How do small-to-medium sized business owners decide what technologies they need, and what they could do without?
As a small business, you have enough challenges keeping your head above water and focusing on how to grow. Navigating the digital world can be complex if you don’t understand the various channels and what you should focus on to get the most bang for your buck. Even if you do understand the technologies, how do you find enough time in the day to do it all? In this paper we will give you a concise list of things you can easily do to boost your business by leveraging the power of digital with web, social, and mobile.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, businesses that make use of the web expect to grow 40% faster than those that don’t. And according to Google, 97% of consumers go online to look for local products, yet only 37% of US small businesses have an online presence. Increasingly, the web is important, but so is making use of social media and mobile technology to engage with your potential customers.
If digital technologies like web, social media and mobile are so important, then why don’t all small businesses make use of them? There are several reasons that include perceived cost associated with doing it, not having enough time, or believing that it’s just too complicated. Lucky for you, there is plenty of help to address the complexities of digital while also managing your time challenges. There are marketing services companies that cater to small business needs. It’s also less expensive than you think, especially if you can pay for it with the increased sales that you can enjoy.
So let’s get to it – here are our top tips for digital success.
1. Have an online presence with a responsive design
Since consumers are going online to search for businesses, unless you have a website you will not be found! Consumers will go to your competitors if they are easier to find. A couple of other things to consider are optimizing your site for relevant keywords that consumers may be searching on and making sure you have a responsive design. By having the right information and content on your website, you will help your company be found when consumers are searching.
A responsive design simply means that your site is optimized for viewing and interaction across different types of devices (computer, tablet, mobile). The site will be easy to navigate, read, and interact with, taking into account the different screen sizes that your web site can be accessed from. Also consider the user experience. They want to be able to access the information in as few clicks as possible. So, put yourself in the user’s shoes when designing your website – easy to navigate equals better engagement for you. Clunky or disorganized websites will result in potentially lost sales opportunities or your user exiting the site.
Get your business on Google
Getting your business listed on Google is another important step to getting found online. Google My Business helps you get listed on Google and also provides key information such as business overview, hours of operation, phone number, and address. For users using their mobile, they can use Maps to get directions and click to call. Consumers can also leave ratings and reviews of your business.
Advertise online to drive traffic
These days, advertising online has also become important to drive new customers to your business. It’s fairly easy to set up an advertising CPC campaign on Google. With Google Adwords, you can specify whether you want your ad to be local and what specifically you want to advertise. Google provides tools to help you decide which keywords to advertise, setting up budgets, and managing the whole campaign. And the good part is that you only pay if someone clicks on your ad. There can be potentially many more people that see your ad and read it, but you don’t pay unless they click. It’s important to track how much business is resulting from your advertising budget and make regular adjustments as needed to get the most out of it.
Use social media to connect with your customers
The top social media platforms you should consider are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, and Pinterest. You don’t have to be on all of the social media channels, but the ones that make the most sense for your audience. It gives you an opportunity to build loyalty with your customers and connect with them outside of your normal business interaction. It also provides an avenue for you to then share what’s new with your business, advertise specials, and foster a loyal customer base that will keep coming back.
We already talked about a responsive design that helps you interact with customers that are on different devices such as tablets. That will also help you for customers using mobile. Increasingly, consumers are using their phones to make purchases, search for local businesses, and using click to contact the businesses directly.
People are also spending more and more time on their mobile compared to other devices. Their mobile is always within reach. If it makes sense for your business, you should also consider mobile advertising, such as SMS, MMS, or banner.
Use analytics to understand and improve
Now that you are online, advertising, and getting found by your customers, you need to understand if the money you are spending is giving you a return on your investment. Analytics will help you track and review data that is relevant to your business. Best of all, Google Analytics is free! You can track every click, measure every dollar, and get insights on the type of device that your customers are connecting with (mobile vs. desktop). And by looking at how many conversions you have, the dollars of business that translated into, and how much you spent on advertising, you can tie it all together to ensure it is paying back. You can also tell if your activities on social media are driving traffic to your website.
Now you have the 6 top tips for succeeding in the digital world. Perhaps you were already doing some but not all, now is a chance to dive into the rest of the digital initiatives. Some of these tips are free to implement (Google My Business for example), so it won’t cost you a cent. It will take an investment in time, but increasingly digital is the way to reach your target customers. And if you can’t do it all yourself, there is plenty of help out there without breaking the bank.
