Improve Your Business with an Online Survey

Information is one of the most powerful assets that a business owner has.  The more you know about your customers and their needs and wants, the better equipped you are to serve them, and keep them loyal to your company.  One of the best ways to gather information is by running regular online surveys.

Persuading your customers to fill out surveys can be difficult.  Taking a business survey isn’t exactly the way that most people dream of spending their time, but if you provide a good enough incentive, most people would be willing to spend a couple of minutes providing you with the feedback you need.

To set up a good survey, you will need to work with your web systems development team.  Ask them to create a short, easy to use survey, and some form of advertisement that is noticeable, but not intrusive.  You want to entice your customers to click on the survey, not drive them away.

Designing Quality Surveys

There’s not much point in making your web systems development team invest time and effort into putting together a survey if the survey does not give you the information that you need.  Before you put together a business survey, consider the following points:

  • What do you want to learn through conducting this survey?
  • Why are you running this survey?
  • How will the information you gather be used?

A good survey is one that produces information that can be easily analyzed.  Asking people to write paragraphs of information about what they think of your company might make for interesting reading, but it is hard to summarize all of the feedback you get into easily understandable data.

Instead of asking your customers “What do you dislike about our product?”, offer questions that have simple yes or no answers, or answers that fit into simple bullet points – for example, ask your users to rate a list of attributes (price, size, performance, extra features) from most important to least important.  This way, you’ll be able to tell at-a-glance what your users think is important.

Keeping People Interested

If your business survey is too long, difficult to read, or slow to load, then you may lose people before they complete the entire survey.  Get your web systems development team to test the survey to make sure that it works in all of the main browsers, and that it’s easy to answer questions, move to the next page, and generally interact with the survey.  Try to keep the survey short and simple.  If you have dozens of questions per page, people may lose interest.

Picking the Right Audience

There are several ways to attract people to take part in your survey.  The most valuable feedback will come from your existing customers.  Invite them to take part in the survey by including a link in your regular email newsletter, or by promoting the survey on order pages on your website.  If you need even more participants, you could promote the survey on your home page, but try to make sure that you don’t annoy people by pushing the survey with pop-ups every time they load a new page. Discrete advertisements are best.

About the Author: This post was written by James Harper on behalf of business survey and web systems development experts Xibis.

How To Market Your Small Business on Facebook

In recent years, there has been a phenomenal increase in the number of social networking sites. These sites are now not only being used to connect with friends, family and business contacts, but also being used to market products and services. Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites and many small businesses market their products and services through it. However, these businesses are still struggling to gain expertise in this area. Here are a few things to consider when using Facebook to market your small business:

1. Share Useful And Updated Content With Potential Customers
Many small businesses set up a profile page instead of a business page, while also starting a group for their business. As a result, your fan base may get divided and you can struggle to engage with the audience. It is very important that the business shares meaningful and updated content with the people, which creates a difference in their lives. Broadcasting your message is a big turn-off for people as it sounds too pushy. You should only share updated and engaging content with the audience, and seek their feedback. You should also plan your posts well so that your content does not become too boring or predictable. The shared content should be a mix of multimedia and other useful articles. Sharing exciting and new content increases the chances that people will talk about you with their friends and family. It is also advisable that you do not publish most of your content directly from your blog or other platforms.

facebook marketing

2. Take Facebook Seriously
While many small business owners realize that social media, particularly Facebook, has changed the marketing landscape, they are simply not investing enough time to leverage its power. By not investing adequate time in social media campaigns, the business is losing out on marketing opportunities. Facebook should be central to any social media campaign and, therefore, engaging content should be regularly shared with the audience. You should use Facebook to establish strong relationships with your customers and ensure a timely response to their queries.

3. Explore Facebook’s Tools
Businesses can do a lot more than merely setting up fan pages and groups on Facebook. To maximize the marketing potential offered by Facebook, you should explore all of its functionalities and tools. This will help you in creating a great online experience to engage your audience. As a small business owner, you may utilize the info tab and also create a custom welcome page to create better awareness about your business. By using Facebook Insights, you can benefit from the medium’s built-in analytics system and analyze what type of content caused the greatest stir among your audience. This can be of great value when publishing content in future.

