Bad Emails Are Worse Than None At All

I run across some bad emails in my inbox, but I have to give people an A for effort, so I have avoided using SMB emails as examples of WHAT NOT TO DO. In this case, the example below was so bad it borders on the “I really don’t care” level, so I decided they wouldn’t really care if I used them as an example (I’m not a complete idiot, so I blurred the logo and name throughout).

I just had to show how 10-15 minutes of some simple layout changes and editing make a HUGE difference in your business image.

See below how even with the same content, simple attention to eye-friendly tools can make all the difference in the chance your email will actually be read AND leave a good impression on your subscribers. At the bottom of this image are tips on what went wrong here…Email Before and After

Please, Please use these guidelines in your emails:

(Note how these guidelines were ignored in the example above)

  • Get AT LEAST ONE other person to proof for spelling and grammar.
  • Headings – A title should look like a title – create space around your title line and use appropriate font/size.
  • Image padding and placement – Use image alignment tools to allow text to wrap to the left or right or simply center your image. Add padding to ensure the image allows white space between the image and text for better viewing and reading.
  • WHITE SPACE in your body of text is imperative. NEVER have more than 2-3 lines in a paragraph. Remember, most people nowadays are reading their inbox on a mobile device. If they have trouble reading, they’ll exit out in a heartbeat.
  • If you use an Image URL instead of a jpg, png, gif, etc., the source for that image might move or be deleted (and you’ll never know when that happens), and as a result, it will also be deleted on your emails since that image lives at that URL. If you prefer using a URL because of storage limitations, use your own web page as a source or a photo storage site like Photobucket to give you complete control.
  • AND if you must copy and paste from a Word or other document, it MUST BE FREE OF FORMATTING. Your email service providers usually have a tool button in the Toolbar to paste from Word format free. You can also use your computer tools like Notepad to paste into first, then copy and paste from Notepad. This will remove all formatting to provide a clean paste.

These are just the basics, but look at the difference when applied…

What type of email would you rather your customers receive?

If you are ready to try email marketing – please click here for a free trial with Constant Contact.

How to Acquire Real Fans for Your Social Media Marketing Spend

…buy Twitter Followers in our website, starting at $29 USD / 5k Followers…

DON’T DO IT

If you don’t get at least 1 spam solicitation a week for purchased followers via your social media accounts or via email, consider yourself lucky. Scam artists are always looking for the inexperienced social media marketer to make their money. You already know that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” and profile scammers would be extinct, but, as long as there are buyers, there will be takers. Inexperienced social media clients often ask if they should buy followers because their established competitor has thousands.

Insights tell all

You may not have access to your competitors insights and analytics, but you can judge a book by its cover in this instance. Start following your competitors and note whether their posts, tweets, and photos garner engagement. Isn’t it interesting how an account with thousands of followers often gets disproportionately few likes, retweets, reposts, shares, or comments?

There are 2 main reasons for that; 1) they are lousy at posting, but more likely, 2) they have a base of artifically acquired followers irrelevant to their business. Those so-called followers are not responding or even noticing the posts – that is, if they even exist in real life! So while the competitor may tout a huge fan base, their success is shallowly based only in that number, not in results.

Quantity vs. Quality

Gone are the days when quantity was critical to the perception of a successful social media account. Landing pages (no longer permitted) were created as tools requiring a “like” before entry for contests, deals, yadayada, to acquire new followers – and lots of them. Slowly, it became very evident that many new followers became fans just for the freebie or perk – the attraction being the giveaway and not your goods and services. Unlikes followed or your business simply ignored.

Marketing is marketing whether on or offline. Ever had an event for your brick and mortar focused on giveaways and contests? The results? You probably got enough warm leads with real sales to cover the cost of the event and little more. If you aren’t attracting the right prospects with any method of marketing, you lose.

That’s not to say a big marketing campaign can’t be fruitful, but new and inexperienced small business owners often do not use proven tracking methods for an accurate ROI of their market spend. Year after year they spend on repeat “perceived” successful events without knowing the reality to make revisions for real success. Again, they can talk about how many people attended the event, but inquire about results and you may get an ambiguous reply.

Retention or Acquisition?

Social media business account holders are becoming savvy to the reach of a quality following because they learn that retention, more than acquisition, is the best way to keep and grow business. If you follow a successful formula in your business, you will get referrals.

Customers with needs/desires that match your goods/services

+    Excellence in Customer Service
————————————————

= PROFIT

Bottom Line?

Remember: Buying followers and contacts is as effective as inviting a whole community of strangers to your party – most come for the free food and leave without even remembering your name. Invite specifically those to your “marketing party” who can benefit from your products and services, then wow them with your service. They’ll not only remember your name, they’ll refer you to others.

Every Santa Needs a Break! Put a Bench in Your Store

Every Santa Needs a Break!

