9 ways small online businesses can generate website traffic without breaking the bank

 

Drive traffic to your website

We all know how tough it can be launching a small business online. More often than not we are constrained by a tight budget and lack of resources. Driving traffic to your website is essential in order to attract potential customers.

In this post we take a look at how to get visitors to your website when faced with a limited budget and when the only marketing resource is yourself.

9 straightforward and cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your website

We’ve outlined nine key actions to help you generate more traffic to your online business and grow your potential customer base. It will mean time and effort on your part but all the actions are straightforward to implement, will help in the long-term success of your business and won’t break the bank.

1. Content

We’ll kick off with content. Content is the linchpin to everything that you do and if you only take one thing away from this post then it should be the importance and value of having high quality content on your website. Your content should be;

Relevant: Your content should reflect the needs and interests of your audience.

Engaging: Does it read well? Is it interesting? Will it catch your reader’s eye with an easy to follow layout, supported by interesting images (try Pixabay for sourcing great images that are free for you to use).

Shareable: Your content should inspire people to share it with others. 94% of people who share posts do so because they think it might be helpful to others.  

Try enhancing the content of your site with visual content. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Think about implementing:

  • Images and photos to support text
  • Videos
  • Infographics

2. Blogging

Following on from content, blogging is one of the best ways to ensure your website is being regularly updated with fresh, relevant content. This is key to driving traffic to your website. Every time you publish a post it provides additional opportunities for your business to appear in search engines results pages. As nicely put by Hubspot – “The only thing blogging costs you: your time.”

 

blogging

Blogging also has the added advantage of offering long-term benefits. Each post you publish will  continue to pull in traffic for months to come. Indeed, Hubspot notes that 70% of the traffic it receives each month to its blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month.

3. Referrals

The great thing about referral marketing for small businesses is it inexpensive  and effective. Essentially you are getting current customers to help drive traffic to your business by using word of mouth to promote your products and services to friends and acquaintances.

The key things when it comes to successful referrals is:

  1. Ask your customers. Interestingly, the majority of customers who have had a positive customer experience would be happy to refer a friend and yet only a small proportion do. So you need to actively encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends and family.
  2. Make it easy. You don’t want make your customer jump through hoops to make a referral, so make it as straightforward as possible for customers to refer a friends. Try introducing a refer a friend scheme that incentivises both the customer that provides the referral and the friend they refer.

4. Search Engine optimisation

44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) essentially involves making your website search engine friendly and people friendly. It involves researching the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic and improving your site structure to make it easy for search engines to find their way around. Much of it links right back to ensuring your content is relevant, engaging and shareable to your customers.

To find out more about getting starting with Search Engine Optimisation then checkout these two comprehensive guides to getting started with SEO.

  1. MOZ: SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Google: Search Engine Optimization Guide

5. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

OK, PPC such as Google Adwords will involve you parting with some money however, with pay-per-click advertising you can set your budget to what you can afford to spend and you only pay when someone actually clicks via the advertisement to your website. The key to successful PPC advertising is spending time researching the best keywords for your business – they need to be specific and relevant. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start with (you just need to create a Google Adwords Account). It will help you identify keywords and phrases and let you know approximate cost-per-click.

With a bit of playing around and practice Google AdWords is pretty easy to use. Checkout Google Adwords Support will help guide you through the basics of getting started.

 

6. Social Media

80% marketers felt social media increased website traffic 

social networks

 

Social media plays an integral, supporting role in driving traffic. It is a great way for you to promote your content with customers and in turn, makes it very easy for customers to go on and share that content on with their social media contacts.

It is a good idea to start out establishing your business profile on the main networks such as Facebook then concentrate your efforts on the key social networks used by your target audience. For example if you business is jewellery you may find your focus on more visual networks such as Pinterest or Instagram, whereas if you are professional services you may find more of your target audience using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember to add social media buttons to your website, blog posts and email communications. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content with their friends.

7. Email

Email is one of your most cost-effective tools with a healthy ROI. Use email to stay and front of your customers and drive traffic to your site. Share content such as promoting your product and services, blog posts, news articles, infographics and events – all linking back to your website. Focus on building up a quality email list of relevant and permission based contacts as ithe quality of your data will reflect the effectiveness of your traffic :

  • Create a newsletter sign-up form on your website (think about incentivising sign-up to boost response).
  • Gather names through events you attend, run quizzes and contests offer promotions.

8. Mobile responsive

Ensuring your website is multi-device compatible is essential for getting more visitors to your website. Your website should display equally well whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

responsive design

More and more people are using mobile devices to search the web. Indeed research shows that 60% of web searches in 2015 were conducted from a mobile phone or tablet. Put simply if your website doesn’t view well on a mobile device, people simply won’t take the time to engage with your website. Added to this, if your website is not responsive then it will effect your search engine ranking on mobile searches.

9. Share your URL

Finally make sure you share your website URL at every opportunity. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked. Display your website address wherever you can – no matter how insignificant it may first appear: For example;

  • Advertisements
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Letterheads
  • business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Invoice and order acknowledgements
  • Promotional material
  • Packaging.

Of course everything we’ve mentioned in this post will entail time and ongoing effort on your part, however they are all effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website – with long-term, sustainable results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of driving traffic to your website, so please do leave a comment.

Generate customers through refer-a-friend marketing: top tips for small business ecommerce

REFERRAL Marketing

Essentially refer a friend or referral marketing is using word of mouth to promote your product or service to generate new business.  It is about encouraging your existing clients to tell their friends and family about your business with the hope that their influence will create new customers.

The key to successful recommendations is to offer great customer experience and to actively persuade your current customers to spread the word about your products and services.

What are the benefits to small businesses?

Referral marketing  offers a number of benefits to small online business owners. Key to its power is the fact that the majority of people trust the opinion of friends, family and even other customers over most of the other forms of marketing that we generate.

74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influence in their purchasing decision”

Low cost: With word of mouth marketing, even if you are offering some sort of ‘refer a friend’ scheme, acquisition costs are usually low if not negligible.

Effective: Recommendations from friends are one of the most effective ways to influence the purchasing decision and generate new customers.

Trustworthy: People are far more likely to listen to the opinion of, and trust, people they know.

Targeted: Referral marketing is usually highly targeted. Most people recommending a particular product or service to a friend is doing so because they feel that their friend will be genuinely interested in what it is that they are recommending .

Healthy profit margin: Referred customers are great customers!

  • Referred customers bring 25% higher profit margin
  • Lifetime value is 16% higher for referred customers

How to increase referrals and recommendations

positive customer experience

So we’ve established that getting referral marketing up and running makes sense for your business. So where is a good starting point? Firstly, ensure that you have implemented all the things that will positively influence customers’ experience of your business. Only then look at active ways you can encourage your customers to refer and recommend.

