For Big Business Success, Set Small Marketing Goals

marketing goals

We know you want to get to the top – but right now you need to focus on that next little step!

Marketing your small business is a never-ending endeavor, and it can be hard to set realistic marketing goals for such a diverse set of tasks.

So instead of chasing an undefined idea of success, think of your marketing plan as a new sport or skill you’ve decided to learn. And like every sport, you can’t learn it all at once.

Instead, set small goals in every area you want to grow your business, and let those guide your day-to-day efforts.

Small marketing goals are easier to visualize and accomplish, and after a while, they will add up to a big overall improvement in growing your business.

Social Media

Small business owners rely on social media more than large corporations do because it’s a way to speak directly to their fans without an expensive advertising campaign. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult or time-consuming.

Instead of letting social media overwhelm you, figure out what you actually want to accomplish, and use those end goals to set your small, achievable marketing goals.

Twitter

The best way to handle Twitter is with a combination of scheduled tweets that link back to your site, and randomly sent tweets throughout the day that either respond to others or share something new.

Your “small goal” with Twitter can be the amount of followers you have, with a goal of increasing it on a weekly basis. Because the more followers you have, the more people who will actually see the information you’re sending out. And in addition to the regular sharing described above, the easiest way to get new followers is to follow others.

Search for keywords that reflect either your business or your ideal shopper. For instance, we search for keywords like “local business” or “buy local” because those are the topics our business and blog are concerned with. Then, we find people who tweet about the sames things we do, and follow them and their followers.

Start with 30 minutes, once a week, of solid following, and you’ll begin to notice a regular increase in your own followers.

Facebook

Maintaining your Facebook page, or giving it a complete makeover, can take up hours and hours of your life. But you’re far too busy running a business to let that happen. So instead, make small goals every week to maintain and steadily improve your Facebook fan page.

Promote two to three different products on Facebook every week. Something as simple as taking a picture with your phone and posting it with a caption and link back to your site is incredibly effective.

Additionally, make sure you post daily no matter what. Whether it’s an inspirational quote or a great product image, aim to post at least once a day to stay relevant to your fans.

YouTube

If you have a smartphone, you can shoot a video. Videos don’t have to be long or too heavily involved. A good place to start is with “mini tip” videos for your particular products. A video can be shot on your phone or camera, uploaded for free to your YouTube account, and then easily shared to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Consider the case of Stephen Cronk and his family winery, Mirabeau. He was regularly making short videos consisting of wine-related facts or tips, and on his 222nd video, viral finally happened.

In a 49-second how-to video, he taught viewers how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew, using just a shoe and a wall. The video turned into a hit with over 6 million views so far, and has brought incredible exposure to the small winery.

If you’re still unsure on the quality aspect of making videos, check out How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck by Steve Stockman, which is accessible for all levels of beginners.

Customer Outreach

Sometimes, waiting for a customer to come into your store or happen across your website just isn’t enough. You want new customers and return customers to notice your products, and it takes a bit more than hanging an “open” sign in the window.

If you have an email list, make it your small goal to write one newsletter per month.

Try to make sure your emails stick to a similar format, and are easy to follow. There are many simple and completely free email-marketing tools out there to help you do this. The point of the email is to entice your customers with news of new products, events, or sales. It’s also to remind your customers that you value their patronage.

If you don’t have an email list, make that your small goal for the month.

If you take orders online, add a pre-checked newsletter enrollment button to the order page, so that customers can opt-in to receive your emails. If you have a physical store, you can also put out a sign-up sheet on your counter and encourage customers to join. Building an email list is as simple as creating a spreadsheet, and professional-looking email newsletters can be done in just a few minutes.

Don’t have the ability to sell your products online? Make it your small goal to get started. 

And while having an ecommerce site built for your business is actually far from a “small goal,” there are other options available to you. From Etsy and eBay to Scott’s Marketplace and Craigslist, there are many ways you can start selling your products online without having to commit to a pricey ecommerce site. Taking advantage of one, or even a few, of these sites will help keep a steady stream of profit coming into your business year-round.

With just a few small goals set every month, you’ll start to see big advances in your customer relations and marketing plan. Marketing can seem time-consuming and stressful, but when your goals are broken up into small tasks, they suddenly become entirely more manageable.

How do you manage your marketing goals? Share below!

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Turn Every Season, Holiday, & Trend Into a Chance to Sell

marketing ideas

Whatever products you sell, be prepared to take
advantage of seasonal marketing this year!

Just a few months into the year, and we’re already talking about the holidays.

But if you’re a small business owner, you know that waiting for that end-of-year extravaganza isn’t enough to sustain a growing business. Instead, make it a plan to capitalize on every season, holiday, and trend this year to get your products exponential exposure.

And it doesn’t take a massive budget, either.

Some of our favorite marketing ideas are the simplest, from planning months in advance to taking advantage of a hot topic on the news. The more you can get your products into the public eye, the better.

Ready to get festive?

