Category Archives: Business
Online marketing trends change with every new delivery method and channel. Each year brings new technology, new opportunities, and new social channels to catch user fancy. The big winners in the battle for buyer attention might be early adopters throwing resources into promising new technology that proves successful, or businesses who stick with a particular channel to build a huge following.
Video marketing is certainly not new, but the market is changing, and video has emerged as a clear winner.
Video Marketing Trends
YouTube already dominates the field, with a billion users watching hundreds of millions of hours every day. To sweeten the marketing appeal, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-old viewers than any of the cable networks.
While YouTube traffic expanded more than 40 percent since last year, video viewing options also opened up. Facebook now offers embedded videos and in-line livestreaming, and services like Periscope and Facebook are starting to attract the bravest of no-do-over video pioneers marketing in real time.
Video Ads in Search Results
Another clear indicator of just how popular video marketing has become is the inevitable launch of in-SERP video ads. Google and Bing are both testing video incorporation into rich search results.
The new True View for Shopping, a product that allows users to order products from inside a demo video, has already yielded impressive results. Sephora and Wayfair test cases report increased viewing time, revenue and ad recall.
With big retailers and eager viewers already on board and social media and SERPs ramping up viewer opportunities, video marketing is set to explode like never before.
Why Video Marketing is Effective
Content marketing and social media changed the marketing game in a major way. Brand storytelling took center stage, propelled by the advantages of humanizing and allowing businesses to connect in a more meaningful way with their customer base.
For small businesses, video is an inexpensive way to level the playing field. Here, big businesses and slick, expensive advertising spots don’t always have the advantage. Smaller companies can stand out in several ways:
Answering customer FAQs
Showcasing products in action
Asking for user-generated contributions featuring real-life customers
Introducing staff and showing an intimate look around operations
Demonstrating product use
Featuring video testimonials
Thousands of small YouTube businesses have built audience and credibility with simple, straightforward advertising, and case studies show that video has a big impact on sales, especially for small businesses and cottage industry. More than half of marketers responding to the 2014 Video Statistics study by Invodo said that video offers a higher ROI than any other type of content.
New Technologies in Your Future
Every aspect of marketing in the last few years has moved toward personalization, targeting and interactive content. New video technology takes the concept to a new level, with engaging videos that move from viewing into response. Data collection forms, surveys, polls and choose-your-adventure videos will become more common.
You’ve seen these formats in Hulu big business advertising for years, but not in heavy use elsewhere. That’s bound to change as new video production programs make fancy interaction cheap and available for any user.
Approximately 96 percent of B2B advertisers are already using videos, but smaller B2C businesses may have been slower to adopt due to production costs or simple reluctance to waste marketing dollars on a technology they may not feel is effective.
As a small business owner, you probably already have a website from which to sell your wares. And while online sales can surely flourish with strong SEO, statistics show that only about 25 percent of web leads advance to actual sales. For this reason, savvy SMBs are constantly looking for other ways to sell their products and services, besides their own stores and webpages.
From third-party sites to trade shows, the modern small business owner has multiple options when it comes to finding customers for her goods. Here are 6 ways to sell your products or services by looking outside the box:
One of the most popular third-party sales sites, Etsy is home to a wide array of artisans, craftspeople, and vintage dealers. Not only does Etsy offer you access to a large number of crafty and antique-loving customers that you might not have found on your own, but it also enjoys a strong reputation for quality and reliability. As a result, new consumers might be more likely to give you a chance on Etsy than if they stumbled on your private webpage. If you tend to sell a lot of jewelry, fashion products, or geeky toys and gifts, Etsy might be the third-party dealer for you.
An alternative to sites like Etsy and eBay, Bonanza is a great choice for small businesses seeking a way to list goods online. Not only is it free to list on Bonanza, but the company also tends to take a smaller commission for sales than some of the other vendors out there. Additionally, the site features actual people (not robots) to consult on purchases. As a result, your customers can receive the same specialized attention they would if they purchased goods in their own stores.