Focus on getting the basics right first

It may sound obvious, but there is no point actively asking your customers to recommend you to their friends if your product, service or all-round customer experience is poor. Nobody is going to refer a friend or post a glowing review if they’ve had a less than positive encounter with a business. So focus first on getting the fundamentals right. For example:

  • Offer exemplary, personalised customer service.
  • Interact and engage with customers.  For example reply to comments posted by customers on social media or your blog posts.
  • Strengthen brand trust and build you business’ authority and credibility. For example create a resources page with industry relevant information, articles and blog posts, speak at relevant conferences and industry events, implement security logos and Trustmarks on your website.

Actively encourage your customers to recommend you

83% of satisfied customers are willing to recommend  products and services but only 29% do.

If you’re confident that your business is all that it should be, then look at how you can actively encourage customers to recommend you to their friends and colleagues. I say actively encourage because even if your customers absolutely love you, the chances are they will still need a bit of nudging in the right direction.

Sometimes, you just need to ask. If you find yourself coming off a particularly positive phone call with a customer then ask if they’d mind providing a review of your product or service. Try posting a request on social media for feedback. It is also a good idea to get bit more proactive with referrals. For example think about setting up a Refer a Friend programme and actively generating customer testimonials.

1.Run a Refer a Friend scheme

A refer a friend scheme is a great way to bring referrals in. Asking customers to provide you with the contact details of a friend who may be interested in your product is a great way to build up your referrals. Keep in mind you may need to incentivise your customers to boost response. In the Boden example below, if a current customer recommends a friend successfully then they receive a £10 Boden voucher and the friend receives 20% off her first order – appealing both to the customer and the friend they refer.

 

refers friend incentive

 

Offering some type of reward or incentive will improve your recommendation rate but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a monetary reward is the most effective. Research indicates that offering a reward increases referral likelihood, but the size of the reward does not matter  and that non-cash incentives are 24% more effective at boosting performance than cash incentives. Ultimately it will depend on your audience and it might  be worth you testing a few alternatives to see what pulls in the best results.

2. Implement customer reviews

Recommendations from friends come at the top of the list for people’s most trusted source of product information. But interestingly online opinions and reviews from other consumers rank pretty highly too.

Start collecting reviews and testimonials from customers to have visible on your website. Ask customers who have recently purchased a product or service for their feedback. You can also sign up to product review platforms  such as Trustpilot or Feefo who will help automate the process for you.

Customer testimonials

Make referrals easy

To help get a response to your requests for feedback, ensure you make it as easy as possible for your customers to refer their friends or leave a review. The more rings customers have to jump through to make a recommendation the lower your response rate. Here is a great example from Hello Fresh’s Refer a Friend scheme. A simple link takes current customers to a registration page where they can quickly and easily enter their friends email addresses – Hello Fresh does the rest.

 

make referrals easy

Referral marketing is a great way for small businesses to generate  new customers. The three key points to take away are:

  1. Make sure you get the basics right first such as excellent customer service.
  2. Actively ask your customers for referrals
  3. Make it is as easy as possible for them to refer their friends.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Refer a Friend so please do leave a comment. 

5 top Instagram tips for small online businesses and start-ups

instagram-1007070_1920

How can Instagram benefit your ecommerce business?  Launched in 2010 and bought by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is a free photo sharing app. Like Pinterest, Instagram is primarily a visual platform. If you consider that images are the most popular type of content for social networks, it follows that you should at the very least investigate the benefits Instagram could bring to your small online business.

Instagram – did you know…

The growing success of visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest is rooted in our natural inclination towards all things visual. For example:

  • 65% of us are visual learners
  • 90% of information coming to the brain is visual
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images
  • Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

5 top tips to get the most out of Instagram for your business

1. Get off to a good start.

Take a look at Instagram for business. It has plenty of resources such as a business blog, inspirational case studies and helpful tips.

Creating an account:

  • Download and install the Instagram app (IOS App store), Android (Google Play Store) or Windows Phone (Windows Phone Store).
  • To sign up you can either use your Facebook account or tap sign up and enter your email address. You’ll need to create a username when you sign up. Bear in mind that this is what everyone will see so, if you can, try to include your businesses name. If it’s already taken you might have to get a bit more creative to incorporate it.
  • Complete your profile by tapping Edit Your Profile.  You only have 150 characters to play with so spend some time crafting your biography – remember anyone can see your Bio. You want it to be interesting and engaging. Don’t forget to include your URL and a profile picture. Your logo is probably the best image to choose.
  • From settings, link your account to your other active business social networks so you can share photos and videos across all your platforms.

Start following, sharing, liking and commenting on other people’s posts. Don’t forget to add your Instagram profile link to your website and email communications.

2. Have a plan in place

Before posting images here, there and everywhere. It is a good idea to have a clear plan of how you intend to approach your presence on Instagram. As a small business owner time and resources are likely to be limited. A clear strategy will ensure your efforts aren’t wasted and you are making the most effective use of your time. Think about what you are hoping to achieve and decide the most effective way of taking that forward. As a starting point:

Set objectives: Having in place some clear SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives will help ensure you have focus and direction.

What are you competitors doing? Check out what your competitors are doing on Instagram. Who are their followers and who are they following. What are they doing well that you can learn from and what are they doing that’s not so great that you could do better?

Think about Brand: What kind of image do you want to convey to reflect your brand? The photos and images you post should support your brand personality. Instagram for business has some great examples of some creative brands that are well worth checking out for some inspiration.

How often? As part of your planning, think about putting together a schedule. You may have some fantastic ideas, but you need to be practical and think about how much time you realistically have available. Do you have any resources or will posting all be down to you? Like most social media posting regularly is advisable but equally quality will outweigh quantity.

using your camera on smarphone3. Be creative

You don’t need a state of the art, all singing, all dancing camera. Most of us have a pretty decent camera on our phones. With your smartphone you also have the added benefit of having a camera to hand at opportune moments. Saying that, do still take a sensible approach to taking pictures – you still want them to look professional. Checkout this link for some tips on taking better pictures with your smartphone.

Tip: On Instagram photos showing faces get 38% more likes than photos not showing faces

Instagram over 20 filters for you to play with to create the feel you want for your different photos. So let your creativity shine – even if you have rather uninspiring products there is no reason not to get creative. Take pictures of your colleagues, your office, your teams favourite lunch place, awards, celebrations and so on. It’s about projecting a lifestyle that reflects your brand and the personality behind it. It can be a good idea to involve other members of your team and get then snapping and posting.Just make sure you have clear brand guidelines on what is and isn’t appropriate to post.

4. Mix it up

Try to strike a balance between promoting your business and posting interesting and entertaining shots that engage your audience. As we mentioned earlier you can create fun and interesting images of your office, run competitions, post views from your desk, take pictures of colleagues, highlight your production process, charity events you support and attend, team birthdays, favourite products – anything that is relevant, interesting to your audience and supports your brand.