Get the Most Out of Seasonal Marketing

Whether you make candles, t-shirts, or hand-carved bird feeders, I’m guessing you’d like to sell your products all year long. The way to do that is to stay nimble in your marketing efforts, keeping your message fresh and versatile.

Although your product might not change, your marketing angle should.

A book is a beach companion in summer, a fireside read in winter, and part of your new year’s resolution the following spring. Hand-knitted blankets can warm in winter and support a picnic in summer.

Imagine someone buying your products in every season of the year, and then imagine how they might use them.

This might seem like a silly exercise, but it will help you stay in a customer-centered mind frame when brainstorming marketing ideas, and creating regular social media updates, sales, and ads.

Plan to Capitalize on Regular Holidays

You’ve got a calendar, right? So that means that no major holiday should come as a shock, and you’ve got all year to plan on taking full advantage with your small business.

Holidays are like free passes to business owners. People are already happy and excited – you simply have to throw your product into the mix somehow.

The first step to coming up with holiday marketing ideas is to ask yourself how your products fit in with the holiday. Is it a gift? Is it a decoration? Can it be used as kindling for a fire? Then, in the weeks leading up to it, get active on your Facebook, Twitter, and blog promoting your products for their many uses during the upcoming holiday.

If you need more inspiration, consider that most major products are advertised year-round with different messages, and they never miss a chance to take advantage of a holiday.

marketing ideas

The original Pepsi ad on the left, and Coca-Cola’s response ad on the right.

There’s absolutely nothing new about a Pepsi or a Coke, but both have managed to work their product into Halloween. Simple, funny things like this can be done by all small business owners. You don’t even have to buy an ad, simply post your products on your social media outlets with a seasonal message.

Take Advantage of Big News on Twitter

Remember that super bowl where the power went out for about five minutes? Twitter was in a frenzy throughout this mishap, and the marketers at Oreo knew exactly what to do:

marketing ideasLet’s be honest: this tweet isn’t even that clever. And I’m not sure cookies have anything at all to do with football. But by tacking their product onto an event that had captivated the nation’s attention, they turned a tweet into a social phenomenon.

We can’t guarantee that whatever tweet you come up with will get 15,885 (and counting) retweets, but the whole point of Twitter is to talk about current news and Grumpy Cat. The two simplest ways to become a Twitter star are:

  1. Comment on a large event, either national or local to your business, while it is happening. Most big events are widely talked about on Twitter, and will give your tweet instant visibility. Be sure to incorporate the popular hashtags associated with the event, like #superbowl or #PhoenixFallFestival.
  2. On any given day, do a quick Twitter search for what people in your town are talking about, trends in your industry, or popular trending articles online. Then, you guessed it, tweet about them! If you’re beginning to suspect that Twitter success is not rocket science, you are correct. In fact, Netflix does this all the time:

marketing ideas

marketing ideasBy simply staying responsive to their followers, Netflix continually reinforces their brand. Twitter is a playful platform, so make the effort to spend ten minutes a day searching for topics related to your business and responding to them.

And remember, not every tweet you send out has to link back to your website. Think of it instead as a way to build your brand, tweet by tweet.

When you’re committed to getting your business more exposure, a bit of planning will go a long way to maximizing your marketing efforts. If you can map out a marketing plan for the year, it will give you more time to respond to timely events as they happen.

Key Takeaways

  • Think of all the ways your product can be used during every season of the year. Envisioning your products in a more versatile way can help you come up with new marketing ideas.
  • Mark your calendar: If you want to take advantage of every major and minor holiday, it takes some planning and preparation.
  • If you can’t tweet as much as you should, at least tweet as timely as possible.

What are your favorite seasonal marketing ideas? Share below!

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Why You Need to Update Your ‘About Us’ Page Right Now

Local business owners need to update their about us page

Don’t make the kitty angry. You’ve put off perfecting your website’s ‘about us’ page for far too long. Learn the essential details it must include and how it can help you score more sales.

Imagine you’re taking a bite of a fresh-baked pastry from the locally owned bakery down the street… would it taste just a little bit better if you knew it was made from a secret recipe that has been passed down from three generations?

Now picture yourself browsing in a home accent store when you find the perfect vase, in the perfect color for your living room. Would you be more inclined to buy it if you knew that the owner of the business handcrafted the glass?

What’s my point? It’s that every local business owner has a story to tell, but they often don’t tell it as loudly or proudly as they should.

And sharing the unique tale of not only what your business has to offer, but why you started it in the first place, can help you create real, personal connections with your customers – and encourage sales.

But where should you be telling your story? There are a few places, including one incredibly important, but often neglected area: your website’s ‘about us’ page.

Find out the essential details your ‘about us’ page has been missing and where else you should be telling your story below!

The Importance of Telling Your Story

The problem with many ‘about us’ pages is that business owners often only talk about what they have for sale.

And while your ‘about us’ page is the perfect place to highlight how you pick your products or who makes them, you’re missing out on a big opportunity if you aren’t going deeper.

Local business owner Tricia Medina of Fluff If Marshmallows

This is a snippet from Fluff It! Marshmallows’ ‘about us’ page. Owner Tricia Mendina does a great job of showing what makes ‘local’ special to her, while subtly encouraging web visitors to think about the importance of supporting local businesses themselves.

