Kick-Start Your 2019 Digital Marketing Strategy with These Useful Tips

Kick-Start Your 2019 Digital Marketing Strategy with These Useful Tips

And just like that, 2018 has come and gone in a flash. As the year comes to a close, you need to start thinking about how to prepare your digital marketing strategy for 2019 so that you can hit the ground running after New Year’s.

It’s important to have a plan in place before the year begins, that way, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking to achieve and improve upon. If you’re unsure of how to begin, here are a few useful tips to get the ball rolling.

Review Your Benchmarks and Data

In order to know what areas performed well and which need to be reworked for 2019, you need to complete a data analysis of your results from this year. If you set goals at the beginning of the year (e.g. gaining 300 social media followers or adding 200 new email subscribers) pull the data that will show whether or not you achieved those benchmarks.

Figure out where your wins and losses occurred. What big accomplishments did you have this year? For instance, did you redesign your website? Or launch a new product line? Use these wins to propel you forward and strive for an ever better 2018. If you experienced losses this year, like an unsuccessful social media campaign or low website views, you’ll want to document those as well, as they will help you tremendously with creating your strategy for 2019.

You’ll also want to ask yourself if you see any patterns that occurred, or if there are any particular times where you saw an influx of website traffic, new leads, email sign-ups, etc. It’s also helpful to compare 2017’s results to see how far you’ve come. Determine which benchmarks performed well and which were lackluster, then utilize those results to formulate a better, more thorough plan for 2019.

Look at Your Website & Social Media

Best practices for website content seem to change constantly, so you need to be sure that you’re up to date with trends. Is your site mobile-friendly? In March, Google announced that it would begin its mobile-first indexing, meaning that the mobile-version of your website is where Google will begin in order to determine your ranking. So, the better you follow mobile best practices, the more likely it is that your site will rank higher.

You should also monitor your website’s analytics. Determine which metrics you’d like to focus on. Here are a few examples:

Users: How many people visit your site within a given time frame.
Sessions: An estimate of first-time visitors.
Page Views: How many times each individual web page is viewed.
Unique Page Views: This metric measures a single page view once per session, as opposed to every time the user comes back.
Bounce Rate: This determines the percentage of people who leave your site after looking at only one page.

In terms of social, you’ll want to take a look back at your engagement throughout the year. Facebook Insights, in particular, can you show various interactions with your posts, audience demographics and how you look next to your competitors.

Determine what variations of content performed well and which didn’t receive any engagement. That way, you can better plan out your content for next year. It’s ideal to keep track of your social engagements monthly, then at the year’s end you can easily look back and see the posting times that generated the most engagement, and the content that performed well.

Develop Your Strategy

Now that you’ve looked at all of this year’s data, it’s time to get started on 2019. Start small by asking yourself what you’d like to accomplish this year and why. Then you need to determine how your digital marketing plan will help you to achieve those goals.

Ask yourself, who am I trying to reach, and how will I reach them? Where do my competitors rank against me? What makes my business unique? How can I make those components stand out? It can be overwhelming to determine all of these answers at once, try working through a few per day. Then you can develop your strategy over a period of time.

Review your revenue goals, social media initiatives, email marketing goals, large projects and website initiatives, then see how you can best intersect these components to work together. Figure out what you’ll need to help you with these initiatives, whether it’s adding additional staff members, implementing new training procedures, adding new tools and programs, delegating duties, etc.

Lumps of Coal: How to Handle Negative Reviews Over the Holidays

Lumps of Coal: How to Handle Negative Reviews Over the Holidays

What’s Santa to do when a company he does business with doesn’t quite come through as expected? For example, if the sleigh repair shop doesn’t do a good job, can you expect Mr. Kringle to leave a pile of coal at their door as a show of his displeasure?

Probably not. Kris Kringle is far more likely to hop on Google or Facebook and leave the company a bad review instead. Not only does a bad review get the point across to the sleigh repair shop that they failed to live up to expectations, but it’s also a great way for Santa to warn other potential customers to take their money elsewhere.

Managing your reviews on local search results can determine whether your company receives a lump of coal or the gift of revenue this holiday season.