Tip: Scroll through the images Stella & Dot post on Instagram – there is a great mix of product shots (all nicely framed in real-life settings), inspirational text only images, team pictures and videos – all with a feel reflective of the Stella & Dot brand.

instagram stella and dot

 

Add text to images: Try livening up images with some captions or text. There are plenty of image editing tools available such as Canva or PicMonkey that allow you to easily add text to images and photos.

Video: Online video’s popularity continues to soar and now accounts for more than 50% of all mobile traffic. You can post videos of between 3-15 seconds on Instagram. Adding video is an excellent, and engaging way to mix up your Instagram content.

5. Engage to build an audience

Follow, share, like….Just like any other social media network engaging with your audience is key to a successful presence. Focus on building your community through actively following, sharing, liking and commenting on posts. If someone comments on your post then try to reply to their comment. It is a great way of engaging with your audience.

#Hashtags: To make it easier for people to discover your business make good use of hashtags. It will help put your content in the path of people searching for those particular keywords or phrases. Use hashtags that are relevant to the content you are posting. Try not to go overboard. Instagram allows you up to 30 hashtags, however if you look at the most successful brands you’ll notice they are usually using between 3 and 5.

To add a # to your photos and videos, just type in your hashtags in the Caption field. For example #silver #bracelet.

It is the very visual nature of Instagram that makes it such a useful addition to your social media toolkit. If you haven’t yet set up an Instagram account for your business, then at the very least it’s worth taking a moment to check out all its potential benefits.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of Instagram so please do leave a comment.

 

 

Small business guide to successful content curation

contentcuration

 

We all know just how important creating unique, fresh and relevant content is for your online business. However for small business owners content marketing can be a real challenge due to time pressures and lack of resources.  Content curation can be a great way to support your overall content marketing strategy and help maintain a successful online presence.

What is Content Curation

In a nutshell content curation is the collating, organising and sharing of other people’s content. It  is usually third-party content  relevant to your audience’s interests. First things first, content curation is not the same as content marketing and in no way replaces it. Content curation should be looked at as a way to enhance your existing content as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

And don’t worry, by sharing other people’s content your audience won’t think you can’t create interesting content of your own. On the contrary, it shows you are relevant, understand the industry you are in and are confident enough in your own small business to share ideas and information from a third party.

How can Small Businesses Benefit from Content Curation?

Saves time. Content curation helps support and maintain an active online presence. Especially if you don’t have time to continuously create your own original content.

Helps establishes you as an expert.  Overtime content curation can help build trust and establish you and your business as an authoritative, go-to expert on a specific topic.

Offers value to your audience. If you are offering information that is interesting and of value to your audience, then they are more likely to opt-in to your newsletters and follow you on social media.

Supports SEO efforts.  65% of marketers use content curation to boost ranking. Lots of relevant links will help increase your visibility in SERPS (search engine results pages) 

Builds your brand. What you share is a direct reflection of your brand and can help build your credibility as a business.

How to introduce content curation to your small business:

The key to successful content curation is to put some organisation and strategy behind it rather than the ad-hoc retweet or share here and there. You may already do some basic content curation already, like I say I’m sure you’ve retweeted or shared posts on social media. However to really get the benefits you need to take it to the next level by including a personal touch.  Add value to what you are imparting.  For example include your own comments, insight and thoughts on the information you choose to share with your audience.

Social Mediasocial media content curation

76% of marketers use curated content on social media

Content curation is a great way to keep active on social media and provide your customers with links to information they may find interesting. Retweeting someone’s Tweet on Twitter, RePinning on Pinterest or sharing someone’s post on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn are examples of social media content curation. This is a great starting point and a good way to maintain an active online presence – especially when you’re pushed for time or lack resources.

However as we mentioned earlier content curation becomes even more effective when you bring in your own personal slant on what it is your sharing. For example if you are sharing someone else blog post on social media, add in a few words about what you are choosing to share and why you think you audience will be interested in it.

Newsletters

Content curation can work really well in your company’s newsletter. For example in addition to your own content, you could do a weekly round-blog posts you think your audience will like or a weekly round-up of industry news and views. By picking out the most interesting and entertaining articles and presenting them in a digestible format, you are saving your own audience from having to spend time searching around the web. And, if your audience know they can get great information direct from your newsletter then they are more likely to read it and stay subscribed.

Here is a great example of content curation from WriteMySite’s marketing newsletter.

content curation newsletter

Blog Post Curation

In a similar vein to your newsletters why not try posting a blog post that is a weekly or monthly round-up of useful articles, interesting trends or news relevant to your industry? Organise the content into a theme, add in a great headline,  your own supporting commentary, a call-to-action for your own business and you have a great post.

Look at curated blog posts as offering a valuable service. By collating the information yourself you are in short saving your audience time by negating the need for them to research out the information themselves. Always keep your customer in mind so all your hard work collecting and collating is focused on the right information – information that is of value to your target market.

Collecting and Organising Content

content curationSo where do you start? How do you go about sourcing interesting, high quality, relevant online content that fits the needs of your audience? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sign-up to relevant content specific newsletters
  • Subscribe to industry relevant online publications
  • Follow related shared content on social media

If you are collating lots of different information from various sources then it will make your life easier if you can organise all the information in one place. There are a number of marketing tools that can help you collate,organise and publish content such as – Feedly, ScoopIt and Storify.

If your just starting out then Pocket is a great ‘save for later’ tool.  Connecting the Pocket button will enable you to save to your Pocket account straight from your computer. You can quickly collect links to interesting information with and group and tag articles  for easy reference.

In order for content curation to be successful always keep in mind that it’s about adding value. Ensure;

  • content is high quality and matches the needs and interests of your audience
  • post regularly
  • add a personal note,
  • remember you are sharing information not plagiarising – always give credit to the original source. 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of content curation, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

How to offer excellent customer service on social media – 7 best practice tips

social media customer serviceIn the US social networking now accounts for the most time spent on a particular online activity, with the average person spending 37 minutes a day on it. As more and more people interact with social media on a daily basis, it is little wonder that it is becoming a favourite channel for customer services communication.  The beauty of social media is its two-way immediacy. The minute someone posts a comment on your page you are alerted so you can respond equally swiftly.

Many small businesses have embraced social media and it’s become an integral part of a businesses online presence. Indeed, out of the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK nearly 23% earn over £1000 per annum through connecting with customers through social media platforms. Providing a top class customer experience as part of your social media presence is essential as businesses are increasingly recognising that customer services should no longer be just focused around telephone and email.