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I meet business owners, marketers and digital folks everyday who try to gain new business, via the digital channel. When I say digital, I mean through their websites, mobile, social media presence, organic and paid search methods. I have to admit, there’s a lot of sophistication that marketers are using to launch their campaigns across various digital channels – and their spending big bucks to do it. But, I am surprised at the adoption rate of some marketers when it comes to measuring analytics correctly across these digital channels. Marketers tend to say, “I love digital because I can measure it”. Allegedly, digital methods conquered the question of where each marketing dollar actually goes. But when you get down into the weeds, you realize the measurement is half baked based on a few statistics – such as clicks, page views or other nonsensical stats.
By itself, your Adwords report is meaningless unless you know how much money those clicks made for your company. Your social media posts are great for perception but not much value if you don’t lead your followers to your business to buy, buy, buy. Your search optimization dollars are great, but do you know what happens when users reach your website? All in all, it doesn’t matter if you are number one in search if you are not making a high return on investment.
So how do you solve this problem? Here are a few key tips:
1. Spend some time ensuring that your analytics platform is installed properly and standardized across your organization.
2. Work with your agencies to define your requirements and goals of your website. Make sure those goals and conversions are correctly implemented on your site. Free and paid analytics products support this turnkey solution and this is an easy and critical component that will give you great data on what’s working.
3. Give dollar value to your goals and conversions. Attribution reports can tell you which channel is giving you the best bang for the buck.
4. When steps 1-2 are done, ensure that every campaign, post and banner follows a standard method to tracking. Use campaign parameters to ensure you can easily find your campaign in your analytics tool.
5. Analyze, analyze, analyze your data over time to see what is working what’s not.
6. Add more dollars to what’s working and ditch what’s not.
7. Make changes to your website and campaigns and then analyze, analyze, analyze some more.
In summary, digital has opened up multiple channels for us to market and attract new customers. But, in order to understand what is working and not working we need to be more sophisticated in how we measure. If you’re going to pay big bucks for a website, Adwords, social media presence, or even a simple banner, then challenge your agencies to confirm and provide data that show which of the strategies are working to meet your marketing goals. While clicks and page views are fine, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Savvy marketers should measure data that shows number of orders, number of sales leads, number of visitor inquiries and number of conversions.
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Social media has been a great tool for businesses. Facebook in particular has been used resourcefully in order to gain fans and boost interaction for a business. However, lately there have been several complaints to Facebook in regards to a decline in reach. According to Facebook, “Post reach is the number of people who have seen your post. Your post counts as reaching someone when it’s shown in News Feed. Figures are for the first 28 days after a post was created and include people viewing your post on desktop and mobile.” In the context of Facebook’s definition, reach seems greatly important when it comes to a businesses success and overall growth on Facebook. The question is, what can we do to ensure that our business pages are driving reach?
Let’s first look into why there has been such a decline in Facebook reach lately…
1. People are liking more pages than ever before- increasing the competition for exposure in the Newsfeed.
2. More and more content is shared on Facebook each day, making each person’s newsfeed more cluttered. More content is being made than the time able to absorb it all. On average, one person’s Facebook page can hold 1,500 – 15,000 stories on their NewsFeed. As a result, competition for exposure in the NewsFeed is increasing even further. You’re probably thinking “I definitely don’t see that many stories on my NewsFeed every day” and you are right – you don’t, which comes to my third point.
3. Facebook users do not see all of the new stories on their NewsFeed – Facebook chooses about 300 relevant stories based on relevancy to the viewer. So, there are a lot of posts (your businesses included) that aren’t shown on the NewsFeed.
Here are 4 simple steps to get you started in improving your reach:
1. Images aren’t the hype: While images were claimed to perform best for organic posts, they shouldn’t be your main focus.
2. Videos, videos, videos: Videos have seem to be the most effective organic post, next to text-only posts and links. Also, since not many pages have been posting videos, it comes up as a unique story – which Facebook’s algorithm seems to prefer.
3. Track which type of content resonates with your audience: The true trick is to study your insights that Facebook provides and see which type of post your specific audience prefers – it could be pictures, text-only, links, videos or a combination! Test out different variations of posts and analyze!
4. Don’t focus on using Facebook for reaches or to gain fans: Use Facebook to achieve specific business objectives. Organic content still holds a lot of substance on Facebook pages and can still make it to the top of the NewsFeed. Publish content that relates to your business and that is educational and entertaining.
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Your business is very special to you, it is your baby. We know this first-hand here at Xcelacore. You watch your business idea come to life slowly and gradually. You watch your idea grow and take its first steps into the world of business. It is a very special process. But, as we all know, a business is very fragile and can dissipate as fast as it was created. So, what can businesses do in order to better ensure survival? The number one factor that influences a business is the customer and keeping your customers happy.