Kimber Lanning, director of Local First Arizona and owner of local music store Stinkweeds, talks about this issue often. She believes strongly that far too many business owners don’t take the time to go beyond talking about what they sell to tell why they do it. “People believe in entrepreneurs and independent businesses,” she says, “and want to hear your story.”

Here are some great tips to follow when sharing your story on your website’s ‘about’ us page:

  • Be concise and highlight the most important parts of why you opened your own business.
  • Consider these questions when writing your ‘about us’ page: Who influenced you? Are you family owned? Did you support yourself the whole way through? Where did you learn your craft? Do you handpick your products? Why is the industry you’re in important to you? These are the things people want to know.
  • Include a few photos on your ‘about us’ page if possible. You, your business partner, your team, even some behind-the-scene photos work well.
  • Are you an active supporter of local business in your community? Highlight this.

Remember, part of the charm of local businesses is the story behind them. That’s why it’s so crucial you share this information with your website visitors to help convert them into loyal, paying customers.

Beyond Your ‘About Us’ Page

Updating the ‘about us’ page on your website is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. There are many other opportunities to share your story, make sure you’re covering all the bases by checking out the list below:

Social media accounts:

If you have a Facebook Fan Page, make sure you don’t neglect your ‘about’ section. Fill it out with a shorter version of what you have on your website’s ‘about us’ page. Do the same on Google +, Foursquare, and Pinterest (and any other social media sites you’re on.)

Since space is limited on Twitter, try to at least get the words “locally owned business” in your bio (and “family owned,” if you are) and if you have a personal account, use “local business owner” and “shop local” if possible.

Online marketplaces:

Do you sell your products anywhere else online? Whether it’s on Craigslist or an online marketplace like Etsy or Scott’s Marketplace, if you’re selling your products in alternate places, those consumers also need to hear your story.

Fill out your bio on any other sites you’re on (if applicable) and be sure any ads you place for your business also state proudly that you’re a local business owner. For example:

  • Thank you for making the choice to shop local, where every purchase counts and every customer matters.
  • When you choose us, you’re choosing a local, family-owned business.
  • Did you know that when you choose a locally owned business like (your business’ name here) you’re helping to keep your local economy thriving? Shop local. It matters.
In your store:

Do you have a retail location? Your story should also be told in person as customers come to browse.

As they look around, tell them how you brought back a certain product from another locally owned business a few states away. Show them the handmade items in your store. Tell them how you give ‘X’ amount of each purchase to a local charity in your community. Thank them for choosing to shop local.

You can also use signs to ensure no customer leaves your store without knowing the most important details of your business’ background. Your customers want to know who is making the items in your shop or how you’ve scoured markets across country to bring these handpicked items to your store, and placing signs near these items can help you solidify the sale.

The ‘locally owned” aspect of your business is something to highlight, not hide. And your customers will feel good when you display signs that show them why, when they choose to shop local over a chain, they’re doing something important for their community.

People want to know your story; isn’t it time you told it?

Your story will be one of your most valuable weapons in the war against chains. That’s why it’s so important for you to share your story every chance you get and always proudly proclaim your local status.

Feel free to share your story in comments below and/or link to your business’ ‘about us’ page – we can’t wait to read it!

Local business owners: Will you make it a point to share your story this year?

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4 Things to Consider Before You Begin Selling Online

selling online

Ready to go after online shoppers? Consider these questions before adding a shopping cart to your site.

In the rush to add ecommerce to their repertoire, many small business owners find themselves considering the various options for adding a shopping cart function to their websites.

If you run your website on a platform like WordPress, adding a shopping cart can be as simple as installing the right plugin. If it’s a custom site, however, things can get pricey very quickly.

But no matter how you go about it, it’s never been easier to get your products online.

Making the leap to ecommerce is incredibly exciting, and a move in the right direction for your business. So in order to ensure your online success, make sure you can answer these questions before you get started!

1. How will I manage my inventory?

If you already sell out of a physical store, then you’re no stranger to the endless riddle that is inventory management. When is it time to restock? How can I anticipate what my customers will want to purchase in 6 months?

And if you’re adding online sales on top of your in-store products, how will you successfully mesh the two? It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where an in-store customer buys the last of an item, but it remains on your website just long enough for an online shopper to make a phantom purchase. Now what?

Juggling your physical and digital inventories can be a hurdle, so a clear plan should be mapped out for how you will sync the two on a daily basis. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, inventory management requires the right software, a willingness to test what works, and a solid back-up plan.

2. I know people are searching for my products – so how do I get them to my site?

Optimizing your website for great SEO can be the biggest challenge of selling online. Imagine your website rolling around in the endless ocean that is the internet. How is a prospective customer supposed to find you amid the thousands upon thousands of shopping sites?

This involves more than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Great tools such as Google Analytics can help you harness the power of online search, and figure out how to get in front of prospective customers. On top of that, your social media plan needs to be kicked into high gear, with the ultimate goal of driving traffic back to your website.

