Can a Small Business Marketing Package Increase Sales?

For any business the return on investment for each marketing program is important, for small business it can be the most mission critical decision a marketing professional can make. In today’s economy, every marketing spend is a serious one, so examining the return on investment for a small business marketing package is important before choosing the package. The good news is that changes in technology have changed the equation for small business marketers from one of shrink wrap packaged database software or sales account contact management packages, to a variety of inexpensive, no contract online marketing packages that can keep costs very low while resulting sales from the marketing package grow.

Affording a web-based or “cloud” computing package for marketing was until recently something that only a larger business could get a return on their investment with. Now subscription based marketing packages can be found for very low monthly rates that will provide not only all of the sales account management features expected of the desktop database products, but email marketing, social CRM tools for twitter and more. Some of these packages even provide a free 30 day trial period in which the small business can perform an unlimited amount of email marketing and lead gathering without any cost.

The key way in which a web-based small business marketing package can increase sales is by gathering leads from a landing page and moving those leads directly into a sales contact database for sales to contact. Many online packages provide an online form that the small business can direct customers to, or incorporate into the design of their website. Once new leads are in the system, the marketing package provides the sales force with a way to stay in constant contact with leads through email, while increasing the knowledge they have in the system about each opportunity or activity.

Having a sales force track customer opportunities in a more organized way than a simple contact database and can provide information on neglected accounts. Small business marketing packages will provide templates to create professional email designs for bulk email or to be used as form letters by the sales force. Shopping around can reveal that some full service online marketing packages provide all of the features of a customer relationship management system at the same price that other email marketing packages charge to send bulk emails.

The biggest advantage of a web-based small business marketing package is mobility. Desktop database, contact management and spreadsheet programs mean that customer information is in one location. If that location is on a laptop or your phone that’s great, but it has to be kept in sync and situations will come up where someone else needs the data when its on the road with a sales person. Cloud based software for marketing provides the power to tap into that customer information from any computer with web access, smart phone or tablet. This means that opportunities can be worked to their full extent anywhere anytime and more sales will close.

A small business marketing package can go a long way to increase sales. The important things to know is how much the company will be investing initially to get those sales, how many sales force oriented features are included for the monthly subscription price, and does the package give the ability to generate leads directly into the marketing program from the web.

Choosing The Right Mobile Apps for Small Business For Your Industry

With an already large and growing audience, mobile apps for small business is a smart investment to generate dozens if not hundreds of new leads a month.

What is the Major Criteria for the Right Mobile Apps for Small Business?

  • Connecting -It is a Goldilocks decision, has to be just right to be engaging and a real fit. In traditional advertising it’s more about audience share. Considerations include number of readers, viewers and listeners.

Mobile apps for small business takes a different mindset. It’s all about relating to and creating a dialogue or exchange with your customers and prospects. You can start with what you have and grow your audience rapidly from there.

  • Sharing – Engagement is the new objective for “like” marketers. Creating interesting and fun content with your audience is a surefire way for your mobile apps for small business to succeed. While that is important the “holy grail” for your mobile apps for small business is for those who engage to share your content with their circle of friends.

With the average Facebook user having 137 friends you only need 10% or more to share. Known as influencers your mobile apps for small business can quickly spiral into an enormous reach of thousands of interested prospects. For some it’s even millions!

  • Call to Action – While having fun is the frequent driver you’ll want to include a call to action that brings your audience one step closer to being a ready buyer for your products and services.

Here are some successful examples of mobile apps for small business that have carefully integrated an easy call to action.

• A florist who polls mom’s in advance what their favorite collection they would like to receive for Mother’s Day. They receive the contest results that makes it easy for them to share.

• A bar and grill restaurant who sends a free appetizer or wine coupon out on a typical slow night around lunch time when they know everyone is sure to be checking their phone. They include a restriction for groups of 4 or more which encourages even more sharing among friends.

• A health gym who promotes in their membership campaign a BMI (body mass indicator) tracker with points they can earn as they progress toward their choice of perks redeemable at the gym.

• A realtor who shares new below market listings to select real estate investors. This powerful mobile apps for small business shares an exclusive video tour with high resolution pics of key property features 72 hours before the property is listed to the general public. The last screen is an opt in for making a priority appointment request.