Why Good and Bad Customer Reviews Matter so Much

If your small business clients are concerned about negative reviews, their fears are not exactly unjustified. In fact, 72% of consumers won’t even consider doing business with a company until after they’ve read a positive review or two — 30% consider reviews to be a key factor when choosing local companies to use.

Both positive and negative reviews wield a lot of power over local businesses because of their importance to local search marketing. A single star increase in a restaurant’s rating on Yelp, for example, can bring in 5-9% more revenue.

However, an occasional bad review shouldn’t be cause for panic.

Consumers know that it’s hard to please everyone, all the time. When consumers see nothing but glowing reviews for a business, they usually suspect that the brand is either padding their reputation with fake reviews or screening out the bad ones.

Owners Need a Strategy for Negative Reviews

Every business owner should commit to this strategy for negative reviews:

  • Acknowledge negative reviews as quickly as possible.
  • Empathize with the customer’s feelings and ask the customer to provide more information, if necessary, through direct contact (like email or chat).
  • Make it clear in the response that the business is willing to make things right, if possible.

Exactly what a small business owner needs to do next in order to turn each negative review into a positive depends on the purpose of the complaint. Let’s look at how small business owners should handle the most common dissatisfied customers they will encounter:

Disappointed Dianes: Unexpected Experience

These are the customers who genuinely didn’t get the experience they expected. The service may have been bad or the product may not be working as described.

Disappointed Dianes aren’t dropping coal at your small business owner’s door. They’re actually a gift. They are, more often than not, alerting small business owners to a problem that needs to be addressed. For every Disappointed Diane that speaks up, there are about 26 other unhappy customers who stay silent — and most just walk away.

Small business owner’s need to respond to Dianes by:

  • Asking for a new opportunity, whether that means a product replacement and a refund, a meal on the house or something more.
  • Asking for a new — hopefully improved — review.

If a small business owner has corrected the problem, there’s nothing to fear.

Critical Carls: Unreasonable Expectations

Critical Carls usually have unreasonable expectations in the first place. They walk into a store on Black Friday and are offended at the wait even though every register is running. They order the pepper-crusted steak and find it has too much pepper for their liking.

It’s important to remember that Carls are genuinely disappointed in their experience — even though the business did nothing wrong. small business owner’s still gain a chance to show their professionalism and increase the credibility of their brand by their response, so they should:

  • Gently illustrate the fact that the issue was unavoidable.
  • Show their willingness to “go all out” for the customer.
  • Ask for a new review.

For example, a restaurant owner might respond, “We realize our signature pepper-crusted steak isn’t for everyone, but we’d like you to try one of our other great meals — on the house!” The odds are Carl will be happy and everyone reading that response will be impressed.

Hateful Henrys: Something for Nothing

Hateful Henrys are, by and large, trying to get something for nothing and they hope to leverage their negative review into free services or goods.

Owners can’t fall for a Hateful Henry’s tricks. Nor can they just ignore a Henry. Business owners can, however, use a Henry to show just how exceptional and professional they can be — and gain the trust of many potential customers in the process.

Small business owners need to remain unfalling professional and worry only about how they look to other potential customers reading that review. There’s nothing they can do to appease a Henry except give in to the extortion and that’s not something small business owners should do.

Final Thoughts

What’s the most important thing to remind small business owner’s about negative reviews? Even lumps of coal can serve a purpose and have value if you appreciate them for what they are, not what you had hoped they would be.

How to Develop Engaging Emails that Will Get Opened

How to Develop Engaging Emails that Will Get Opened

When a customer subscribes to your email list, they expect value to be provided in some capacity. And, odds are, your business is not the only one they subscribe to. Over 281 billion consumer and business emails are sent per day, and it’s likely that a majority of those go unread and are instantly deleted by the receiver.

With so many emails being sent, what can you as a business owner do to ensure yours stand out from the rest, and increase your chances of them actually being read? To captivate your readers and keep them coming back for more, here are a few tips on how to write engaging email content.

Personally Address Your Emails

Consumers in today’s complicated retail landscape want a certain level of personalization. They want to be shown that they are appreciated and that their unique needs are being met. You want to help gain your reader’s trust and get them to like your business and the content that you’re pushing out.