Wordstream.com gives a great account of the best free and nearly free keyword research tools. Why keyword research? What you call a t-shirt, a consumer might call a top. You need to find out what words consumers are searching for, and make sure those exact words are in your product descriptions.

3. Do I have reliable technical assistance when needed?

If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to online technology, it’s that something is eventually going to break. This can mean simple things like fuzzy images, or major issues such as credit card security. And while no one expects your site to be perfect, you absolutely must have response procedures in place to handle the occasional flare-up.

If you don’t have an in-house technical guru, be sure whoever is providing your shopping cart function has a support hotline so you can continue selling online even as you experience glitches. Because online marketplaces such as Etsy, StoreEnvy, and Scott’s Marketplace provide continuous technical support, business owners should consider joining one of these sites as a viable option.

4. How will I respond to online customer complaints?

When you’re online, people expect you to be responsive. Through Twitter, Facebook, or your website contact form, customers won’t hesitate to make their complaints known. How do you plan on handling that?

Even more frightening is the tenuous world of online reviews. Unsurprisingly, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which means you need to take them very seriously. This means constant monitoring of your social media outlets, and rapid responses to any customer issues.

Not only is selling online is an exciting undertaking, it’s the preferred method of shopping for more customers than ever before. So be sure you have the foundation in place to be a success in the online market!

What should every business owner consider before selling online? Share your thoughts!

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A Beautiful Way to Grow Your Business From the Ground Up

Guerrilla gardening pic

How can you promote your company and beautify your community? With guerrilla gardening! Find out how you can use this tactic to grow your business today.

Want to draw attention to your company in a lovely, thought-provoking way?

Then you’re going to have to be willing to step away from the computer for a little bit and get your hands dirty. (Just finish reading this blog post first.)

Yep, that’s right… it’s time you dabbled in one of the most beautiful yet covert marketing tactics around: seed bombing.

Why? Because dropping bombs of the seed variety can sprout a whole lot of excitement and exposure for your business. (Not to mention some pretty flowers.)

But what exactly is seed bombing and how can it help promote your company in any way?

Keep reading to learn how your small business can use this marketing tactic, also known as guerrilla gardening, to create massive buzz about your business.

There’s a guerrilla in my garden

The cool thing about this guerrilla marketing tactic is that it involves taking a neglected space and beautifying it — usually without permission — through seed bombing (if you want to be quick about things) or by getting down and dirty planting crops, flowers, or plants.

Plus, you can feel good about using seed bombs because they’re usually made out of eco-friendly materials that include seeds, clay, and compost, all of which can be baked by the good old sun.

But how can you use a garden to promote your company?

Check out the ideas below:

  • Have a healthy food product? Plant a community vegetable garden to promote it. Include a sign that encourages people to take what they need.
  • Are there abandoned lots in your city? Take it upon yourself to turn them into something beautiful for your community. (Guerrilla gardening can also be done in drain grates, on the side of buildings, on statues, and more.) The more creative, the better.
  • Give away a seed bomb with every sale (over a certain amount of money) to encourage some vigilante guerrilla gardening.
  • Plant flowers around your city wherever you can: in sidewalk cracks, along the side of buildings, in dirt lots, and so on.
  • Tell customers that if they spend ‘X’ amount of money in your store you will plant a flower somewhere in your community. Follow up by posting pictures of each flower on your social media accounts and blog.

Watch your efforts flourish with social media

Regardless of your reasons for considering this marketing tactic,
 it can be a beautiful, low-cost, and out-of-the-norm way to draw attention to your company.

But how will anyone know who is creating these little gardens? Social media. Post pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., showing your team seed bombing areas in your community, as well as the finished product.

Be sure to also write blog posts about your efforts and promote them on your various social media accounts.

This will probably take some time to gain traction, but, as with many guerrilla marketing tactics, it’s the best way to get a lot of word-of-mouth attention for your business in the most natural way possible.

But can guerrilla gardeners get in trouble?

Gardening

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your guerrilla garden grow? In the most unexpected place: a grate!

Guerrilla gardening missions are often done at night so people can be surprised by the pop-up gardens the next morning, but they can also be conducted during the day so you can try to get spectators involved.

But… can you actually get in trouble for sprinkling little flower seeds about or planting cucumbers here and there?

It seems harmless, but if you’re trespassing on private land, you could possibly get fined.

This is why you should consider the space for your oh-so-illicit guerrilla gardening mission carefully.

Generally speaking, most people would welcome someone trying to beautify their city by planting flowers or offering up free food by planting a community vegetable garden. (But don’t blame me if your seeds get you thrown in the big house.)

Ready to get started? You can snag a recipe here for your seed-bombing pleasure.

As you’ve seen, marketing tactics don’t have to be confined to tweets and email blasts. And when you’re willing to head outdoors to try something new like seed bombing, it gives your business a beautiful and creative edge over the competition.

If you loved this creative marketing technique, you’ll love our latest e-book even more. It’s filled with 9 additional low-cost marketing ideas that’ll help your business stand out from the crowd. And guess what? It’s free!