Type of Product or Service Is An Important Consideration for Mobile Apps for Small Business

  • Impulse buyers – Is there an entry point that engages immediate mobile traffic? The restaurant example above highlights how easy it is to relate to a naturally social and mobile product.

How about big ticket products? Think about giveaways or contests at open houses, test drives, new product demo’s, etc.

Consider the best timing that will reach a peak audience. Just make sure your mobile apps for small business is fun, interesting and something someone would want to share with their friends..

  • Knowledge – Is there more extensive information that must be gathered before making a purchase? Quizzes or trivia contests that position your product or service expertise favorably are excellent choices. Architects looking to finalize designs on a visible public works project may go with polling their fan base with a slide show before making their final pitch to the decision makers.
  • Experience – Does your opportunity create a memorable experience? How about the outdoor sports equipment store than could run a contest showing their fans posting their best mountain climbing pics. Participants get a 10% off coupon they scan from their smartphone at the store. Bigger prizes for zany categories. People love to share pics of fun moments they are having with their favorite hobbies or interests.
  • Social sharing – What about a contest that invites visitors to your Facebook business page? Just be sure you have fresh content on your page. After choosing to Like the page you are eligible for a drawing for a $100 gift card. Offer lots of lower cost or free incentives that drive traffic to your store or service to encourage even more sharing.

With mobile apps for small business you are only limited by your creativity. There are a growing number of great examples available for every industry that you can begin with. It doesn’t take long to be an expert with just the right mix of mobile apps for small business that fit your exact needs.

Exciting growth in leads and new sales can occur fast with smartly leveraging your mobile apps for small business investment.

How to Fill Your Sales Pipeline For Small Business

Every small business owner is actually in the lead generation business! If you own a small business, the only thing you need to do every day is generate more leads, so that you can get more sales, so that you can make more money. Getting those leads in abundance means filling your “pipeline” with suspects, prospects and actual leads.

There are multiple levels of lead types for your pipeline, here they are from least urgent to most urgent:

People who know you are in business but are not currently using your products or services. These can include people from your networking groups, someone who has entered your retail store but has not purchased or even your friends and family. These people should get something from you occasionally to remind them that you are in business, but should not occupy many of your marketing dollars.

Suspects are people who have at least expressed an interest in what you sell. They may have signed up for a free report on your website or dropped their name in a bowl at your trade show. These people should receive something from you that helps remind them about the benefits of your product or service, but should not be a blatant sales pitch. These could include a piece of industry news sent by email or snail mail, a personal phone call or even a marketing piece.

Prospects are people who have indicated that they want to buy your product. They may be taking their time making a decision, but they have expressed an interest. Be careful not to lose touch with these folks! You do not want to do all the hard work of selling them on your type of product or service, only to have someone swoop in at exactly the right time to steal your sale. Make sure to contact them on at least a bi-weekly basis and it is absolutely appropriate to send them industry news that will help them make a decision. Additionally, make sure to cut the time they say it will take to make a decision in half. If they say they will buy in six months, make sure to contact them in three months so that you do not lose the sale.

And the number one most important type of lead…

Someone who refers you business, whether they have ever purchased from you or not! This one can seem counter-intuitive. Why would you pay attention to someone who does not buy from you? A person who is willing to refer you to their friends and family can, over time, greatly increase your income. Make sure that you are sending them a personal note thanking them for their referral, every time they send someone your way. Also, make sure that they are invited to your client appreciation parties, that they get a special Christmas treat and that you call them at least monthly.

If you stay aware of your leads and which are the most important, you can fill your pipeline with people at each step of the sales process and help to smooth out the sales volume ups and downs that most small business owners experience.

How To Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media

Are you a small business owner looking for ways to grow your business? Are you looking to attract more leads to your business, or have heard about Social Media Marketing, and now want to try it?

As a small business owner you face many challenges – limited capital, minimal support staff and having too much to do in what seems like very little time. So, how do you grow your small business without heavy investment in marketing and advertising? Answer – through the use of technology. Web 2.0 provides you with various tools and techniques that help you to generate leads and increase the exposure of your home-based business. Social media is one such tool. Here’s all you need to know as a small business owner to begin increasing revenues using social media.

