Archives for December 2013

Did your SMS Marketing campaign tank? This is probably why

If you’re an entrepreneur you have probably been told by marketers everywhere about how amazing SMS marketing is and what it will do for your business. You probably heard about how easy it is to create campaigns and send personalized messages to people in your community who have shown an interest in your products or services, and then use that interested to turn  them into paying customers.

It’s also quite possible that you  “tried” SMS marketing and were left disappointed because it didn’t do nearly as well as you had hoped. If you are, there’s really only two things that are possible; you were given false information or you didn’t take the right approach to SMS marketing for your particular business. As anyone in business knows, there’s always a “right” way to do things in a “wrong” way to do them. The “mistakes” below will hopefully show you the former. Enjoy.

You didn’t have an excellent Offer. Here’s the thing; unless you’re offering a truly awesome deal, your response rate is probably going to be quite low. People are inundated every day with text messages from family, friends and, to a lesser extent, businesses. Unless you’re offering something that makes them stop and take notice, as well as being personalized, your message will more than likely be ignored. On the other hand, if you are offering something that’s truly a sweet deal, not only will you get a higher response rate but the people responding will  “share” your offer with anyone that they are “connected to” like friends, family and colleagues.

You didn’t market and advertise your SMS capabilities to your existing customers. The problem, if you can call it that, with SMS marketing is that, unless you have an excellent opt-in list to send your messages, it will be very hard to get any response at all. Because of this you need to market and advertise your SMS campaigns and offer potential customers something for signing up with your text list. You also should be advertising about your SMS marketing campaigns anywhere and everywhere that you can. In your store (if you have one), online, on social media, on billboards and, if you use them, on TV and radio.

You didn’t tell people what you want them to do. This is called a “call to action” and it’s vital if you want to get an excellent response to your SMS marketing campaign. You simply need to tell people what to do next whether it’s to redeem a coupon, visit your store at a particular time, refer a friend to your website or whatever. A call to action is a definite must if you want to have a successful SMS Text message marketing campaign.

You didn’t have a Mobile Website. One of the first things that many people do today when they receive an SMS text message is use their smart phone to go online and do more research on your company, your offer and your products or services. If you don’t have a mobile website many people will become frustrated because, frankly, navigating a website on a small smart phone screen is a real pain. In fact, it’s been shown that a person who lands on an website that isn’t mobile optimized will leave within approximately 6 seconds! If you wish to continue using SMS marketing, you need to get your website optimized for mobile.

You started your SMS campaign without a Plan. When implementing any new marketing strategy it’s essential that you don’t do it “blind”. If you went into SMS marketing without a plan before your first advertising or marketing was put into action, it’s going to be very difficult for your marketing to succeed. Before you start any SMS marketing campaign, make sure your plan is set and you know exactly what you’ll be doing.

Okay, so let’s say that you had all of those points covered and your marketing campaign still failed. Well, not all marketing goes perfectly right out of the gate which means that, as the old adage says, try and try again. The simple fact is that statistics show that SMS text message marketing is an excellent, economical and engaging form of marketing with an excellent ROI. Just because it didn’t work for you the first time doesn’t mean that, with some trial and error, it won’t turn into an excellent marketing tool for your business.

Throwing a Holiday Party? Then you need these Tax Tips to Write it Off

There’s nothing better than throwing a holiday party for your employees, especially if you’ve had an excellent year and profits have been good. If you’re putting out quite a bit of money to do it, you’ll definitely want to write off the expenses on your taxes. While it certainly isn’t it illegal or immoral, keep in mind that the IRS has special rules when it comes to writing off entertainment expenses. If you use them or interpret them the wrong way, you may find yourself facing problems or fines down the road.

The simple fact is that entertainment is not only a necessary but regular business expense for many companies. The need to be in touch with your clients and show them your “human side” is vital to a strong business relationship. In many industries it’s also vital to network with people from related industries in order to generate more B2B business. In any case, most business owners believe that the expense of providing all of the food, drink and entertainment at these functions is deductible. But is it?

