Planning a Digital Marketing Promotion? Take This Website Speed Test First.

Google estimates that 40 percent of people will leave a mobile site that takes longer than three seconds to load. How long does yours take? Find out now!


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Entrepreneur Insider’s Tip of the Day provides concise input on how you can improve aspects of your business or professional routines.

You spend time and money creating the right content to get your audience to visit your website. Unfortunately, a slow website can stop this whole process in its tracks. Google estimates that up to 40 percent of website visitors will leave a mobile website that takes longer than three seconds to load.

How long does your website take, and what can do you to speed it up? Fortunately, Google has a tool that will help with both. You can check it out here. Before you get started, it’s important to note this tool will test your speed based on a 3G or 4G mobile connection. Your site will load much quicker on Wi-Fi. Beyond that, you’ll typically want to test the speed of each page, which you can do via the Google Analytics Page Speed Report. 

That said, let’s take a look at my website. 

 

Slow? I suppose “needs improvement” would have been a more polite way to say it. Either way, it is what it is. The majority of my traffic comes from desktop, but this is still something I’ll address. 

Fortunately, this tool provides tactic level advice for increasing speed. As is the case with my site, large images are a common culprit, they take longer to load. That hero image on top of your page may look good, but so does money. You’ll need to either compress or remove if you want to speed things up.

Take a look at some of the other tools that are available as well. You can benchmark your speed against competitors or industry leaders. If you run an ecommerce site, you can evaluate how much money you may be losing due to your site speed.

In this scenario, a business could make another $18,000 per year by shaving three seconds off its load speed. Reducing speed by just a second is predicted to net another $4,000 in revenue. So, even if you need to hire a website developer, the incremental revenue could pay for their time.

As mentioned, this tool provides an estimate. If your campaigns are on Facebook or Instagram, you can easily find out exactly how much traffic you’re losing from your ads. First, I’ll need to provide a few quick definitions.

Link Click: This is when someone clicks on your ad, with the intention of leaving Facebook/Instagram.

Landing Page View: This is when the Facebook Pixel records a visit on your site.

Assuming your pixel is set up correctly, the delta between Link Clicks and Landing Page Views shows you how much traffic you’ve lost. Here’s an example of how that will look. 

Wow, more than 50 percent of traffic was lost. Sixty-six people saw this ad and said “looks cool, I’ll take a look,” but 37 of them said, “this is taking way too long, I’m out.” 

So there you have it, a quick way to estimate the amount of traffic you’re losing on your site. No site is ever “perfect,” but hopefully this provides input on how you can improve the overall efficiency. 

Need some help with this, or have other digital marketing questions? Book a consulting session with me on Entrepreneur’s Ask an Expert platform. My schedule is always up to date, and you can even record the meeting if you’d like. Hope to speak with you soon, and good luck with your next campaign!

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6 Ways to Market Your Small Business for Less Than $100

Cost: $0

Many small business owners may count on word of mouth as their primary form of marketing, but it probably shouldn’t be. When it comes to making big purchases, 81 percent of consumers go online before heading out to a store and may even spend two to three months gathering the information they need to make a decision, according to GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study.

Even when it comes to small-ticket items or the type of small businesses a consumer is likely to buy from on a daily basis, the Internet is often the starting point that leads to a buying decision. In fact, for mobile searches, more than half (55 percent) resulted in conversions within one hour, according to a Mobile Search Moments report. (That’s another great argument for investing in mobile-friendly web design.)

Whether your products or services would be classified as big-ticket or extremely affordable, the conclusion is the same: Small business owners and entrepreneurs who do keyword research and build out their web sites in accordance with best practices in search engine optimization (SEO) will likely be rewarded with more favorable placement in organic search results. In other words, they should receive more website traffic because their business listings will be placed directly in the path of prospective buyers. 

 

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Mixmax Transforms Gmail into a Powerful Productivity Hub

Use one-click templates and schedule meetings from your inbox.


3 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.


At the start of every day, millions of people grab a coffee, take a sip, and open Gmail. This increasingly popular email platform is easy to use, and packed with great features for handling the daily deluge of unread messages. But when it comes to taking action on those emails, Gmail leaves you hanging.

Mixmax is an easy-to-install Gmail add-on that turns Gmail into a productivity hub. Instead of opening multiple apps and exporting data, this add-on lets you schedule meetings and close sales right inside your inbox. The streamlined workflow can literally save you hours each week and you can start using it for just $9.

Created by the original author of Gmail on mobile and a team of talented developers, Mixmax integrates perfectly with Gmail and is super easy on the eyes (no surprise there). The list of features is extensive, with tools that will benefit entrepreneurs, sales reps, customer support and account management teams, recruiters and anyone else with a constant flow of emails, a need to schedule a lot of meetings and generally wants to automate the manual tasks associated with outbound communication.