One of the benefits of using Shopfy to market your goods online is that you can create a customized shop design that echoes the aesthetics of your homepage. This e-commerce site lets you choose from a wide array of themes that are both attractive and mobile responsive, so buyers can purchase your wares just as easily from a mobile phone or tablet. While Shopify isn’t free, business owners can choose from multiple service tiers, the most affordable of which starts at just $29 a month. However, you should note that there might be an additional cost for special features and add-ons.
4. Trade Shows
If you’re already using third-party vendors to sell your goods, you might be able to expand your sales base by attending a local trade show. Depending on your industry, there are likely a number of relevant trade shows happening annually in your part of the country. While purchasing booths can be costly—attending one show might cost you a few thousand dollars—the events offer SMBs an invaluable opportunity to connect with potential customers, industry experts, and even local and national retailers who might be willing to feature your products in their stores. As an added bonus, trade shows provide the kind of one-on-one, personal interaction that business owners can’t provide to their online clients. For best results, do your research to find out who will be attending a particular show and assess all fees and costs before signing on that dotted line.
One of the best ways to boost sales of your products and services is to send complimentary samples out to market influencers. In our modern era, just about anyone can become a social media celebrity. Small business owners can and should target members of their fields who boast large social followings; for example, a Los Angeles clothing retailer might want to target LA-based style icons who regularly tweet and Instagram about their top shops. Start by making friends with these industry beacons on social media by liking their posts and commenting on their blogs. Then, ask if you can send them a product sample or two. The hope is that a few such influencers will mention you in their blogs and social media posts, thereby directing more traffic to your site.
Even those small business owners with brick-and-mortar shops of their own might struggle to bring in the necessary customer base to keep their doors open. If you’re not seeing sufficient sales from your store or website, consider hosting a few local events. Not only does this help bring in new customers, but it also creates positive feelings among the members of your community. Many consumers would prefer to buy local—you just have to show them how to do so in a way that’s convenient and affordable.
After deciding what type of event best suits your business—a seminar, a cocktail party—you should send out fliers and advertise the event on your website and social media pages. Be sure to give out branded products on the big day, like totes, mugs, water bottles, or magnets, so customers will remember you for their future purchasing needs.
Whether you call it retargeting or remarketing, no ad campaign is complete without some sort of retargeting campaign. We won’t get into the differences between remarketing and retargeting in this article but here’s what you need to know about retargeting and how to start a campaign in Facebook.
What is Retargeting
It’s a kind of magical thing if you’re not familiar with ad technology. You happen to be on Amazon checking out the best deals on cutlery or maybe you’re shopping for the best deals on a new iPad. Then, you head over to Facebook and you’re sure Facebook has spied on you because right there on the right hand side you see ads for the same products at the same stores you just visited. Creepy? To some people, yes. Effective? Absolutely. Retargeting ads perform 3 to 10 times better than traditional online ad campaigns, according to research.
Let’s not forget to address the potential problems. We weren’t kidding when we labeled it, “creepy.” People unfamiliar with how retargeting works (that would be most people) label it as creepy, annoying, intrusive, and distracting far more often than other ad types but the younger the audience, the less they care. If you’re retargeting to an older population you might find a more pronounced negative sentiment than with younger crowds.
Creating a Facebook Remarketing Campaign
First, a quick workflow. Customer comes to your website. They look at something but don’t end up buying. We call that “converting” in the marketing field. When they leave, your website installs a cookie in their browser. When they go to Facebook, that cookie creates an ad for the products they viewed. But how do you make it all work?
It starts with something called a pixel. A pixel is a small piece of computer code you install on your website that helps Facebook track visitors and also install that cookie in the person’s browser.
By the way, a cookie only sits on a person’s computer. No information is transmitted back to your computer about the person’s browsing habits or other sensitive information. Here’s the rest of the step-by-step.
1. Head to the Ads Manager
To create a retargeting campaign you’ll need a business account. That starts with having a Facebook page for your business. Go to your page and look for the blue “Promote” tab on the left side of the page. You will also find it on the right side if you scroll down.
2. Create Your Pixel
Click, “Go To Ads Manager.” Once you’re in the main dashboard, click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and choose “Pixels.” Then click “Create Audience.”
There are a lot of options in here but choose what works best for your site. If you want to reach anybody that comes to your site, you can. If only certain pages, you can do that too. It’s totally up to you.