4. Follow Rules of The Game
When using Facebook to market your business, you should be careful not to violate the terms and conditions set by the site. By violating these terms, you may risk your reputation and remain ineffective at building a helpful community. Some of these common violations include setting up a personal page instead of a business page, tagging people in images without seeking their permission and sharing abusive content.

By keeping in mind these simple Facebook marketing tips, you can develop strong personal connections with your audience and grow your business.

About the Author: Donna Hays works full-time as a marketing consultant for an online advertising company. She writes for several sites including Degree Jungle a resource for college students. She takes keen interest in social media marketing and is a regular contributor on social media marketing topics.

Image: GOIABA (Goiabarea) / Flickr

3 Reasons Your Domain Name Does not Matter as Much as You Think

domain name tipsWhen the dotcom boom first started, well, booming in the late nineties and early two-thousands, businesses suddenly realized they needed to get online, and fast. There was a mad dash to buy as many relevant domain names as possible in a gold-rush-style form of cyber real estate development. Today, many of those domains have been turned into some of the most popular and influential websites in the world, while others were turned into obscure websites that have remained obscure or have slowly become error pages in a failed Google search link.

What many neglected to realize then was that a simple domain name can’t get you anywhere; you have to have something to back it up. And, to the lament of those early developers, with the advent of search and social media, domain names are now even less important. Don’t ever question the effectiveness of a simply, catchy domain name that perfectly matches the site it represents. That is the sort of domain everyone should be going after. But, what’s truly important these days is not the domain name, it’s what you do with it.

1. Google Finds Content, not Domains

In most instances today, if you’re business isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. The same could be said for low Google rankings. If your products don‘t pop up on the first few search pages, they may as well be non-existent in terms of Google search. In order to get users to see your business page, you have to optimize your pages so Google can detect the type of content that users will be wanting to find when they go to your site. You could have a domain name that is a perfect match for your business name, but if you don’t know how to market your products online, a fancy sounding name is about as far as your domain will get you.

2. Most Links are Hidden

Another way to get users to stumble upon your site is to promote it via social media and online articles, while providing links back to your own site. Usually links are either represented as HTML code hidden underneath representing word, or they are shortened to fit on applications like Twitter and Facebook. Your link will rarely be displayed as showing the entire domain name, no matter how great it is, or how relevant it is to your business. So don’t think that posting a link to your site will make users want to click on it because of the domain name, alone, if they can even see the domain name at all.

3. Social Media Stands on Your Business Name

Social media is the next frontier in internet marketing, as the latest Google Panda updates seem to indicate, it could to be heading toward becoming the next frontier in Google search ranking, as well. Your business (as represented by your website, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc.) is what users will be interacting with, commenting about, and trying to find online through social media. Your domain name needs to be simple and memorable, but the real footing your business needs to prosper online will be in its name and reputation. Make sure your business name is what you lead with, and what you stand on when it comes to social media. Users will be looking to interact with your business, not your domain.

About the Author: This is a guest post by Eliza Morgan who is a full time blogger. She specializes in writing about business credit cards. You can reach her at: elizamorgan856 at gmail dot com.

Get Ready For The Trade Show Season

Trade show season is almost upon us!  In fact, for some industries, it’s already begun.  Toy Fair took place last month, Auto Shows are already taking place, and next month will see the Gadget Show Live along with the first of Europe’s major Games Festivals.  If you want to make an impact this year, you’d better start planning your booth, and contacting trailer producers and poster printers now!

trade show tips
Are you ready for 2012 trade show season?

Trade Shows or Festivals?

The state of the economy right now means that many business owners can’t afford to attend several events per year, so they have to plan their events strategy carefully, taking their display trailers only to the events with the biggest impact.  The trick is figuring out what kind of impact you want, and who you’re trying to reach.

Sponsoring festivals and sporting events is a good way to raise brand awareness and generate goodwill.  If your message is a simple one, such as “Come buy your guitars from our music shop”, or “We sell football kits”, then generating awareness in this way is a good start.