Customer satisfaction is important because…
1. It keeps those customers coming back!
2. It leads to recommendations!
3. It reduces negative word-of-mouth!
4. It lessens competitor advancement!
5. It is the foundation of every business!
How can you make sure your customers are satisfied?
1. Measure satisfaction– Send out surveys or ask your customers to write reviews on your service. This shows the customer that your company genuinely cares about what the customer thinks. It will make the customer feel like their opinion matters within your business. *If you are asking for customer opinion, always make sure to note those opinions- never ignore!
2. Treat your customers like they are your boss– Technically, your customers are your boss- they’re paying your bills aren’t they? So make sure you’re catering to all of their needs.
3. Say thank you– Always use your manners in the business world, it goes a long way and it is remembered.
4. Investigate what your customers are saying– Use social media to see what your customers (or potential customers) are saying about your business and your competition. This will give you organic information to use in order to provide the best service. This is very helpful because a lot of unhappy customers will not directly tell you but will tell social media about an issue.
5. Go above and beyond– Provide your customers with more than what you promise them.
6. Talk to them– Communicate with your customers directly in order to humanize your business and add some personality. This will also make your customers feel important. You would return to a business that made you feel important, right? Email is a great tool- use it!
7. Make customer service a top priority– Make a good impression with your customers early on in your business relationship.
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The one constant that we can rely on is change. The marketing world is not an exception – each year, month and day, there is a new marketing trend that is on the horizon. We as marketers should never stop learning (even though some of us said farewell to school many moons ago), because our industry is constantly changing. The material that was learned in textbooks back at school no longer apply, so it is time to re-dedicate ourselves to the world of innovation that brings disruption to entire industries.
Unfortunately, if you do not embrace these trends and learn how to leverage them, your business will get left behind with those yellow taxis. The following are the top 5 marketing and technology trends that we at Xcelacore believe you should embrace and put into your arsenal of business tools for the new year:
1. Marketing Automation: These technology platforms have become a must-have for large enterprises and increasingly important for small and medium enterprises as well. There are plenty of tools available to match the size of company, level of sophistication, and budget. Marketing automation tools will help you manage your marketing across multiple channels (email, social, web). Automation is essential to improving your conversions from leads to sales; automation speeds up the sales cycle and assists in engaging with your prospects in a personal way that matches their buying stage.
2. Analytics: Analytics provides the ability to find out which of your marketing activities are working and which are not. Without analytics, there is no way to understand your targeted reach, website engagement or how many users are converting into customers. Once you have the available data, you can then optimize your customer experience and begin gaining that much needed insight. There are several tools out there that can match your business needs from Google Analytics to Adobe Analytics.
3. Return on Investment (ROI): The ROI is paramount. In the early days of digital, it was all about experimenting with different channels (mobile, social, web) and advertisements to test about how your customers behave and engage. Now it’s time to tie the dollars you are spending on advertisements, and other marketing efforts, to real revenues. The way to do that is to have the right tools in place (such as marketing automation and analytics) to give you a view on your marketing campaigns. For example, if your spending $100/week on Google AdWords, do you know which convert and how much revenue they add? Or, if you are running an email campaign, do you know how many people followed up with a visit to your website, made a purchase or downloaded that Whitepaper?
4. Content is Key: While this was also true in 2015, we think content is important enough that it deserves to be in the top 5. Without quality content, inbound and thought leadership activities won’t get off the ground. You need informative, thought provoking, and educational content that is delivered to the right audience at the right time to be successful!
5. Focus on Mobile: The rise of mobile is increasing. With so many people checking emails, shopping, reading e-books, playing games, etc., it is important to heavily incorporate this new trend into your marketing strategy for 2016. According to mobileSQUARED, 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes of being delivered. An important insight to remember is that we multi-task with mobiles while watching TV, eating and doing other things that shall remain unmentioned – mobiles are always within reach and we feel naked without them.
Keep in mind that the 5 trends mentioned are only a few of the trends that will be seen in the upcoming year. Stay tuned to the Xcelacore blog and we will bring you more of the latest throughout next year. Happy New Year!
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We just returned from the AMA Conference: Analytics With Purpose, held in Scottsdale earlier this week. This was Xcelacore’s first time sponsoring an AMA event and we were honored to represent the business. This was a great opportunity to hear from industry experts on best practices and learn what other leading companies like AOL, American Cancer Society, Charles Schwab, and IBM are working on (not to mention the great Superbowl party!).