3. Install Your Pixel
Next, click the “Actions” dropdown and choose “View Pixel Code.” Copy the code and place it in the <head> section of your website pages. If you have a WordPress site, you can download a plugin that allows you to install code in the header section of your site.
If you don’t, and you don’t know how to work with code, there are plenty of websites that will show you how or head to Facebook and post a status asking for help. You probably have a friend that can help. If not, hire somebody.
4. Design Your Ad
From here, you need a good ad. What are you going to show them on Facebook once they leave your site? The quality of the ad is what will or won’t convert to sales. Often, it takes a lot of testing to figure out what works but once you find the high performing ad, put it to work.
If you’re not sure how to create the ad, read up on how to create high-performing Facebook ads first. Then when you start the process of creating the ad, choose “Custom Audience” and select the audience you created. After that, you create an ad just as you if you weren’t retargeting.
Times are Changing
If you’ve installed a pixel in the past, it will soon be out of date. By February of 2017, Facebook will completely retire what used to be called the conversion pixel. Instead, marketers will have to install the new Facebook pixel that combines a lot of technologies into 1 piece of code. If you haven’t created a retargeting campaign yet, you don’t have anything to worry about. As soon as you do, you’ll have the new Facebook pixel. Problem solved.
Don’t forget that nothing is more important than the quality of your ad. The colors, the messaging, and everything else that makes for a great looking—and converting ad—must be on point or no amount of ad technology will work. Just like you would any advertising campaign, test different ads.
Self-confidence gives you the courage to take sensible risks and to pursue stretching targets. Exactly what is required to build and grow a business. It also makes building and managing teams simpler as a confident approach naturally inspires confidence in others.
Everyone struggles with self-confidence at some point, even people who are naturally blessed with plenty of it. So if you are struggling with your confidence remember that you are not unusual.
The good news is that self-confidence is like a muscle. It can be built up through deliberate training and practice. Whether you’re suffering a temporary slump, or self-confidence is something that you’ve always struggled with, let’s look at 6 ways to boost yours.
1. Cut Out Negative Self-Talk
Stop being so hard on yourself. We’re far more critical of ourselves than we ever would be of a friend. Next time you face a problem break this pattern. Rather than dwelling on the things that you didn’t get right, focus on solutions to the problem and avoid negative self-talk. It won’t help to solve the problem and will only drain your confidence and energy.
A simple way to do this is to think of the advice you would give to a good friend in a similar situation.
2. “Fake It Until You Make It”
Research has shown that by acting more confidently you can actually make yourself feel more confident. The body can control the mind. So making some simple changes to your body language can help improve your confidence.
– Smile more often. It will show that you are relaxed and at ease and make you instantly more approachable to others.
– Improve your posture. Your posture affects your hormones, and they affect your mood. Avoid slouching, slumping or ‘closed’ body language which appears defensive. If you are standing, stand tall with your shoulders back. If you are sitting, sit up straight. Remember that confident body language is open and expansive.
– Dress well. How you dress has been shown to affect how you think so make sure that the clothes you wear make you feel confident. Dressing well is as much about how you see yourself as it is about how you want the outside world to see you. If you look good, you’ll feel good and that will come across to others.
Have you ever been asked by an employer or project client to do something that seems odd or possibly even illegal? I have. And I’ve worked with project managers and technical support personnel who have as well. As consultants and professionals, we need to maintain the highest level of integrity as we are serving our clients and our employers. That doesn’t always mean just going along with whatever they ask of us. Sometimes it means doing just the opposite…running away.
In the vein of project management and consulting best practices, I’d like to discuss how to handle those situations where the project, the customer, the request, or the business opportunity seems wrong or just too good to be true. Think twice before moving forward with your head down.
If it smells sour, it is sour. This is an easy one, but temptation can be hard to ignore. If the milk smells wrong, no matter how bad you want to drink it the taste will still be horrible. Don’t do it. You can’t take something bad and make it good. A bad project client is a bad project client. A hiring organization that seems like they may be doing something criminal probably is doing something criminal. Trust your gut. You could be wrong. But who’s going to help you if you aren’t wrong yet you proceed?
