How to Tell Your Company’s Story

How to Tell Your Company's StoryEvery small business has a story to tell, and it’s especially important for your potential customers and existing customers to know your story, because it will help you to connect your customers to your brand. Your small business or brand’s story is your opportunity to attract customers by making sure they know about your core values. Social media makes it even easier for customers to know your story, and have them spread the word for you about your small business.

  • Think Outside the Box

    Go outside of the box when it comes to defining value. Your value has to be defined in human terms instead of business terms. Don’t look at your values in conjunction with sales, instead, focus on what your product or service does to make the life of your customers better. Keep drilling down on your values until you reach why it is that you are doing what you are doing. what do you believe in? How are you enhancing the lives of others? Once you answer these, you can tell your business’s story more effectively-and have customer listen to it.

  • Maintain the same Page

    Your core values and vision are linked together very closely. Everyone involved in your small business needs to be on the same page. When everyone’s not on the same page, it can lead to problems. as long as everyone is on the same page about what defines your business, then everyone will describe your business the same way, and you won’t have to be concerned about your business being represented differently depending on who’s talking about it. You can ensure that everyone shares your vision and core values by asking all of your employees to use five adjectives for describing the business, as well as two business aspects that are either valuable or unique. Check to see if they are similar, and use them to find themes and define the description more clearly.

  • Humanize the Voice

    Remember that you are creating a persona to tell your story. There are a lot of companies and business that have mascots as a way to deliver their message -think Geico. While you don’t need to go as far as creating a mascot, you need to think if your business were a human, who would it be, and what would it care about?

You have to be open, honest and stay true to yourself and your business. Consumers can see through a mask and that will only bring your business down. With more clarity about your point of view and your core values, you can build your customer base faster and enjoy more loyalty. The most successful brands are those that have personified their brand.

Small Business Tips: How to Increase Your Customer Base with Mobile Marketing

It’s important to navigate the world of mobile marketing so you can connect with customers on the fly. While a generation ago customers could depend on newspaper ads, television commercials and billboards for finding the latest products or sales, now you can find all of this in the palm of your hand via a mobile device. Discover how your small business can benefit from going mobile with these marketing tips.

Texting and Emailing

Increase your customer base with mobile marketingDo you remember beepers? Text messaging sent that the way of the dinosaur, thanks to the innovation and application available via smartphones. Now you can text your customers with information about discounts or sales, or use text messaging to send out coupons for services or products. Additionally, email is making a comeback in the form of mobile email communications. Sit up and take notice to the idea of sending bulk emails, similar to old-fashioned newsletters, with the latest information regarding your business. Add valuable tips and articles related to your business that will keep your customers plugged into your email messages. Follow these tips for successful email marketing campaigns.

Going Online

Want to increase your potential customer base? Go to where the customers are—online on their mobile devices. By creating a mobile website, you increase your visibility ten fold. Notice the words ‘mobile website.’ Unlike a traditional website, accessible on a laptop or desktop, a mobile website requires different configurations to make up for the differences in accessibility. For example, while images and videos score big points with standard web pages, mobile web pages take much longer to load and these graphics pack less of a punch.

Face-to-Face at Local Events

Who can resist the irresistible lure of your convincing sales pitch? No one. That is why in-person events, such as vendor booths at community functions and fundraisers, offer a great opportunity to make potential sales. While these events will only involve a small percentage of the local community, being able to have direct contact with individuals is an optimal marketing strategy. How can going mobile increase your efficiency for events? According to Direct Marketing News, 81 percent of small business owners plan to increase their use of mobile marketing for upcoming events via:

  • Advertising
  • Ticketing
  • Scheduling
  • Sending related information, such as speaker biographies, to potential attendees

Use Mobile Marketing to increase your customer base

It’s All About the App

According to a study by AT&T, 70 percent of owners of small businesses use mobile apps regularly to keep themselves connected to associates and customers. Apps provide functions including organization, connectivity and computer programs for cheap. Notable types of apps that are useful for business owners include:

  • Mobile credit card payment systems
  • Portable scanners that make images of documents
  • GPS/mapping
  • Scheduling and organization for events and meetings
  • Social connectivity with customers via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Google+

The world of marketing is ever changing. Continue to keep up to speed with the most current marketing and mobile news so you can stay ahead of the curve by subscribing to our PowerSites blog.

Do you have any other small business tips for using mobile devices to meet business marketing goals?

