Category Archives: Marketing Tips

Guarantee Your Sales!

Have you ever taken a plunge on a new product and realized it just wasn’t what you were hoping for? I know I have, and as a direct result, when I do my online shopping, I look for a guarantee. Though it might seem like a big risk as a small business, guarantees can actually pay you back with more sales, customer loyalty and buyer confidence.

When customers are looking for which product or service to choose, a guarantee might be the deciding factor – offering the risk-free purchase they desire.

Some of the other benefits of offering a guarantee are:

Customer Buying Confidence – offering a guarantee ensures customers they can purchase with you with no need to worry

Increased Sales – If someone is not 100% sure of their purchase, this might give them the final push they needed to complete the sale.

Give you a leg up on the competition – This can be a real differentiating point between you and your competitors – so use it in your advertisements and marketing!

Internal quality control – In order to make sure these guarantees don’t have to be used, this can create a way to ensure the best service and product you offer is consistently being delivered – a sort of check and balances for your internal team.

With a good product or service and a sound guarantee in place, you are sure to see sales skyrocket!

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The Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing has been a proven tool in generating interest, traffic, awareness and ultimately – sales. But how has word of mouth marketing changed in the past few years? With the advent of the internet, information is literally at your fingertips in a matter of seconds. Wide searches and reviews can generate foot and internet traffic for retailers and businesses.

However, one of the most important advances has been the use of social media for businesses. Forrester analyst Augie Ray recently wrote Word of Mouth and Social Media: A Tale of Two Burger Joints. This article discusses how two wildly popular restaurants rose to success – one over the course of 10 years, and the other – in just one year. How did this happen, and how can we all learn from this success?

- Twitter and Facebook engagement – get followers and fans and talk to them…it’s a quick, informal and viral way to disseminate information
o Offer prizes for contests such as trivia, scavenger hunts, pop quizzes, and holidays
- Use social media for promotions to drive and retain loyalty
o Offer special deals, sales, or insider information to encourage your customers and
prospects to visit often and enjoy the site
- Create videos on YouTube – product, sales, events…the possibilities are growing every day!
- Focus on time, not money.

Social media requires very little money to be successful, but it does require time. Devote time to creating interesting and compelling tweets and posts, and responding to your interactions. This type of activity fosters some of the most powerful word of mouth success available.

So get out there and be social start with us!

Sizing Up Your Competition

When formulating a marketing and sales plan, one of the best places to start is with your competition – what better way to get a feel for what is working, what you can do better, and how to set yourself apart? As Steve Strauss discusses in his article How to Research Your Competition, using marketing research and competitive analysis is key in understanding the market landscape.

So just how should you research your competition?

1. Start with their website – it should contain history, product or service positioning and other useful information.

2. Do physical research – visit their store, call their customer service or purchase from them…what better way to see how they do business than to become their customer?

3. Speak to their customers – either literally or though their reviews and feedback.

4. Attend industry events – where they might present, attend or share information.

In short, once you do your homework, knowing what the competition does right (and wrong), can help you set your business and strategy apart and give your business the boost it needs.


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Going Green – for your environment, for your business!

Being eco-friendly and saving our resources is not just an environmental issue. It’s also a great way to save dollars in your business, and reach out to your customer and client base. Some obvious benefits of following the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” adage are: saving our environment, reducing waste, and saving money.

But what are the not-so-obvious benefits?

Why not use your ad message in a “green” way – like putting your imprint on a Shopping Tote? Many stores encourage the use of re-usable shopping bags, and some even charge for bags or boxes. What a simple way to keep your name and message in view!


Many offices are also downsizing their disposable supplies – that means no more Styrofoam coffee cups for some. Put your message on their morning coffee mug and encourage business and saving the environment.


Use these simple products to have an additional (and eco-friendly) way to stay in touch with your customers, and show them you care them, AND the environment!


For more tips on green business tips, visit http://www.business.gov/expand/green-business/.