If you see warning signs like clients asking you to fill out liability documents that you’ve never had to fill out before, or asking you for financial information that doesn’t seem to fit the purpose or asking you to do something on their behalf that makes you want to run 100 mph in the other direction, don’t go through with it. For every bad client or bad project, there are 100 more out there that are good. It’s not worth the career and reputation risk – no matter what the price.
If you are doing wrong, know that you will get caught. What percent of wrongdoers do you really think evade the long arm of the law? They may get away with something for a while, but most eventually pay the price. I would guess that number to be 95-98%. Do you think you’re smart enough and stealthy enough and slimy enough to find yourself living the high life (and on the run forever) in that top 2-5%? Probably not. And that price you will end up paying is never going to get your reputation back, your old life back, and your felony conviction fully (and I’m mean FULLY) erased. You will suffer, your career or business will tank, and most of all your family will suffer.
There’s plenty of work to go around but not all of the work is worth your time. Some jobs you should “just say no” to. On the other hand, most new business owners understand that bills have to be paid and the only way to grow a business is to take on work, and some of that work won’t be the highest quality clients at the beginning.
But even for the newest business, some jobs just aren’t the jobs you want.
Let’s Talk About Your Time
Time is in short supply for all business owners. If you could buy more of it at the store, you probably would, but your only option is to maximize what you have.
Maximizing your time means choosing your actions with great intention. Every choice impacts your time. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. With that in mind, taking the wrong gigs may take you out of the running for the right gigs because you’re simply out of time. But what is a wrong gig?
1. The pay is too low
In your business, there are market rates that often come with a range based on education and experience. If you’re new in the business, you’ll be on the low side of the market rates but that doesn’t mean you should work for considerably less than the low end of the range.
Don’t forget, you have taxes, insurance, retirement, and other overhead to pay and they aren’t giving you a discount. Working at a loss holds very little benefit.
And most business owners will tell you that people who try to undercut on pricing are often difficult customers. Don’t commit your valuable time to people that don’t want to pay reasonable rates.
2. They want to pay you in “free advertising”
Bartering with other businesses can be beneficial, but typically, working in exchange for “free advertising” isn’t. If the New York Times calls and offers to exchange work for advertising, that might be an arrangement you’re willing to entertain. A small business, a website, or the side of some local organization’s trailer have no value to you as advertising space.
3. They want you to work for free or at a discount because “It’s for the kids”
Part of being a responsible business owner is giving back to your community and those in need. There’s absolutely no doubt that you should give of yourself, but set a reasonable percentage of your time to set aside for those endeavors. They might not even be connected to your business. For all of the other requests that come in, politely decline and wish them the best.
4. They tell you “I’ll give you equity in my company”
Again, you might be passionate about helping up and coming business owners like others helped you but as a form of payment, just say no. If they can’t afford to pay you, the equity in their company probably holds no value.
The biggest problem most businesses have is marketing.
In fact, the top fear of small business owners is the inability to market effectively and their top pain point is poor sales. 66% say finding new customers is a major concern.
That’s no surprise considering 47% of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own. When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to get bogged down with various techniques and strategies.
But what do you do when your marketing initiatives aren’t working as well as expected?
Instead of continuing to waste time and money on campaigns that aren’t paying off, it may be time to figure out how you can develop a sensible plan for making your marketing efforts work out right.
Want to know how?
Why Most Marketing Campaigns Fail Miserably
Before I jump into the details, let’s set the record straight.
Why do most marketing campaigns fail? Because promoting and selling products or services only works when people know, like, and trust you.
Far too many business owners are looking for the latest bright shiny object that will do the marketing for them. But if you want to improve your marketing and sales, you need people to know, like, and trust you to be successful.
The problem is…
Obscurity–Your potential customers may not know who you are. Even if they do, they’re thinking about their hopes, dreams, and problems–not whatever you’re trying to sell. As long as you are unknown or unimportant in their eyes, your chances of making a sale are slim to none.
Credibility– The second reason marketing efforts fall flat is credibility, or rather, your lack of it. People have heard it all when it comes to marketing claims. The result? Most of us are skeptical when it comes to advertising. That’s a problem since nobody buys without belief.