How To Deal With Bad Yelp Reviews

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"Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life" Photo by Christine Kirk

So you got a 1-star review on Yelp. Your first instinct might be to get this thing removed ASAP! Having negative reviews on Yelp can feel like someone protesting right outside your place of business. It’s hurtful because you know that the business you manage is better than that… It’s very important to take a step back and read the review. Actually read it, and try to understand the situation from the customer’s perspective.

Ask yourself, does the reviewer have a legitimate complaint? A review for “the worst meatball sandwich” reads very differently from a review for “the meatball sandwich was served cold and the bread was stale.” Figure out what was inadequate about the product or service you provided. Once you have figured out the root of the problem, then you can prepare to respond publicly.

Start off by thanking the customer for their business and feedback. Then go into specifics and mention the root of the problem and what changes you are going to make in order to prevent that from happening to another customer. Perhaps, you can make them an offer to try out your product again. Once you establish a relationship, you could regain the trust. Plus, this helps new customers see what you are willing to do to keep a customer, and for a small business, this could mean a potential new lifetime customer.

E.g. “Mr. Customer, thank you for taking the time to visit our restaurant and trying out our meatball sandwich. We are so sorry that the sandwich we served was not up to your standards. It’s very important to us that this never happens to another customer again. We have a manager on-site that is overseeing the sandwich making process and keeping track of all the important factors that make a good meatball sandwich. Please give us another chance, come by anytime for a free meatball sandwich on the house! Bring some friends… we promise not to disappoint you again.”

Responding publicly is the best way to show that you value customer feedback and that you recognize the need for improvement. You can also start with privately contacting the user to apologize and offer your side of the story. Especially if the review contains false information, explain the misunderstanding privately so the user doesn’t feel like you are calling them a liar. Attempt to resolve the misunderstanding and get a sense of whether or not the user is empathetic of the situation.

E.g. “Dear Mr. Customer. I’m the manager of Joe’s Deli. I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for the misunderstanding that led to your 1-star review on our Yelp page. I was the on-site manager that day, and we were completely out of meatball sandwiches. Our deli is famous for its meatball sandwiches, but because of the football game, we sold out during lunch! We put up signs apologizing for the meatball shortage and offered a 50% off discount on all of our hot sandwiches. When we spoke, you were upset and I wanted to offer you a free meatball sandwich on your next visit. It was our fault for underestimating the large demand of the meatball sandwiches and we would definitely like to make sure that all our customers get to experience our famous meatball sandwiches. My offer still stands. Please give us another chance, come by anytime for a free meatball sandwich on the house! Bring some friends… we promise not to disappoint you again.”

If they are still upset, you may choose to publicly acknowledge their comment, apologize for the misunderstanding, and refer to your private message for a conflict resolution.

E.g. “Mr. Customer, we sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding. We simply ran out of meatball sandwiches that day. Unfortunately, we were unable to resolve this issue with you when we sent you a Private Message last week. We value your business and feedback, please let us know if we can further assist you.”

Whether it’s a meatball sandwich, a tax preparation service, or a bathroom remodel… your best way to deal with bad reviews on Yelp is to reach out and make a personal connection. By understanding your harshest critics, you can make improvements to provide better customer service and turn one-time customers into lifetime customers.

Want to be found on the first page of Google?

Google is the most popular search engine on the internet, and increasing your Google ranking is the surest way to increase your small business website response rates. While it’s often been said that content is king on the internet, when it comes to Google ranks, links are a closely-held second place queen. If you don’t already have a website for your small business, PowerSites can help.

One key method to improve your Google ranking is to increase the number of high-quality back links you have to your site. In addition to creating more back links, here are 5 more ways to increase your Google ranking:

  • Evergreen Content

    Staying current is important when it comes to website content, but if you want to consistently rank higher on Google, evergreen content is the key. One of the most important marketing tips given by almost every expert is to create content that has staying power. If it’s relevant a year from now, readers will still find value in your posts and will stay on the site longer. This translates to more sales and more repeat customers. Readers who only find last years’ news on your site will be left wondering how else you’ve fallen behind the times.

  • Increase your Google Ranking

  • Keywords

    Use Google’s Keyword Tool to find useful search terms for your particular business. Customers looking for your type of product or service will search online using specific phrases. Search engine optimization, or SEO, aims to take advantage of these common search phrases by sprinkling them into pages on your site where Google can pick up on them when performing a search. Look for phrases that have a relatively high search number and a relatively low competition. If you need help with starting your SEO campaign, contact our PowerClicks team today.

