Are you planning email marketing initiatives for the holiday season? Research shows that when done right, email campaigns can pay off mightily. A past study from the Direct Marketing Association found email marketing has an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent. The numbers could easily go up, if businesses got more customers to actually open their emails.
New research from GetResponse shows that email marketing messages are opened just 22 percent of the time by consumers. “When used correctly, email is an essential tool in a salesperson’s arsenal to build these bonds that drive business growth,” JP Werlin, CEO and founder of sales and account management CRM provider PipelineDeals, said in a statement
PipelineDeals believes that small business can improve their email marketing efforts by focusing on three key areas: Time of day: Making sure your emails hit a reader’s inbox at the right time is critical to whether or not your message gets read. Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic time for everyone. Research from PipelineDeals found that the timing window varies depending on the target audience of the email campaign.
For example, software companies see better open rates in the afternoon, while businesses in the marketing and advertising industries have better open rates in the morning. “Ignore the general wisdom of when you should send out email and actually start testing when you send out email messages,” the study’s authors wrote. “If you’re just getting started sending email, look for industry specific data.” Template use: While email templates might make it easier to create your campaigns, they often don’t provide the results businesses are looking for. PipelineDeals found that emails sent using a template perform approximately 30 percent worse than those that aren’t based on a generic structure.
Clients are incredibly important part of business; their relationship makes your company what it is. It’s important to be thoughtful when choosing gifts for them.
“A thoughtful gift and accompanying personal note provides a way to show your appreciation for your client in a powerfully human way,” said David Sturt, executive vice president of marketing and business development for O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition and corporate gifting firm. “It highlights the significance of the personal relationship itself, rather than on the day-to-day transactions of products and services. It elevates the relationship.”
Thoughtful gifts also have a natural reciprocal quality to them. When someone is appreciative of you, it elicits a natural response to see the things you appreciate about them, Sturt added.
Whether it’s a holiday greeting or a token of gratitude, here are 12 gifts for your business clients that fit any budget.
To keep your best clients coming back in the new year, try sending them one of these cool holiday gifts. Each item is under $20 — so you don’t have to break the bank in the process, either.
Thank your clients for their loyalty with a delicious bouquet of color, chocolate and sweet delight from Edible Arrangements. These fruit-based concoctions feature fruit in the shape of flowers, dipped in chocolate and will please any client you work with. Depending on the size of the client’s office, you can choose from a range of small arrangements to large that come with a personalized note.
The holiday shopping season is the retail industry’s busiest time of year. However, not all holiday shopping is done at big box stores: Small business owners also anticipate this time of year as bringing in serious revenue. Small Business Saturday,encourages consumers to shop local, and is a great opportunity to the small retailers to increase their profits for the year. Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual shopping day supporting the independently owned businesses that help create jobs and help make local economies thrive.
According to a press release, small businesses will be offered new resources for a successful holiday shopping season. “Our ultimate goal is to help small businesses do more business — and for Small Business Saturday, that includes arming them with the tools to help make the day a success,” said Amy Marino, vice president and head of Small Business Saturday at American Express.
Among the new tools being rolled out this holiday season by American Express are free business boot camps, online “SBS 101” education content, and customizable print and digital signage for this year, which marks the seventh-annual Small Business Saturday. Items such as event flyers, posters, save the dates, and social media assets will be available for business owners to customize and download for free to promote their business.
The SBS 101 content will include a multi-media hub featuring how-to guides, and tips and insights from small business owners and influencers. This tool is designed to educate, prepare, and inspire small business owners to participate in Small Business Saturday.
Every industry has a certain level of risk involved. However, in the eyes of banks and other traditional lenders some have more than others. This makes it incredibly difficult for these businesses to secure a small business loan. Not willing to deal with the risks, banks and traditional lenders turn these businesses away. As a result, these businesses have increasingly turned to alternative lenders – like eMerchantBroker – that specialize in offering high risk merchant accounts. These merchant services are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each high-risk business type.
If your business is part of one of the following high risk businesses, you’ll likely have to seek a high-risk merchant account and alternative business funding options:
Over the last few years, gun shops have had a hard time securing business funding from their banks. The firearms industry was one of the many industries deemed “high-risk” during the Obama Administration. Many firearm merchants are informed that their merchant account has been closed, and that their business is no longer welcome at their bank. In the eyes of traditional lenders, gun merchants are listed write alongside porn stores and drug paraphernalia shops.
Digital media continues to place pressure on newspapers. The fact that advertisers have fewer incentives to print publications – due to readers preferring real time information – is also hurting this industry. In 2013, the revenue for this industry was $33.37 billion. That amount is expected to decline to $27.68 billion in 2018, and continue to fall 3.67 percent over the next five years.
