By Hana LaRock
There are a lot of tactics businesses can use to help them stay on top of the competition. Being at the top of your game takes a lot of work and commitment, and it can’t always be done alone. That’s why companies utilize marketing automation services, like The Mission Suite, to help take care of business. You already heard that marketing automation is a good idea, but do you really know why? Take a look at this.
You Can Match Up
Just because you’re not a big company doesn’t mean you can’t act like one. Marketing automation lets you level the playing field and do things that much larger companies are able to do. Instead of stressing about who is going to help you do what, getting things done by the deadlines, and reaching goals with your leads, we got you covered.
You Won’t Waste Time
If you’re a small business or an expanding business, there’s always a lot to learn about yourself and how you relate to customers. It seems like there are times when you don’t want to continue what you’re doing because you can’t understand what you’re doing wrong or what needs to change in order to see results. Luckily, marketing automation can help you understand your business more clearly, so you can make the changes you need to make without wasting any time.
It Takes Care of CRM all in One
Managing your customer relationships is a whole other ball park. Growing relationships with your customers takes a lot of time and budgeting, that busy companies don’t always have. However, when you use a marketing automation software, it takes care of most of your CRM jobs, in half the time. Marketing automation should help you with your current CRM plan, as well as fill in the gaps for the things you can’t do on your own.
No Need to Hire an Expert
This point should be taken with a grain of salt, but ultimately, using a marketing automation program means you already have your expert. Such a software can do the work of five experts in one. And, like experts, marketing automation can help you make decisions about implementing an array of different strategies.
You Have The Means to Do More Important Things
Marketing automation just lets you do things much easier. Especially if you’re a small company, you often need to make financial sacrifices to get where you need to be. Marketing automation helps you save money so you can put more towards things like technology, advertising or cyber security.
Mobile marketing is constantly moving forward and evolving, stay on top of the trends
By Megan Totka On October 26, 2016
Mobile marketing is different than other methods of marketing because it lets businesses get directly in front of customers on devices they use all the time – tablets and smartphones. From mobile check-ins to text messages, to emails and social media, mobile marketing may help small businesses boost sales when they send coupons or offer discounts, sales, or promotions to customers. It’s smart to reach out to customers on the devices they constantly have in their hand – this is why mobile marketing can impact both online shoppers and walk-in customers, too.
Luckily, more and more companies and individuals realize the benefits of mobile and want to lead the way into the mobile future – and the first stop is adopting mobile marketing solutions for your small business. Take a look at these 8 mobile marketing tips that can help your small business.
The professional side of texting is something to embrace. SMS is for more than casual conversation – even financial institutions now send sensitive data via SMS and it’s pretty powerful. Now that more than three-quarters of the world’s smartphones are SMS-enabled, it’s time to make sure your small business is, too.
Create opt-in campaigns that allow customers to sign up and receive alerts and rewards for joining the campaign. The platform is a great way to encourage customers to take specific action in exchange for a reward, such as a discount on a purchase. There is a greater chance that people will open their texts than read emails, and texts are opened more rapidly than emails, too.
Transition to a mobile-ready website
Responsive design is crucial – if you don’t have it, you risk text that doesn’t fit on the page and may notice that your customers come up missing, supporting a competitor who can offer a site that is mobile-ready. Make sure your website reads beautifully whether it is accessed on a laptop, desktop, mobile phone, or tablet.
Create a mobile app
Mobile apps aren’t inexpensive to build – they can easily cost a pretty penny if you’re willing to pay. Like anything, though, with some time and effort, you can make sure the process is affordable. Your app doesn’t have to be super fancy, and you don’t have to join forces with a well-known firm that will charge you a lot of cash. Find new creators who are eager to get business and showcase their talents. Pay them reasonably and offer referrals and site recognition, too.
No matter how you do it, make sure you get an app built, around 80 percent of smartphone users use apps every day. You can’t let your business miss this simple way of making sure your brand is in front of all of those people.
