Monthly Archives: April 2016
As a business owner, you want your company to succeed. Investing in marketing is vital to that success, but many small businesses can’t splurge on — or spare the time for — high-priced advertising campaigns.
A report by Brandmuscle, local marketing software company, found that nearly half of the 860 small businesses surveyed spend $5,000 or less on marketing each year, and one-third spend less than 10 percent of their time on marketing activities.
To make the most of your time and money, here are five effective local marketing tactics that are easy and affordable for your small business.
Business owners know that customers are searching for companies online, and yet many local businesses are reluctant to adopt digital methods, like social media, SEO and even a basic business website. The Brandmuscle survey found that business owners still find digital media to be complicated: While Facebook may be a successful platform, with an increased usage by businesses of 21 percent over the past few years, LinkedIn is primarily employed for personal, not business accounts, and Twitter is too confusing for business owners, survey results showed.
“Many small businesses are so overwhelmed by the number of choices and the level of effort required to maintain [digital marketing] programs that they do nothing,” said Clarke Smith, chief strategy officer of Brandmuscle. “We advise starting small. Talk to customers [and ask] how do they find you today? What types of information would be helpful to them? Are they price-driven? What social channels do they use?”
Aaron Boggs, president of RevLocal, a digital marketing agency, called for the use of search marketing, a type of online marketing that expands a company’s digital presence in search engines.
“Local businesses need to do more with less, and search marketing is no exception,” he said.
For businesses that are looking to generate new leads, offering potential customers a free product or service for their first visit is a surefire way to bring people into the store. Brian Mattingly, founder and CEO of marketing services and technology franchise Welcomemat Services, said that a no-strings-attached gift to kick off a customer relationship will create a sense of loyalty, but only when it’s with the right audience.
“Loyalty starts with targeting a consumer group that is not just looking for a deal but has a need for your business or service, and of course, they must live near the business,” Mattingly said. “The perfect example of the ‘right’ customer includes someone who recently moved into a new neighborhood or a couple that just became parents.”
Brick-and-mortar businesses have a unique opportunity to host special promotional events for their local communities. Chris Elliott, CEO of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s sports pub franchise, said that on the 20th of each month, his restaurants host a “customer appreciation day,” when guests can come in and redeem a scratch-off card for a chance to win free food.
Elliot said foot traffic increases 11 percent during customer appreciation days. He said he believes customers keep coming back because the owner of each restaurant personally hands them their scratch-off cards and thanks them for their patronage, thereby establishing a personal connection.
“The emotional engagement is the key,” Elliot said. “If you know the customers — if you know their families and their kids’ names, and engage with them on a personal level — you’re going to form a connection that is going to give you an edge and lead to a lifelong customer. That makes a huge difference. You have to have the same loyalty to your customers as you expect from them when you put a customer loyalty program in place. It has to work both ways, or else you’re going to miss the mark and won’t see the same level of return on the investment.”
Sponsorships and local events
Like the promotions described above, local events and sponsorships allow companies to give back while building personal relationships with their communities and customers. Of the integrated marketing campaigns that Brandmuscle looked at, 46 percent included community sponsorship and 44 percent included a local event. According to the survey, these sponsorships and events were among the most frequently used marketing tactics, with three of four respondents using these methods for their businesses.
The survey suggested that companies invest more of their marketing dollars in sponsorships and events to build up their brand presence.
When most people think of rebranding, they think of a big, time-consuming overhaul that requires a huge investment. But rebranding can be as simple as modernizing your logo, switching your slogan or even just updating your company website. Doing something just slightly different from your status quo will pique customers’ interest and make them want to learn more.
“The effects of a comprehensive, well-executed rebranding have shown tremendous benefit across the board,” said Dan Antonelli, CEO and creative director of advertising agency Graphic D-Signs. “Whether it’s creating a great experience with an intuitive and responsive website design or crafting a logo that makes customers crack a smile each time they see it, marketing needs to have emotion.”
Regardless of the tactics you choose, you should schedule a set time devoted to marketing activities, even if it’s only an hour a week, said Brandmuscle’s Smith.
It may still be back-to-school season, but retailers and consumers alike are already starting to get a jump on holiday shopping. To get the most out of this year’s holiday season, businesses should be targeting shoppers both online and offline, new research finds.
According to the study from marketing agency Epsilon, 87 percent of consumers are at least somewhat likely to shop at brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t be doing their fair share of online shopping as well. More than three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they are likely to make purchases online, while 54 percent said they likely will look in-store for a product and then go online to find the best deal.
Tom Edwards, the chief digital officer for the Agency for Epsilon, said that the location where consumers are shopping for the upcoming holiday season is less important than how they are getting there.
“Leading up to the holiday season, retailers need to continue to focus on creating consistent and contextually relevant experiences for consumers across devices, time and media,” Edwards said in a statement. “If they’re not engaging in this manner, they risk losing out on their share of holiday shopping budgets.”
While businesses have increased their digital marketing campaigns in recent years, direct mail still sways shoppers. The study discovered that 77 percent of those surveyed said advertisements received by mail will have at least “some influence” on their holiday buying decisions, compared to 41 percent who said online banner ads would sway their buying decisions.
The study’s authors said shoppers are often influenced by direct mail because it usually contains an offer or discount and because the format allows for them to review the material on their own schedules. Edwards said retailers need to apply what consumers appreciate about direct mail to online efforts.
“To improve the level of influence from online advertising efforts, retailers need to leverage offline and online insights to create personalized experiences that take into account consumers’ desire for offers or discounts,” Edwards said. “Utilizing a more targeted approach to online advertising will also create a more compelling and engaging cross-channel experience for consumers.”
Despite the influence of direct mail, email marketing remains a critical channel for retailers wanting to connect with consumers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said an email sent directly from a brand will have at least some influence on their holiday buying decisions. In all, email sent directly from a brand is the type of advertising that influences the greatest percentage of holiday shoppers, the study showed.
The researchers said shoppers tend to like this type of advertisement because it’s personal and the emails they receive tend to be from brands the consumers like.
In the end, customer experience will be the silver bullet to winning this holiday season, said Adam Miller, vice president of retail industry strategy for Epsilon.
“Each holiday season comes with its share of unknowns, but 2016 appears to have great opportunity for success with thoughtful planning and the use of powerful data to understand your customers’ needs,” Miller said. “Map a thorough customer-journey experience to ensure you’ve thought of every possible touch point to win over shoppers and create an experience that elevates your customers’ interaction with your brand.”