  • 92% of customers in the UK have left one business for another in the last year due to poor customer service.
  • 71% of customers who have a positive customer service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company
  • If consumers receive good customer service via social media they are likely to spend 21% more
  • Social networks account for the most online activity in the US with an average of 37 minutes a day.
  • 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media than the telephone.
  • Failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers
  • 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service

So as a small business are you confident you are following best practice when it comes to dealing with customer intereacions via your social media platforms?

7 Best practice tips for managing customer service online

1.Swift response

Customers need to feel that you take their concerns seriously.  Of course a prompt response to any customer service issue whether via email, telephone or letter is essential, but with social media speed becomes even more important. The very ‘immediate’ nature of social media is reflected in the time customers will expect you to respond. The speedier the better, particularly where complaints are concerned.

For example econsultancy note that53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. However, if a customer is making complaint to using Twitter, it goes up  72%.

Acknowledging comments as quickly as you can will score your business brownie points in your customers eyes. Whereas a slow response may reflect poorly on your business.

2.Dealing with negative comments.

Nobody likes handling negative comments but they are part-and-parcel of customer interaction. Dealing successfully with adverse communications is an essential part of successful customer service. Unlike telephone and email, when you are responding to negative comments on social media they are out there for everyone to see.  Don’t be tempted to ignore them as then the situation can mushroom out of control. When responding to a negative comment on social media:

  • Apologise upfront. Start with an apology as it shows you take your customers concerns seriously.
  • Be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything. Be upfront and honest about the situation, even if it is your mistake.
  • Don’t pass the person from pillar to post. Commit to dealing with the customer by supplying your name and a clear offer of help
  • Remain calm, polite and professional. No matter how disgruntled your customer, remain polite at all times without getting defensive.
  • Take it offline. When it’s appropriate, take an issue offline to deal with. For example, have a look at IKEA’s Facebook page. As you can imagine the very nature of IKEA’s business and its size means it gets a lot of adverse comments posted on its social media platforms. So when its appropriate they take it offline as in the example below.

social media dealing with negative comments

 

3. Clear and helpful information

In the same way customers visiting your website would expect to find information about your business, so to should your social media presence. Remember your website isn’t necessarily someone’s first experience of your business. Think about what information customers might be looking for. For example:

  • Completed profile pages: Make sure your businesses about us and profile pages are fully completed across all your platforms
  • Clear links. Have clear links to useful customer information such as to your website, FAQ page and contact us page.
  • Post helpful information. Post regular helpful customer services information such as delivery dates, opening times and service updates. This is particularly helpful during holiday periods such as Christmas when there may be a change to normal service. See the helpful example below from online retailer notonthehighstreet.com .

 

 

social media customer service

4.Learn to prioritise

It’s human nature to put off the things we find least enjoyable, and dealing with customer complaints probably falls into that category. However, as we mentioned earlier, the very immediate nature of social media means you have to respond as quickly as possible customers – that means no putting off dealing with the more difficult customer communications. Learning to manage your social media presence, particularly in regard to customer service is an essential skill.  Learn to prioritise how you respond to particular customer interactions.

Prioritise comments that require immediate attention for example, customer complaints, account queries, product issues, sales queries. Other more ‘proactive’ responses such as thanking someone for their feedback, commenting on a post and general queries regarding your business can wait a little longer.

Setting a response target for particular issues can be helpful. Of course it will depend on your business and how much manpower you have but for example, you could aim to respond to high priority queries within 30 minutes and more general queries within an hour. But don’t wait too long to answer any query as you don’t want to turn what started out as a general query into a complaint due to your slow response.

5.Train staff

If you aren’t the only one dealing with with your business on social media,  then you need to ensure you have trained your staff to how to respond appropriately the varied customer interactions.

Good communications skills are essential. How your staff deal with complaints and interact with customers is direct reflection on your business. Make sure you spend time ensuring staff have the key skills required to deal effectively with customers. For example excellent written skills are essential. Poor spelling and grammar won’t give customers much confidence in your business.

Make sure your staff understand the tone you want to set for your business on social media. Obviously it depends on your business and your customers, but even if you take a more informal approach in social media interactions, you and your staff must always remain professional. Making sure your staff understand the balance is important.

6.Personality – humanise your business

Social media is a great way to build your brand personality and bring a human touch to your business.  When someone posts a comment, likes your page or shares something,  thank them and where appropriate open up a discussion. Here are a couple of good examples from IKEA and Boden:

social media customer servie

 

Both Ikea and Boden set the right tone – friendly and not overly formal – keeping with the spirit of the posts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.19.15

 

It’s good to show customers that they are dealing with real people so always add your name in, particularly if you are responding to a customer query or complaint.

7.Embrace customer feedback

Don’t underestimate the great opportunity social media offers your business. It’s a great way to get a feel about a particular product or service and so therefore postively encourage feedback from customers even if it is negative. Showing customers that you value their opinions shows them just how important they are to you. Here is another great example from Boden. Actively thanking customers for their feedback on a new collection even though the feedback is not hugely positive.

social media customer feedback

 

As more and more people use social media a channel for customer services, taking an integrated, multi-channel approach to customer care will ensure that you have covered all your bases and are offering your customers the best possible service. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of social media customer service so please do leave a comment. 

10 indispensable small business tips for effective email marketing

email marketing tipsEmail remains one of my favourite marketing tools. If effectively implemented it offers a number of benefits that make it an indispensable part of any small business marketing plan. Email is low-cost, flexible, measurable and, perhaps most importantly, has a very healthy ROI. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2015 Client Report in the UK the average ROI for email is £38 per £1 spent. An impressive growth of 53% year-on-year.

With email software becoming more advanced and accessible every year, it has opened the door for smaller online businesses to produce some excellent, innovative email campaigns – giving even big companies with hefty budgets a run for their money.

Of course, no matter how fantastic the possibilities of email, there are still some universal best practice guidelines that every business should take on board in order to make the most out of their email marketing efforts.  I’ve outlined below 10 tips that can make a real difference to how your businesses email communications perform.

1. Plan your email communications

“Clients are moving away from ‘spray and pray’ methods to a more considered approach.” DMA 2015

Before enthusiastically firing off emails left, right and centre, take a step back and look at your email communications as a whole. Spending some time putting together an email strategy for your business will be time well spent. Set some clear goals – what are you looking for your emails to achieve? For example:

  • Converting prospective customers into active customers
  • Building awareness of your brand
  • Growing your marketing prospects database
  • Customer retention through the provision of interesting and valuable information
  • Driving traffic to your website

Segmenting your audience and creating a clear plan of action for each customer group will help ensure that not only have you covered all your bases but you are creating the right balance of optimising conversion opportunities but not over-mailing. Creating a flow chart or table of your email communications is a great way to visually summarise all your activities in one place and enabling you to see the wood from the trees when you are contending with a sea of potential email interactions.

planning email campaigns

2. Purpose, message and CTA

Once you have your email strategy in place, think about the  purpose, message and call to action for your emails. Without these they are unlikely to perform as you would like. Think about:

  • What is the specific purpose of your email? What outcome are you looking for your email to achieve?
  • What message do you want to convey? Even if the desired outcome or  purpose of the emails are the same how will you tweak the message to reflect the particular audience segment you are targeting.
  • Do you have a clear call to action? Is it clear to the recipient of the email what it is you are asking them to do? And do you have a strong link to a relevant, supporting landing page?