Incorporate mobile payments
Small businesses have either a product or a service to offer consumers. As a result, your strategy should include acceptance of mobile payments – know what to look for in a payment processor before you rush to make a decision. Payment processors offer various benefits when it comes to service, security, ease of use, and cost efficiency. Make it easier for customers to pay you with modern payment options.
Have meaningful social presence
Facebook isn’t all about fun and games, and while it is a lot of fun, it’s also a great way to gain new customers. Marketing is about first giving to your customers. This means you should give your audience on social media what you would want yourself. Share posts and start meaningful conversations. Leave comments and ask and answer questions. Work to make sure your brand is where people see it and appreciate it; it doesn’t take much time out of your day.
Offer up deals
Your business can continue to make money while sending out digital deals. Send messages straight to your consumer’s smartphones, SMS coupons have redemption rates 10 times higher than print coupons like the ones we see in the Sunday paper. The other good news: it’s nearly impossible to lose the smartphone version of a coupon.
Consider mobile customer service
More businesses are jumping on the mobile customer service bandwagon to track orders, take payments, share shipping details, and respond quickly to questions via smartphone. This is easy and convenient for both the small business owner and customers. Plus, customers really enjoy the quick response time mobile customer service offers.
Register with mobile directories
The days of thick phone books with yellow pages are just about history. Instead, the majority of people now turn to mobile directories. To ensure your small business is found, register with various mobile directories. Think along the lines of YP, Yelp and Google+Local. Remember to include the details of your business such as its name, the products and services offered, business hours, a contact phone number, a link to your site, and your physical address.
Mobile marketing is constantly moving forward and evolving. Stay on top of the trends and times and make sure you know what your competitors are doing in the mobile marketing arena. Try not to fear the cost or changes that accompany mobile technology -- Smartphones and small businesses are a perfect match.
In addition, realize that mobile marketing isn’t going away – it’s actually our future -- so now is the time to get on board and don’t look back. While some small business owners shy away from mobile because they perceive it to be complex or time-consuming, many realize it’s simply another way to market a small business. After all, small business owners are in a better position to utilize mobile for customer engagement. It’s all about connecting with customers, and mobile allows that to happen.
By Joe Escobedo
I recently got a LinkedIn message from a product developer based in Singapore. He mentioned he just launched a training aggregator mobile app and was now working on a content strategy for his company’s blog. He asked me, ”What’s the ideal length for my business’ digital content?” It’s a question I’ve been asked many times by startups in Asia.
Here’s the advice I gave him
Before you dive into how long your content should be, ask yourself three simple questions:
1. Who is my audience?
2. What are their pain points?
3. How does my business help?
Once you’ve answered those questions, start by defining your audiences in terms of personas. (Not sure where to start? HubSpot offers a free buyer personas template.)
Now put yourself in your personas’ shoes. What kind of content would solve their pain points or interest them? Let’s say your target audience are busy CEOs. They’re likely interested in topline insights and best practices rather than long-form whitepapers. (At least, that’s been the case in my experience.) Alternatively, if you’re targeting digital marketing managers, they often crave in-depth articles with practical tips on a particular topic. See the difference?
Reliable suppliers are crucial to your success. Don’t just go with the cheapest options.
By: Mike Bederka on October 17, 2016
Marcus Guiliano, restaurant consultant and owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro, establishes meaningful relationships with suppliers that he can depend on. (Photo courtesy of: Marcus Guiliano)
So many things can make or break a small business. One of them is its suppliers. The wrong ones can mean headaches, empty shelves and a shrinking bottom line. The right ones help support a bustling operation that can meet the growing and varied demands of its customers.
When choosing a supplier, don’t default to the cheapest option out there. Here’s how to vet the candidates and make the perfect match.
Seek a partner who will problem solve
If you run out of a crucial item at 5 p.m. on a Friday, you need a supplier that can deliver the product ASAP, said Marcus Guiliano, a restaurant consultant and owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, New York.