For instance, Mixmax lets you track emails with read receipts — much like Messenger or WhatsApp messages. This means you know when leads have opened your emails, and when to follow up. You can then schedule messages to be sent at the perfect time, and create beautiful templates with a couple of clicks.

How it helps for sales.

For sales teams, Mixmax offers a range of advanced tools to make your job easier. With the plugin installed, you can easily set up drip campaigns right inside Gmail instead of using a third party app. Mixmax also offers tight integration with Salesforce (and Pipedrive), so you can sync your leads and lists, and edit records in Salesforce without leaving Gmail. You can even centrally manage all your tasks and call prospects without leaving your inbox.

Similarly, Mixmax’s LinkedIn Sales Navigator lets you send InMail and Connection requests from your Gmail inbox. You can also check out the profile of any contact and schedule InMail in advance.

Making managing tasks and events easier than ever.

Anyone with a busy schedule will especially appreciate the One Click Meetings feature in Mixmax. When you send an email, you simply select the dates and times you have available and the recipient can choose from the time slots with a click. Once both parties are agreed on a time, the meeting is automatically added to your calendar so it doesn’t slip your mind.

The plugin also adds a range of useful tools to Gmail’s compose window, including polls, social media previews, video, call to action buttons, giphy, Dropbox and Drive file attachments, SMS contact forms, and even surveys.

How to get Mixmax.

The best part is that Mixmax is extremely affordable. The Starter plan, which includes all the core features, costs just $9 per month. You can upgrade to access shared scheduling and templates, performance reports, team-based tools, and more.

If you already spend half of your working life in Gmail, this app is definitely worth a try. You can also try Mixmax for 2 weeks free – see more details here.

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Your Startup Won’t Make It to 2022 Without Video in Sales

Do you produce enough video content to keep your company on your audience’s radar? If not, you could struggle as video becomes more important in the next three years.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


No matter how effective your current sales strategy might be, you won’t survive the next few years if you don’t add video to the mix.

The latest iteration of Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index” found that video will account for 82 percent of all online traffic by 2022. That means most of the content your site visitors, leads and potential customers consume will include moving pictures. Fail to provide that content, and you’ll lose business to more proactive competitors.

What’s changed to make video so important? Smartphone usage and internet speeds, both covered in Cisco’s report, are driving video content consumption to unprecedented levels. Fortunately, those same technologies make it easier than ever for businesses to join the fun.

Back in the day, marketing agencies wouldn’t even consider a video project without a $40,000 budget — at minimum. Now, anyone with an iPhone can shoot high-quality interviews and promotions.

Quick-hitting personal videos make very effective sales tools. Even a lackluster video that features a salesperson answering questions or speaking directly to someone can make a distinct impression. If you’re trying to align your sales and marketing teams — as every business should — video creates the ultimate bridge to do so.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Need Video in Your Marketing Strategy (With the Stats to Prove It)

Making videos that make you money.

Sales-centric video content makes the customer journey feel more personal while saving time for the salespeople. Instead of writing a 15-minute email, reps can spend two minutes on a short reply and include a video link that answers a prospect’s questions. When everyone in the organization answers questions the same way, the company presents a stronger, more united front to its target audience.

Follow these five steps to make video work for your sales strategy:

1. Find the budget.

You don’t need to drop cash like George Lucas to create great video content. Apple recently shot a stunning commercial featuring heavy metal band Megadeth on an iPhone XS. Thankfully, your two-minute sales videos don’t need to look anywhere near that nice.

A great semi-pro camera, if you choose to buy one, costs roughly $1,000 to $2,000. You could also spend your budget on accessories such as lights or smartphone camera lenses to keep costs down. Editing software options don’t cost much, either. Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, both excellent products, run on reasonably priced subscription models.

2. Prepare your scripts, topics and people.

Craft a list of all the topics you want to cover, including some bullet points on what to say, before you start shooting. Some of your reps may be able to cover topics without scripts, while others may need help to stay on topic or finish within the time limit. Encourage participants to stay loose. If they mess up, just keep rolling to let them regain their composure.

Don’t depend on salespeople without backgrounds in theater to memorize a long script. A research review from The Inquisitive Mind discovered that while people under acute stress might form memories more easily, they typically struggle to retrieve memories in stressful situations. Even for some seasoned salespeople, time spent in front of a camera qualifies as a stressful event.

Related: 5 Video Marketing Trends You Should Follow in 2019

3. Shoot in bulk.

Keep a running database of the complaints and questions your salespeople hear from prospects. Every quarter or so, gather your team for a day to shoot one video after another in order to answer said questions. Set up your environment the day before so you can shoot regularly throughout the next day. Conduct a few test runs to weed out the inevitable technical hiccups.