3.Email marketing software

Advances in technology has meant small businesses can produce their own professional, visually exciting email campaigns without breaking the bank or requiring huge amounts of email expertise. Email marketing software just keeps getting better. Email marketing solutions such as MailChimp, GetResponse, AWeber, ActiveCampaign and MadMimi make it easy for complete novices to create exciting and effective campaigns.

Even better, if you are a start-up with a small number of subscribers you can get up and running for free. For example with MailChimp if you have under 2000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails a month at no cost.

4.Event triggered emails

According to the DMA marketing automation is growing and triggered emails are driving revenue growth. Indeed in their 2015 National Client Email Report, emails triggered by events or behavior were responsible for 30% of revenue.

We know that the customer journey is complex with a numerous touch points, so being able to trigger automated emails after specific identifiable events have taken place can have real impact on your success. For example identify and set-up automated  email responses to customer behaviour triggers such when someone registers on your website, enters a free prize draw, downloads a white paper, signs-up to your newsletter or even leaves their shopping cart abandoned will optimise the effectiveness of your email marketing.

A lot of this goes back to the importance of taking a considered and strategic approach to email marketing. Investing your precious time planning your email communications really can pay dividends in the end.

5. Data, data, data

Of course your emails are only as good as the data you have. Therefore good data is a premium asset for your business.  Actively building and continuously growing a ‘white hat’ marketing prospects database is essential. Research shows that Email addresses degrade naturally at about 2.1% per month equating to an annual rate of about 22.5%.

You may need to give people a bit of a nudge to impart their email address.   I know that with the amount of email communications I receive from different companies every day, makes me think twice before I hand over my personal details. Enticing people in with an incentive can be a good way to build and replenish your database. For example, competitions, free prize draws, downloadable white papers, newsletter sign-ups,  exclusive subscriber offers and giveaways are all ways to offer something valuable to potential customers in exchange for their precious contact information.

6. Newsletters

I’m a big fan of newsletters. They are a great vehicle for communicating all sorts of varied things to your audience. Focus on providing interesting, varied content aimed at engaging your audience. A good newsletter can help with brand awareness, brand building, customer retention, driving traffic and ‘soft sell’ conversions. When creating your newsletter content think about what information your audience is going to be interested in and keep it varied. A newsletter is not the environment for hard sales.

Content could include:

  • Links to your latest blog posts
  • Industry  news and trends
  • New product launches or sneak previews
  • Competitions and giveaways
  • Special offers and discounts
  • Case studies or client stories
  • Surveys and polls
  • Event calendars

Email newsletter

7. Digestible Content

Engaging content is essential. But even  the best copy in the world won’t be read if it has been presented in a indigestible and unappealing format. Carefully structure your email from subject line right through to a clear call to action.

Scannable: Break up text so a recipient as able to easily scan the email to pick up all the key messages. When laying out your email use headings, sub headings  and bullet points  to break up text in to more digestible and bite sized chunks.

Strong subject line: Your email content may be amazing but if your subject header doesn’t grab attention and stand out against all the other emails they are competing with then your hard work will be wasted.  Your email will remain unopened or in the bin. Spend a bit of time crafting a compelling subject line. News, tips, how to, offers, question and using numbers are all good opens. Try to keep it short and to the point (aim for under 10 words) but most importantly make sure it accurately reflects the actual content of your email.

Visually appealing: Including photos and  images is a great way to engage the audience. We are naturally visual learners so using images that support your content are a great way to capture your audience’s attention and conveying meaning instantly.

Proof read: Spelling and grammar mistakes can look sloppy and reflect badly on your business.  Always proof read everything a couple of times over prior to dispatch.

8.Personalisation

If you can, try to personalise your emails. Dear ‘Jane‘ will have a stronger impact and higher response rate than no greeting or a general hello. According to HubSpot personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Most email software tools can happily add in automated personalisation so if possible personalise all your email communications. When you are building your database aim to collect first and last name fields from your prospects. This takes us back to point 5. Incentivising your data capture will help you get fuller contact details.

9. Cross promotion

Taking an integrated approach to your marketing should yield stronger results. Cross promoting across all your channels is a great way to reinforce your message and strengthen your brand – just ensure you remain consistent. Email newsletters are a particularly good tool for cross promotions. For example:

  • Provide links to your all social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc.
  • Promote your blog posts.
  • Drive traffic back to your site with links to relevant content
  • Cross promote giveaways, offers and competitions

cross promote marketing channels10 . Legislation

And finally but most importantly, make sure you don’t fall foul of the law by keeping on top of  email legislation. If you are UK based then familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations Act. Not only that most email marketing services like MailChimp won’t accept your data unless you can ensure it’s ‘white hat”.

Implemented effectively email marketing offers small businesses a number of tangible benefits. I hope taking onboard the 10 tips outlined above will help you on your way to successful and fruitful email communications.

We’d love to hear your own thought and experiences on email marketing, so please do leave a comment

 

 

 

5 top tips to maximise your online Christmas sales in December

boost online christmas salesChristmas is knocking at the door.

We are already a few weeks into the key Christmas sales period but if you aren’t fully up and running with your Christmas promotions quite yet, then don’t worry there is still time to give those seasonal sales a bit of an extra push. This week ShopIntegrator takes a look at how your small ecommerce business can maximise sales with some easy to implement tips.

Online sales predictions for 2015

If predictions are correct 2015 is looking like another booming year for ecommerce in the UK. Researchers forecast 12% market growth and £116bn will be spent online. With many retailers creating over half of their yearly sales and profits in the three months prior to Christmas, making the most of your online presence is paramount. Indeed, according to the Centre for Retail Research last year in the UK online retail accounted for almost one-quarter (23.4%) of Christmas spending with online sales rising from £14.93 bn (2013) to £17.37 billion in 2014 – a very healthy growth of 19.5%.

5 tips to maximise your online sales this holiday season

The great news is that according to National Federation of Retailers 20% of us don’t intend to start their Christmas shopping until December and actually the busy day online isn’t Cyber Monday but the Monday or Tuesday a week or two before Christmas. So implementing a few tips now could still help boost your profits over the Christmas period.