What is Social Media?
Social Media is a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, GooglePlus, and MySpace.

What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is using the above mentioned platforms to reach a new audience of consumers and create product brand awareness. By spreading word of a product from user to user, Social Media Marketing strives to gain greater legitimacy for a message because it is shared between trusted “friends.”

Which Social Media Channels are most popular?
Studies show that Facebook & Twitter are most popular social media channels followed closely by YouTube and LinkedIn, GooglePlus.

Why should Social Media Marketing Interest me?
If you think this kind of Marketing is not for you, think again. These platforms offer a large bundle of benefits to small business owners. Here are some reasons why you should consider using Social Media for your business.

Exposure: As a small business owner you rely largely on network marketing to channel leads to your business – which, in turn relies on your interaction with people. This is the core notion of what Social Media is! But Social Media offers virtually unlimited opportunities to interact with people – millions of them! With this interesting form of marketing, your business is no longer limited to local leads; you will find leads coming in from a diversified geographic market!

Zero-cost: While other marketing media would be expensive, this type of marketing is relatively free, or requires negligible monetary investment. It’s a great low-cost way to get your message across.

Improved web presence: Being on popular social media platforms strengthens your web presence. The more people talk about you on Facebook or Twitter, the greater are the chances of your business being found on relevant web searches such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

Direct contact with prospects: These platforms put you in touch with your customers directly. You can have one-on-one contact with them, know what they really want.

Go viral: Such marketing offers you the opportunity to go viral with your marketing. Think about this. You put up a video about your business on YouTube. 10 people like it, and five of them share it with their friends, who in-turn share it with 20 more people. This is known as “viral marketing,” and it can be a very effective method to increase your lead generation.

What is a Social Media “game plan” and why should you have one?
A social media game plan is a process consisting of a few simple steps that can help you achieve your social media marketing objectives. The social media arena is large and you can get lost in it if you don’t play by the rules. There’s a lot of competition and you have to have a clear plan if you want to stand out of the crowd and get noticed.

Your ideal Social Media game plan
A typical game plan for your business should consist of these four steps

  • Build your network
  • Propagate your presence
  • Stay connected
  • Monitor

Step 1 – build your network: The first step is to search for and add those users to your network whom you think fall into your target audience segment. When placing a request to add users to your network, it is always better to accompany such requests with a personalized message. You can also look for and join groups that pertain to your line of business. For example, if you are a business selling Health drinks and other health-related products, you could join groups where topics such as nutrition, diet or health are discussed. Such groups provide you audience for the products you have to offer. However, when in a group, do remember to ADD VALUE. Answer questions that you are equipped to answer, actively participate in discussions, be subtle and don’t aggressively “push” your products.

Step 2-propagate: The next step is to announce your Social Media presence. You can do this by adding links to your social media pages on your website, e-mail signature line or newsletter, if you have one. You are out there with your business-announce it!

Step 3-stay connected:The third step is to stay connected with your fans and group members. Social media marketing initiative is easy to start, but requires effort to maintain. And like many networking efforts, results are usually not immediate. Acquire permission from group members and others on your network to send e-mails. You can then e-mail relevant content to people on your network. The key here is to send RELEVANT, VALUE ADDING content-not an advertisement of your products/services. If you are a health-drink selling company who is also a part of the diet and nutrition group, you can send links such as ’10 Best Anti-Oxidant Rich Fruits’ and then perhaps add an image and some information about your product, encouraging people to get in touch with you if they’re interested. This approach will be better-received than just sending the prospects an e-mail flyer totally dedicated to your product.

Dos and Don’ts
While social networking is all about human interaction and cannot be strait-jacketed, here are some tips that will come in handy.

What you should do?
Add value to your contacts: Always add value to your contacts. Always! Provide them useful information, tips and other interesting facts that they can use. For example, Jane, a home-based business owner sells health drinks and weight loss products. So, it makes sense for her to provide her audience with interesting articles on the topic of weight loss.