Get your setup together in a comfortable, friendly environment. Then, let your reps express their personalities. In my experience, you should be able to shoot at least 20 videos on your first attempt — more if you come fully prepared.

Creating videos in bulk makes sense: More and more small businesses and startups are using the medium to their advantage, mainly because it’s becoming easier to do so. In fact, Vidyard’s “2018 Video in Business Benchmark Report” found that companies post more than 30 videos a month, with 86 percent using video on their sites and 77 percent using it on social media.

4. Distribute videos through high-traffic channels.

A comprehensive content strategy that includes helpful videos could drive more traffic to your site, but your videos will do even better if you share them with the world.

A few years back, video software company Wistia experimented with video email signatures and achieved average engagement rates of 80 percent. These short, personal and simple videos introduce the sender to the recipient in a relaxing, low-pressure setting. Plus, when senders include aspects of their personal lives, videos create some common ground before reps speak with prospects.

As you distribute your videos, think about how you want your audience to perceive you. Stay upbeat and offer genuine help. You’re not starring in a Super Bowl commercial; you’re making connections with real people.

Related: 7 Secrets for a Successful Video Marketing Strategy

5. Do it live.

Research from Livestream and New York Magazine found that more than 80 percent of social media users would pick live videos over regular posts, and another 80 percent would prefer to watch a live video than read an article. If your reps are comfortable on camera, advertise a livestream to your prospects and invite them to experience something unique. Prospects will love the authentic look inside your company.

No one ever created a perfect live broadcast, so don’t pressure yourself to be the first. Think of it like giving a presentation: You wouldn’t stop a speech at a conference because you stumbled over your words, so why worry on live video? When you inevitably get tongue-tied, pick yourself up and put on a happy face. Your viewers won’t care, so neither should you.

Sales videos do well because you and your team have knowledge your prospects want. Keep your videos short, express your personality and directly address the topic in your video’s title. The larger your video library becomes, the more your prospects will come to you for answers.

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SWOT Analysis Challenge Day 2: How to Identify Weaknesses

SWOT analysis: identifying weaknesses

You’re invited to take the SWOT analysis challenge—see if you can complete all five steps in five days or fewer! Then invite your network to do it too. Share this article on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and use the #SWOT hashtag.

If you’re looking for the rest of the steps in the SWOT analysis series, find them here:

Whether you’re new to the business world or a veteran, a SWOT analysis is a valuable tool to have in your toolbox. Doing a SWOT analysis is a well-rounded approach to evaluating your business, looking specifically at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT analysis matr

Looking at your SWOT weaknesses for business planning

There are some good reasons to include a SWOT analysis in your business planning process—funders will be interested in seeing your approach to handling the risks that you’ll face based on internal weaknesses.

You won’t get anywhere with pretending you don’t have any, so be honest with yourself about your company’s weaknesses. That’s a good first step to putting a plan in place to address them.

Looking at SWOT weaknesses as part of an ongoing strategic plan

If your business doesn’t need a business plan for a loan or because you’re seeking investment, don’t cross conducting a SWOT analysis off your list just yet.  

Many established companies include SWOT in their regular strategic planning. The end goal isn’t just documenting facts and information, it’s to use what you uncover to develop strategies for growth and mitigating risk.

The purpose of a SWOT analysis

Today you’re diving into the weaknesses of your business. Since cataloging your business’s weaknesses can be tough, we thought it was a good idea to recap why this analysis is important.

For existing businesses, a SWOT matrix will:

  • Give you a new perspective about your business
  • Provide valuable information about internal and external factors that can be used to make strategic decisions
  • Allow you to assess the health of your business in real time
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Give your team a chance to share insights and take a role in affecting business strategy
  • Provide a framework for updating your strategic plan

For new businesses, a SWOT matrix will:

  • Highlight the benefits of your proposed business
  • Provide valuable information about internal and external factors that can be leveraged in your business plan
  • Identify potential problems
  • Encourage you to think critically about starting a business
  • Provide valuable information that you’ll need to consider now and in the future

Click here to download our free SWOT Analysis template

How to define your company’s weaknesses

Every owner wants to believe his or her business is running smoothly, so this element of the SWOT analysis might not be your favorite.

But, it’s vital. You need to truthfully assess your business’s weaknesses for this analysis to be a useful strategic tool.

Weaknesses are internal, threats are external

In a SWOT analysis, think of weaknesses are internal factors that take away from your business or leave you at a disadvantage. Resist the urge to list threats–or external risk factors. The same categories that applied to your strengths column from step 1 can be reapplied here.

So, your brainstorming session should include your team if you have one, or at least your business mentor or trusted business advisor.  

You can download the free SWOT matrix template here if you haven’t done so already.

You’ll start with brainstorming around the different aspects of your business.