“You want a supplier that cares about you and shows genuine concern,” he said. “You can’t put a price on that. Relationship buying is everything.”
Don’t just sign a contract with the first salesperson who walks in your door. See if they have done their research and at the very least know the types of products you sell and understand the basics of your business.
For example, Guiliano said he has received numerous pitches for items not even on his menu; however, his ears perk up when someone calls and says, “We sell the same albacore tuna you have as your special. We might be able to save you some money.”
The best suppliers should try to keep working your account, too. They might have new items that come in that could improve your business.
“Problem solve for me,” says Guiliano. “Don’t just sell me.”
Take a tour and ask questions
Before agreeing to do business with a supplier, visit its warehouse if feasible, said Guiliano. “Does it look like a professional operation? See how they present themselves.”
If a tour isn’t possible, request samples to make sure they meet your standards, suggested McGrotty.
Also, read the deal carefully and pepper the supplier with questions. Many suppliers require a minimum amount or at least a certain dollar figure for free delivery, said Guiliano. He suggested asking about a cash on delivery discount. One supplier he works with gives 1 percent off. While that may not seem like much, it adds up over time for regular purchases.
“I can definitely use an extra $250 every year,” he said.
Demand seamless ordering
Ordering from a supplier should be relatively seamless, either through texting or emailing a rep or using online portals or apps, he said. It shocks him that some suppliers still don’t have websites, an obvious red flag in 2016.
“Make it easy for me to do business with you,” said Guiliano.
Some owners skip suppliers and try to do all the purchasing themselves, either filling their oversized carts at a wholesale club or driving 90 miles away to pick up fish at a particular market, said Guiliano.
“I was like that years ago,” he admitted. “People never factor in what their time is worth. They could be doing something else more productive than saving $2 on a case of garbage bags. Many people are more focused on just saving money than growing their business.”
Having been a start-up lawyer, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, I have been asked many of the following questions over the years from entrepreneurs when starting a business. Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer, and as lawyers often like to say, “It depends on the circumstances.” But, here are my short-hand answers to the frequently asked start-up questions, which hopefully will be right 95% of the time.
1. Should I form my company as C corporation, an S corporation, an LLC, a partnership or a sole proprietorship?
Start it as an S corporation, unless you have to issue both common stock and preferred stock; in that case start it as a C corporation. And an S corporation can easily be converted later into a C corporation. LLCs are popular, but can get overly complicated. Partnerships and sole proprietorships are to be avoided because of the potential personal liability to the owners of the business.
2. Where should I incorporate my business?
The standard answer to this is Delaware because of its well developed corporate law. My answer is that it should be the state where the business is located, as this will save you some fees and complexities. You can always reincorporate later in Delaware.
3. How much should I capitalize my business with at the beginning?
As much as you can reasonably afford, and in an amount to at least carry you for 6-9 months with no income. What you will find is that it always takes you longer to get revenues, and that you will experience more expenses than you anticipated.
4. How likely will it be that I can get venture capital financing?
Extremely unlikely. Get a product done, gain some traction, get a good management team, and then consider getting venture financing.
5. Should I require prospective angel or venture capital investors to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) so they don’t steal my idea?
No, don’t waste your time. It will be counterproductive and slow down your fundraising. And many investors will refuse anyway. It’s hard enough to get a meeting with an investor — don’t put another roadblock in the way. For the most part, it’s not the idea that is important, it’s the implementation of the idea and the entrepreneurs behind it.
6. How much dilution in share ownership of my company should I give up to investors in my business?
Whatever amount gets you funded. Don’t try to over-optimize on ownership. Get cash to grow your business and make your investors happy as well.
7. How big should a stock option pool for employees be?
15-20%. Standard vesting for options is 4 years, with a one year “cliff vesting” and monthly vesting after that. “Cliff vesting” in this context means the employee must be employed by the company for a minimum of one year before the employee earns any of the options.