Will you try guerrilla gardening to help grow your small business?

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It’s Never Been So Incredibly Easy to Start Selling Online

online marketplace

Want to go to the mall? Just turn on your computer! Now more than ever, online marketplaces are becoming a shopping destination.

Finding an easy and effective solution to ecommerce used to be right up there with colonizing Mars, or finding the lost City of Atlantis.

Difficult, to say the least.

Luckily for local business owners, the realm of ecommerce has been cracked wide open, and the equalizing power of selling online is now at their fingertips.

What began with eBay, and was later perfected by Amazon, is now within reach of local, independent business owners across the nation.

At this point, a majority of ecommerce options can be placed into one of two categories: single website or online marketplace.

So how do you know which is the right choice for your business?

Check out the information below to help make the right decision for you!

The Digital Mall

When you’re looking for something in particular, you go to the store where you know you can find it. When you’re in the mood to browse, you go to the mall.

online marketplace

One of the most well-known digital malls, Etsy offers businesses that sell homemade or vintage goods the opportunity to join an international online marketplace.

The reason malls are so effective at drawing crowds of shoppers is the variety of products they provide, and every one of the individual stores does better for being a part of a larger whole.

The same idea applies to online marketplaces.

When you visit sites like Etsy, StoreEnvy, or Scott’s Marketplace, you probably have an idea of what you want, but you understand and expect for there to be some browsing involved. That’s part of the fun!

online marketplace

Scott’s Marketplace, our local-only digital mall.

Pros of Joining an Online Marketplace

Stores that are part of an online marketplace benefit from the fact that most shoppers aren’t particular about which store they end up buying from. And they’re more open to checking out new products, or businesses they’ve never heard of before.

Additionally, those shoppers share the common goal of wanting to support individual artisans or independently owned businesses.

Being part of a larger organization also offers:

  • higher visibility in search engine results
  • credibility that comes from being paired with a well-known online marketplace
  • low cost to start your own ecommerce store
  • speed – start selling in minutes, not months or even years
  • no up-keep or website maintenance
  • you’re not alone – customer service is there for you, and you have the opportunity to connect with other sellers

The Cons of Joining an Online Marketplace

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While simplicity in the setup may get you online faster, it might also mean you have less ability to customize than you would with an ecommerce site.

You will also want to consider these points when deciding what the right option will be for you:

  • with the ease of use comes the inability to fully customize your online store
  • being part of an online marketplace means your store’s functionality is at the mercy of the website owners, so be sure to investigate the website’s customer-service structure before committing to opening a store
  • cannot customize your online store to completely match your brand

A Store to Call Your Own

Sometimes you want something that’s all yours – and that’s great!

If you’re more inclined to sell from your own personal website, there are countless ways to go about it. The biggest difference is that many of the things that would be done for you as part of an online marketplace must be dealt with on your own. And this usually means a larger financial investment.

Companies like Volusion, Wix, or Woo Commerce are just a few of the many that offer a single-website solution to ecommerce.

online marketplace

Personalization with a twist: the many options for customization on Volusion.

Pros of a Standalone Ecommerce Website

Creating your own personal website to sell your products gives you the most obvious advantage: controlling the look and feel of everything about your site.

With an ecommerce site, you’ll also be able to:

  • Integrate your brand and colors into the design of the website. Whether you’re using a website-building platform or a professional designer, you’ll be able to control the feel of the site to reflect your business sensibilities.
  • Your website will not only stand out among the crowd, but will give your entire business a homepage. Even though launching a site can be time-consuming, you can adjust and fine-tune it for years to come, which means it grows with you.

Cons of a Standalone Ecommerce Website

While complete control is a great thing, building a custom site comes along with its own set of challenges. Once the store is built and your products are loaded, you begin the task of making your site visible to online shoppers.

What will this entail?

  • Ensure your website (and blog!) are optimized with keywords that are actually being searched for. This means utilizing a keyword research tool to know what terms to use when labeling your products. The more popular keywords you have on your site, the more likely you are going to be found in an online search for products.
  • Start getting friendly with Google Analytics. Although it can seem intimidating at first, this tool will help you find the weak spots on your site. Being able to track which keywords bring the most traffic to your site, the pages that result in the most sales, and the pages that result in the most customers leaving your site, will help you to refine your website so that it offers a better customer experience.

Other cons include:

  • cost
  • time to market
  • industry standards
  • maintenance
  • compete against much larger sites for space on page 1 of Google
  • you’re on your own for promotions of all kinds

Also, no matter which option you pick, it’s important to listen to customer feedback and reviews to find out which of your products they love – and which ones they aren’t that excited about.

Picking The Perfect Path

If optimizing your website for search engine results seems like something you just don’t have the time for, getting your products into an online marketplace first is an easily attainable goal.

Think of it as testing the waters of ecommerce. While you don’t have to make a huge investment in building your own site, you’ll be able to find out how online customers respond to your products.

Or, the best option might be to combine the power of both!

Operating your own website, with or without a shopping cart option, in addition to your presence on an online marketplace will only increase your opportunities to reach potential customers.