Have you considered available seating as an integral part of customer service?

The weary, bag laden, and soon impatient non-shopper leaves to shop elsewhere or coaxes the rest of the groups to leave. It’s a lose-lose for you and your shoppers. So, why encourage the non-shopper to become grumpy and negatively influence your happy shoppers?

The most overlooked fixture for your store could be a simple bench.

A bench (or seating of any type) is an important facet of good customer service and therefore, an item with a deceptively good ROI. For mostly unjustified reasons, small shop owners often have a negative mindset toward extra seating in a store.

Rethink. During the holidays, gift shoppers are often in groups – family, visiting relatives, vacationing couples. And they get weary. And since not every member of the group wants to shop in your particular store, there is that awkward, and often uncomfortable, situation of waiting for others to shop. Big deal, you say? You’re not in the business of providing seating?

Everyone stays!

Small business brick and mortar is typically limited in floor space, but there is always place for a strategically positioned chair or bench. Isn’t it better if no one leaves until the active shoppers are done shopping your establishment? You may even leave a positive visual imprint for the next shopping visit. They’ll remember, “They have a place where I can sit.”

And because of certain health issues, seating may be a requirement during long shopping days. Do you want anyone to avoid your establishment due to lack of seating for Aunt Sally with her arthritic knees?

Do be mindful of positioning seating in a positive manner. Find a spot that creates a sense of belonging rather than of being placed in a cramped corner. And if you are a clothing store, place seating near the dressing room to enable “show and tell.” Shoppers are more likely to buy when they can get that “second opinion.”

Seating means comfort

Ask other shop owners who DO have seating in their store. What benefits are they reaping?

They’ll likely tell you potentially grumpy and impatient non-shoppers are relieved to find a place to sit. Their mood shifts more positively and the begin to observe the surroundings. They soon notice the inviting displays and consider shopping with you, too (because you have invested time and good marketing principles in your merchandising and displays, right?).

Create a sense of welcome

You absolutely must train your staff to take a moment to engage with the seated! The power of interaction is immeasurable for positive reinforcement. Keep bottles of water and snacks on hand. It all goes together.

QR codes – a Marketing Opportunity not to be ignored

You can easily create QR code and signage to enable seated visitors (and everyone else):

  • to go to your website
  • to read your blog
  • to subscribe to your newsletter
  • to become a follower on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and all your other Social Media sites
  • to leave a review on sites like Yelp and more!

Give the seated an excuse to post or tweet about their experience waiting for their friends!

No money in the budget for a sturdy bench or chairs?

Buy used. Craigslist, Ebay, your local consignment store, used office furniture stores (very sturdy furniture), garage sales, … even your house!

Seating really is so simple and yet frequently dismissed. Don’t overlook it – especially through the holidays.

Boomer SMB Owners Tell Me S/He Can’t Do Social Media…

MS-DOS Command line
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-DOS

Nothing, and I mean nothing, including social media, is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. . .

Since my business demographic is primarily boomers, I know better. I’m a boomer, too. And I know full well that we boomers had to conquer and endure the pioneering stages of modern technology. Nothing, and I mean nothing, today is as hard to master as MS-DOS was. Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials don’t have a clue what a nightmare it was to work on a black screen with green letters and no graphics, no mouse. They never had to learn commands or have ever seen “A:” , or had to save content on multiple floppy disks, and most never sat in front of a v e r y  s l o w CRT that emitted unhealthy rays!

So, Back to the Boomers

So when these boomers who cut their computer teeth on difficult, dinosaur technology are telling me that social media is just too hard to take the time to learn  – –  sorry, but I’m not biting!

What I think happened to these otherwise savvy entrepreneurs, is when they began their businesses, technology was in an ever-changing mode. Obsolescence was the norm, and many were hesitant to invest in expensive technology that would most likely be outdated before it collected dust. Starting a new business means watching every nickel; technology avoidance and frugality became almost a badge of honor.

Culture Shock

Then, before these entrepreneurs knew what hit them, all of a sudden they were far, far behind others who had the time to keep up. In addition, any technology to be learned had to center around POS and bookkeeping. The learning curve on those was a bit time-consuming for owners, not to mention the time required to train staff. Who had time to jump into the social media craze while trying to run a business?

But now – da-da-DUM – there is no escaping social media for small business marketing. While it, too, experienced its versions of continuous obsolescence, social media has settled in as the most viable and affordable marketing vehicle for SMBs.

What I am finding is the biggest obstacle to success in social media, is that most successful entrepreneurs are classic introverts, even hermits. They live, eat, drink, and breathe their business to the point of no social life, but they like that! So of course they feel awkward trying to enter a SOCIAL medium that expects casual interaction.