1. Jolly up your website

First stop is your website. When potential customers arrive at your site you want to keep them in a Christmas frame of mind. Adding some appropriate seasonal graphics and images will help create the right environment to promote your Christmas products. Take a look at Tiffany’s home page. It creates the perfect environment for its brand at Christmas.

christmas homepage

Having a separate Christmas page that showcases the products that make great gifts works really well. Helping customers with the decision-making process is essential so spend some time categorising products into relevant groups. For example:

  • Gifts for Her
  • Gifts for Children
  • Gifts for Teenagers
  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts that Sparkle
  • Gifts for Food Fanatics
  • Stocking Fillers.

Not only will this inspire customers, it can push them along the road to making a decision. For a successful example checkout notonthehighstreet.com’s christmas page.

 

online christmas sales

 

2. Spread christmas cheer on social media

Social media is a great way to communicate with your customers during the Christmas season. As a marketing tool it is low-cost and a very quick way to get your message across. Use social media to inspire with creative gift ideas, highlight any special offers and promotions and communicate helpful information such as reminders about key christmas delivery dates.

And don’t forget social media is the perfect channel to spread some Christmas cheer amongst your customers. It’s a chance to be a bit lighthearted and tap into all the seasonal excitement. Try running a festive contest, create christmas mood boards, share seasonal quotes and offer handy Christmas related tips and advice. To build engagement further open up discussions with fun questions like ‘What was inside your Santa’s stocking when you were a child?”.

Pinterest is all about the visual so a strong presence works particularly well this time of year. Create special Christmas boards and pins to showcase your wares.

Here are a couple of Pinterest examples from notonthehighstreet.com and Stella and Dot.

pinterest christmas boards

 

 

christmas pins on pinterest

 

3. Open a yuletide Facebook StoreOpen a Facebook shop

Think about opening a Facebook store in time for Christmas. With over 1.55 billion monthly active users it’s an excellent way to introduce an additional sales channel for your seasonal products. The great thing about a Facebook store is that you can strike whilst the iron is hot. Rather than having to whisk engaged customers off to your website to make a purchase you can sell to them directly off your Facebook page.

It doesn’t take long to set up a Facebook page either. Checkout ShopIntegrator’s guide to opening a Facebook shop.

4. Ho Ho Ho your emails

Get busy with your email marketing this christmas. Email is an essential part of a small business owners marketing toolkit. Flexible and cost-effective it one of the most effective ways communicate with your customers this season.

Gift ideas. You’ve probably already categorised your gifts on your website so now is the time to use email to inspire customers with your gift ideas. Here is a great example of an email I received from online clothing retailer Boden that does just that.

Boden: It’s just not Christmas without new pyjamas

christmas email

Countdown: Creating a sense of urgency in your emails as Christmas approaches is a great way to encourage conversion. Try sending out emails that count down the shopping days until Christmas.  Here is a fun and creative example from gift retailer notonthehighstreet.com.

notonthehighstreet.com: Nine more sleeps till the unwrapping starts

urgency emails

Last minute shoppers. There will always be a healthy proportion of shoppers who will leave everything to the last-minute. Offering guaranteed delivery a few days before christmas is very attractive to just such customers. Just be absolutely sure you can keep that delivery promise!

Sending an email to  customers reminding them of your last posting dates to guarantee a Christmas delivery is a good way to encourage those who are thinking of making a purchase to get on and do it.

Seasons greetings to your customers. After all the sales promotion emails it is a nice idea to send out a little christmas spirit  to show your customers you appreciate them. Sending out an e-card to customers and suppliers adds a personal touch and reminds then that they are important to you.

discounts, coupons and voucher codes5. Happy holiday promotions

At such a key time of year online businesses are all competing to win customers. A great short-term sales tactic way to boost your seasonal sales conversions is through offering special holiday promotions such as online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons.

We all love to feel we’ve got a bargain especially during Christmas when it feels like money is literally flying out of our wallets. Special offers such as online discount vouchers can help encourage us to take our shopping cart to the checkout – especially if there is a deadline looming for the discount.

There are all sorts of variations you can use – popular ones include:

  • Free delivery and returns
  • Buy one get one half price
  • Save 25% 
  • Spend over £100 and get £10 off
  • 3 for 2 offers

Just remember if you are offering discounts to make sure you have done your sums first  and have read the guidelines laid out by the British Code of Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few easy to implement ideas to help give your ecommerce sales a bit of a boost during what we hope will be a busy and profitable season for online businesses.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on maximising sales at Christmas. So please do leave  a comment.

 

 

How LinkedIn can benefit small B2B and B2C businesses

linked-in social networkMost of us probably think of LinkedIn as the go-to social network for B2B businesses, professional networking and recruitment. Certainly at first glance it’s not the obvious platform for small businesses and B2C focused companies. However, with steady year-on-year growth and 380,000,000+ registered users LinkedIn can offer  your business some real benefits.

“51% of B2C companies use LinkedIn as a marketing platform (far more than the 35% who use Pinterest).” LinkedIn Pulse 

More and more businesses are using  social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. So too are consumers with 52% using two or more social networking sites. LinkedIn is a key social networking platform and so we take a look at how small businesses can profit from a LinkedIn presence.

linked-in statisticsDon’t dismiss the numbers: LinkedIn statistics

380 million registered users in 200 countries

2 new members every second

3 million company pages

1 in 3 professionals are on LinkedIn

35% users access LinkedIn daily

LinkedIn has over 1.5 million groups

93 million monthly unique visits 

How can small businesses benefit from LinkedIn  ?

LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to strengthen your brand, extend your reach, support your content marketing efforts and better understand your market. You may already have your own personal profile (as we mentioned earlier one in three professionals does!) but LinkedIn also encourages smaller businesses to build a company presence. They offer helpful tips and advice about how to set up your company page and make the most of your businesses profile. Check out LinkedIn Small Business .

extend reach and drive trafficExtend your reach

When we think of LinkedIn we tend to think ‘business people’ but remember professionals are consumers too.  Of course you may need to adjust your tone and content to reflect a more business orientated environment but LinkedIn offers you an additional platform to reinforce your brand, drive traffic to your website and generate new leads. It provides the opportunity to reach potential new customers who may not be preset on other more ‘consumer’ orientated networks. Research shows that:

13% of LinkedIn users are not on Facebook

59% of LinkedIn users are not on Twitter

83% of LinkedIn users are not on Pinterest.

brandingBuild your brand

LinkedIn provides an additional channel for you to raise awareness, reinforce your brand and increase your business’ visibility. To do this, creating a strong Company Page is essential.

When you out together your Company Page think about how to best optimise your presence.  Use high-quality images for your logo and banner and think carefully about the keywords you choose for your description. You can also create separate Showcase Pages that link off your main page. You can have a number of different standalone showcase pages (up to 10 initially) that allow you to highlight particular products or services. To create a Showcase Page click on the ‘Edit’ drop down to the right of your company page and click on ‘Create a Showcase Page’.

You and your employees should also have up-to-date Personal Profiles pages  connected to your company page. It will help further promote your business and your brand personality.

