Why You Want a Report Card From Your Customers

Customers carry a great amount of “intel” about  your business, how you are doing, what you could be doing better, and even what new services you should offer. Having a good customer report card can keep you in the know about how your business is doing and what your customers’ preferences are.

Getting customer feedback comes in all shapes and sizes, including:

  • Short and long surveys (online and paper forms)
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth customer interviews
  • Comment or feedback cards
  • Online reviews

The information you gain from these outlets is invaluable (better than gold!) and can help your business:

  • Learn more about your customers’ likes and dislikes. Ask customers about specific products or services to get the inside scoop on what your business is doing well and what needs improvement. You can ask customers to complete a short survey after a purchase or follow-up a week or two after the purchase for their thoughts about the product. No one likes hour long surveys, so shorter is definitely better! Choose 4-5 questions and keep it under 10 minutes. A friendly follow-up phone call can also be effective to get more in-depth information and feedback – it gets them talking!
  • Show customers that their opinions are valued. We all like some love, and attention, right? Asking your customers for their opinions and ideas sends the message that you value their experiences and opinions. Customers are treasure troves of great ideas and can give exceptional insight into new services or products that your business can offer. Don’t forget your manners! Be sure to always thank customers for their time when completing a survey of any kind, or after providing feedback (both positive and negative).
  • Find creative ways to improve. No business is perfect – we all can improve. Naturally, customer preferences change, and you don’t want to get blindsided by this. Monitoring customer concerns/questions is a quick and affordable way to keep up-to-date with the current market. This includes reviewing online comments posted by customers – both positive and negative feedback. Keep in mind, that it is natural to have unhappy customers, but how their complaint is handled is what is key. If you dismiss unhappy customers, this can be detrimental to your business’ brand. Take a softer approach and listen to customer complaints. There’s great lessons to be learned this way! Use their complaint as a learning tool to find ways to prevent customer dissatisfaction in the future.

If you haven’t checked in with your customers recently, now is a good time to get a temperature check to see how your business is doing. Remember, customer feedback, of any kind, can be a valuable tool to grow and improve your business – plus it’s free!
When you reach out to your customers, let us know what you learn. And, of course, feel free to share any creative ways you have used to check in with your customers, by leaving a comment below. We’re all ears (and eyes!)

5 Tips to Get Started on Social Media

You may think that social media is not for the faint of heart – but don’t worry, you can do it too! Establishing a social media presence can seem like a daunting task, but it can be a great (and affordable) way to reach out to potential customers and reconnect with existing or past customers. So, we’ve come up with the top five tips that you can use to help you get started leveraging social media to drive sales, and establish an online business presence.

Here you go…

Tip #1: Pick your target audience

This is where the social media strategy begins. First things, first. You must define who your target market is, what social media platforms they are likely to use, and what messaging may be the most effective for your audience. This is just a general guide that may help you decide which social media platforms to go after. Be flexible! This list is not set in stone, but can be used to drive your initial social media research. It’s always best to cast a wide social media net and establish several social media accounts to get in front of your target audience as much as possible.

  • All ages (13 years old and up): Facebook
  • Professionals, business leaders: LinkedIn
  • Bloggers and influencers: Tumblr and Twitter
  • Expectant couples, newlyweds, do-it-yourselfers: Pinterest
  • Teens and young adults: Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram

Tip #2: Choose your social media platform(s)

Once you have reviewed the social media networks that work best to reach your target audience, now, you’re ready for action! Take note though, choosing the right social media network is a happy marriage between where your target audience is and what content your business can provide to attract customers.

When you first start, aim to establish one or two social media accounts and grow these over time before adding more to your social media resume. Slow and steady does win the race! Consider this info when selecting the right social media platform for your business.

  • Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for businesses that have lots of visual content to share. These sites are a great match for photography, event planning, construction, or interior design businesses, just to name a few.
  • Facebook and Twitter are the go-to for businesses that have unique and shareable content. This can include links to blog articles (just like this one!), videos, or event photos. Facebook is also great for capturing customer testimonials as well!
  • Snapchat, YouTube and Vine are must have social media accounts for businesses that have video or digital content to share with customers. This content can also be shared and linked to using Twitter or Facebook.

Tip #3: Select your social media handle – it’s all in the name!

Whatever social media network you choose to use for your business, you will need a “handle” or username. Take some time to think of a good, marketable username. Keep in mind that this will be visible to customers and your “handle” will be how customers locate your business’ social media pages. Consistency is key, so make sure the “handle” you choose is available across all social media networks. You don’t want customers to be lost in cyberspace looking for your business’ social media pages. It’s always a good idea to make your social media “handle” your business’ name – as close as you can get it!