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Trade Show Pay-Offs

In the world of small business, trade shows can be some of the best investments that can be made. They offer an opportunity for live interaction (and in recent years, virtual interaction) with fellow business members, customers, partners and vendors within your specific field. Networking, advertising, learnings and demonstrations are carved out for a customizable experience for each attendee or exhibitor.

How can you make the most of these shows? Joanna Krotz discusses her strategy with Microsoft in her article “9 Steps to Making Trade Shows Pay Off”. She outlines key points, such as creating a strategy, research, having a backup plan and getting noticed. In the strategy of getting noticed at trade shows, there are a few schools of thought, however Krotz suggests a dialed-down, more personalized approach. Rather than overwhelming attendees with flashing lights and massive displays, she suggests using personalized coffee mugs with company information as a give-away with plenty of fresh coffee available at your booth. Also, she recommends collecting business cards to raffle off a single high-value item.

No matter how you decide to use Krotz’s tips, trade shows, if done right, can provide fantastic ROI in the form of leads, sales, relationships and thought leadership.

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Online User Reviews – How to Make Them Work for Your Business

A recent Wall Street Journal article “As Online Reviewers Grow, Businesses are Listening” discusses how online reviews, written by everyday customers is on the rise. With sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Yahoo Local and CitySearch, users have the ability to review and rate their favorite (and not-so-favorite) businesses. Many consumers use these sites to discover and research their choices online. In fact, the article states that 4 in 10 consumers perform online research to aid in offline purchase decisions.

So how can you harness the power of this user-driven content? Some businesses publish positive reviews on their websites, or print them for viewing in their stores. Sites such as Yelp and CitySearch offer the ability for business owners to publish special promotions for their users. Yelp alone had 29 million unique visitors in September, so the purchasing power behind these users is quite attractive.

So in short, be aware of and listen to your reviews. It’s free market research from your actual users!


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Mother’s Day Marketing

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. It’s a holiday which means it is a perfect opportunity to promote your business. Utilizing holidays to promote your products and services is great because it will draw people to your business. It will help you boost sales over the weekend where sales might normally be soft.

People generally like to go out to eat on Mother’s Day, so offer a Mother’s Day special! Maybe it’s a discount, maybe it’s a special once-a-year dish. Since Mother’s Day is on Sunday, it might be quite crowded. Offer a discount for people to come eat on Friday, Saturday, or even Monday! People will likely visit because they don’t want to wait long.

This same strategy can be used with services or products. Offer something special, limited time, to women only, or give away a gift to customers for them to share with their mother’s or someone they know that is a mother.

Of course there are always last minute shoppers, so offer great discounts or creative gifts and ideas for people to purchase, build, create, or make for their moms.

Show your company’s love to moms all over.

Credibility through Testimonials and Reviews

Before I purchase a product, I like to do a bit of research on the product and company I may be potentially buying from. I’m looking for quality, credibility, and reliability in the product and company. I want to hear the opinions of people who have purchased that product and purchased from a specific company. As with most shoppers, I would have the following questions:

• What did people like/dislike about the product?
• Did the product meet expectations in terms of performance, look and feel, etc.?
• Is the company credible and reliable?
• Do they provide all the information necessary for me to make a purchase?
• Do they ship their products at a reasonable speed?
• How is their customer service?
• Does the company believe in their product? Have people had success using their products?
• What do people like about this company?
• Would they do business again with this company?

The answers to these questions are important to prospective buyers. As a business, it is important that you can address these questions. Consider setting up customer reviews for products on your website. Prospects also want to know that the company they are potentially going to hand over their credit card to is credible. Testimonials are a great way to do this. Having your very own customers vouch for you is an excellent way to promote your business. This shows that you have happy customers that are willing to shop there again, that believe in your products, and enjoy your service.

The next time a customer emails you about how great your product or company is, don’t just keep it for yourself. Broadcast it. Put it on your website for everyone to see. This will show prospects that you have great products and great service and that they should buy from you.

Content is Still King

I am certain that many online businesses right now are thirsty for MORE…more visitors and more purchases, which translates into more money. Obviously, having more purchases will result in additional revenue, but how can anyone purchase your products if they have no idea what you sell, or worse, have never even heard of you before? The key is to draw in visitors, create Brand awareness, and show prospects what your business is all about.

