Category Archives: Small Business

Small-Business Networking: Internet Connections Eclipsing the Old Face-to-Face?

Here are the numbers: 74% of small-business owners in a recent poll say that networking online is as, or more, important than meeting with their networks face-to-face.

The number is among the results of a new survey conducted by Manta, an online community-builder for small businesses.

Small Business Online NetworkingThe survey numbers are of the kind that make you sit up and address some long-held notions. The idea that the importance of online networking is eclipsing person-to-person? It is absolutely contrary what old-school networking strategies have emphasized for so long.

But then, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Consumers and business owners, nowadays they’re on the web. Mobile businessaccounts for some 1 billion workers. And small-business owners are freshly focusing on the facts.

Let’s take a closer look, talk to some owners about the change, and find out what else the survey can tell us about the development of networking on the web.

Connecting Online: One Sweet Step at a Time

Sherry Sheppard owns i love cupcakes, in Largo, Florida. For her, getting online and bringing her concept to new people is an integral part of her work.

“Continuous customer support and tools,” Sheppard says of her Internet networking experience, “have really helped us leverage creative ways to reach people. New and innovative opportunities to market to and connect with people online has really helped get our specialty cupcake bakery noticed, which has proven to be vital to our ongoing success.”

To what extent?

Sheppard says that 70% of her business comes to her via online networking. That’s more than just frosting on the cake.

Running the Numbers: Online Networking on the Rise

Of the 600 small businesses polled, Manta’s survey helps paint the picture of not only how many owners say web-based networking is important, but it also gives us a sense of how much time they’re spending doing it throughout the year.

  • 52% say they dedicate half or more of their business networking time to online channels in 2012.
  • Percentage of owners who say they give all their business-networking attention to the web: 7%
  • 36% of the owners said that half or more of their new customers in the past year found them through online channels.
  • Company websites are still leading the pack, when it comes to driving business. 24% of the owners said so.
  • Close behind is Facebook. 19% of the owners polled said The Social Network was the chief driver of business from the web to their services.

Building Businesses Online: Standing Out in the Crowd

The numbers certainly tell a story. But the thinking behind these stats is perhaps best summarized by one small-business executive who’s competing for customers daily.

“Since there are so many avenues to connect with people today, it’s important to consistently stand out from all the noise,” says Joseph Buczek, president of Indiana and Missouri-based Lighthouse Construction and Restoration, Inc. “In the architectural and remodeling industry, I have a lot of competitors and I need to be where my customers are – and that’s online.”

 

MozyPro - Online Backup For Business

 

Getting Started With Email Marketing

Getting Started With Email Marketing

Getting Started with Email MarketingEmail is a part of many marketing budgets, strategies and concepts for big businesses. If you’re just starting out or are looking to expand your current online marketing efforts beyond the basics of social media, it’s time you made email marketing part of your next campaign. From determining whether you should send out newsletters or retargeted emails, getting started with email marketing can seem a bit overwhelming.   Here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself, and the answers.

How Do I Create a Database?

Before you get in to the design or messaging, you need to have a list of emails that you’re sending your email marketing campaigns out to. If you don’t have contacts to send your campaign messages out to, there is no way you’ll be successful. In order to create a database to use for your email marketing efforts, you should:

  • Start by collecting and organizing the emails of past and current customers. You may already have these, but if you don’t a call or direct mail card can help you head off in the right direction.
  • Ask for an email address in exchange for an offer. A basic clipboard on your counter or form on your website, that says “Sign up here to receive discount coupons via email!” or “Sign up here to get our free Newsletter via email!” will get your list going.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t ask for too much information up front; you could scare someone off. All you really need is a first name and email address. The rest of the information you ask is up to you, but the more information you require the more likely someone is to say, “No thanks.”
  • Have a privacy policy in place. Let customers know how you plan to use the information they provide. Look at similar sites and companies to get a feel for what you should be doing – including getting the permission of customers to send them emails.

Should I Use HTML or Plain-Text?

If you have no experience in email marketing campaigns, creating and designing brand new one may seem overwhelming. However, there are a number of tools out there to help you get started. MailChimp has a number of resources available for those getting started with email marketing. When it comes to the design of your email campaigns, consider:

  • Testing the email before you send. HTML emails can look different than expected when they are opened. Run the test on a few different free email services such as Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN and Hotmail to make sure it’s what you expect.
  •  CSS vs. HTML vs. Plain-Text. CSS doesn’t work too well in an HTML email, HTML images are sometimes ‘broken’ and plain-text is the most consistent. However, HTML is more like the world we live in – colorful and full of imagery – and is often considered the best method for email marketing campaigns.
  • Keeping the design simple. Place your logo in the upper-left hand corner, keep your call to action above the fold and avoid adding so much pizzazz that the important things get lost. Using a few images is great, but keep your message in mind!

What’s the Message?

What you hope to get from your email marketing efforts will contribute greatly to what your message should be. If you’re looking to showcase a product or indicate an upcoming event, your message needs to be a compelling reflection of that. Keep in mind why you’re sending these emails out and gear your content towards the right audience.

  • Your call to action, which is based on what you want those receiving your emails to do, needs to be above the fold. This means having the CTA in sight, without any scrolling necessary, when someone opens the email.
  • Be interesting! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes to consider what they want to read and receive in an email. Your tone, content and design all need to reflect this. Track the results of your efforts to see what is working best with your audience.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes, of course there is! Email marketing takes some time and isn’t an overnight process. Always include an opt-out option and stay up to date on your results reports. Knowing what is successful and what isn’t is the best way to move forward.

  • Make sure you send emails from a non-personal email address. Instead of sending out blasts from janedoe@xyz.com, consider info@xyz.com, newsletter@xyz.com, etc.
  • Segment your audience. Your campaign may not apply to everyone in your database so organize each person by different demographics including age, location, interests, conversion likelihood, etc.
  • Send your emails early in the week. Emails typically have a lifespan of 3 days, so sending out your messages on Monday or Tuesday will often be better than sending out on Friday. Of course, it depends on your audience.

An email marketing company can help you with your email campaign efforts. But, if you’re more of a DIY marketer, take each of these questions into account and make sure you have a plan in place before sending any emails out. There are a number of resources, including HTML email templates, online for free. When it comes to getting started in email marketing, you need to have a goal and related call to action, design, and overall messaging in mind. Remember, this is a branding opportunity and you need to make the most of it.

Author Bio: Erica Bell is a small business writer who focuses on topics such as web design and online marketing. She is a web content writer for Business.com. 

The views and opinions of  this post are solely those of the author of the post. Mozy does not specifically endorse any of the commercial products or services mentioned in this post.

 

MozyPro Online Backup for Businesses