If your message is more complicated, or you want to reach a wider range of people than you would at a local event, then you should consider attending a trade show.  Some trade events are industry only – such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.  This event is attended by international press, investors, video game publishers, and buyers for stores from all over the world.  If you’re preparing to launch a product, and want to generate a lot of buzz, this is the place to do it.

Other events are open to the public.  At public events, there are a lot of companies competing for the attention of the visitors, and in many industries there’s an ever-increasing battle to produce the flashiest display trailers, offer the best swag, and pull the biggest publicity stunts.  If you’re on a tight budget, getting into this kind of battle is a bad idea, unless you’re sure that you can create a lasting impression.  People who visit your booth for a free inflatable sword and shield or other crazy gift set won’t buy your product – but people who visit your booth to demo your product and pick up a catalogue might well turn into customers later.

Keeping Costs Down

Trade shows are great for networking.  Ideally, you should try to attend any shows that are local to you, and also try to find room in your budget for a major, highly respected show elsewhere.  The power of being able to say “As seen at the Frankfurt Auto Show” should not be underestimated.

To keep costs down, start negotiating with trailer producers early, and show space as soon as you can to take advantage of early bird discounts.  Try to get bulk discounts for posters, business cards, and other essentials.  While you’re at the show, take advantage of any networking opportunities – get out there and hand out cards to people at other stands, and take the time to see what other people are doing.  Trade shows aren’t just good ways to spread the word about what you’re doing – they’re good ways to find out what’s happening in the rest of your industry too.

Image: Yodel Anecdotal / Flickr

Reasons Why People Don’t Buy From a Website

Even if you have a lot of traffic coming to your site, these visitors might not be doing what you want them to on your site. Whether that’s buying a product or filling in an enquiry form, these visitors aren’t converting. Often, website owners will look at this problem and decide what they need is more visitors coming to the site, rather than making the most of the potential customers that are leaving. This can be expensive, especially when you’ve got the potential customers visiting already – you just have to appeal to them a bit more.

This is all about conversion rate optimisation, which can help you get the most out of the potential customers already coming your way. Below are some tips to consider when looking to optimise your site.

Can you find items easily?

If you look at your site as a customer would, can you find things easily? Finding a certain page should be easy and straightforward. Easy to read sign posts that direct people are necessary. If people can’t find exactly what they’re looking for straight away, they’ll look somewhere else.

However, trying to get every link on every page may make the site look a mess and cause more problems than it solves. As long as the directions are there, it should make sense.

Is the information there?

When potential customers have found the page they’re looking on, they’re going to need some information on what they’re looking at. Whether it’s a product or service, the attached description could decide whether they buy from you or someone else.

The description should contain enough information so that a potential customer can decide if it’s right for them, as well as being written in high quality, detailed enough to cover everything and completely unique.

Online, you don’t have the ability to hold an item like you do in a store. The description needs to replace and recreate that feeling, or you won’t give your customers the confidence to buy from you. High resolution images that customers can zoom on to see the items in detail and technical specifications are really good things that should be included on the page too.

Customers need confidence

When it comes to conversion rate optimisation the first thing you need to assess is if customers have enough confidence in your site. Customers will not part with their credit card details on to a site they can’t completely trust, and they’re quite right too as well. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure that you and your site are doing everything you can to gain the customers trust.

Making your website look professional is the first step. The more professional the site looks, the more trustworthy it’ll come across as. It’s also a good idea to make your contact details as open as possible and to not hide them away or refuse to put them on the site at all. Customers will gain confidence if they know you’re approachable and they’re able to contact you should anything not go according to plan.

This post was written on behalf of Boom Online Marketing the conversion rate optimisation experts

Inexpensive Marketing Tools Any Business Can Utilize

There are thousands of ways to market your business, but giving customers promotional items is a way to put the marketing into the customers’ hands. However, not all promotional items work and you need to make sure this is something the customer actually wants. Here are just a few inexpensive marketing tools any business can utilize.

T-Shirts

One of the best marketing tools you can use are t-shirts. However, there are some things you need to consider. First of all, design your t-shirts to fit your target market. For example, if you own a music company, create a design that’s fun with bright colors. When the t-shirt matches the personalities of your customers, they will be more likely to wear it.