Tip #4: Create a content calendar and stick to it

You’re almost ready for showtime! With a social media account, you’ll need to share and post content. Believe it or not, you may have more content to share than you think. First, think about what type of content you want to create and share and how frequently you want to share it. For most social media sites, you’re able to repost or link to existing content like newspaper articles, YouTube videos, or other users’ posts. If you don’t have time to create original content, check out great online outsourcing sites like Upwork or Fiverr to score some affordable content creation help! Stay organized during this process by creating a content calendar. It’ll keep you on track with uploading and sharing new content. You don’t want to disappoint your growing following 🙂

Tip #5: Share a good mix of content

Variety is the spice of life, right? So for the best results, you should strive to have a good mix of content on all social media pages, including creative self-promotion, customer testimonials, and original content that is valuable to your customers. Self-promotion can be direct links (like this) to your website, information about sales promotions, or general news about your company. The key is to be creative and find ways to present information so that it is interesting and engaging for your target audience. No one likes fake or false content, so be sure that any testimonials you use are authentic. In fact, encourage your customers to post testimonials directly on your social media pages. To keep it fresh, try to rotate testimonials every few months, so the world can see the evidence of your business’ good works. Always tie your original content to your business, in some way, and all posts should be of value or interest to your target audience. Hint: This is where a seasoned and creative freelance copywriter can come in handy!

Use this as a guide…

Keep in mind that this is a bare minimum recommendation – the more sharing, the better!

  • Blog posts to website, at least once per week and shared across all social media accounts
  • New posts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn at least two times per week
  • New tweets at least ten times per week
  • Pinterest pinning at least ten times per week

Abandoned houses and social media pages are scary! Plus, an abandoned social media page can be more detrimental than no social media page at all. Remember, establishing a social media presence is about building relationships with your target audience, prospective customers, and loyal customers – so keep it current, not stale!

Check out our social media channels and stay up-to-date with the latest in social media best practices. Come connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

3 Online Marketing Resources for Entrepreneurs on a Budget

Entrepreneurs, and especially those on a budget, tend to wear a lot of hats. More often than not, a small business entrepreneur will be the one responsible for branding, marketing and promotion. Because the hiring of outside professionals is usually not within the budget, many small business owners are tasked with handling these things on their own.

Fortunately there are a lot of online marketing resources that you can use to help you look like a pro and hold onto some of the cash that is so important until you start landing those big clients.

Branding on a Budget

One of the newest and most cost-effective branding tools entrepreneurs can use is Canva, simplified graphic design software with lots of pre-made templates that allow you to easily cut and paste your content. Canva is free to use and you can easily design social media graphics, marketing materials or ads in minutes. If you want to use some of Canva’s stock images, simply pay the $1 for what you need and you’ll save yourself $100s, maybe even thousands, on graphic design costs that go towards creating a professional brand.

Marketing on a Budget

A really useful online marketing resource for entrepreneurs is Fiverr, the marketplace for creative and professional services where most things cost just $5. Here you will find cheap content writers, graphic designers, voice over and media production specialists, developers and more.

One of our favorite things we recommend to B2B businesses is to use Fiverr to help you find, and connect, with other professionals on LinkedIn. Using a simple search for “LinkedIn connections” you’ll find a wealth of professionals who can help you build your professional network to 500 or more industry-relevant professionals in a short time.

Promotion on a Budget

Now that you have successfully used Canva to create professionally branded materials, Fiverr to outsource your content or web project, and have a strong foundation in which to compete in your industry, now it’s time for promotion.

Some of our favorite online promotional tools are those available from SumoMe. Some of SumoMe’s must-have free tools include their list builder, share and heat mapping tools. The list builder is an email newsletter collection tool, the share tool is a unique social sharing tool designed to get you more traffic, and the heat map tool is a tool that allows you to see where people are clicking, or not clicking, on your website.

$500 Marketing Budget: 3 Ways to Make it go Farther

The Small Business Administration says you should spend about seven percent of your gross revenue on marketing and advertising. For most small businesses, that number should easily be in the $500 price range.

That said, how can your small business use $500 each month to market your business with the goal of having that money give you some good returns in the short and long run?

  1. Use Paid Media Outlets

Google AdWords, Facebook advertising or even LinkedIn advertising for B2B marketing are all paid media opportunities you can put in place today and get sales from tomorrow. These shorter-term pay-per-click or pay-per-impression options can be crafted to go after a broad or narrow audience and will direct them back to your website, product page, or other lead capture tool to help you get more sales now.

$500 on these outlets can go a long way if you set a goal – leads, sales, traffic, etc. – and dedicate some time to interpreting the data to constantly improve your conversion ratio.

  1. Invest in Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most widely-used buzzwords in marketing right now because of the massive amount of content that consumers go through on a daily basis. A content marketing budget can be used to help fuel visits and engagement on social media, website content, eNewsletters, blogs and even in-person events, five of the most popular content marketing tactics according to a Content Marketing Institute survey.

Use your $500 budget to create some of the above-mentioned content but be sure to allot a portion to outreach so that you can get as many eyeballs on your content as possible.

  1. Use it Towards Your SEO Budget

SEO is one of the most long-term marketing items on this in that it takes a while for it to kick in. Decide whether you need local SEO or a national SEO campaign and focus in on the types of searchers you want finding your website. Many SEO companies will help you with the above-mentioned content marketing strategy as well as social media so be sure to try to get as much bang for your buck as possible with your $500 budget.