In order to be deductible any type of entertainment that you have, including an open house, parties and so forth, must come with some type of discussion about business not only before but during and after the event. If you throw a party simply for “goodwill” reasons your expenses are not deductible.

The one exception to this is if you throw a party for your employees and their families. A Christmas or holiday party of this kind is 100% deductible, even if you invite the general public. Interestingly, if you invite “friends” the money that you allocated to entertain them is not deductible.

If you want your party expenses to be deductible when you’re throwing it for customers or business associates, as we mentioned above, there must be substantial business discussions made including either a presentation, a speech a “reveal” or something else along those lines. Even then, the IRS rules for entertainment say that you can only deduct 50% of any of the expenses for said party.

If you invite employees of the company to this event than any of the money that you allocate for their entertainment, food and drinks is still 100% deductible. Of course it’s in your best interest to make sure that you have any and all documentation to prove exactly who was there, what was spent and how much everything ended up costing. If you send out invitations you definitely should keep a copy of one to show that it was for business purposes.

A good example is something like this; “You are cordially invited to attend the reveal of our new shake maker. Make sure to stay and get your drink on with us afterwards.” Even better is if you videotape the reveal as you can not only use this for excellent social media marketing but, in the event of an audit, you’ll have sufficient proof.

It’s also an great idea to keep a copy of the guest list and make a total of the different types of guests including customers, employees and friends. This is especially helpful if you’re going to need to allocate the expenses and explain them to your bookkeeper so that he or she can record the transactions properly.

Of course the best thing to do is make sure that your tax professional knows exactly what the party was about and who was invited.  In this way they can keep it separate from any other entertainment expenses that you might have during the year and make sure did that it’s recorded properly at years end on your tax return.

How to Build a Brand People will Adore

Many people outside of marketing think of a “Brand” as sort of this false cover that is given to a product or service in order to con them into buying something that they don’t actually want or, even worse, don’t need.

A savvy marketer, on the other hand, realizes that a brand is something that reflects and defines the values that a company cares most about, something that goes beyond profit margins and revenues. Indeed, the most well-loved and long-lasting brands are usually the ones that tap into the public’s consciousness and resonate with them on a much deeper level than most brands could ever hope to. Indeed, the very best branding is the kind where commerce and humanity meet in the middle. With that in mind, we have 3 Tips for you today that will help you to build a brand that people will (eventually) adore. Enjoy.

Tip 1) Define why you exist as well as what your product stands against.

The best marketers know one simple fact about branding; consumers don’t buy what you make, they buy why you make it. That’s one of the reasons that the iPhone and iPad were able to literally change the world, because Steve Jobs didn’t set out to build a phone or a portable computer, he set out to change the way people think about computing. Think about it. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell sugar water, they sell youth and fun and excitement. Tom’s of Maine doesn’t sell toothpaste and deodorant, they sell caring for the environment.

The question then is simply this; what does your brand stand for. What’s the story behind the people who started the company and what type of values and passions do they have. These things should form the foundation of any company and any brand and, in order to succeed, you should hire people that share these core values and beliefs. Amazon, Apple, Google, Tom’s of Maine and others have done this and have become wildly successful.

It’s also vital that your brand defines what it is against. You must know exactly what it is that you “hate” and how your product or service solves this problem. As much as you need to be passionate about what you are product or service can do, you need to be passionate about what problem it will eradicate. For example, Coca-Cola hates dull lives, Dyson vacuums hade vacuums that don’t suck and are clumsy and Apple hates computers that are boring. If you can define what it is that your brand will do away with, you will go far in building an affinity for it in the public eye.

Tip 2) Define your true, specific target market and forget everyone else.

Marketers know that people purchase products and services from companies that they can identify with. The best brands think beyond things like age or income demographics and go more for the feelings, habits and desires of their customers as well as their “self-image”. Indeed, the best brands delve very deeply into these factors by using customer surveys and marketing that hits home deeply with their intended market and, in some cases, may actually be unpopular with the rest of the population.