  • Guest Blogging

    Contact website owners in related fields and offer to write a guest blog post in exchange for a link back to your site. Bloggers are almost always open to guest bloggers, as it gives an exciting new flavor for their readers to sample. You’ll get the word out there about your small business, get a valuable link back to your site and maybe increase your readership and fan base. Stick with blogs where you have a great amount of knowledge on the subject matter, or where you are an acknowledged expert on the topic, for the best impact. Come back in the days after your post appears to answer any questions or comments the readers may post.

  • Video

    According to Mashable Business, posting videos on your site can increase your rankings dramatically. Video can put a face on your business and convey a sense of the company culture and attitude. If you’re known as friendly, helpful or knowledgeable, create a series of small videos that demonstrate those traits. Google likes video, and shows it appropriately in its rankings.

  • Update Regularly

    One of the oldest and most valuable small business tips for website owners is to update your website or blog on a regular basis. There’s no need to post every day if you don’t have anything new to say, but create a schedule and stick to it. Regular readers and customers will begin to count on seeing new posts, and will be disappointed if they don’t appear.

How Can Small Businesses Improve Communication with their Customers?

We are always looking for ways to improve our relationship with our customers. We believe that effective communication is the key to successful partnerships. For years we have been committed to delivering numerous services to small businesses in a big way.

Businesses lose customers due to a number of reasons. Most of these reasons can be improved upon. However, miscommunication is the biggest problem and also the most common.

Here are a few Small Business Tips to get Started:

Hire Customer Representatives or an Answering Service

Small Business Tips: Hire Customer RepresentativesWhen customers buy a product or purchase a service they want to know that there is a live person they can talk to when they have a question. Some companies are getting so technical. It is to the point that customers call in to address a concern, or to ask a question only to find them selves talking to an automated machine, rather than a real life person.

There are some questions that machines cannot answer. Small business owners lose customers when they cannot compete with larger companies. Larger companies are able to hire more employees. Smaller companies may not always have the budget to accommodate hiring additional employees, but there are other ways to still provide quality customer service.

One solution is to setup and create an account for your business on social media sites. Let customers know about the new services and products online, and that they can contact and communicate with your company through these social media pages. Another solution is to hire an answering service that can relay important messages 24 hours per day.

Have Customers Complete a Survey

Surveys are a great way to get feedback from your customers. They let the customers know that their opinions and thoughts are important to your business and it’s future. They can complete an online or paper survey depending on the nature of the business. If it is an online business they may prefer an online survey. Physical businesses can produce a paper version survey. Some businesses choose to add an incentive along with their surveys to make it more enticing, and increase repeat business. Your incentive can be a contest/raffle, where a survey is an entry to win a gift card to your business or 25% off their next bill.

Make sure the survey asks the tough questions that businesses may not want answered. Such as are you satisfied with the level of service you are receiving? Is this your first visit? Will you come here again? If yes explain what features or services they enjoyed? If no, ask why and ask them to suggest and expand on ways to improve the problem.

Small Business Tips: Follow-up with a Phone Call

Follow Up With a Telephone Call or an Email

Staying in touch with customers is important. There may be too many to call but an email can reach thousands of customers in a matter of minutes. Let them know what is going on and invite them to come by or visit the site. Offer them special promotions or discounts that make them feel exclusive and appreciated.

Send out Greeting Cards and Birthday cards

Make it a point to send customers Christmas and Birthday cards. Customers feel better when they know they are more than a number. Plus this is a great promotional tool to use to win back customers who have gone astray. It’s up to you how you choose to send the message. You can send a postcard by mail if you want to add that extra personal touch, or you can save on postage and send them an e-card, which is just as good.

Small Business Tips

Rebuilding the communication gap with customers is not easy but it can be done.

  • Stay focused.
  • Devise a plan and stick to it.
  • Do not be afraid to try new communication techniques.
  • Identify and define the target audience
  • Find ways to keep them coming back.

Any small business can succeed when they put their customer needs first.

Tips for Launching a Successful Email Campaign

Email marketing can be a successful endeavor for your company, putting your business in the spotlight to attract new clientele. However, there are do’s and don’ts to email campaigns that are worth learning in order to achieve your objectives. Developing a first-rate email marketing strategy is key to getting the outcome you desire. The following provides some email marketing tips that can help get your campaign off the ground and generate positive, long lasting results.

Ask Before SendingTips for a Successful Email Campaign

Before bombarding unsuspecting individuals with your emails, get their consent. If you think launching a massive email campaign that targets “everybody and anybody” will garner positive feedback, think again. Unsolicited mails are generally deleted without even being given a glance. By getting a recipient’s consent, you open the door to attract their interest in what you have to offer.

Remember to Link

By scattering links throughout your mails, you can draw more people to your website where they can get a better picture of your wares. Your links should clearly stand out in the text and be accompanied by decisive calls of action to get positive results.