So, yes, it is good to hire help, but it is also good to use that help to learn social media. WHY? Because social media is not successful unless the fans get to see what goes on behind the front doors. And if you don’t provide behind the scenes material (content, images, customer testimonials, etc.), then you are simply keeping a social media account alive with memes, quotes, product images – yawn……..

My best social media analogy?

Think of how many times you have driven by a small business and felt a tinge of apprehension about pulling in and checking it out. Why?

Because we don’t like to explore the unknown, especially when it has potential to waste our valuable time or money. Your social media fans are no different. They want some behind the scenes peeks at who you are, what you do, why you sell what you sell, what makes you different, and how will it FEEL to shop or do business with you!

Damn, you don’t have to marry these fans! Just like your customers, people just need to get to know each other! And that’s why social media works for those who do make the effort to put themselves out there for fans! Does that make sense?!

Shopping Small is Shopping Wise for Busy Entrepreneurs

Shopping Small is Shopping Wise for Busy Entrepreneurs

Are you guilty of lost time picking through discount racks to NOT find what you need?

It is a far more enjoyable shopping experience to “Shop Small.” Since Entrepreneurs are always short on time, small business shops and services can be a huge time saver once you establish a relationship with the staff. And since you entrepreneurs are always watching every dime,  shopping small keeps you out of hot water when you need your needs met. For example, your small business will educate you on extending the life of your purchases, and proper use. In addition, with your sales history, they can make suggestions for wiser future purchases to supplement what you already own.

You will get additional value if you ASK your small business:

  • Do you keep my purchases on file?
  • Will I be notified of sales or specials?
  • Will you let me know if something I expressed an interest in goes on sale or is running out?
  • Can I work with the same salesperson each time if I find a good match for me?
  • Do you have a loyalty program?
  • Is there a maintenance alert program (for home and office machines, appliances, landscapers, etc) perhaps via email or texting?

ASK, ASK, ASK! You’d be surprised what they might offer for your customer service experience if you only ask.

I know our clients are very happy when we notice items of concern or mistakes FOR them before a consumer does. And by the same token, we are very happy to have small businesses who help US with their specific goods or services so we can keep our minds focused on our clients.

Generally, small business owners LOVE what they do. Give them a chance to treat you special and you’ll save a lot of time and money – and stress!

:) Take 5 minutes to post a good review on social media or review sites (like Yelp or Google Places for Business) for the small businesses who make your daily life easier! They work hard to keep you coming back.

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something.”

The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. – Nolan Bushnell

I got my LLC today!

What’s the big deal? The big deal is calling your business official. It’s all well and good to say you are a consultant, but being able to have an official status means it’s real. And that creates new energy!

I got laid off in August 2010. Best thing that ever happened to me. I was crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t jump puddles for me… and it took a layoff to recognize it. So now I’m crossing my own oceans. I knew I had skills that i enjoyed using and there was no reason to not create my business to do it. And it feels great!

I’m thrilled! There’s nowhere to go but UP! What a great month to make that change – November, a month of gratitude.

Thank you to all my family, friends, colleagues, clients, followers, fans….. everyone who always gave me a high-five with every step forward. Man, it’s true, you can’t do it without that kind of support.

 

Are Marketing Pundits Defining Social Media Without Consideration for Small Business?

Empty ConversationIn my experience with new clients, I sometimes wonder how it is they are so far behind in understanding social media concepts. But then, I sometimes can’t fault them.

  • Uncertain platform choices
  • The demise of some platforms.
  • Social media best practice content purposed primarily toward larger businesses and corporations.

Add to that the unspoken secret among experienced social media users – there truly is a long learning curve before the ROI kicks in with any social media.

Now for the bright side.

You’re a small business owner. You are successful because of the relationships you have with your customers. Sure, product has a say in your success, but it’s how you deliver on product that ultimately leads to your success, right?

So. completely forget everything you know about traditional marketing when you sit at your technology board of choice. Put on your on-the-floor sales hat and remember how you approach customers walking in the door. You’re not like the chain stores that bark hellos at you the moment a customer enters. YOU approach your customers in a relationship building manner.

You greet them, engage in a little chat, draw them into conversation around their needs, educate them on how to best get those needs met, offer suggestions on what you can provide toward those goals, fulfill with product or service, deliver, and follow-up on satisfaction. You do this while maintaining consciousness regarding their needs, not yours. Why? Because you know satisfaction is key to repeat/referral business.

Ok, now simply use exactly that strategy in your online content implementation.

Yes, it really is that simple. If you still have a hard time wrapping your head around that, work it in reverse. Think clearly about what you would NOT do on the sales floor. Then don’t do it on social media!!!

Best example? While you may have displays with a call to action firmly in place, you still do not verbally approach customers with a call to action. Then why do so many social media users do that in their updates? Because they are thinking of social media in the context of traditional marketing which is primarily focused on enticement and calls to action. Stop it!