A great way to add some flair to your emails is to personally address them with the receiver’s name in the subject line. Most email marketing software has this capability, including Mailchimp. It’s a small personal touch, but it can go a long way, as personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates than those without personalization.

Create a Unique Subject Line

Your subject line is arguably the most important part of your email, as it’s the first thing your subscribers will see. Your email could have the most interesting content in the world, but if the subject line is poor, then your readers won’t be intrigued and will skip over it or delete it.

In order to grab their attention, you need to create a subject line that’s unique. A few tactics to remember are to keep the subject line short and to the point and to be clear about what information or value you’re providing. You can also try to create a sense of urgency, especially if you’re announcing a limited offer or exclusive sale.

Presenting a question within your subject line is also a great way to engage readers. Think of the questions that consumers may have about your business, they may then be compelled to open your email and learn the answer.

Showcase Your Value

As a business owner, you know the unique value that your emails can provide, but the recipients do not, and it’s your job to show them. Focus on your customers, learn more about them, like their wants and needs, then determine how you can meet those needs through email campaigns. The more you learn about your customers, the better you can segment the emails that you send based on their unique preferences.

Share customer testimonials, help solve a problem or product demonstrations within your emails. Content like this will highlight your experience in your field, help build trust with your customers and keep them coming back for more.

Develop Your Voice

Your emails are an avenue for communicating with your customers. Use this opportunity to develop your brand’s voice and personality. Think of the things that differentiate you from your competitors and the areas that your most passionate about in regards to your business, then highlight those components within your emails.

For instance, if you’re a salon owner who offers a one of a kind hair treatment, tell your customers about it. Or if you’re a deli that sells a unique sandwich, offer customers a glimpse into what it looks like. Whatever makes your business unique, tell your subscribers about it through email.

The Importance of a Google My Business Listing

The Importance of a Google My Business Listing

The two most popular resources consumers use today when making purchasing decisions are customer reviews and Google. We inherently trust what other customers have to say about a business, and if we want to know anything at all, we Google it. It should be no surprise, then, that Google My Business — which incorporates the two together — is becoming one of, if not the most powerful tool for marketing. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how Google My Business helps businesses like yours.

Gain Instant Trust

If your listing appears in a Google search, consumers see that you have been endorsed by Google. If Google trusts you enough to display you in its results, they know they can trust you too.

Get More Website Visitors

Your Google My Business listing gives customers the means to access your business, but more importantly, it depicts what it’s like to actually go there. Even more importantly, it displays all of this information before a user even has to click through to your website. The more a person can envision what it will be like to contact or visit a business, and the more quickly they can do so, the more likely they are to do so.

Get More Sales

Google uses your listing and other real-time data to be able to answer highly specific queries, such as “hair salons near me open now”. This allows for more of the most qualified people to find your business—those who are highly likely to make a purchase.

Engage with Customers

Google My Business now has a posting feature where you can communicate announcements, events, and promotions to your audience. Keeping customers up to date on your business keeps you top of mind. In addition, each of these post types has a call to action, making engagement easier and more likely. If applicable to a particular search, content from your posts may even display in your result.

Create, Claim, and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

If you haven’t already done so, create and claim your Google My Business listing asap. You can’t afford to miss the opportunities Google is giving to you, free. However, your listing must be complete, accurate, and up to date if you want to reap its benefits. In addition to being 50% more likely to lead to a purchase (as mentioned above), an optimized Google My Business listing is 70% more likely to attract location visits and makes a business 2.7x more likely to be considered reputable.

If you already have a listing, ThriveHive’s Google Grader will assess its effectiveness and provide recommendations for improvement. Give it a try!

Engaging Facebook Post Ideas for Small Businesses

Engaging Facebook Post Ideas for Small Businesses

Having a profound Facebook strategy in place that provides the results you’re looking for can prove incredibly difficult. Facebook’s algorithms and consumer behaviors are constantly changing, so creating content that matches up with each of these is always a challenge.

It’s helpful to constantly remember the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your content should be used to inform, entertain and educate your customers and 20% for selling. It’s important to continuously seek out new and unique post ideas that follow this formula. Here are just a few to get you started:

Present a Problem, Ask for Solutions

Posts that ask a question can generate a lot of engagement from your followers, especially ones where the solution can ultimately benefit them. People also love to provide answers and opinions to such questions. Consider asking your followers what they would do in a specific scenario or posing a popular question that’s frequently asked about your business. They can then respond with their own feedback and you can interject with yours.