Content marketingSupport your content marketing

LinkedIn offers a further channel to support your content marketing efforts and drive traffic to your website. You can post content through Status Updates on your company page. To make the most of your presence post interesting content regularly and where appropriate include a URL link back to your site. For example try sharing industry updates, blog posts, company news, new product launches, Videos and infographics

Research shows that 60% of LinkedIn users are interested in industry updates, therefore when you are sharing updates do bear in mind that what you might post on Facebook may not work as well on LinkedIn. Choose content relevant to the LinkedIn environment.

Don’t forget to try to include eye-catching images with your updates. High-quality visual content will help increase engagement.

LinkedIn Pulse is another way to raise your profile and help establish you as an expert in a particular industry or field. Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Although you can’t currently publish articles off you Company Page you can publish them from your (or your employees) Personal Profiles page. If you are interested in posting a blog article checkout this helpful video on ‘How to publish blog posts and articles on LinkedIn Pulse’.

networking on linkedinNetworking

Networking is central to success with LinkedIn. It will help you connect with potential customers, industry influencers, third-party suppliers and potential employees.  Keep active on LinkedIn through regularly sharing interesting content, following relevant companies and professionals, always responding to comments, reviews and queries and joining LinkedIn Groups.

Networking can help build leads for your business. Indeed, research from HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated their best visitor-to-lead conversion rates – three times higher than Twitter or Facebook. There are over 1.5 million LinkedIn Groups so chances are you’ll be able to find one relevant to your business sector and of course if you want you can even set up your own group.

balloons-874838_640Market research

LinkedIn is an excellent way to gather market intelligence. Joining groups can help you collect useful insights into your target audience and stay abreast of industry trends.

LinkedIn is also a great way to keep on top of competitor activity. Check out their company pages. What are they posting? Who are they following? How can you differentiate yourself?

Learn from other business outside your industry as well. Take a look at out the top sites with LinkedIn Best Company Pages 2014 and check out this link from the Content Marketing Institute for some great examples of how B2C brands are doing it.

Hopefully this article has shown that LinkedIn isn’t just for recruitment and B2B companies. Small businesses, including B2C, can also benefit from a presence. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using LinkedIn for your business, so please do leave a comment.

Google Adwords: 7 beginner tips for small businesses and start-ups

If you are a small business looking to dip your toeGoogle Adwords into online advertising then Google AdWords is a good place to start.  PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising can offer an affordable advertising option for your business. But how do you get the best ROI when you are competing against big businesses with sizeable budgets? We take a look at 7 helpful tips to ensure small businesses and start-ups get the most bang for their buck.

Google is probably the most well-known and popular search engine so it makes sense to start your online advertising journey through Google AdWords.  In a nutshell, Google Adwords works by enabling you to bid to place you advertisement in front of  someone searching through keywords related to your product or service. You only pay when someone clicks through from the advertisement to your website.

Here is an example of ads that crop up when I typed ‘ Online French courses’ into Google. The ads are marked and appear to the side and at the top of the natural search results. Where you advertisement ranks depends on a combination of your CPC (cost per click bid)  and your ‘ Quality Score’ (relevance to the search, the quality of your landing page and click-through rate).

Example of google adwords ads

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses:

  1. You only spend what you can afford. There is no minimum spending commitment  so you can work out a budget to suit your individual business.
  2. You only pay when someone clicks through the advertisement to your site.
  3. With a bit of practice Google AdWords is pretty straightforward to use with plenty of guides to help you through setting up your account and getting your first campaign off the ground. Checkout Google Adwords Support.
  4. You can measure the success of your ads so you can continuously experiment and make tweaks to improve performance.

On the downside Google Adwords is not something you can quickly knock up and then leave to tick over by itself. It takes a while to get the best results and a fair amount of on-going commitment to get a good return on investment. You’ll need to spend time researching the best keywords, monitoring performance and tweaking your ads.

Here are 7 helpful tips to ensure your small business or start-up get the most out of Google AdWords

Google search engine1. Keep things simple to start. You’ll wield better results by keeping things simple at first and getting the basics right before progressing to more advanced options.  As we mentioned earlier it will take a bit of practice to get the hang of things and a fair amount or adjusting and tweaking to get the best results. With a small budget and a number of other roles to juggle it is a good idea for small businesses to  begin by advertising on Google Search before advancing on to Google Display Networks (these are other Google owned properties like YouTube and Google Partner sites like The New York Times). This way you have a better feel for what keywords are performing better before investing more of your hard-earned cash.

set a budget for adwords2. Set a sensible daily budget. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Think carefully about what a click-through is worth to your business. For example how many click-throughs become prospective customers? If you want to find out how to work out your maximum bid then have a read of this article by Marketing MO ‘How to Calculate your Max Bid Price’. Alternatively (although not recommended for any length of time) if you are finding it a bit daunting initially and your pushed for time, you can try Google’s automatic bidding option. You set yourself a 30 day budget and Google Adwords will set your bids for you. As you get more confident you should move to manual bids which will give you far more flexibility to optimise your performance.

3. Spend time on keyword research.  Having relevant, specific and targeted keywords is essential to the performance of your advertising and consequently your ROI. It really is important you invest time researching the best keywords for your business.

Keyword planner. Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start. Input the keywords that you think customers would type into a search engine to find your business. The keyword planner will provide a list of similar keywords and tell you whether the competition is high, medium or low and what the approximate cost-per-click is. The key for small businesses is to be specific. It is far better to have fewer clicks with people who are genuine prospects than lots of irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Group your keywords. It can be a good idea to group your keywords into keyword groups. I’ve put a very basic example below, but it can be a good way to help you structure your campaigns into relevant groups for better targeted advertisements.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.08.40

Longtail keywords. These are specific words or phrases and are usually lower cost as there is less competition for them. People are more likely to use them when they are nearer to the point of purchase. If we use the example above, the term silver jewellery is very generic so you could narrow your keywords down to something more specific- silver diamond engagement rings Hertfordshire. Of course it will take some time getting the right long tail keywords for your business but if you target them correctly you can get higher ad rankings without the big price tag.

4. Be as targeted as you can. As we’ve seen with keywords the key to using Google AdWords successfully is to be specific and targeted rather than taking a broad brush approach. Not only will it keep your costs down it will help you bring in more targeted traffic. You click-through rate may be lower but the quality of your visitors is likely to be higher. Here are some options that will help you more closely target your advertisements.

Location targeting: You can choose what geographical location to show you ads – by country, region, city or within a radius around a specific location. For example if you ran a pet grooming service you would be able to target the location where your customers live.

Custom ad scheduling: The default option for AdWords is to have ads showing all day and at all times. However, if you know your customers are likely to be active only during business hours then you can schedule ads to only appear during 9.ooam – 5.00pm.