Leather Tanning and Finishing
Over the last few years, the leather tanning and finishing industry has declined. Revenue in 2013 was $1.84 billion, compared to a projected $1.66 billion in 2018. Even though experts anticipate that the industry will stabilize in the future, falling demand has caused it to be labeled as high risk. Rising import competition has also negatively impacted this industry’s performance.
For the most part, there are many opportunities in the appliance repair industry. A new report by IBISWorld revealed that prices for appliances are projected to outpace disposable income growth. However, the appliance repair industry still faces competition from manufacturers that offer warranties to cover repairs. Advancements in technology are also increasing the lifespan of appliances. This has given this industry a very high level of risk, accompanied with an expectation that revenue will fall an average annual rate of 1.5 percent over the next five years.
Business Certification and Industry Schools
In hopes to have a better chance of being competitive in the job market, more and more students are choosing degree programs over industry schools. This declining demand has forced operators to lower their prices for courses, which also negatively affects their profit margins. In 2013, revenue was $2.78 billion. That amount is projected to decline to $2.08 billion by 2018, and will continue to fall over the next few years.
Apparel Knitting Mill
The apparel knitting mill industry is considered very high risk. Most knitting takes place overseas, while U.S. companies focus on designing and branding. This has led to a revenue decline in this industry $481.3 million (2013) to an estimated $412.0 million (2018). Even so, there are still many opportunities for those who find a niche in this market.
As a small business owner, you may have dreams of your company becoming the next Amazon or Apple, or you might be content making a splash in your local community. Either way, you may wonder how you can make it against large companies that seem to have the people and resources to do the things you can’t do. Just because your business is small, that doesn’t mean you can’t think big. Below are four ways you can grow your small business without a big budget. Find your niche Big businesses tend to appeal to wide, general customer bases. As a result, customers with more specific needs are left out, because there’s not enough profit potential for a big company to cater to those customers’ needs. However, a small but eager customer base can be perfect for a smaller business.
“Step No. 1 is to recognize that a larger business is not necessarily your competition. Ask yourself how you are different,” Joanne Chang, owner of and chef at Flour Bakery + Café and Myers + Chang in Boston, said in The Wall Street Journal. Identifying and focusing on your niche also lets you work to your strengths and develop market expertise and loyalty. “Many are afraid to eliminate part of a potential market,” James Clear, founder of Passive Panda, wrote in an American Express Open Forum blog post. “It can seem scary, but you need to focus on your core customer if you want a clear path to growth.” Danielle McPhail, founder of eSpec Books, said she has seen this in the world of small-press publishing. “When you diversify too much when you’re small, then you can’t maintain your market,” she said.
“I’ve worked with a lot of small presses, and when I see them self-destruct is when they start making imprints to reach different markets and they don’t have the support structure to reach that different demographic.” Put your efforts into innovating One way to innovate an industry is to find a problem that most businesses are ignoring. “Don’t be afraid to solve the hard problems that everyone else avoids,” wrote Clear. “There is a lot of money to be made when you’re the first person to fix something.” “Because you have passion and because you can tap into agility, you have a perfect mix to better innovate,” Pam Moore, founder of Marketing Nutz, wrote in a blog post. “It doesn’t require an intense board meeting to kick off an idea for further research. You can simply plan it and do it.” When you innovate, be sure to keep in mind your market and customer base. McPhail encouraged small business owners to diversify within their existing product or service scopes but warned against branching out into completely different demographics.
Seasonal-business owners have a short window to earn money, and those funds have to last them all year. You might be wondering how these businesses make that work, but successful seasonal-business owners have tricks that ensure their seasonal businesses earn money all year long.
Whether you’re gearing up for your holiday season peak or slowing down after your summertime rush, here’s how you can keep your business profitable throughout the year. Minimize and manage off-season expenses The first and most important step in managing your finances is getting a good understanding of your expenses in the off-season and then thinking of ways to minimize them, said David Goldin, president and CEO of business financing provider Capify .
Goldin advised reducing your business hours and days, lowering your staffing requirements, and cutting back your marketing and ad budgets to save money. You can also renegotiate some of your vendor contracts and recurring services, to see where you can scale back, he said. Find natural ways to repurpose your equipment Gary Fouts, owner of multiple seasonal small businesses, said the best way to keep a seasonal business profitable is to operate two or more businesses whose off-seasons complement each other, and that can share equipment. For example, Fouts runs a landscape management company, an outdoor lighting company and a Christmas lighting add-on service, all of which drive referrals for one another. “Another way to extend billing and revenue is to set up multimonth payment cycles to clients, and encourage early bookings through incentives,” Fouts said. Fouts also noted that his Christmas décor business has many other purposes outside of the holiday season, which helps carry his success throughout the year. “Several weddings use twinkle lights in their décor,” he said.