How do you get more visitors?
The answer is simple, content. Not just any content, but relevant, useful content. No matter what industry you are in, content is still king. Having targeted, focused content is important for two reasons. The first reason is SEO, search engine spiders need to find your site. If your website is search engine friendly, then what your website needs is content. If your website is not search engine friendly, stay tuned for a future post on simple tips to help improve your site architecture. Content helps the spiders understand what your site is about and how it may be relevant to specific terms or phrases for its end users. The second reason is to offer a good experience for the prospect, to show your expertise in your industry, and to offer useful information for your prospects. If a prospect lands on your website and sees a whole library full of useful information, they will certainly believe that you know what you are talking about. After all, it is YOUR business and YOUR products, so share your expertise. By offering useful information, your prospects are more likely to remember who you are and if what you offer is relevant, they will probably take a deeper look into who you are and what you sell.

What type of content should you offer?
The content you offer should pertain to your industry. Be creative, yet useful. Research what people are interested in and write about it. Here are a few content ideas:

Retail – It doesn’t matter if you are selling hats, clothing, jewelry, or shovels. Tell the customer about the product. What are the specifications? What makes Product A unique from Product B? How can the customer use it?

Services – If you provide a service, you should definitely let your prospects know what the benefits are and why they should choose your service instead of Joe Schmo who offers the same thing.

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, you can offer case studies, testimonials, and tips. Give an example of real life customers who have used your products/services and have had positive results. Did a customer say something good about your business? Show it off! This gives credibility. You can always write articles or create a list of tips for using your products or services. If you own a restaurant, offer fun cooking recipes. If you are a realtor, create a checklist for home buyers. If you sell dresses, offer creative solutions for dress accessories. If you sell digital cameras, write about how to choose a beginner’s camera. This list is endless. By offering such information, you will find a targeted audience visiting your site. Getting them to visit your site is the first step in getting them to make a purchase. Are they a first time buyer, how about offering a special deal to them on the same page of that content they just reached?

I can go on and on about the importance of content and what it can do for you. It may take a little bit of effort to sit down and write up something, but it is well worth it. Be creative, be up to date, and be relevant.

The Importance of Understanding What You Sell

I went to IHOP the other week with a few friends for their free pancakes in celebration of National Pancake Day to see what all the hype was about. Similar to Denny’s free grand slam breakfast, IHOP’s promotion should be deemed successful, if not even more successful than Denny’s promotion. Free offers like this cause people who don’t normally go to those stores or purchase those products to do so. The difference between IHOP and Denny’s is that Denny’s gave away a lot more food and it cost them more. IHOP offered only 3 small pancakes. If people went to get the pancakes for a meal, then I’m sure 3 small pancakes would fill few people up. This, in turn, causes people to order additional food to fill themselves up and of course, drinks to quench their thirst. The cost of making a pancake is extremely cheap compared to the other food. So while they may lose some money from those pancakes, they are now making a lot more money from the influx of people coming to eat and buy other things (the people who otherwise would not have been out getting a meal).

This brings me to the topic of how important it is for business owners to have a full understanding of the product(s) they offer. To be familiar with a product is important because it can help you dictate the type of promotion you want to run. As for restaurants that give away free food, they know this will be successful because people will buy drinks and this has a much higher margin than the food or they know that the food they are offering isn’t enough and they know that people will buy more than what is given.

Some questions to consider:

What product offers the highest margin?

What is your most popular product?

Do customers often buy more than one product at a time? If so, which?

Who is your target audience? Do they buy for themselves or for others?

What is your goal?

If you run a special promotion, how will you promote it? Who will respond? How do you make it profitable?

Can you offer something at an extremely discounted price?

Can you giveaway something for free?

This is a very short list on some of the things you should think about, but thinking about these answers can help you implement a successful campaign. Leverage products with high margin, go after audiences likely to buy, combo up products people enjoy purchasing together (shoes + shoe cleaner; cameras + camera bag; pens + paper; etc), and understand your goals. Study what you sell and use it to create some profitable campaigns!