Downplay Images

Including images in emails wastes time and space as most people don’t bother to see them. Well designed HTML messages are more effective in getting your message across. Mobile phone email readers use text versions only; therefore, attach a text version along with your HTML to capitalize on both fronts.

Use Clear-Cut Text

Keep your text concise and to the point to maintain reader attention. Key points can be highlighted in bold or different colors to stand out. You can include small business tips in your text along with any other information you feel pertinent to your subscribers. The content of your mails can make or break the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, so make sure it works for you.

Schedule Your Emails

Send your missives on a regular schedule so subscribers look forward to receiving them at specific times. According to icontact.com, the most opportune times to send mails to businesses are after 9:30 am and 1:30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The best timings for consumer mailings are evenings between 5 and 8 pm on the same days. Weekends are also good times when people are home relaxing.

Enhance Deliverability

Encourage subscribers to add your email address to their contact list to ensure they receive your missives safely. By using the same “from” name for all your missives, subscribers will recognize them right away and be more inclined to look them over. Avoid tactics using all caps or exclamation marks to draw attention to your message as these can trigger junk mail alerts and deviate your missive to the junk mail folder.

Email campaigns offer great potential for increasing business prospects and clients. By taking advantage of these tips and others, you can greatly benefit from all this marketing technique has to offer.

Increase Repeat Customers in 3 Simple Steps

In any economy–especially a tough economy, there are plenty of ways to increase business. One of the easiest and most effective ways is to increase the number of repeat customers and sales.

Why is it so easy? Because all it takes to start is 3 simple steps, and you can build a loyal customer base that steadily grows and grows, with increased repeat customers and sales.

Here’s how to pull this off:

  1. Identify Who Your Current Repeat Customers Are
  2. Get More Repeat Customers
    Go through your past sales and transaction data. Find out which customers have given you, or currently giving you, the most repeat sales. Look for patterns in their profile. Do most repeat customers come from a specific zip code? Did most of them order one your products/services early on? Did most of them come from a specific referral? What do they have in common? This is your key customer profile.

  3. Find Out Exactly Why Your Key Customer Profile Buys From You
  4. Contact 15 to 20 customers in your key customer profile above. Get them to tell you why exactly they buy from you. Find out what motivates them to go to you instead of your competitors. Do whatever it takes to get them to answer honestly, and the more specific, the better. The most common response they give you will be the key benefit your business offers to them.  Don’t forget to ask how they found you (if you don’t already know). That’s an extremely important bit of information that will help guide your future advertising and marketing initiatives.

  5. Make A Strong Offer Geared Toward Your Key Customers
  6. With the key customer profile, the key benefit that drew them, and knowing how most of them found you, you can now make them an offer they can’t refuse. This offer should include the key benefit that drew them. It should be addressed to their general profile. Use this offer in marketing or sales campaigns that target new prospects that fit your key customer profile. This is where that previous bit of information comes in handy–invest in campaigns where most of your key customers heard about you or came from.

Here’s an example. Suppose you run an auto shop, and you found out most of your best repeat customers come to you for fixing flat tires. Your past sales data shows that most of them live in the next city over, and drive toyotas. You contact 15-20 of these customers and find out most of them are older males, and the reason they come back to you over and over is for the fast, friendly service. Most of them found you through your PennySaver ad.

Your next, and best step is to place an ad in the PennySaver. Advertise “fix flat tires in under 30 minutes or your service is free!”, include a 10% or more discount, place it in the PennySaver for the next city over and try to specifically draw attention from Toyota owners (if possible). See if these ads attract more key customers and increase repeat sales. Keep tracking and monitoring the results.

Doesn’t sound too hard right? It’s not, yet few businesses do it. You can take advantage of their inertia, and your customers and your pocketbook will love you for it!

When you find something that works, do more of it.

What are your tips for creating customer loyalty and repeat sales?

What are QR Codes?

Whether you’re shopping in a mall or reading through the newspaper, you’ll notice these funny looking boxes everywhere. Sometimes they’re black and white, sometimes, they’re beautiful pieces of art. What are they? QR Codes.

QR is an acronym for Quick Response. First used in the auto industry in Asia, QR codes are now widely seen in display advertising as a way to bridge offline and online content. They’re essentially a new form of 2-dimensional bar codes that store more data and are easier to scan than a standard UPC bar code. Instead of a clunky scanner, you just use your smartphone. How?