Seek out opportunities with businesses that have longer seasons Toffer Grant, founder and CEO of prepaid business Visa provider PEX Card, recommended looking through your inventory at the end of your peak season to see if anything can be sold off. “A business has to determine [if] it is worth keeping money tied up in gear and supplies that sit around until the following season,” Grant said. “Recoup some of the money by selling materials for what was paid, or even at a small loss [to] cash out those items.” Fouts said his objective is to get the inventory as close to zero as possible before the end of the season.
“We’ll run a special on whatever color or type of lights we have in excess, sell off inventory to franchisees in the network or other companies,” Fouts said. “If, at the end of the season, there is still an excess of a certain color or type of lights, we’ll store them during the off-season.”
Smart businesses know that it costs less to retain existing customers than it does to acquire new ones. That’s why so many brands are focused on loyalty marketing — campaigns designed specifically to bring in repeat business and referrals. But it’s not enough to just send out a generic, “Hey, come back!” email to previous customers. In today’s market, you need to personalize your loyalty campaigns to fit your customers’ needs.
“Loyalty marketing needs to be personalized because, at its core, you are asking for a deeper relationship with your customer,” said Jason Greenspan, CEO at tech hygiene company WHOOSH!. “Would you ever think of giving a loved one a birthday cake saying, ‘Happy Birthday, Customer?’ Of course you wouldn’t.”
There’s plenty of proof that personalized marketing works, too: Recent research by Virtual Incentives found that 56 percent of consumers surveyed feel personalized incentives improve their consideration of a brand, and three-quarters said these incentives make them feel respected as a consumer. Another survey by Accenture Interactive revealed that 65 percent of customers are more likely to shop at a retailer that remembers their previous purchases.
However, there’s a fine line between personalization and privacy invasion, and brands need to be aware of how they’re coming off to consumers. Sixteen percent of those surveyed by Virtual Incentives described personalized offers as “creepy,” and a quarter said they felt these efforts are a violation of their privacy.
If you haven’t already started prepping your business for the holidays, now is the time to start. Black Friday is less than a month away, but many consumers start their shopping well before that — waiting too long means missing out on valuable sales opportunities. “Holiday shopping seems to be starting earlier and earlier every year,” said Lisa Graves, senior email marketing strategist at DEG, a full-service digital marketing agency. “Nov. 1 is when the bulk of your customers begin purchasing for the holidays.” To make the 2016 holiday season your best one yet, here are four big marketing trends you can capitalize on right now.
No matter how much of your sales come from e-commerce, it’s important to provide a seamless, fast web experience for your customers. A 2015 report from website performance solutions provider Radware found that slow websites mean fewer sales — 57 percent of consumers will abandon a site that fails to load after 3 seconds. Small e-commerce companies can’t afford to lose this kind of business during such a busy season, so be sure to address any lags or missing features on your website and identify potential sales trends for the season.
You’ll also want to make sure your website is mobile-optimized for holiday shoppers. A report by marketing solutions provider SteelHouse states that retail sales on smartphones have nearly doubled year over year (according to eMarketer), so give your site a checkup to make sure everything is running smoothly. “We’ve seen a rise in multidevice shoppers the past two years, which is why the seamless experience is so critical,” Graves told Business News Daily.
In the retail world, early fall means holiday prep time. Some shoppers have already begun working through their gift list, and the major post-Thanksgiving shopping days —Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday — will be here soon. A successful holiday sales season depends on early planning and consistent marketing, especially if you’re a small business competing against retail giants like Amazon, Walmart and Target. Sales and marketing experts offered their advice to help you make 2016 your best holiday season yet.