Would you join an online marketplace? Share below!

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How Restaurants Can Compete With Online Ordering

online food ordering

Locally owned favorites like Slices Pizza can compete with the big chains by improving their online options.

A somewhat depressing article was recently published in the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s impossible to discern exactly what’s behind the closure and share loss of traditional independent pizza shops, but analysts, pizzeria owners, and pizza company executives say that digital ordering is having an impact.”

For many independent business and restaurant owners, the impact of the digital shopping era has been apparent for some time.

Large restaurant chains are increasingly using online food ordering to attract customers looking for easy purchases, and the fact is, ecommerce has irrevocably changed the way we do business. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

Business practices are constantly evolving, so why not embrace it? Incorporating a few little changes, like the ideas suggested below, will help you put up a big fight against the big-box chains.

If You Make Food, It Needs to Be Online

No matter what, even if you just started your business and still get nervous when the phone rings, you need to list everything you make online, preferably on your website if you have one and on your social media accounts. Displaying your menu online will help your website with keyword searches and lend credibility to your new business.

And use pictures!

When you take something out of the oven, and it looks absolutely perfect, take a picture before you do anything else. An entire subsection of this country simply spends their time looking at pictures of food online, and you want those pictures they are drooling over to be yours.

Every one of your images should be named and have your logo on it – something which can be done very easily over at PicMonkey.

Incorporate Online Food Ordering, With or Without Delivery

Even if you aren’t at the point where you can incorporate food delivery into your business plan, simply offering the availability to order online makes the process feel much more consumer friendly and won’t greatly change your business operations.

Also, it makes the social media process much more useful when you can just link to your online menu. Think about how enticing this would look to your Facebook fans at 4:30 in the afternoon:

  • Order your dinner online – and pick it up on the way home!

There’s a certain ease associated with being able to order food online, and offering that to your customers can be a low-cost way to enter the online market. If your orders begin to noticeably increase, you’ll be able to revisit plans to incorporate delivery or even expand your small business.

Creating a website with the ability to take orders doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. Websites like Open Dining Network and Menufy provide templates for you to upload your menu, and allows customers to go through the entire process and place their order.

Ready for Delivery?

If you’ve identified demand for delivery from your customers, and can support the work involved, then incorporating delivery can be a great next step. If you’ve built a website on one of the previous platforms, delivery will be simple.

However, if developing a website is not something you have time for, then the next best thing to do is to list your business and menu on a food ordering website. Sites like Seamless and GrubHub allow you to start offering delivery easily and quickly.

As mentioned in the article, David Rizzo, owner of three Rizzo’s Fine Pizza shops in New York, started taking orders via GrubHub and Seamless about 18 months ago.

“If I didn’t do delivery and online ordering, we’d be in serious trouble,” he says, “and I don’t think the other two stores would have gotten off the ground.”

If You Could Sell One Thing Online, What Would It Be?

Whether it was never your plan to offer online food ordering, or it’s dictated by time constraints or finances, just because you aren’t online now doesn’t mean you can never make the transition.

Let’s imagine for a moment a world where selling online was a simple, pain-free process that you could complete in minutes. What is the one thing you would sell online if you had the chance?

Maybe you make a great sauce that your regulars can’t stop raving about. Or a special blend of spices that can be used to spruce up any dish. Identifying your most popular, and preferably shippable, product is the first step to thinking about incorporating online sales.

If you can start selling one thing online, it’s better than not being online at all.

And when you can set up a store on a local-only marketplace in minutes, it makes sense to at least give it a try. When pizzeria owner Carlos Vega noticed that his sauces were selling faster than his pizzas, he began to re-think his entire business plan, leading him to begin manufacturing the sauce in bulk and selling them online.

However you go about it, entering the ecommerce market is a move in the right direction when it comes to growing your small business. Putting your products online will help you attract new customers who are searching for something delicious in your area. Who knows? Ecommerce might just change everything about your small business!

Would you offer online food ordering? Share your thoughts!

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How a Sticker Can Create Viral Interest in Your Company

Viral marketing

Could something as simple as a sticker create massive buzz about your company? In a word? Yes. Learn how to put this viral marketing tactic to work for you.

When I was in high school, a student showed up one day with a bunch of happy face stickers.

One by one, he gave them out to his friends, who then gave a few out to their friends (and so on and so on) until probably about 100 students were all wearing happy face stickers on their shirts.

This caused the other students to take notice fairly quickly and wonder what these stickers were for, what they meant, and more importantly, why hadn’t they been given one too?

Yes, this might be a silly example of how a sticker can create viral interest — but it does prove that when a select group of people all begin sporting stickers at the same time, it makes others take notice.

And when it comes to marketing, this is exactly what you want. If you’re ready to learn how you can use this creative, and unexpected, marketing tactic to help your business go viral, check out the great tips below.

How Stickers Made reddit Go Viral

Viral marketing

The sticker that started it all: the cute and coveted reddit alien.

When talking about his viral marketing tactics, reddit cofounder, Alexis Ohanian said, “Yes, stickers [were] the soundest investment I ever made.