Assess your business for weakness in the following areas:

  • Financial resources: This includes revenue streams, investments, diversified income, and grants.
  • Physical items: Consider the buildings and equipment that you rent or own.
  • Intellectual property: Patents, copyrights, and trademarks fall into this area.
  • Human resources: Think of your employees, volunteers, and mentors.
  • Key players: Think of vital personnel to your business.
  • Employee programs: Think of any programs that help your employees excel.
  • Company workflow: This includes best work practices.
  • Company culture: This is the environment that your employees work in.
  • Company reputation: Think of how your business has grown its reputation.
  • Market position: You’ll consider how your business fits in the overall market.
  • Growth potential: Think of how your business is positioned for future growth.

Questions to ask to find your company’s weaknesses

Here are some questions that should help you identify weaknesses. They mirror the list of different aspects of your business that you’ll want to assess.

Keep in mind that some questions might not elicit a negative response. If that’s the case, just move on to the next question.

Starter questions:

  • In what areas does your company struggle?
  • Are there reasons that customers select competitors over you?
  • Does something specific stop you from performing at your best?

Financial:

  • Are financial resources holding you back? If so, how?
  • Does your business get its revenue from one main stream? If so, is diversification a concern?
  • How are you preparing for your financial future?

Physical:

  • Are any of your physical assets creating a problem?
  • What condition is your office in?
  • What condition is your equipment in?

Intellectual property:

  • Are any of your patents, trademarks, or copyrights in jeopardy?
  • Is there any government red tape that’s keeping a patent from moving forward?
  • Does your company take too long to file for patents, etc.?

Human resources:

  • What kind of human resources do you have?
  • Are there any departments that are lacking or inefficient?
  • Are employee programs in place to improve your business? If so, are they working?

Company workflow:

  • What areas could be improved upon when it comes to workflow?
  • What slows you down? Is there too much red tape in certain areas?
  • What are the areas where you’ve made mistakes in the last year or quarter?

Company culture:

  • Are you happy with the company culture that you’ve created? If not, why?

Company reputation:

  • How does the public see your company? Are you happy with that image?

Market position:

  • What kind of position does your business hold in the marketplace?

Growth potential:

  • What plans do you have for growth?
  • Are your competitors growing in ways that you can’t?
  • What keeps your business from growing?

Tips for gathering insight and information on your weaknesses

1. Be open-minded

As your employees suggest weaknesses, remain open-minded. It’s likely that an employee will bring up a weakness that you hadn’t thought of, or that you disagree with. When it happens, don’t be judgmental.

2. Be critical of your business

Now isn’t the time for rose-colored glasses—it’s the time for pure honesty. Be prepared to look at your business critically, both inside and out.

3. Remember, every business has weaknesses

When you’re finished talking about the negative aspects of your business, you might feel a bit deflated. Just remember, every business has weaknesses. Today is just part of a larger process that will help you better assess your business overall.

4. Keep your list of weaknesses handy

Keep your list in an accessible spot. You’ll analyze all of the data that you collect over the next few days at the end of the week.

In Step 5: Turn your SWOT into actionable strategies, you’ll combine everything you’ve learned, and think about which tactics or strategies you need to adjust to sustain growth and your overall business health.

For now, move on to Step 3: Identify Opportunities.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2019.

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Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.

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3 Lessons About Setting Your Price Learned From a Vegas Prostitute


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


I love pricing. I also love going to Las Vegas, especially when it’s to attend a pricing conference. True, that’s not the reason most people visit, but then most people aren’t as passionate about pricing as I am.

On this particular trip, it wasn’t the conference but a chance encounter on the Vegas strip that reinforced for me the three pricing lessons that are the foundation for any successful pricing strategy.

I was en route from the airport to my hotel when my cab got stuck on a side street. The barrier was road construction. As I sat stalled in traffic, the meter ticked up 20 cents at a time. After much frustration, I asked the driver to pull over, and got out to hike the two miles to my hotel.

Related: Mastering the Art of Pricing: What the Textbooks Don’t Teach You

There was a beautiful woman at the next corner, heading in the same direction. We started chatting as we walked toward the strip. I told her about my cab ride and she said that she was going to meet friends.

After a few minutes, I asked, “So, what do you do?”

She looked me up and down, then replied, “Anything you want.”

As a naïve Midwesterner, I was shocked. But once I regained my composure, the next words out of my mouth were, “I’m a pricing expert. Can I ask you some questions?”

She said “yes,” so I asked what she charged.

“I charge $500,” she replied. I asked if she ever negotiated lower prices, and she answered, “If they don’t want to pay that, I give them the names of some other providers who would provide services.”

Pricing lesson #1 — know your value.

For many business owners this is often one of the toughest lessons to learn, but it’s also one of the most important. Know your value — based on experience, results you’ve provided clients, how much the competition charges, your unique value proposition — and price your product or services accordingly. Too many companies undervalue their products.