8. How can I get a venture capitalist to pay attention to me?
Any of the following:
9. How can I come up with a great name for my business?
This is difficult. First brainstorm with a bunch of different names. Then do a Google search to see what is already taken, and that will eliminate 95% of your choices. Make it easy to spell. Make it interesting. Don’t pick a nonsensical name where people won’t have a clue as to what you do (with all due consideration to names like “Google,” “Yahoo,” and the like). Do a trademark/tradename search on the name. Then make sure you can get the domain name. Consider hiring a name consultant like Alexandra Watkins at www.eatmywords.com.
10. What are the biggest challenges to starting a business?
The answers are:
11. What kind of business should I start?
A business that
12. What are the biggest mistakes made by start-up entrepreneurs?
13. How can I protect my great idea?
Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the actual implementation of an idea that is more important. If it’s truly unique, get a patent for it (see www.uspto.gov). You may get some protection through copyright, trade secret programs, or NDA’s, but not a lot.
14. Do I need a lawyer to start a business?
No. If it’s a simple business with one owner, as you can incorporate through online services likeLegalZoom.com and RocketLawyer.com. But, it’s usually a good idea to have an experienced business lawyer on your team who has advised many start-ups. Hire only a business lawyer, not a general practitioner or divorce lawyer. Experience matters.
15. How can I obtain the domain name I want?
Every good “.com” domain name is already taken. And I usually only recommend “.com” names. Ultimately, 99% of domain names are available to be bought — you just have to be prepared to pay for the name. Do a “WHOIS Search” at www.networksolutions.com to find out the contact information for the owner of the domain name you are interested in, and offer to buy the name. Don’t be naive and offer $500 for a premium domain name. You will be ignored. Be willing to pay a fair amount for a good name.
16. How can I drive traffic to my website for my business?
Entire books are written on this topic. The key ways are as follows:
17. I have an invention idea. What do I do to check that someone hasn’t already invented this idea?
18. Do I need a business plan?
It’s useful to come up with a business plan to think through what you want to do for the development of the product or service, marketing, financial projections and more. Then get input from trusted business/finance advisors. But don’t go overboard with a 50-page business plan. In reality many start-ups have to deviate from their plan.
19. Where can I get money for my business?
Many books and articles have been written on this subject as well. Here is a summary of the most effective sources of capital:
20. What permits, licenses or registrations do I need for my business?
Depending on the nature of the business, you may need the following permits, licenses or regulations:
21. What do I need to worry about in hiring an employee?
22. What kind of books and records do I need to keep for my business?
23. What kind of insurance does my business need?
Consider the following, depending on your business:
24. How should equity be divided among co-founders of a start-up?
There is no one right answer. But you should discuss it and agree upon it right up front to avoid any misunderstandings later on. If you are the original founder and brains behind the idea, a good argument can be made for more than 50% ownership. The split should take into account:
Oct 12, 2016 by HigherVisibility
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is constantly rolling out new features and updates, many which enhance user experience while also facilitating advertising and e-commerce activity. As the platform continues to enhance the intersection of recreational communication and business interactions, the latest available features provide outlets for improved communication and challenges in creativity for the 50 million-ish active businesses on Facebook.
The latest of these features is Facebook Live, which are real-time video posts. Live videos are published by friends you follow, publications, celebrities, and any person or establishment with a valid Facebook account. Users also have the option of subscribing to certain users and/or businesses to receive notifications whenever a given account live streams.
While this feature has been available for a while now, many businesses are still not making use of it. Facebook live poses significant opportunity as a tool for customer relations, brand exposure, marketing, and more. Make this tool part of your digital marketing strategy by getting started with the most effective ways to use Facebook Live for your business.
Using Facebook Live for Business1.
Promotional StrategyOne of the best ways to use Facebook Live is for promotional purposes. Users are much more likely to watch a video than read a lengthy article or post shared on Facebook, and businesses can (and should!) capitalize on that point of user behavior.