“I used to travel around the country a lot (thank you, Chinatown bus), and everywhere I went I took stickers with me. I put them on signs, poles, and even other advertisements,” he writes in his book, Make Something People Love: Lessons from a Startup Guy.

He continues, “‘Please sticker responsibly!’ we would say, and hand out these stickers at events, meetups, just to random people on the street. This may not sound like a major or even strategic marketing approach, but we kept at it. Within a few months we started seeing photos uploaded to the internet of people stickering with our stickers… often stickering in ways we’d never expected.”

Maybe it was the cute reddit alien that caught people’s eyes, or the fact that Alexis and his team never strayed in their sticker-distribution efforts… either way, it worked and now reddit receives over 100 million unique visitors to the site a month.

Getting Started With Stickers

A sticker campaign can be considered as more of a guerrilla marketing tactic, so a surprise or a unique element as to where you leave your stickers or how you distribute them is going to work best.

Just handing them out is a little boring and sticking them on things without permission could get you into some trouble. (Whether or not you care about any potential trouble is up to you — we’re just here to throw out some ideas.)

But in case you err on the nerdy (I mean cautious) side, here are some relatively safe ways to distribute your stickers:

  • Visit your local bookstore and slip your stickers into all books related to your industry. (Warning: Don’t actually stick them in or on books – that could be considered vandalism and that’s not going to help your company whatsoever.)
  • Hand out the stickers to all of your staff members and have each one leave a sticker along with their tip every time they eat at a restaurant. Yes, this will take a while to gain momentum, but when it does, finding one of your stickers could be something that people start to actively desire and talk about.
  • Hand out stickers to select groups of people waiting for the bus or in line at a big event. This is where creativity comes into play, as well as the importance of being a bit choosy. Giving them out to everyone won’t have the same effect as being selective in this case.
  • If you’re going to be leaving your stickers in random places, be sure to have your business’ URL printed on them (or your logo) so the people who find them have some way of tracking them back to you. If you are handing them out at a large event, this isn’t as necessary, as once people start asking where they can find those stickers, they’ll direct them back to your booth, which is where viral marketing comes into play.
  • People don’t have to be the only targets of your sticker campaign. Calgary Farmers’ Market hung apples from bare trees in urban areas with stickers that read, “Fresh all winter.” Cute, creative, and eye-catching, we’re sure this helped to spread viral interest in the farmer’s market, resulting in more business during their slowest time of year.

We hope these examples and tips get your imagination going so you can create an even better sticker campaign for your own company.

Love this creative marketing idea? Then you’ll love our ebook even more! It’s filled with nine more unique marketing ideas to help you promote your small business on a budget. Download it for free today!

Will you use this viral marketing tactic to help increase your business’ exposure?

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How to Define Your Target Market & Make Them Love You

target market

Get a grip on your marketing vision: Figure out who your ideal customers are and focus your marketing efforts on them.

I’m sure you’ve heard some variation on the old adage: When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one.

And although sayings like this are often repeated, the true wisdom behind it may not be given the appreciation it’s due. Because if everyone knows it, why are so many small business owners still trying to appeal to the faceless masses instead of focusing on pairing their products with the right customers?

Being more pointed with your marketing efforts isn’t just about saving money. It’s the best way to give your business a solid foundation of steady customers so that you can ensure sustained growth.

Sure, we’d all love to turn every person into a customer. But when a small business is just starting out, marketing budgets can be thin, and most owners would benefit much more from speaking directly to a clearly defined target market.

So how do you do that? You’ve already created an amazing product, so turn your attention outward to figure out what your customers look like and the best way to speak to them.

Identify Your Early Adopters

target market

The main focus of any new marketing plan should be identifying early adapters of your products.

Word of mouth marketing is created by the early adopters – those cool kids who saw the benefit of your products before anyone else did. These customers will become the loyal regulars who tout your benefits to anyone who will listen, and are the first customers who matter. But how do you find them?

Let’s take it back to fifth grade and have a brainstorming session (idea trees not required). Before you try to cast the widest marketing net possible, take a moment to conceptualize the exact customer you are trying to reach.

When you’re thinking of the type of customer who should be the focus of your marketing efforts, ask yourself a few questions to help you both narrow and expand your vision – and don’t forget to include corporate clients:

  • What type of person can use my products right now? Think about the customers who are always going to need your products, and focus your efforts on them first.
  • What do they look like? Where do they live? Where do they work? Compose an outline of what your most common customer looks like. Include interests, age range, and social media habits.
  • What about corporate clients? What type of industry would you call an obvious fit for your products? This includes considering the supply chain and all the back-end uses your product could provide, no matter how far-fetched.
  • Where are similar products found? Identify markets where products similar to yours are in demand – these are your ready made sales grounds.

Speak Their Language

Now that you know what your target market looks like, consider both why your product matters to them and how to speak to them.

Is it a productivity enhancement? It is a lifestyle perk? Specifically, what makes your ideal customer value your product? Maybe you’ve created an attachment to an already popular product, or you’ve improved upon an old design. Whatever it is, locate the most valuable part of your products in order to communicate more effectively with your target market.