Then I asked her, “Do you ever charge more?”

“Absolutely,” she said. “If some guy walks up in a fancy suit, nice watch, good shoes, I’m starting at $800.”

Related: Make Sure the Pricing Is Right With These Tips

Pricing lesson #2 — segment your market.

Segmented pricing is an often-underutilized opportunity than can tremendously expand your business. Price segmentation includes pricing by region, time, buying patterns, a job’s turn-around time and specific customer needs. Companies need to look for customers with different degrees of willingness to pay, then find a way to charge those customers different prices.

As we continued walking down the strip, she answered her phone. Based on her side of the conversation only, it was clear she was talking with a familiar client. “Would you like me to get one of my friends and come over?” she asked the person on the other end.

Not one to miss an opportunity, I was ready with my own question when she completed her cal. “How much does it cost when you and a friend provide services?” I inquired.

“Oh, that starts at $2,000,” she said.

Pricing lesson #3 — have a product portfolio.

Having a product portfolio means offering multiple versions of your product and/or a range of complementary goods or services that enhance the original product. You can create a product portfolio to capture more revenue from your market.

This woman had multiple options available for clients to select from, and the collaboration with a friend gave her a premium package to offer.

Related: Four Rules for Pricing Products

Up to this point in our talk, she had been completely open. However, I had one question I hesitated asking. But we had arrived at my hotel, and I decided to go for broke: “If you don’t want to answer this question, that’s fine … but how much did you make last year?”

“I worked almost every day and I made a little over $1 million,” she responded.

Wow!

Now, you might not approve of what she does for a living, but if you want to maximize your income, may I suggest you learn these three pricing lessons this lady of the evening illustrated: Know your value, segment your market and build a product portfolio. These lessons apply to most business structures — whether product- or service-based — and across multiple industries.

And, as my new acquaintance could attest, their application helps lead to great success.

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Is Your Brand Tailoring Messages or Stalking Consumers?

Personalized marketing is all the rage, but how can you walk the line between creepy and on point? The answer lies in context, input and choosing the right channel.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Say a colleague passed away. You read his obituary online. Now, you’ve become the unwilling (and unwitting) target of a slew of funeral insurance ads.

Personalized? Maybe.

Creepy? Even Stephen King would say yes.

As our ability to collect high-level surveillance-style data increases, experiences like these happen more regularly. Marketers use the tremendous amounts of data at their fingertips to produce hyperindividualized content to target potential buyers. The problem is that they often go too far, which leads to withdrawal, disinterest and even fear.

According to research cited in Smithsonian Magazine, people get the willies when confronted with experiences that seem out of place, too intimate for the situation or downright ominous. Not surprisingly, they shut down and adopt a “flee” mentality, which is never good for businesses, even if they have honest intentions.

Instead of resembling the stranger who stands too close and stares too long, organizations must selectively choose the best ways to attract customers while leveraging just the right amount of relevant personal information. Consider it a modern circus balancing act — sans phobia-inducing clowns, of course.

Creepiness: A Serious Issue for Marketers: Personalization done poorly can result in significant bottom-line damage, not just spine shivers. Recent Gartner research indicates that 38 percent of consumers economically recoil when corporate attention creeps them out. Yet finely tuned, tailored messaging can actually improve the “commercial benefit index” (cart size, purchase intent, etc.) by 20 percent for those same survey participants. What these statistics mean is that going in a personalized direction is beneficial; going a bit too far in that direction can change a brand’s perception from friendly to obsessive.

Related: Me, Myself and AI: Is That My Privacy in the Rearview Mirror?

Mass customer exoduses are hardly the only downside to personalization overkill. Businesses must also worry about seeming tone-deaf. A recently divorced online browser might search for wedding-related items for a friend’s big day. But how will she feel when she becomes the target for all things nuptial from certain brands? Not so good. If she remarries in the future, she may remember and eschew those seemingly unsympathetic companies.

The bottom line is that although personalization can have benefits, it has a dark side, too. For that reason, your company would be wise to temper the desire to tailor its messages without considerable forethought. By putting a few cautionary marketing measures in place, you can position your brand as helpful, not stalker-like.

1. Remember that a little goes a long way.

Want improved consumer engagement, better conversion rates and higher retention? Go ahead with personalization. Just do it wisely by giving people what they want, rather than overloading them. Take a “less is more” strategy the way streaming services do, for example. Instead of providing viewers with all recommended options at once, Netflix and others let consumers choose their interests. The platforms then make small suggestions based on subscribers’ historic preferences to build connections organically while still leaning on data.