Shopping day guide Not sure which days you should focus on for your post-Thanksgiving sales? Here’s a quick rundown of each sale day, its history and which businesses it suits best. Black Friday According to Visual Thesaurus, the day after Thanksgiving came to be known as “Black Friday” in the early 1960s, when Philadelphia police officers used it as a negative term to describe the city’s holiday shopping traffic jams. The name stuck, and in the ’80s, businesses put a positive spin on Black Friday by rebranding it as a day for stores to “get back in the black.” While larger merchants usually rule Black Friday with midnight (or earlier) openings and sales throughout the day, many small businesses also offer in-store and online discounts. Read our Black Friday tips here. Small Business Saturday Small Business Saturday is all about celebrating local merchants. Started by American Express during the 2010 holiday season, this sale day encourages consumers to “shop small,” and give independent retailers a fighting chance in between the huge Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales of larger competitors. Small Business Saturday is typically geared toward promoting brick-and-mortar retailers, and continues to grow in consumer recognition and spending each year. Read our Small Business Saturday tips here. Cyber Monday About a decade ago, e-commerce businesses began noticing that sales increased on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when most Americans are back to work after the long weekend. A press release issued in 2005 by the National Retail Federation officially coined the term “Cyber Monday,” and by 2010, it had become the biggest online shopping day of the year, The Washington Post reported. Retailers that sell exclusively online love to run sales on Cyber Monday, but those that have brick-and-mortar and e-commerce operations can also take advantage of this shopping day.
Read our Cyber Monday tips here. Trends to watch 1. Online sales will continue to grow. Amit Mathradas, general manager and head of Small Business North America for PayPal, said there has been disproportionate holiday shopping growth from online channels. Deloitte predicts overall e-commerce sales to grow by 17 to 19 percent from last year’s shopping season, including mobile commerce growth of 42 percent. Mathradas said that to capitalize on this growth, merchants will need to focus on reducing shopping-cart abandonment — in other words, when online shoppers add items to their virtual shopping carts but don’t follow through to purchase those items — particularly on mobile devices. “Online sales and an emphasis on mobile are categorical imperatives,” he said. “A site not rendering properly on a mobile device, or any hiccups in payment processing, can cause a ripple effect in terms of lost sales.” 2. In-store shopping still rules certain industries. In a blog post on FTI Journal, Christa Hart, senior managing director of retail and consumer products at FTI Consulting, said that in certain product categories — appliances, furniture, food and groceries — the majority of consumers prefer to shop in-store. Even for apparel and footwear, more than half of consumers surveyed by FTI prefer in-store shopping. 3. Younger shoppers’ habits have shifted. Understanding the shopping habits of the coveted millennial market is crucial to landing their business, especially in a brick-and-mortar retail setting, according to Hart. “In the past, these shoppers would stroll the mall in groups and go from store to store … [which] led to impulse buying along with preplanned purchasing,” Hart wrote. “Today, shopping is still a social activity for millennials, but it’s often more of an offline-to-online experience. Friends text photos and opinions of the products they see or try on to each other before deciding whether to purchase — either on the spot or later online.”
Launching a tech startup? If you really want to impress your prospects, you should consider offering them a product demonstration.
Demos allow consumers to test-drive your product or service. According to Robert Fassold, co-founder of Ultra-Practical Solutions, a small-business software provider, they are “absolutely necessary” in the following situations:
- The product is somewhat unique and many potential customers may not understand what it is from the description.
- There is a “wow” factor that can be demonstrated only in person.
- The product may be bundled with additional products and services, and the demo provides the opportunity to cross-sell.
A demo is much like a consultation, said Alex Haimann, head of business development at Less Annoying CRM. Essentially, you are offering your prospect insights on your product and showing them its exclusive benefits.
If you’re setting up demos with potential customers, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you close the deal. [See Related Story: 4 Keys to a Successful Sales Pitch] 1. Start with a conversation Asking sales prospects about their business, interests and needs allows you to reflect on your product and connect with the potential buyer, Haimann said. For example, you may ask the prospects why they want to use your product, what experience they have with similar products, and whether or not your product is in their budget. Fassold agreed, noting that budget should be a priority topic, so you don’t end up wasting time on a demo if the customer has no intention of buying. “Get to the budget discussion as early as possible, or use your product’s affordability as a way of defeating the budget argument,” he said. During your initial conversation, focus on ways that your product can cater to the needs of that specific customer. “Make a note of terminology they use and anything that could help shape the demo,” Haimann said. “Don’t be afraid of asking follow-up questions — you wouldn’t want to miss a key factor or condition in what your prospect wants!” 2. Customize your demo to the client Be sure to customize the product demonstration for each prospect to ensure the customer has an exceptional experience, Haimann said. “You have to do something that will explicitly help the customer use your product and help them have an ‘aha’ moment,” he said. “For us, that means customizing their account so that they don’t have to worry about doing it themselves and they can really see what their business looks like in the CRM. For your business, simply do something your customer might need help with. If your company offers website creation services, start customizing your prospect’s new site. If you host an online marketplace, set up a vendor slot.” “Don’t settle into a demo pattern, or you’ll stop listening to what your prospect really wants,” Haimann added. Additionally, make sure you clear up any questions or concerns regarding your product. “If the customer is not getting it, then turn the session into a discovery and find out what the customer is truly looking for, and give them some good tips to where to find it,” said Fassold. “Selling a customer something they don’t understand creates a help-desk nightmare scenario and ultimately bad press.” 3. Prepare for technical difficulties Demos are not always successful, Fassold said, so it is crucial to test your systems and always have a backup plan. “When it comes to demos, Murphy’s Law is always lurking: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” he said. “For example, I used my brother as a test subject for my demo, which required him to a download an internet plug-in. This process worked flawlessly on all the other tests we had run. However, we could not get his PC to run the plug-in. The lesson I learned was always have a backup, even if it is a presentation of the screens without the live demo.” 4. End with an open invitation Much like the start of the demo, you’ll want to end with questions to ensure you get beneficial feedback. Clear up any concerns and offer follow-ups a few weeks later to keep the lines of communication open. “Take notes on everything that transpired and close with a summary of the next steps or action items,” Fassold told Business News Daily. “Talk among the other members of your demo team to get consensus on viability of the sales and the customer’s primary objections. Then, follow-up [with the prospect] immediately with a thank-you note, including how to buy the product if they’re interested.” Need help with your sales pitch? Check out Business News Daily’s guide here.
