copy, users get a sense of wonder and urgency to learn more about what the product has to offer.

Technique #5: Let Users Take Immediate Action

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Pitchbox is a talent agency that first asks users what they want. Instead of having to navigate through the details of the service, they can quickly input the goals they’re trying to achieve. This is a valuable tool in personalizing the service to fit the unique needs of each user, and making them feel like their time and desires are valued by the brand.

As shown through these techniques, certain aspects of web design directly contribute to placing focus on a product or service. Search fields, product photos and copy, white space, user action and personalization all make for a pleasant user experience and a higher likelihood of them trusting and purchasing from your brand.

 

Considerations When Adding A Blog To Your Business Website

Adding a blog to your business web site can be a great way to add a more personal touch to your company.  Far more than they are interested in businesses, people are interested in other people.  Choosing a few everyday lifestyle experiences to share on a blog, or creating a space for up-to-date information on topics relevant to your industry, can help you stand out in the mind of your potential online customers.

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If you’re considering starting a blog, here are some considerations that will help you increase your chances of active engagement online.

To Comment or Not to Comment…

Many bloggers find significant increases in their blog’s popularity when they made time to comment on other people’s blogs.  It is an organic way to introduce your blog to other tribes by being part of a public conversation.  Though commenting isn’t the only relevant factor in a blog’s popularity, but it’s definitely a method that continues to get results.

In addition to commenting on other blogs, remember to reply to the comments on your own.  As a new blogger, acknowledging the voice of your guests is a great way to gain their loyalty, as they’ll feel like part of an ongoing dialogue with your other readers and with you.

Some blog owners remove comment options altogether, usually to get away from the often stressful task of responding to every comment, or releasing the anxiety around whether or not each post will receive any comments at all.

If you’re considering the no-comment option, be sure to include a communication option in any newsletters you send out, and on your blog itself.  Adding a simple line that reads: just hit reply with any questions, can remind your audience that you’re interested in more than a one-way voice from you to them.

Where Should My Blog Be?

Another consideration in adding a blog to your business website is where the blog should show up within your online presence.  Some site owners choose to make the blog a part of the landing page, giving visitors up-to-date information with which they can interact, instead of just reading, clicking and purchasing.

Another option is to have the site focus primarily on your produce or service, and add your blog to the menu as an internal page.

Both options are viable depending on your industry and the tone you want to set with your site visitors.

Keep in mind that you can promote your products and services as advertisements within your blog posts, and as badges along the sides of your blog, no matter which option you choose.

Overall, a blog can go a long way in helping you convert site visitors to customers.  Research other websites in your industry and get a feel for the types of experiences they’re creating through their websites and accompanying blogs.  Think about the type of experience you want your site visitors to have, and let that guide you toward the placement, the communication, and the primary purpose of your blog.

Happy Blogging!

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