This type of methodical, input-based personalization is the preferred method of Sanjay Castelino, vice president of marketing at IT network Spiceworks. Why? It allows consumers to direct your marketing efforts. “Modify your level of personalization and tailor the experiences you create for different types of buyers,” Castelino advises. “This gives customers and prospects a little more control over how their data is used.” You need to be able and ready to provide the personalization your customers crave using their preferred methods.

Related: How to Make AI-Driven Emails Compelling Without Being Creepy

2. Elicit customer feedback.

Does your team spend hours brainstorming what you think customers want based on past behavioral data? Stop wasting your time. Ask for input straight from the source. From that point forward, use on-hand information to corroborate your findings. You’ll be more likely to make smart marketing decisions if you base each move on what you learn from social media comments or a research survey.

If you’ve never reached out to prospects or customers before, keep a few tips in mind. First, think pithy and succinct when developing surveys. Next, develop open-ended questions when possible to encourage commentary. Finally, give participants an opportunity to add feedback beyond the questionnaire. Still not happy with the information you glean? Pick up the phone to call some fans directly. They’ll give you the lowdown on how much personalization you can get away with before entering uncomfortable territory.

Related: How This Direct-Mail Piece Packs a Small But Powerful Punch

3. Consider your messaging medium.

A doll sitting alone on a child’s bed? Cute. A similar doll sitting alone in the crawl space of your new house? Eerie. The difference is palpable, although the doll itself is the same. An email or push notification can likewise generate completely divergent responses. Before launching any new personalization campaign, consider its context practically and empathetically. How will it feel to the recipient? Would you want to receive it? Is the content created to forge a bond, or could it cause a psychological divide?

As a Marketo survey showed, nearly 79 percent of potential customers want messaging to make sense for them based on past brand interactions. The message’s medium can also make a big difference in how it’s received. According to marketing stats compiled by Small Business Trends, 70 percent of consumers regard direct mail as more personal, while MarketingSherpa found that 54 percent of customers actually prefer it. “When done correctly, direct mail provides marketers with an opportunity to put a real, personalized message in the hands of each and every one of their customers — without the fear of the message bouncing or getting caught in a spam filter,” says Patrick McCullough, client strategy director at Hallmark Business Connections.

Everyone has gotten goosebumps at one time or another, particularly when brands cross the line from benign outreach to what appears to be stalking. Make sure no one experiences cold chills thanks to your brand’s attempts at personal messaging. Otherwise, you may be relegated to your customers’ nightmares.

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How an Amazon Store Can Increase Shopper Engagement


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The following excerpt is from Timothy P. Seward’s book Ultimate Guide to Amazon Advertising. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Building an Amazon Store helps drive shopper engagement with a customized destination to help customers learn more about your brand. This is a free, self-service option that was introduced in 2017, and Amazon has been releasing new features and capabilities since its launch.

We often tell our clients that it’s a no-brainer when it comes to having an Amazon Store for their brand. The main benefits of an Amazon Store include:

  • Ease of creation and use
  • A multipage experience for shoppers to learn more about your brand and products
  • Integrated promotional features

Let’s now take a deeper look at each of these benefits.

Ease of creation

Amazon has made it fairly simple for companies to create an Amazon Store for their brands with pre-designed templates and an easy-to-navigate interface. Although it may sound daunting, no coding or site-design skills are needed to launch an Amazon Store. To create your store, use the store builder in the Amazon interface. You can get to the store builder within Vendor Central by clicking on the “Stores” link at the top of the Amazon Advertising interface.

The store builder allows you to choose from pre-designed templates and then customize your design using tiles. Start by creating your main page and then create additional pages to expand on your different product categories.

Almost all of this can be done through the self-service portal. One thing that can’t, however, is the ability to shorten your store’s URL. A shortened URL makes it easier for customers to find your store, especially for shoppers who are familiar with your brand and want to go to your store directly without having to click through Amazon to get there. It can also be useful for marketing materials, since it is short, simple, and easy to remember. Once you have your Amazon Store up and running, ask your Amazon representative to help you with this.

A multipage, brand-centered shopping experience

Shoppers can navigate to your Amazon Store from your brand name, which appears as a link on product detail pages. You can also send traffic to your store from Sponsored Brands campaigns or ads from other sources (e.g., Facebook ads).

Once a shopper lands on your Amazon Store, they can use the store’s navigation tools such as the navigation bar to explore your content and learn more about your brand message, products, categories, promotions, etc. Use your main page to showcase top products and introduce your brand, and then use sub-pages to dig deeper into your products and categories. Since you get to design the store, you control what shoppers see, where they see it, and how it’s positioned. This level of control and creativity allows you to create a brand-centered shopping experience.

If you already have marketing materials (images, videos, descriptive images, etc.) that you have used on other platforms, you can save yourself some time and energy by using these same assets on your Amazon Store.