For example, if you’re a retail boutique, you can redirect the same promotional strategies you’ve always done through Facebook Live. Contests, give-aways, and limited time offers are just a few ideas. If you have a new product coming out soon, give a sneak peak through a live stream. If you have a give away contest, showcase the product or service. You can actually show your followers what it is you’re offering and create way more appeal by streaming a video of the products you’re promoting.
2. Brand Transparency
A great way to instill trust in your users is by sharing some behind the scenes details with them and creating brand transparency. Let’s say you’re a restaurant that uses a sustainable, locally sourced garden to get produce. Use Facebook Live to share what that process looks like.
This can also work well for reputation recovery. If there’s a controversy or accusation that you’re actively recovering from, use the live stream feature to show exactly how you’re handling it, and give users a chance to see your real brand.
3. Engage With Users
User engagement is a key necessity of having an awesome Facebook business page, so you might as well enact that engagement in every way you can. Live videos are great for Q & A sessions and directly answering the comments and/or concerns of your users.
You can also use it to weigh in on issues relevant to your consumers. If there’s an event that people are wondering ow you feel about, or an issue your consumer base is talking about, engage with your following by discussing your business stance in a live video.
4. Establish Authority
It’s important for your following to recognize you as an authority within the industry your business falls into, and Facebook Live can help reinforce that. Offering tips, industry insights, updates, and news with a live stream can establish and enhance your credibility.
Another way to approach this usage of Facebook Live is to invite other lading authorities, experts, and industry leaders to be featured in your live stream video. Host a round table discussion, or even just a casual conversation with another industry authority, and you can have a mutually beneficial piece of publicity.
By JOHN RAMPTON on SEP 28, 2016
Catering to search engines can be frustrating, especially if your usual tricks and strategies have stopped working. Fortunately, there are some strategies that many business owners don't know about - meaning you can get the competitive edge.
Implementing these techniques could be just what's needed to tip you over the edge and get your rankings back on track.
1. Optimize your menu items for SEO
Most business owners and marketers know that internal links are important for SEO. However, some forget that your menu items are actually just glorified links. Having a clear and simple navigational structure will help with usability as well as spreading link equity throughout your site.
According to Jason McGovern, optimizing your navigational structure can have a huge impact on rankings. Speaking of internal linking, he writes, "I think it tends to be overlooked as an SEO tactic because many SEOs simply believe it’s not an issue anymore because sites today have such complex navigation menus. That said, even today I have been able to drive significant results for clients purely on the back of optimizing internal navigation structures."
2. Use Google's preferred word count
While Google hasn't actually given us an ideal word count to aim for, several studies have shown a strong correlation between high rankings and longer content. According to Neil Patel's research, the highest-ranking pages are at least 2,000 words long. According to my friends at Searchmetrics, top-ranking content starts somewhere around 1,200 words. When in doubt, go longer; just remember that quality always trumps quantity.
3. Google knows you by the neighborhoods you link out to
Internal links are important, as are inbound links to your site. However, what many business owners forget is that who you link out to is also important. Linking to authoritative sources is not only great for establishing credibility for your content, it suggests to Google that you know what you're talking about - and this is great for SEO. Just be sure you're linking out to useful, preferably high-ranking sites.
Use the free Moz Checker tool to make sure you're linking to sites that will help your rankings, not hurt them.
4. Offer researchers a platform for finding participants
This is a technique I've seldom seen used, but it can be highly effective when done right. University researchers are always looking for participants for their studies, but often struggle with reaching their target audience.
Offer to promote their study to your audience, and often they'll be glad to give you a much-coveted .edu link back to your site! To find studies being conducted in your niche, try simple Google searches like [your keyword] research study or even just [keyword] study, or visit the announcements or news sections of university departmental websites.
5. Look for mentions... and ask for the link
Not every one who mentions your site or product is going to include a link back to your site. The good news is that most SEOs agree these mentions (known as non-linked citations or implied links) do help boost your SEO to an extent.