Apple computers is the one of the best at doing this. Apple doesn’t sell smart phones or tablets, they sell family, wonder and simplicity. The typical Apple customer swears by their iPhone or their iPad and wouldn’t think about purchasing another brand even though there are some on the market that are now arguably better. Apples marketing is absolutely fantastic in reaching their core market and is one of the reasons that, even after the passing of Steve Jobs, they are still one of the most popular brands in the world.

Tip 3) Be Consistent in every single phase of your marketing.

This may be the most critical Tip to creating a Brand that people adore. Your brands identity, including your slogans, logo, “look” and voice need to be extremely consistent over all of your marketing media. This consistency is what will build trust and affinity in the community and convince people that your company has integrity, all critical factors that are needed to convert a consumer into a customer.

These are things that the public can’t always see, by the way. For example, the way that your people answer the phone when someone calls, the types of charities that you sponsor and your return policies all must be consistent and reflect your brand’s core values. With the social media the way it is today, responsiveness has also become vitally important. Today’s consumer is connected 24/7 to the entire world and expects to be able to connect with your brand whenever and wherever they like. Indeed, studies have shown that upwards of 90% of people on social media will recommend their company they’ve had a positive experience with.

At the end of the day, the fact is that once you’ve defined your brand you make most of your business decisions much easier. It takes a good bit of work to get started and branding certainly isn’t a substitute for excellent operations and management, but excellent branding will make things much easier as your company begins to grow and become more popular. Indeed, brilliant branding is one of the very best ways to create a brand that people will adore and, once adored, things become significantly easier.

Marketers Capitalizing on 3 Emerging Social Media Trends

If you’re a marketing expert (or would like to be) you probably already know about social media and probably, like most, have been migrating between social media platforms. You probably already know that social networking is now considered to be one of the best ways to not only get in touch with potential customers but stay in touch with them. It also can help you to find out what your customer base really likes about your company and, conversely, what they don’t.

One thing’s for certain, social media is definitely going to continue to rise in popularity and, with that in mind, we’ve put together a little blog about the 3 Emerging Social Media Trends that any marketer or business owner should be keeping an eye on. Enjoy.

Trend 1) Spending for Social Media Marketing is Increasing.

For 99.9% of all businesses, marketing is an integral and vital part of their business. It also eats up a huge amount of their resources and social media is definitely no different. A recent report showed that nearly 70% of marketers are expected to increase their social media spending in 2014 while almost 30% are planning on raising their word-of-mouth marketing efforts at the same time.

The fact is that social media marketing is now an integral part of the business operations for many companies because it is very good at gaining interest from said company’s intended audience. One of the biggest expenditures with social media marketing is having the people available to answer questions and queries immediately when they come through a social media site. Being able to handle live client calls as well as provide “chat” is vital to a social media campaign’s success, but it doesn’t involve a big investment in time and people.

Trend 2) More and more people are using social networks.

Everyone knows that Facebook started the whole social media trend but today there are literally hundreds of social media sites that are popular, especially now that smart phones have become an ubiquitous part of our daily lives. In fact, eMarketer recently reported that nearly one in seven people worldwide uses a social media site at least once a month, a number that’s set to grow to nearly 2 billion people by the year 2017. Interestingly, the country with the highest penetration in social media is the Netherlands with nearly 64% of their population using social media sites on a regular basis. The United States comes in at sixth with approximately 51%.

Trend 3) Social Media sites are coming in bigger and better varieties.

The game is definitely changing and social media marketing, and one of the game changers is the emergence of social media sites that are driven by teenagers and young adults. Instagram, Vine and Snapchat are three of the most popular right now and, due to younger users, became popular extremely fast. Of course what that means for business is that they must establish yet another social media profile, something that should only be done if they understand their client base well and will get a significant enough return. The good news is that with such a wide variety of platforms the “shareability” of any business content is increased as well as the ability to give prospective customers that “personal touch” that they are looking for these days.

These new social media sites come with new tools like the six second videos that are popular on Vine, something that is definitely a new and interesting challenge for marketers but also offers quite a few added benefits. As with any marketing, tools and campaigns need to be customized to a specific market segment that a company is hoping to reach. The good news is that there are now a lot more avenues available to do that.