6 Core Marketing Strategies Guaranteed to Attract Clients for Small Businesses

Top performing marketing strategies for small businessesWithout question, you love your business.

But, how can you convey that love to your prospects in a way that not only piques their interest, but also makes them take action and become a paying customer?

It’s all about marketing and promotions. That is, the work you put into raise awareness about your brand, increase demand for your product or services and boost sales.

The problem is, there are literally dozens of different promotional strategies being applied by businesses. How can you know which ones would get you the biggest return on your investment?

There’s no magic formula or perfect answer. There are, however, six core strategies that have been proven to be highly effective, regardless of the industry.       [Read more…]

How to Follow Up with Prospective Customers and Referral Partners After an Event

Successful african woman working in her small office with laptopPicture this…

You’ve just returned from a killer networking event. You mingled like a boss, rubbed some pretty impressive elbows, shared your vision and walked away with a pocket full of business cards.

Now what?

Networking is a powerful tool for marketing your business. Why? Because it involves relationship building, which is the key to driving ongoing success. In fact, 95% of professionals feel that face-to-face meetings are essential for developing and fostering long-term business relationships.

That first meeting is really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the work you put in after the fact – that is, taking the appropriate steps to follow-up, stay connected and really start nurturing those relationships – that really gets results.

Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. Think you’re too busy?    [Read more…]

How to Follow Up With Prospects (Even When You’re Insanely Busy)

Can you see yourself there?Business Owner Enjoying Following-UP

IMAGINE that every event you attend is filled to the brim with prospects – new clients, potential referral partners, and people who can’t wait to become paying customers.

You leave the event with stacks of business cards – and you look forward to following up with all those hot leads.

If you’re like most small business owners…

This is the point where the dream can quickly become a nightmare: [Read more…]

7 Reasons to Use “Set It and Forget It” Marketing

It’s possible that you are too busy…

Too busy running your business to effectively market and grow your business?

If marketing feels like an afterthought and if you find yourself scrambling at the last minute to create compelling marketing campaigns…

You are in the right place!

There’s a new marketing game in town, and it will solve the previously mentioned problems and then some.

Here is the solution dropped right in your lap…      [Read more…]

Facebook Live to Help Boost B2B Profit

Originally published at Hoovers.com

Like every other trend in digital marketing, video marketing is constantly shifting and evolving. If you’re just hopping on the video bandwagon, don’t worry – you’re not too late to take advantage of all this growing medium has to offer. In fact, it’s never been easier to use video marketing – and live stream video in particular – to drive B2B business and sales.

Pre-recorded video is the past. Live stream is the future.

If you’ve ever had a marketing agency or SEO firm encourage you to create and publish more video on your website or YouTube channel, there’s a good reason – video content drives organic search results.

When you publish content that includes video, you’re much more likely to get found earlier in search engine results for certain terms.  And when your website appears at the top of the search results for terms relating to your business on Google or YouTube, it’s that much easier for prospective customers to find your business.

But times are changing. Staying relevant online isn’t just about creating great video content anymore – it’s about broadcasting and streaming live video. That may sound a) kind of scary, and b) potentially irrelevant for B2B businesses. The truth is that live video is actually much easier to create, promote, and publish than pre-recorded video.

Even better, it’s proving to be a powerful tool for B2C and B2B businesses alike.

What is Facebook Live, anyway?

Facebook Live launched early 2016 and has been steadily gaining steam.  This new Facebook feature allows you to instantly broadcast a live video right from your smartphone. There’s no editing, no uploading, and no fancy footwork required.

All you have to do is:

  • Publish a new status update on Facebook
  • Select “Live Video”
  • Fill out a short description of what viewers can expect to see
  • Select the audience you want to share the video with
  • Start streaming!

Now that you know how user-friendly Facebook Live is, let’s take a look at how to use this feature to boost B2B sales.

Live video: not just for B2C anymore

Businesses of all shapes and sizes have finally jumped on the social media train – some leading the way, and others scrambling to play catch up. If you’re in an industry that’s notoriously slow for jumping on social trends, why not be a pioneer in live streaming video?

Facebook Live can be a great way for B2C companies to directly engage with customers. That’s because live video makes it easy to answer questions in real time, demonstrate new products, and directly engage the end user.

But that’s just as true for B2B companies – if not more so!

Just like a business-to-customer relationship, a business-to-business relationship is all about people. The key is to be engaging, connecting with, and convincing the right people to partner with you or to purchase your products for the mutual benefit of both companies.