Integrated promotional feature

One major benefit of Amazon Stores is that you can send traffic from Sponsored Brands and other channels (such as Facebook) to your store. This is a great opportunity if you’re using Sponsored Brands to generate awareness for your products because when a shopper clicks on those ads, they’ll be directed to a store that’s custom-built around your brand’s story. Additionally, you can drive traffic to your Amazon Store from other channels through your store’s URL (e.g., by including it in a blog or social media post).

Amazon Stores also include links that allow shoppers to organically share your Amazon Store on their social media accounts. This feature includes the ability to share on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. These social sharing buttons allow shoppers to tell their friends or followers about a brand they have found on Amazon that they really love.

Another key benefit is the ability to feature active promotions on your store. If your brand has any active promotions, you can add a widget to your store that will automatically showcase those products on your store. This is a great opportunity to increase the visibility of these deals, especially if you place the deals widget on the main page of your Amazon Store. This feature is especially useful during periods of high seasonality, as this is a great time to feature any active deals on Amazon.

For example, if your brand has promotions or deals running for Cyber Monday and another round of deals running for the first week of December, this widget will automatically populate with the available deals for each round of promotions. You can easily add or remove this widget on your Amazon Store and then resubmit to see the change.

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Are You Ready to Run Your Own Gym or Fitness Center?

start a gym or fitness center

Like exercise itself, running a gym or fitness center requires physical, mental, and emotional stamina.

There’s no question that entrepreneurship in this competitive industry can be daunting. It might even seem downright impossible at times. But, for those that tough it out, put in the work, and embrace the grind, starting and running a fitness center can be both personally and professionally fulfilling—and it can be a profitable venture as well.

If you’re thinking of becoming a gym owner, there really isn’t a bad time to do so. Whether it’s the motivation of swimsuit season looming, or the determination of New Year’s resolutions, getting in shape never goes out of style, and therefore, you’ll always have potential customers.

Still, your gym needs to stand out from the competition to keep existing members interested and new ones coming in. Properly run, your fitness center can be lucrative year-round. Few industries possess the baked-in, annual resurgence of gyms, so you can almost always strike while the iron (pumping) is hot.

Whether you choose to build your gym from the ground up, or buy an existing fitness center and make it your own, there are key things you’ll need to do in order to be successful. It’s not enough to simply fill your gym with the newest equipment. You need to consider who will likely patronize your fitness center to determine how to best target and serve those people.

Consider the following success factors and discover how you can align your business strategies with a target demographic.

Success factors

According to Forbes, the U.S. fitness industry is valued at more than $30 billion, and it’s set to grow 3 to 4 percent over the next decade. Thanks to this steady expansion rate, there is plenty of room for new business owners. But what sets a good gym apart from a great gym?

Factors that will influence the success of your gym include:

Choosing the right location

People want a gym that’s easily accessible. Committing to exercise is hard, and distance just might be the excuse some people need to prolong a sedentary lifestyle. Gym proximity is a key success factor, and choosing a conveniently-located fitness center can help make a regular exercise routine less intimidating, especially for newcomers.

Consider this when deciding where to break ground, or when shopping for existing facilities for sale. If a gym is for sale in a more suburban or remote area, make sure that its past history shows that it is well trafficked.

Buying equipment and scheduling classes

Anyone who has been in the industry long enough (or who has visited enough gyms) knows that not all fitness centers are the same. Even a franchise gym can be unique based on the owner and staff putting their own stamp on it. Remember that what you offer sets you apart and defines your business.

In fact, one study found that boutique fitness centers have a significant competitive edge in today’s fitness renaissance.

As you look to differentiate yourself from your competitors, think about these questions:

  • Do you have free weights?
  • Will you offer yoga or other group classes?
  • Is there enough equipment to accommodate everyone?
  • Can you staff your facility with enough trainers to give your members the level of personalized attention they require?

These are just some of the factors that can set your gym apart from the competition. Consider what “type” of gym you want to operate, and outfit your facility accordingly.

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Setting standards for customer service

Let’s be honest: Going to the gym can be intimidating.

The vast majority of your clientele will walk through your door with uncertainty, and it’s your job to make nervous visitors feel welcome. A clean facility, a welcoming environment, and a reliable support staff can all boost client satisfaction and help your gym stand out among the competition.

Most loyal gym-goers (you know the ones—always posting on social media about their great workout or their awesome “gym family”) remain so because they feel at home.

Identifying your target market demographic

Your gym is nothing without its members. The people who choose to pay a monthly membership fee are the lifeblood of your fitness center. By getting to know your target market demographic, you’ll be better able to recognize what your clientele values and cater to their sensibilities. As a prospective gym owner, identifying your target demographic should be a top priority.