Most importantly, it gave me a chance to meet other marketers and hear about their challenges. Many of the attendees I talked to were there to learn more about analytics and then apply them at their companies. An important pattern I noticed was that many marketers are struggling to figure out where to start with analytics and digital marketing technologies. Some have pieces of the puzzle in place, but not everything is connected. Others are further along. Every company is at a different place in the maturity curve for implementing and using marketing technologies.
But the common theme is the lack of resources and expertise internally to get where they want to be. Almost everyone talked about realizing the importance of having the right tools (including digital analytics) in place to be more efficient and informed on how their marketing activities are performing. So that left me wondering why enterprises aren’t allocating a bigger budget to make it happen. Why wouldn’t you want to have visibility into your marketing activities’ success and ROI?
I have some theories on this, having run marketing organizations in previous roles. But I would love to hear from you directly. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can exchange some ideas on this topic.
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Setting up your digital infrastructure is very important for any business, but it is also fairly complicated when starting off. First of all, you need to select a email provider. For small business, Mailchimp and Constant Contact are great options. For enterprise, ExactTarget and Silverpop are more appropriate options. Next, Google Analytics needs to be set up to run on your website and configured for conversions. Your on your way to being a digital rock star. You start your newsletter campaigns hoping to see all the email traffic you have generated only to realize that your GA report is not showing email traffic. Figure 1 shows a channel report from Google Analytics. The third entry per the image below should should you how much traffic you have gained from email. But if you haven’t properly integrated the two platforms, all the traffic may be classified as direct and you’ll never know the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
So, how do you solve? It’s different in each platform but generally configuring the platform requires some form of administrative setup to use the google analytics campaign variables. As a quick review, below is a list of the Google Analytics campaign variables that you have the option of setting on each email, link you would like to track: More information is available at https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en
In ExactTarget, when you start the engagement, it’s critical that you tell your account rep that you want a link similar to the following set for your account: ?utm_source=exacttarget&utm_medium=email. This will ensure base level reporting so that Google Analytics can identify the source and medium of your emails. To take it a step further, you will need to look further at configuring the ExactTarget web connector for configuring campaign and email level data. More information can be found here: https://help.marketingcloud.com/en/documentation/integrated_products__crm_and_web_analytic_solutions/web_analytics_connector/ .
In Silverpop, the setup is very similar except you won’t need help from an account rep to make the update. You can use the following documentation to create an append string that will be concatenated to every email. Use the following documentaiton https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/SSTSRG/Step_1_Configure_the_Append_String.html. More advanced setup such as campaign name passing is also available.
To keep this short, I will also quickly provide the links on how to how to make this integration work in both Constant Contact and MailChimp. Please review and feel free to reach out with any questions.
Constant Contact: http://support2.constantcontact.com/articles/FAQ/2687#Add
In summary, I can’t state the importance of making sure your email marketing platform and Google Analytics are integrated and working correctly together. If you’re going to be a digital marketing rockstar, you’ll need to take these steps to complete this configuration.
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As technology and business leaders, many of us have been part of a decision around building new technology solutions to create new services or products. In this mobile-first era, one of the first questions you are challenged with is – do we need an App for that? Or can this service or product can utilize just the mobile web version?
We all wish this was an easy yes or no answer. But the answer may be much simpler than you think. There are 3 main criteria you need to consider that will help you make the decision.
#1 – Application feature set
If your product needs built-in phone features like GPS, Accelerometer, Contacts, Push Notification, etc., then you will need to build an app. From the technological advancement with HTML5, some of the phone features can be accessed so you may be able to get away with only a mobile web version. You will need to research the specific feature set requirements with what is possible to do within HTML5.
If the answer is – yes, I have to use phone features that are not available through HTML5, then your decision is made, no need to read further!
#2 – Audience
Just because a customer downloaded your app does not mean that they will be using the app for life, or even at all. The data shows that people actively use only 5-7 apps in a given month. Unless there is a compelling need for the user
s to download the app, they will not.
Again, your answer here will determine what direction you take.
#3 – Resources
Since you have read it this far, the assumption is that the decision is still pending. Developing a mobile app is a skillset that not all developers hold. You should carefully evaluate the resources at your disposal in making the decision. Not only do you have to build an app (possibly on multiple platforms – iOS, Android, Windows), but you also must manage and maintain it. You should consider the total cost of ownership as you make this decision.
In conclusion, whether you build an app or not, you will need to develop a solution that is mobile responsive at the least.
Sincerely, The Xcelacore Team