Next, learn to speak their language.

Let’s say you run a bicycle shop in an urban area. Instead of chasing down bikers on their way to work to hand out flyers, consider biking groups and clubs as your early adapters. The people who have an affinity for the type of products you sell will be the first to recognize the value. And if you’re just starting out, the best way to find these clubs will be online.

Start with Facebook and Twitter. Do a search for bicycle clubs or meetups in your area and you’ll start to get an idea of the local marketplace. This is also a great segue to creating promoted posts on Facebook, which you can target directly to people who are either interested in biking or part of a local biking club.

Whatever your product is, by focusing your initial efforts on a smaller but more precise section of the population, you’ll be doing wonders for the longevity of your business. Sure, it would be nice to have buckets of sales overnight, but the most realistic way to grow your business is to concentrate on your ideal customers, and grow your visibility from there. Once you’ve captured the trust of your target market, it won’t be long until outsiders begin to venture toward your business.

Bring On The Love

Remember: Chain stores push products. Small business owners provide solutions.

Framing your marketing message in terms of how your products can enhance a customer’s life will allow you to make an emotional connection with your target market. You aren’t here to be everything to everyone. You’re here to provide a quality product to the person who wants it most.

How do you identify your target market? Share your thoughts below!

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A Marketing Tactic You’ve Never Tried (But Should!)

Small business marketing

Kindness can pay! Learn how you can get the best of both worlds by performing a random act of kindness that gets your small business more exposure and profit.

If we told you that there’s a very simple, budget-friendly marketing tactic that can effectively promote your business (while spreading joy to the local residents in your area) would you want to know more?

Of course you would!

You may have never tried marketing your business like this before, but being kind to strangers can actually be a fantastic way of getting a ton of exposure for your products or services.

(And while we think you should try to be kind to strangers every day, there’s no harm in having the best of both worlds, right?)

Check out the small business marketing idea below and get ready to learn how kindness can pay!

Be Kind, With a Twist!

What’s the secret to making this tactic work for your business, you ask? Well, first, you need to come up with some sort of random act of kindness that will genuinely help others while drumming up some great publicity for yourself.

Do you have a new product you want to promote? An event you will be hosting? Or how about an upcoming business anniversary? If you want to draw attention to a milestone within your company, this small business marketing idea can work very well — and even become a yearly tradition.

Planning a random act of kindness to celebrate ‘X’ amount of years of success as a small business shows you care about giving back (and wouldn’t mind letting the world know that you’re proud of the growth your company has achieved).

No matter what it is you want to promote, you should always try to tailor your act of kindness to your brand. For example, if you own a restaurant, drop off lunch at your local fire departments and police stations unexpectedly. If you have a coffee shop, pick up the tab for random people throughout the day. Run a flower shop? Drop off some bouquets at an assisted living home to brighten up the residents’ day. Since you control how much you’re giving and how often, you can keep the budget at a manageable amount for you.

Doing something like this on 
a yearly or quarterly basis (but choosing a different recipient each time) might even get you some local news coverage as people speculate who’ll be the next lucky group to receive your random act
 of kindness. Plus, as happy recipients start tweeting and posting pictures of your random act of kindness, your exposure will grow, hopefully garnering you some new customers in the process.

Bonus tip: You could also tape a coupon or a card for a return visit on the back of whatever it is you’re handing out to people to help encourage return visits and ensure they know how to reach you on all mediums. (Include your physical store address if you have one, social media accounts, and web address on the cards.) Vistaprint and Moo both offer affordable options for having custom cards made.

A Successfully Sweet Example

small business marketing

Washington-based restaurant Sweetgreen leaves gift cards on vehicles that have received a parking ticket to brighten the driver’s day. Think of the priceless word-of-mouth and social media promotion they’ve received for doing this!

A great example of a business that successfully used a random act of kindness as a marketing tactic is Washington-based restaurant Sweetgreen. The team at Sweetgreen performed “random acts of sweetness” (see how they incorporated branding into the name?) for their local residents that subsequently resulted in some great publicity for them.

Examples include using Facebook and Twitter to alert their followers (with only 15 minutes’ notice) that they’ll be giving out free salads at a specific location. They’ve also been known to look for people who have been given a parking ticket so they can leave a Sweetgreen gift card alongside it to cheer up the recipient. This is fantastic publicity for their restaurant that also makes their local residents feel good. Pretty sweet, right?

The company also used their blog to document the random acts of sweetness, complete with a story of what they did and pictures to accompany it. You could do the same for your small business. Utilizing social media, blogging, email marketing, and word of mouth will be very helpful in spreading the word about your random act of kindness.

And the best part is, there’s really not going to be much of a risk if you’re interested in trying this tactic out. After all, doing something nice for people should only help, not hurt, your business’ public image.

If you loved this creative marketing technique, you’ll love our latest e-book even more. It’s filled with 9 additional low-cost marketing ideas that’ll help your business stand out from the crowd. And guess what? It’s free!

Will you put kindness into your small business marketing plan?

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