Keyword matching options: Google AdWords matching option will help you manage the searches that trigger your advertisement. For example a broad match will bring in more traffic but the traffic is likely to be less targeted. Whereas exact match is more restrictive and will bring in fewer clicks but your traffic may be a better match for your business. There are a range of options:

  • Broad match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Checkout Google AdWords support to select the right matching options for your business.

good copywriting
5. Compelling copy for your PPC ad. With limited words to play with you need to make every word count. You can see from the example below the structure is fairly straightforward. You have a headline of a maximum 25 characters, your URL address, description line 1 with a maximum of 35 characters and description line 2 with a maximum of 35 characters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.01.02You need to make you PPC ad compelling as possible to your target audience and relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Try to include at least one keyword in your headline. A useful copywriting model to keep in mind is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Use your headline to grab attention, your description lines to create interest and desire – for example describe your product or incentive. Always finish with a call to action.

6. Optimise your landing page.  Your landing page is really important and needs to be relevant to your advertisement and the search query your visitor typed in. If it’s not your visitor will simply leave. There is no point spending you money on advertising if your landing pages are irrelevant or ill-thought out. Poor landing pages can be the reason behind low conversions and a high bounce rate. So spend some time getting your landing pages spot on.

7. Monitor performance. To get the best ROI make sure you keep on top of how your ads are performing. Monitor your CTR (click-through rates)and make adjustments to your ads as you go along, depending upon what you find is (or isn’t) working. Keep updating your keywords lists, removing any keywords that are performing poorly.  The more you measure and tweak the better your ads will perform.

Google AdWords can be a great way for small businesses and start-ups to drive traffic to their website and grow business. However to make the most out of Google AdWords and to get the best ROI it will need you to invest time and effort into making it work for you business.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of using Google AdWords, so please do leave a comment.

 

9 tips for writing a killer email subject line

emailThe subject line of an email actually wields a surprising amount of power. Indeed 35% of recipients open emails based on subject lines alone.  A strong subject header can mean the difference between an email being opened or passed over for something more appealing.

So, as a small businesses owner how do you make your communications stand out in the sea of emails your audience receives every day?

 144.8 billion emails are sent every day

At some time or another most of us have been guilty of hastily cobbling together an email header at the very last moment with little thought. However we should really be thinking of our subject lines as an enticing headline that supports the content of our email. Much like a newspaper article, a press release or blog post, time should be spent crafting the most effective headline as possible. Afterall what’s the point of having an email packed with cracking content if it doesn’t even get opened?

Of course different approaches will appeal to different audiences, but there are some universal tips you can implement to help you create more effective subject lines, thus improving your email open rates.

9 Top tips for effective email subject lines

1. Be clear.  If ever in doubt about what your email subject line should be, chose clarity. The majority of your recipients will want to know upfront about what they can expect to find when they open your email.

“Don’t sell what’s inside, tell what’s inside” Mail chimp

 

So be clear about your content. Most importantly, be honest about your content. You won’t win customers by trying to entice them in with false promises, in fact they more likely to bypass your email next time.

2. Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is to keep your email subject line as short as you can. Try to aim for under 10 words. Remember 40% of emails are opened on mobiles devices first so if you make it too long your meaning won’t come across in the 4-7 words that average mobile screen can fit.

If you are struggling to get the number of words down, keep to the point, get rid of any unnecessary filler words and put your strongest words at the beginning. Get into the practice of editing down. For example instead of ‘Enter our free prize draw to win £500 to spend on stunning jewellery from our latest collection’ (17 words) you could edit it down to ‘Win £500 of jewellery from our new collection’ (8 words). Same message just shorter with the keywords right upfront.

5 tips to improve online video content3. Try numbers . Using numbers in your email headers can be a great way of getting noticed. For example here are some ones in my inbox that grabbed my attention and got opened:

  • 5 ways to sprinkle on the sparkle (Boden)
  • 23 ways to blow your valentines socks off (notonthehighstreet.com)
  • 7 golden rules for content marketing (Econsultancy)

I’m not sure of the psychology behind it, but studies seem to agree that odd numbers and random specific numbers seem to get higher open rates, so it’s definately worth giving numbers a whirl.

4. Mix up your content. Your header is only as good as the content inside. So if you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sending the same type of emails over and over again, your subject lines are probably going to reflect this. So reboot your content and surprise your audience by sending out a variety of different email communications such as competitions, newsletters, special offers, blog posts, sneak previews, quizzes, surveys and so on. It follows that if your content is varied and interesting, your email headlines are more likely to be too.

adding humour to email5. Introduce some humour. This can be a tricky one to get right but if you manage it can work wonders. A bit of humour can be a sure-fire way to grab attention and get your email to stand to from the crowd. A good example is Groupon’s much applauded subject line:

“Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” 

Puns or plays on word can also work well – holidays and seasonal promotions can lend them selves quite well to this. Here are a few of seasonal examples from notonthehighstreet.com who do creative email headlines really well.

  • They do say ‘drink and be merry’… fill your festive boots
  • It’s the best thing since Christmas…Easter we so glad to see you 
  • Pretend like you had this planned for ages…valentines day sorted

Being clever can be great but remember don’t try to be so clever  that no one can work out what your on about. If you do want to try writing some email headers with a bit of humour checkout this blog from Vertical Response – it’s got lots of examples of amusing subject lines alongside some great tips.

6. Offer a benefit . Including a clear benefit to you reader in your subject header can help increase your open rates. When you are crafting your subject line focus on the benefits rather than the features. Using strong benefit words can work well as they imply a promise of what is inside, for example

  • Increase
  • Discover
  • Learn
  • Win
  • Earn
  • Save

7. Urgency and Exclusivity. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Here is a great example of an email I received recently from Banana Republic that covers both these elements. The subject line was: Our 40% online private sale ends today.

email urgency and exclusivity

And yes it did work as I did take advantage of the offer.

8. Don’t be mistaken for SPAM. The last thing you want is for your email to look like possible spam .

69% of email recipients report email as spam based only on the subject line.

People tend to steer clear of subject headers that look a bit ‘spammy’. So don’t be temped to oversell and be careful if you’re using overtly sales words like FREE in your headlines.  Definitely avoid using ALL CAPS as it shouts of spam.

9. Test and monitor. Most email service  providers will have ‘insight’ tools that will enable you to monitor your email performance. Simple A/B testing of your subject headers is a great way to find out what works best for your particular audience, helping you craft stronger performing headlines.

Finally, before you press SEND…

Before your send your email merrily on its way, double-check your subject line to ensure there are no typos and it can’t be misconstrued to cause any offence. If in doubt it’s always a good idea to ask yourself the following question: If you received this email would you open it, ignore it or assume it’s SPAM?

We’d love to hear some of your tips for creating powerful email subject lines, so please do leave a comment.