So, how can you overcome these two marketing campaign killers? Now that you know the two reasons marketing efforts fail, you can adapt.
Rethink Your Approach to Marketing
How then should you approach your marketing? Here are some recommendations for tackling both problems.
Offer a guarantee–If you want to establish credibility and lower buyer resistance, reduce your customer’s risk. For example, offer a money back guarantee or a 30-day trial. A strong guarantee shows you stand behind your product or service. You can guarantee your product, your service, or your customer’s results.
Deliver social proof–Skeptical prospects will rarely accept your claims at face value. But they will listen to other people. So include proof elements in your marketing. Case studies, customer testimonials, study data from respected sources and statements that support your point from a major periodical can all be effective. After all, the best way to be credible is to prove that your product or service really works.
Use specific details–Another credibility booster is specificity. When people consider buying something, they want to learn as much as they can. The more detailed the information you provide, the more credible it is to your prospects.
Partner with a like-minded business–To get attention for your small business, consider working with a complementary business to market to your common prospects. The strategic partnership could give your marketing efforts more reach without more cost.
Content marketing–This is one of the most cost effective ways to solve both marketing problems. Effective content marketing can position you as a trusted resource for your ideal customer. It also helps you gain visibility. A win all the way around.
Hold a photo contest–You could give away a $50 Amazon.com gift card to one lucky winner. To enter, you’d have users take a picture using your product or service and share on social media. This way your customers become part of your marketing team and help get the word out about your business.
The word alone makes some people uncomfortable. You attend events, meet people, exchange business cards, diligently follow up… and then the disappointing fizzle. Rarely does anything come from your efforts.
The problem is that most people think networking mean selling. Unfortunately, that puts everyone involved on the defensive. Fortunately, there’s a better way to network. It involves changing your approach to networking and taking part in meetups to build business relationships.
Free Yourself from the Pressure of Networking Events
You may wonder why so many business owners struggle with networking.
Ordinary networking fails because so many people attend networking events for the wrong reasons. They want to sell something or ask for a favor.
Think about it. A lot of people who are only interested in promoting their own businesses approach you. A few of them may turn into legitimate leads, but you never get much out of it for the time invested.
But, you’re going at this from the wrong angle…
Meetups as an Alternative to Traditional Groups
Sol Orwell is a 7-figure entrepreneur and the co-founder of Examine.com. Even though he’s an online entrepreneur, he takes a personal approach to building businesses. Sol has a great approach to building a professional network of meaningful relationships.
1. Identify Meetups that interest you and are business-related.
2. Once you have identified your niche, start connecting with people.
3. Start establishing your credibility in your industry.
Easy as 1-2-3.
In case you’re wondering “What’s a Meetup?”, Meetup is the largest network of local groups in the world. With more than 9,000 groups of like-minded people getting together every day, Meetups are one of the easiest ways to find other people who share a common interest or cause.
You want to expand your consulting practice by expanding your current client base. You may be stretching yourself thin but unless your consulting gigs are the type that take up 110% of your time every time out, then you usually want to make sure you have several streams of income going at once, and that you’re constantly marketing to draw new prospects into your sales funnel. You need to cover yourself because no matter how good of a consultant you are, you’ll still have the occasional cash-strapped client who waits till the 11th hour to bail on you. When they do, that leaves a big void that you can’t possibly fill in time for your next month’s planned income – unless you already have some sales prospects in your funnel who you may be able to convince to retain you now.
It happened to me this past month so it is certainly fresh in my mind… Here are three of my top hacks for converting those prospects to new business quickly:
Change your payment terms. If you are always asking for payment in advance, mix it up and offer a hesitant new client or a past client that you want to re-engage to signup for a 50/50 payment plan. By this I mean 50% up front and 50% at the end of the gig. It’s highly likely that someone will bite. Especially when you’re working with smaller organizations, you will find that paying in advance for the custom services you provide may be something they desire, but can’t often afford. Meet them somewhere – meet them in the middle with this 50/50 plan. It will probably get you over the hump and get the deal closed.