Be consistent in your online participation: It is not a one-time effort. It is about building a relationship… and relationships take time. Be consistent in your social media communication. Have an interesting tweet/post/update at least every day. In some few cases, multiple postings a day are even better-but don’t forget rule#1-add value. Your posts shouldn’t sound like pointless ramblings or advertisements of your product/service.

Pay attention to what’s being discussed: If you have joined a forum or a group, actively participate in relevant discussions. Use your specific, professional knowledge to help others. Contribute to add depth and dimension to a discussion.

Conversation is the key: As mentioned before, social media marketing thrives on relationships. To build a strong relationship with your prospects, you need to engage in a conversation with them. Maintain a 2-way communication between you and your audience. Take genuine interest in what they have to say and follow up on comments or observations that are made.

Thoroughly know the subject you are talking about: Position yourself as an expert on these platforms. But be sure that you know what you’re talking about. Research if you aren’t sure of something. Mistakes on these platforms spread quickly and damage the reputation of your business.

Personalize your interaction: It’s advisable to personalize your interaction with your audience. Inquire about an event or occasion posted on a Wall, such as a recent trip, or “like” their vacation pictures on Facebook.

Portray your individuality: The biggest advantage small business owners have over large corporations is the fact that they are much smaller and haven’t lost that real-person feel. Let your audience know the person behind the business. Make sure your interactions include a personal side!

Respond to your customers’ grievances ASAP: Did you know that 88% of customers say unanswered complaints on social media sites deter them from doing repeat business? And deleting customer complaints is even worse! So make sure you resolve your customer’s complaints on social media platforms immediately. Even if you can’t resolve them, at least respond so that they know they’re being heard. Acknowledge everything.

Mention your Social Media presence: Advertise your profiles. Always provide links to your social media profile in your website, blog, e-mails and even print materials. For websites and blogs, it’s best to add Facebook and twitter widgets which provide a live feed of what’s happening on your Facebook/twitter page, right there on your website or blog. Provide incentives or value adding information such as whitepapers or articles in order to encourage people to follow you on social media sites!

Monitor & moderate: Monitor your social media presence. Find out where your name’s coming up online and in what context it has been used. A Google alert is the simplest way to do this, though there are many free tools available online to monitor your web presence. Also stay in-control of your social media pages. Read what others are putting up on your page and respond promptly.

Syndicate your Social Media content: Content creation takes time. So why not make the most of the content you have? Post your content on all popular social media sites and don’t hesitate to re-use them. Turn a blog post into a link and put it on Facebook. Convert it into a video and add to YouTube and Facebook or turn it into a presentation and put it up on SlideShare. The aim is to get maximum exposure for your content.

What you should not do?

DON’T overtly push your products/services: Social media is a platform

where you build relationships, to create value. It’s NOT an advertising venue. Your audience

will shun you if all you talk about is the stuff you sell. Think about it, would you talk to your family

and friends about the products you sell all the time? Of course not! Then don’t treat your

social media audience any differently.

DON’T spam your contacts with pointless updates: OK, so now you added two new products to your line-up. While it’s great to share the news, don’t spam your contacts with ads. Put up a link to the new range of products; monitor who is interested and share information on a need-to-know basis.

DON’T have grammar and spelling errors in your posts: You are a small business out to create an impression. Don’t spoil it through spelling and grammatical errors. Use spelling/grammar checking tools, but never rely solely on them. Proofread your posts before putting them up online. If spelling or grammar is not your strong suit, have someone else proofread your work before it goes out

DON’T fail to respond to requests for help in your area of expertise: If you are a part of a group or forum, seize every opportunity to display your expertise. Don’t be a wallflower-actively participate in discussions.

DON’T let your profile get stale: Make sure your profile is frequently updated and that you offer something new. One mistake many small business owners make is creating social media profiles and then forgetting about them. Your social media efforts have to be on-going to bear results.

DON’T get distracted: There’s a lot of distraction available online-especially on social media channels that can make you lose track of your productive hours online. Games, quizzes, forums and live-chats-while these can be interesting tools to attract prospect interest, focus on your goals. Otherwise you’ll find yourself investing too much time and energy into activities that offer no returns to your business.