Will your fitness center target casual gym-goers or the bodybuilding community? Can you expect a large contingency of young clients, or will your patrons be mostly middle-aged professionals? These are the questions to ask yourself. And once you answer them, then let your target demographic guide your marketing and branding efforts.

A study from the Physical Activity Council found that millennials are the most active generation overall and baby boomers are the least active. This should come as no big surprise, considering young people’s reputation for health trends, activity, and healthy eating. If your location calls for it, consider catering to a younger generation. This might mean tailoring fitness classes to that demographic, or revamping your interior style for a trendy look, and exploring alternative communication methods like a mobile app.

But, don’t put all your eggs in the millennial basket—they might not be the golden goose for your particular location. Consider local census data to help identify which age group lives in the area. If, for example, you plan to operate in the suburbs, you might be better off targeting professionals, homemakers, and families. This could include offering in-gym childcare.

No matter who your demographic includes, one fact remains: people want to feel comfortable when they go to the gym and to feel satisfied that what is being offered is worth the price of admission (aka membership). This means that the secret to running a gym is really no big secret—run the gym that you and your own friends and family would want to visit.

Are you fit to run a fitness center? If, after considering the above points, your enterprising spirit remains pumped up, there’s a good chance you have what it takes to own a gym.

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Bruce Hakutizwi

Bruce is the U.S. and International Business Manager for Dynamis Ltd., the parent company of us.BusinessesforSale.com, one of the largest online global marketplaces for buying and selling small-to-medium-size businesses. He is focused on helping small businesses succeed and regularly writes about entrepreneurship and small business management.



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‘If You Don’t Stand for Something, You Seem to Go Away Fairly Quickly,’ Says the Founder of The Gluten Free Bar

Marshall Rader and his brother encountered plenty of naysayers for their business. They proved them wrong.


4 min read


Marshall Rader had been urged to change the name of his business since its founding.

In 2010, the Chicago resident started The GFB: Gluten Free Bar with his brother, Elliott — both have celiac disease. While the name spells out exactly what their products are, people who worked with Rader in the past thought the name was a mistake. He started to doubt it as well.

Related: The Entrepreneur Behind This Million-Dollar Protein Snack Brand Says Patience Is the Key to His Success

“Whether it’s a buyer, retail store, broker, mentors, marketing people or PR agency, there probably isn’t one group over the course of the past seven years that hasn’t told me that I needed to change the name,” he said. “It’s been a constant defense of the name and the brand.”

It seems obvious to tout the gluten-free claim now, but in 2010, gluten did not hold the same prominence in consumers’ minds. While rates of celiac disease, in which sufferers experience health issues with the consumption of gluten, have remained steady at under 1 percent of the population, the rates of people avoiding gluten in their diets has tripled, from 0.5 percent in 2009-10 to 1.7 percent in 2013-14, according to the Mayo Clinic. The global gluten-free product market was valued by Zion Market Research at around $4.72 billion in 2017. The firms says it will reach $7.6 billion by 2024.

As knowledge of gluten has increased, Rader’s steadfastness has proven correct. The GFB products, which include bars, bites and oatmeal, are currently sold in more than 12,000 retail locations nationwide, with a recent expansion into Kroger, Publix and Costco stores, as well as Canada. Its top sellers are its Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites, Cranberry Toasted Almond Bars and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars and Bites. The company manufactures its own products and holds B corp status for its inclusive hiring of former convicts. The GFB is also on track to upcycle or recycle 90 percent of its waste.

Image Credit: Courtesy of The GFB

Related: The Founders of This Paleo, Gluten-Free and Vegan Brand Say It Succeeded Because of Its Restrictions

“I like to believe and hope that we’ve made the right decisions to stay with who we are,” Rader said. “Especially in bars, if you don’t stand for something, you seem to go away fairly quickly. Maybe putting ‘gluten free’ on it in some ways puts a ceiling on [your sales and growth, but] it also puts a floor and says there’s gonna be a certain amount of people who are always gonna be attracted to this product because it’s clear.”

After Rader’s celiac diagnosis in 2009, he said he found existing gluten-free bars unpalatable, so he employed a pastry chef to come up with a gluten-free bar he would actually look forward to eating. He self-manufactured bars and sold them into stores, while working his day job as a corporate paint salesman. Rader quit his job a year and a half later after founding The GFB. His time as an entrepreneur gave him a crash course on the retail food industry, and also taught him an important lesson about branding.

Related: ‘If You Created it, You Should Be the Best at Everything in Your Company,’ Says the Co-Founder of Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookies

“We hired a marketing person thinking that they would help us distill … what we stand for,” he said. “We learned that we couldn’t outsource identifying who we are and the things that are going to drive the core of our business. We had to figure it out ourselves. We already knew it: We want to be honest, straightforward and clear.”

That, of course, starts with the name, signaling to potential customers exactly what they’re getting.

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