Throw in two freebies. Add not one, but at least two free items or services of value that you can give them but won’t kill you on cost or time. It will mean a lot to them and they won’t know that it isn’t that big of a sacrifice to you…they are only going to look at it from their perspective. It’s likely that as you have been talking to this potential client you’ve heard some needs or some pain points that you could probably easily help them out on by just giving away a couple of add-on services or freebies that will really make your offer golden.
Big company, small company, lots of employees, or one employee, your HR load is about to ramp up. That’s because new overtime regulations take effect on December 1, 2016. For any employee that makes less than $47,476 per year, they can no longer be labeled as exempt from overtime. More bluntly—if you have anybody working for you below that pay threshold, you probably have to pay them overtime after 40 hours of work.
Let’s jump back for a moment and explain a few of the not-so-clear laws that you as a business must comply with if you hire employees. If you’re looking for some light reading to cure your nighttime bout with insomnia look no further than the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. This is the set of laws that governs how you pay your employees.
It includes things like minimum wage, the fact that you have to pay workers on a regular payday, and all of those deductions that you take from your employees’ checks.
The FLSA does not cover things like vacation, holiday, sick or severance pay, holiday hours, special weekend wages, fringe benefits or discharge practices. All of these items are covered in your employment contract.
And yes, the FLSA does dictate overtime pay. In the past, if your employees were hourly, (also called non-exempt) you had to pay overtime pay for more than 40 hours of work. But there were exceptions to this overtime pay rule. You could be an exempt employee if you were a teacher or an administrator in a school, outside sales rep, and certain computer related occupations. Seasonal employees like fisherman, newspaper delivery workers, some farmworkers, and babysitters or people who cared for the elderly in a casual capacity. Finally, if you were paid less than $23,660 you could not be considered exempt. There were all kinds of workarounds employers could use to classify employees as exempt but now, the pay threshold overshadows almost all of those workarounds.
There are many more highly complicated rules for designating employees as exempt or non-exempt that haven’t changed but the pay threshold more than doubling from $23k to $47,476 means back to hourly wages rather than a salary—something that has traditionally meant a more professional status.
What does the change look like in more practical terms? First, back to the days of timecards. The modern day equivalent are online platforms that allow for clocking in and out on a mobile app but the idea is the same. Your employees have to be detailed with it. If they worked until 11:30 at night getting ready for a sales call the next morning, they have to clock the hours. If they took 45 minutes for lunch, they have to clock it. If they don’t, you are in violation of the law. If they reach their 40 hours on Thursday, they can’t work Friday unless you pay for the overtime.
Second, if you’re like most small businesses, you allow your employees to work irregular hours as long as they get their work done with excellence and on time. Under the new system, the more employees you have, the harder it will be to allow them to come and go as needed. You’ll likely find it easier to hold them to set hours.
Along the same lines, you’ll probably be less enthusiastic about telecommuting. When hours weren’t tracked you weren’t as concerned about the amount of work they got done in an hour because if they’re working from home, they’ll work until the project is done.
Not under the new system. Now, every hour is important because you have to pay overtime even if they aren’t as productive a certain day.
How Will You Pay Overtime?
Employees’ gut reaction was to be excited about the change but there’s a problem. They’re not going to be paid for overtime; they just won’t get it because businesses don’t have the extra money. The National Retail Federation said the same thing in a press release. If that’s you, you will likely feel the push to micromanage more so employees get more done in the 40 hours they have each week.
No Special Deals
Under FSLA, some things you can negotiate but you can’t skirt the new regulations by negotiating with your employees. There’s a workaround, of course. If you have an employee that’s close to the $47,476 threshold that regularly works overtime, give them a raise. The pay bump might be cheaper than paying overtime hours or hiring another employee to take on their overtime workload.
The Ironic Part
If all of these new rules have you a little down in the dumps, there’s a bit of irony to it. Congress, made up of the people who passed the law, might have forgotten that many of their employees are working a huge amount of overtime hours without pay. They, too, will fall under the new rules and most Congressional offices don’t have the money to compensate their staffers. And some Congressmen aren’t too happy about it.
Congress is allowed to exempt themselves from the rule but even they know that doing so could be political suicide.
What’s not funny is that many Congressional workers are young budding politicians themselves who are willing to work the extra hours to get a career boost. Under the new laws, that won’t be easy to do anymore.