Follow these steps on how to scan a QR code:

  1. Download a QR reader app to your smartphone.
    (For Android, you can download Google Goggles. For iPhone, you can use download the Kaywa Reader.)
  2. Launch your QR reader app and scan the code below with your camera lens.
  3. That’s it!

qrcode

Businesses can use QR codes to supplement print advertisements by squeezing in more information using the code. Once scanned, consumers have an opportunity to learn more about the business! To incentivize consumers to scan your code, you may consider including an offer like, “Scan this code to receive an instant $5 off your order!”

QR codes can take users to:

  • Website URL
  • A coupon
  • A Facebook page
  • A link to a YouTube video
  • Product details
  • Phone number
  • Map/Directions page
  • Contact Information
  • And much more…

It’s easy to create your own QR code. There are a number of resources available for you to generate a QR code for free! Generate one using Kaywa today and include it in your next print advertisement!

How to get an advantage on businesses in a recession

By Som Mathur, PowerSites Marketing Analyst

Why do so many businesses in a recession struggle to get by?

It’s not because of bad luck, a lack of funds, or even a drop in sales. These are symptoms, not causes. The big reason is the lack of willingness to adapt to change.

Many businesses don’t bother to look for changes in their customer base or their market. In fact, many of them don’t even know how.

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The more you know about your customers, the better.

By adapting your business, you can get ahead of the curve and even possibly increase sales in a downturn. It’s not as hard as you think either …

If you track just two simple metrics, you can get all the information you need to make it through hard times. You might even thrive in a market that was hidden before.

So what are the two metrics to track?

  1. Sales
  2. Repeat Sales

That’s it.  These metrics give you the best chance for surviving a recession, and put you ahead of 95% of your competitors.

Sales tell you where your marketing efforts are working and on what demographics. Repeat sales tell you who your best customers are. Focus your marketing efforts on getting more repeat sales.

Many business don’t keep even the basic info (name, address, email,  products/ services ordered) on their customers when they get orders.

It’s harder for some business to get customer info, like fast-food restaurants. Still, they can use contests, prizes, short surveys, and similar tactics to get that info.

Either way, do what you can to get background info on your customers. This includes getting your customer’s name, address, number of orders, products/ services purchased, email address, and phone number.

The more info, the better. If you can’t get this info from all of your customers, try for at least 10% of them.

Use that info to get a clear picture of who your repeat customers are. They are the ones that bring you the most money. Then contact them and find out the reasons why they buy from you and not someone else.

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Don't let this happen to you.

Take that information to gear your sales and marketing campaigns to appeal to those repeat customers, or turn some more one-time buyers into repeat customers.

The longer you track both metrics, the easier it will be to see which customers are leaving or staying when there’s a downturn. Then you can change your marketing and sales strategy to appeal to your best customers and keep your sales up.

There are sales-tracking software programs available, too. They can you save you a lot of time when tracking and organizing your sales data. In fact, you can get most of the functions you need by using Google Docs, absolutely free.

The best part is that your competitors won’t figure out what you’re doing, so you have a special competitive advantage.

Don’t just hunker down in a downturn. Get the customer info you need to take evasive action.

Creating a Twitter Presence For Your Small Business

It’s hard to read an article about online marketing these days and not see a mention of Facebook and Twitter, as well as seeing Twitter handle names on business letterhead, business cards, email signatures and many other instances where people list this as an additional way to contact them. Twitter has become a standard for businesses world wide and can be used in multiple different ways to market your business.

First off, let’s do a quick background on Twitter. Twitter is site that allows you to post messages in 140 characters or less to people that choose to follow your stream.  You follow them, and their stream appears in yours, and the numbers of followers you can get can grow very, very quickly.  It’s extremely accessible with wireless devices and is on millions of phones all over the world.  It is currently estimated to have 190 Million users worldwide and has existed only a few years. Almost every  athlete, movie or music star, politician or any form of celebrity now look at Twitter as a necessary marketing tool for their brand.

Twitter is also used by many large and small business to connect with their customers in a new and fresh way. You can post info about your business, daily specials, coupons, helpful articles you come across and just interact with your followers. You can search for Tweets in your area at the top of the page, and you can start by searching for Tweets containing the name of your town, names of other local businesses, local landmarks or anything that people in your area might be talking about. Follow a few people and in all likelihood, they will follow you back. Just play with it and see what works for you. You don’t want to overload people with your business info at first, and the same goes for the frequency of your posts. Try Tweeting 2 times a day to start,  and see if you receive any @ Mentions, and go from there.

Twitter is not going anywhere, any time soon, so getting your foot in that door for your business is a wise decision. Go to www.Twitter.com and create an account. It’s worth it!