User-Generated Content

User generated content is content that is created and displayed by an unpaid individual. It can include pictures, videos, testimonials and more. User-generated content can help build brand awareness, gain trust with your customers and help you build relationships with your local community. It shows potential customers that people who’ve visited your business previously are satisfied enough to post about it, and that’s a big deal.

For example, if you own a small furniture store that specializes in refurbished items and someone posts one of those items within their home on their any social channel (not just Facebook), you can share the post with your followers by linking or posting a screen shot. Be sure to add in a call to action, like “Show us how you’ve taken your home’s décor to the next level with our furniture.”

Utilize Facebook Live

A 2018 HubSpot survey revealed that 54% of consumers want to see more video content from brands and business they support. Facebook Live is a great way to change up your content strategy, if you can come up with a unique idea for using it. Think about what makes your business stand out and provide your followers with an inside look into those components. You can also do Q&As with your audience, discuss important events happening within your industry, provide views from an industry expert or provide a demonstration of a new product. The possibilities are endless.

Create a Poll

What better way to understand the wants and needs of your customers than by simply asking them? Facebook polls can not only drive engagement, but you can uncover valuable information about your business by creating them. Take some time to determine your most lingering questions you have for your followers, then formulate a timeline for asking them.

Be sure to keep it interesting and not too self-promotional. For instance, you might consider asking what products they want to see your business offer, what content they want to see more of on your social channels or even the problems they’re having that relate to your field of work.

Seasonal Content

Now that the holiday season has begun, it’s important for small business owners to remember that this time of year presents a massive opportunity for content creation. Posting fun, feel-good, holiday-themed content that isn’t promotional can provide positive engagement from your followers. If executed correctly, they may even feel motivated enough to share it with their own followers. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be holiday themed. Consider posting about holidays that align with your business, like national cappuccino day or national pizza day (both of which, do in fact exist).

Make Small Business Saturday a Success with These Valuable Tips

Make Small Business Saturday a Success with These Valuable Tips

In 2010, American Express introduced Small Business Saturday, a national holiday dedicated to celebrating small businesses across the US. The date falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The annual shopping tradition was designed to help local consumers support the small businesses within their communities.

Since enacted, US consumers have spent an estimated $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants. Now in its 8th year, Small Business Saturday is bigger and more popular than ever. And in order for your business to be prepared and reap the benefits, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Tell Your Story

What better day to tell your business’s story to customers than one that celebrates small businesses? Create a blog post, email or social media post that details the ins and outs of how you came into business, what’s kept you going and where you see yourself in the future. Stories like this humanize your brand and help build trust with consumers, both old and new.

Keep Customers Informed

Nowadays, consumers have options when deciding where to shop for goods and services. You want to make sure that your business is at the top of their mind’s when they’re ready to make a purchase. In order to do that, you need to keep them in the loop about what you have planned. For events like Small Business Saturday, you should be promoting your offers via your website, blog, social media channels and emails.

Promote on Social Media

As with any special event, you want to make sure that you are promoting what’s happening on social media. Post about the deals and discounts that you’re offering, or if you’re presenting something unique, like a product demo, unveiling of a new product or another big announcement. Be sure to use hashtags that relate to Small Business Saturday so that consumers can find you easily via a simple search.

Offer Special Deals and Discounts

To get customers through the door, you need to provide them with an incentive. Much like how retailers offer specific Black Friday deals and discounts, your small business should do the same for Small Business Saturday. Think about something unique that your customers will want, things like buy one get one half-off deals, x% off a purchase, free gift with purchase, etc. As mentioned earlier, don’t forget to promote what you’re offering. You should also be promoting the products you think would make the best gifts, as that’s what many people are on the lookout for this time of year.

Partner with Nearby Businesses

The more traffic the businesses within your local community generate, the more beneficial it is to your business. Consider partnering with neighboring businesses on your in-store promotions. For instance, if you operate a vitamin/health shop, you might consider partnering with the yoga studio next store and offering 10% off a class. Bounce ideas with other business owners and promote the deals via social media, email and in-store.