Planning a public relations campaign? Don’t expect to put your business on the map with a single media placement. New research finds that repeated exposure is the key to gaining brand recognition and engagement. Bospar, a boutique PR firm, polled 1,010 American adults to determine how likely people are to visit a tech company’s website, based on media coverage.
The research found that winning over consumers requires the rollout of a strategic, sustained PR program over time, said Curtis Sparrer, a principal of Bospar. The results were broken down by demographics, including gender, age and income.
“In this noisy media landscape, we discovered that there were certain early-adopter demographics that marketers can expect to visit a company’s web or mobile site immediately after seeing the first stories post,” Sparrer said. Here’s what Bospar discovered about American consumers’ habits when they view tech company media placements: Men are more likely than women to visit a company’s website. A majority of American men will visit a company’s site after seeing media placements, with 1 in 5 saying that they will check out a site the very first time they see an article. Sixteen percent will go to a site after seeing two to five media placements, and 1 in 4 after seeing a story more than five times.
In contrast, 41 percent of American women say that if they keep seeing a tech company in the media, they will eventually visit the company’s site, but only 13 percent will visit after seeing one media placement, and 11 percent will visit the site after two to five placements. “I’m not surprised about the different reactions between men and women when it comes to seeing technology companies in the news,” Ebba Blitz, CEO of Alertsec, said in a statement. “Men have been long encouraged to embrace technology and to be early adopters.
However, with a new emphasis on women in tech, I hope to see that trend change by the time my daughters enter the workforce.”
It may not be a full-time business, but selling your gently used clothes, books, furniture and other items is a great way to make extra cash and minimize clutter. Peer-to-peer marketplace sites such as eBay and Craigslist are the go-to digital destinations for selling unwanted items, but they’re far from the only options. New apps, like the recently announced Facebook Marketplace, are popping up all the time, widening your potential base of buyers. If you’re looking to empty your closets (and fill your wallet), here are 10 great apps to help you sell your stuff. 1. Saily The idea behind Saily is that it shouldn’t be hard to find cool stuff for ridiculously cheap prices. You can sign up with your Facebook account or by email to start buying and selling. This app is fairly new, so the company is not yet accepting large items such as televisions and furniture. However, you can buy and sell clothes, jewelry, sports memorabilia and other similar items. The app lets you take a picture of what you want to sell, add a description and price, and list it for sale. Saily on iTunes
2. 5miles 5miles is a free app that focuses on local selling. Whether you want to sell your car or rent out a room in your house, you can list it for free here. The app asks to access your location to allow for easy posting and to make sure you are selling within a certain distance for easy delivery or pickup of your sold items. The inter-app messaging system keeps your personal information safe, and buyers and sellers are rated to avoid scams. 5miles on iTunes / Google Play 3. Listia Listia is another local buying and selling app where you gain credits and badges for hitting certain milestones. For instance, if you sign up through Facebook, you get 4,000 credits to use on the app. The app features daily offers, such as trading in your cellphone for a certain number of credits. You can then use those credits to buy other things on the app. DVDs, clothes and toys, among many other items, can be listed on Listia, and you also get credits when your items are purchased. Listia on iTunes / Google Play 4. Zupa! Zupa! is a community-powered shopping app that allows users to sell anything that fits into a box. Posting is free, and there are no listing fees, so all the money you make from selling items is yours to keep. What is different about this app is, once you make a sale, Zupa! sends you a shipping label. All you have to do is print it out and put it in the mail. Zupa! on iTunes