2014 Marketing Plans: What Real Businesses Are Doing

2014 Marketing Plans: What Real Businesses Are Doing

Earlier this week, we wrote a post on six things every small business owner should include in his or her 2014 marketing plan. (Go check it out and then come back. We’ll wait!)

As an added bonus, we thought we’d round up some real-life small business owners and see what they’re cooking up for their marketing next year. You’ll find no big surprises—just sensible strategies that include healthy doses of social media, SEO, mobile, and a little relationship building thrown in for good measure. Let’s get to it.

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Case Study: Small Business Owners Talk about Their Transition to Credit Cards

Transition to Credit Cards

“Show me the money!” This famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire could also be the mantra for most small business owners, right? We sell our goods, perform our services, and want to be paid in a timely manner. In the “old” days (we’re talking fifteen to twenty years ago), accepting cash and checks was the way to go. The hassle of setting up credit card machines often didn’t make sense, especially for solo professionals who might operate out of their home or who were comfortable with a cash-only business.

Those days are definitely over. We live in a 24/7 era where people—i.e. our customers—expect to be able to pay with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a credit card. According to Community Merchants USA, an educational nonprofit project of the electronics payment industry, “58 percent of small businesses are asked by their customers to accept credit cards, on a regular basis.”

The good news is that the convenience factor isn’t just for our customers anymore. We business owners can benefit from the convenience as well.

So what if you’re one of those businesses on the fence and you’ve been thinking about making the transition to credit cards, but you’re just not sure? Is it really worth it? What vendors should you use? What steps do you need to take next?

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Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web Design

We’re now living in the mobile era of search, meaning that more and more people are conducting searches using their mobile devices. This isn’t surprising, considering more than 50 percent of cell phone owners have a smartphone and one third of American adults own tablets.

Search Engine Land reports that mobile traffic to local sites is growing faster than to the total Internet. The 2013 Mobile Path to Purchase study shows that 46 percent of respondents rely only on their smartphones or tablets when doing online searches and research. Marketing Land author Greg Sterling notes, “While these mobile-first or mobile-only users skewed younger (18 – 34), what these data broadly mean is that consumer behavior is changing much more quickly than most marketers or brands realize.” This might suggest why nearly half of all businesses still don’t have a mobile site or app.

All of this is important news for small businesses. The local hair salon owner, acupuncturist, landscaper, web designer, sales consultant, retail shop owner, and so forth should sit up and take notice. People are searching for what you do, and they’re conducting these searches more and more using their phones and tablets. The question is this: what will they see when they discover your company online? Will they be able to find you online? And what will their experience be like when they look at your website on their iPhone or Galaxy? Have your competitors—big and small—created great mobile experiences? Have you? If not, it’s time you do.

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Mobile Marketing Part 2: Tips & Tricks from the Front Lines

Mobile Marketing Tips & Tricks

Earlier this week, we talked about the importance of making sure your business is mobile ready. In today’s article, we’re talking to real-life business owners who have embraced the mobile revolution. Learn more about some of the steps they’ve taken to mobilize their organizations and use these ideas for your own company.

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Mobile Marketing Part 1: Is Your Business Mobile Ready?

Test your mobile marketing readiness by following these tips and guidelines.

Is Your Business Mobile Ready?

When we wrote about mobile marketing back in January, we answered the typical questions we hear from business owners. Since the time we wrote that post, mobile usage has continued to explode, so we thought we’d take a deeper look into what you need to do to get your business mobile ready. But first, let’s review some key stats.

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Podcasting 101: What Every Business Owner Should Know

Podcasting 101

Podcasting is a popular way to reach a niche audience and to establish yourself as a thought leader. But what, exactly, is podcasting? How do you do it? What topics should you cover? What are the pros and cons? Read on.

What is a podcast?
Simply put, a podcast is a digital audio file that people subscribe to through an RSS feed and listen to on an electronic device like desktops, tablets, phones, iPods, and other MP3 players. The word itself is a portmanteau: it combines the words “iPod” and “broadcast” to form “podcast” (just like “web log” is better known as “blog”). And, yes, there’s such a thing as video podcasts, also known as “vodcasts.”

Who listens to podcasts?
According to The Podcast Consumer 2012, nearly three in 10 Americans have ever listened to an audio podcast, and one in six Americans have consumed a podcast in the last month. Podcasts skew slightly more male (54%), and half of podcast consumers are aged 12-34. The study goes on to say that “Podcasts continue to be effective ways to reach affluent consumers who exhibit ad avoidance behaviors.”

How does a person set up a podcast? Is there any special equipment required? Continue reading “Podcasting 101: What Every Business Owner Should Know”

The 411 on Mobile Marketing for Small Businesses

411 on Mobile Marketing

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about mobile marketing lately (and if you haven’t, you will). We thought we’d provide a helpful Q&A post on what you need to know. Let’s get to it.

Q: What is mobile marketing?

A: It’s actually what it sounds like: it involves reaching people through their mobile devices (e.g. phones, tablets) and encouraging them to buy your products or services. Strategies that businesses use to increase engagement among mobile users include QR (quick response) codes, custom apps that people can download to their device, and websites optimized for mobile.

Q: How can I be sure my customers use their mobile devices to buy things?

A: The latest facts and figures suggest they probably do. According to data released in late November 2012 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Fully 85% of American adults own a cell phone and now use the devices to do much more than make phone calls.” Fifty-six percent of these cell phone owners use their devices to access the Internet. This infographic from May 2012 says “1 in 3 shoppers have made a purchase via their mobile devices in the last six months.” HubSpot has pulled together a ton of interesting stats on mobile marketing from a Marketing Land study, including this one: “67% of users are more likely to purchase a product or service from a mobile-friendly site.” To say that mobile marketing is — and will continue to be — important is an understatement. And, yes: b2b buyers user their devices to search and buy products and services as well.

Q: Aside from making purchases, how else are people using their mobile devices?

A: This past holiday season, it was estimated that 80 percent of mobile users tapped into their devices to do things like compare prices, read online reviews, find store locations, and look for coupons. If you have a storefront, it’s imperative that mobile marketing is part of your overall marketing strategy this year. You can’t ignore it anymore.

Q: So people might visit my company website on their smartphone or tablet. Great! What do I need to worry about? Continue reading “The 411 on Mobile Marketing for Small Businesses”