But since we know that actual links are the ideal, here's what you can do: Set up a Google Alert for brand name, product names, etc. As soon as you see a mention, send a brief email and ask for a link to your site.
You'll be surprised at how many bloggers and journalists are happy to oblige! I've been able to secure links to my payments blog from CNN, ABC and CNBC by just asking. Here are a few other tips for asking for links in my content marketing guide.
6. Promote a ridiculously outrageous offer
How much are links customers to you? Are they worth the cost of giving away some product at 90% off? Or of holding a crazy 3 for the price of 1 promotion?
Promoting a ridiculously good offer is sure to generate some hype surrounding your business; and as we know, hype is often great for getting traffic and links. Just be sure you can actually afford to give away your stuff at cost or even at a loss, and that those links are worth it to you!
7. Use descriptive words in your image file name
You probably already know you should use your chosen keywords in your alt image tags (where appropriate). What you may not know is that you should also be using them in your image file names. Google has gotten pretty sophisticated, but they still can't discern the subject of your image without a little help.
Google has made the importance of descriptive file names clear in their image publishing guidelines: "Try to make your filename a good description of the subject matter of the image. For example, my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG. Descriptive filenames can also be useful to users: If we're unable to find suitable text in the page on which we found the image, we'll use the filename as the image's snippet in our search results."
8. Go beyond basic keyword research
Basic keyword research might look something like this: go to Google's Keyword Planner and find 2-3 keywords you can incorporate into a particular piece of content. However, since Google introduced latent semantic indexing (LSI) into its system, this type of basic research is no longer enough.
A better approach is to use your research to find a broad theme to cover, as well as relevant subtopics. Also be sure to use a variety of proof and relevant terms, which show Google you're doing a great job of covering the topic. For more on this, check out my post "The 5 Components of a Modern Keyword-Based Strategy."
9. Your analytics are already telling you how to improve your SEO
According to Searchmetrics' most recent ranking report, the importance of user signals can't be overstated (emphasis mine): "User signals such as the click-through rate (the click rate of search results, also CTR), time on site, as well as the bounce rate (visitors who enter a site then leave, usually by clicking back to the search results) are amongst the most important ranking factors for search engines. This is because the direct analysis of users reactions to the search results allows an accurate insight as to whether the user was happy with the result."
10. Big words can actually hurt you
Some business owners think that by using big words and complicated sentences they'll impress their audience. However, research has shown that the highest-ranking pages actually have a slightly lower reading complexity than other pages. To see how your content ranks, you can use free tools like the Text Readability Consensus Calculator. I've found that the highest-ranking pages have a reading level of around 76 - so this is a great benchmark to keep in mind.
There are many ways small businesses can benefit from using social media, such as building community, engaging fans, and growing interest in your products and services. Here are a few social media basics you need to master in order to reach interested consumers and drive growth, so your social media efforts can start to pay off.
1) Choose the Right Platform(s)
Regardless of your business industry, building a robust social media presence is vital. It’s important, especially if your resources are limited, to use your social media efforts on the sites that will generate the biggest return in terms of awareness, engagement, and clicks.
If you’re not exactly sure where your target consumers are spending their time, we recommend starting with Facebook. That’s because it’s the most widely used social media site, with 1.65 billon active users, and its users are very active, with 66% of them logging on daily and 50 minutes a day on the site on average. If this resonates with your personal social media use, chances are it resonates with your target audience, too.
2) Post Engaging Content
All social media platforms are content driven, although the type of content varies from site to site. But as a small business, you may not have a robust content marketing plan to tap into for social media. In fact, you may even be struggling to create and share social media content daily.
3.) Share & Respond
Elevate Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
No matter what your social media strategy entails, it’s vital to keep it going. Even if you’re just focused on one or two channels, the constantly changing nature of social media gives you a lot of chances to try new content formats, test different topics, and flex your creative muscles.
What advice do you have for maximizing local business’ social media efforts? Let us know in the comments.
Catch up on my current posts along with industry articles