Food

Food is an excellent way to promote your business. There are a number of different methods you could use. For example, you might opt to place a coupon on the boxes of a local pizza place. Another method would be to sponsor a charity and have a coupon for your business added to their product. You could even have a local bakery design cookies or cupcakes for a customer appreciation day.

Store Receipts

Another method that businesses are using is shopping receipts. Many grocery stores print out coupons and advertising when a customer checks out. However, you don’t want to just advertise your company, because customers will just toss the paper in the trash. Offer a coupon. If your local stores don’t offer this service, ask about having your ad placed on their receipts. Some receipts features business ads and coupons on the back of the receipt.

Tote Bags

Tote bags have become a popular advertising method over the past few years and with good reason. With more and more people opting to use tote bags instead of grocery bags, your ad can be seen by people throughout town.

Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers are another great way to promote your business, but this is another promotional item that has to be designed to suit your target market. For example, if your company is a bakery, create a design and statement that stands out and appeals to your customers.

Magnets

Magnets are another great marketing tools because customers and postential customers will see your customized magnets on a daily basis. This makes them more apt to shop with your company when they need your products or services again.

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Last, but not least, people are turning to stainless steel water bottles to replace plastic water bottles. This is another chance to put the advertising in the hands of the consumer. Create a fun ad and make sure it’s something your customers want to carry.

There are a number of inexpensive ways to market your business. Best of all, your customers will think of many of these promotional items as gifts, rather than advertising.

About the Author: Stephen McCarl loves working with small businesses as they strive to develop their marketing campaigns. He can usually find solutions for any budget and loves watching new groups grow.

5 Things Every Business Owner Needs to Include in a Strong Marketing Plan

So, you are about to start your own business. How exciting! Alternatively, perhaps you already have a part-time business and you would like to see it blossom into a full time venture. Well, every business – no matter how small or large – needs a strong marketing plan in order to succeed. Here are five tips that will help give you a leg up on the competition.

Specialty

What makes you unique among your competitors? Is it your personalized service? Your pricing? What does your business offer that people cannot get elsewhere? If you do not know what you makes your business unique, then you need to come up with a specific angle that sets you apart. Be creative and think outside the box. Your specific niche is what you need to know in order to successfully market your business.

Branding

Your business needs to have an identity. A good logo design and a catchy slogan go a long way in helping give your business a “face” that people will remember. Do not just slap together a piece of clip art and some text on your own. If you do not already have one, hire a professional designer to create a logo and use it consistently on all your company materials like business cards, letterhead, etc. Good branding will ensure that people take your business seriously.

Growth

It seems simple enough that businesses have to grow in order to be profitable. However, how much should you expand? How quickly should you do it? The best way to answer these questions is to set reasonable goals for your business. Don’t let your ambition over exceed your resources. Set attainable monthly or quarterly goals for your business and keep striving to meet them. Once you start meeting your goals on a regular basis, then it is time to raise the bar.

Promotion

Advertising and marketing go hand in hand. Where are you going to sell your product? Who are you selling it to? The days of just being able to buy ad space in the phone book, then sit back, and wait for the customers to roll in are long over. There are other options like online marketing, radio commercials and attending business networking events. Set a promotional budget you can afford and then figure out which ways are the best ways to reach your target audience.

Goals

Not only do you need to have goals for your business, but you have to set personal marketing goals as well. You have to commit to doing a certain amount of marketing each month. It may be that you attend two business-networking events each month and send out five sales letters, or you write three weekly blog posts and leave ten comments on other blogs. Whatever your preferred methods of promotion are, you consistently have to keep marketing your business.

Marketing does not have to be a chore; in fact, it can actually be a lot of fun to go out and spread the word about your business. Additionally, it is exciting to see your efforts pay off when you see new customers start coming. A strong marketing plan will help your business prosper and allow you to keep doing what you love.

About the Author: Jamey Vazguez is a marekting specialist who enjoys working with small businesses. She particularly enjoys working with entrepreneurs who are in the healthcare field.