And what better way to engage, connect, and convince than by inviting prospective clients into your office or worksite via live video?

Facebook Live allows you to:

  • Make a deep, authentic connection with prospects – even if you’ve never met them in person before
  • Educate prospects about your business
  • Demo products
  • Build authority as you demonstrate your industry expertise

But the hands-down best part of Facebook Live is the ability to engage prospects and business associates in real time.

While you’re live streaming, you can verbally and visually respond to the comments people post beneath your video feed. You can call people by name, give them the answers they seek, and invite them to take action on a special offer or meeting invitation.

Facebook Live for B2B: Dun & Bradstreet

Are you brainstorming different ways you could use Facebook Live to impress clients and attract prospective B2B customers?

Great! Here’s how companies like Dun & Bradstreet are using Facebook Live – and you can too!

Dun & Bradstreet has a dedicated Facebook presence geared toward B2B companies. Since the launch of Facebook Live, D&B B2B has been using live video streaming to present educational content and expert panels on topics like government contracting, suspension and debarment, and other challenges and opportunities faced by B2B business owners.

One of Dun & Bradstreet’s most successful Facebook Live video streams featured an expert panel that was live streamed from the D&B B2B Facebook page.

During the Facebook Live broadcast, Dun & Bradstreet brought together industry experts to answer common questions and solve pressing problems that B2B business owners care about most. This video helped business owners identify suspension and debarment pitfalls when doing business with the government. With over 7,200 views in just a few months, this content resonated with B2B business owners in a way that was timely and relevant across different industries.

But was timely, relevant content enough to make this Facebook Live video a smashing success? Like with any successful piece of content, there was more to it than just choosing the right topic – Dun & Bradstreet also followed these 7 best practices for turning a live stream video into a conversion machine.

Facebook Live for B2B: 7 best practices

1. Make sure your audience cares

First and foremost, make sure your video is laser-focused on the audience. You may want to educate them about an exciting new product or service your company is offering, but don’t forget to put yourself in their shoes – no one likes feeling sold to.

For their video, Dun & Bradstreet chose a hyper-specific topic they knew their audience would be interested in. How could they be sure the topic of suspension and debarment would resonate with viewers? By doing lots of research and social listening before deciding on a video topic.

Ask yourself:

  • How will this content benefit the viewer?
  • What problems am I solving?
  • Do I have social proof this topic will be popular with my audience?

Even if you don’t have the budget to send out surveys or do formal market research, you can still take stock of Facebook comments, blog comments, and other social clues that reveal what your audience most wants from you.

2. Promote your broadcast ahead of time

Just like promoting a webinar with email marketing, social campaigns, and paid advertising, you can promote an upcoming Facebook Live video before it airs. The more promotion and preparation ahead of time, the higher your viewership will be – both in terms of quantity and quality of viewers.

Interviewing industry experts is an excellent way to provide valuable content while promoting your video before it airs – the more experts you showcase, the bigger your reach and potential audience during the broadcast. By leveraging the audiences of each of your guests before your Facebook Live stream begins, you can triple or quadruple the number of people who tune in to your video.

If Dun & Bradstreet had simply started broadcasting, they would never have been so successful. In the same way they prepared their video topic beforehand, they also had to promote their live video before it aired.

3. Take care of the technical stuff

In addition to preparing your topic and promoting your broadcast, you also have to prepare the technical stuff.

  • Make sure you have a strong Wifi connection
  • Place your smartphone on a tripod to avoid that shaky ‘hand-held’ effect
  • Make sure you have good lighting and good sound – that means it’s easy and pleasant to see and hear everyone who needs to be seen and heard

4. Optimize your Facebook description

Some people in your audience may have Facebook videos set to autoplay, where any video in their newsfeed plays automatically. Others may have this setting turned off, and only press play if a video description or thumbnail catches their eye.

That’s why it’s crucial to create a great video description using keywords, hashtags, and compelling benefits to encourage the viewer to click play. Keywords and hashtags make it easy for people searching Facebook to find your content, while a strong description compels the viewer to watch now.

Keep your description between 40 and 80 characters – that’s the length that’s been statistically shown to have the highest number of conversions and shares on Facebook. 40 characters is not a lot to work with, so remember – keep it brief and benefit-rich.

5. Engage viewers

The beauty of Facebook Live is that throughout the broadcast, you’ll be able to directly interact with your audience. When they comment on your video, you’ll be able to view the comments and respond verbally right on camera. Being able to call viewers by name and answer their questions in real time is a fantastic way to build instant trust and rapport.

6. Be prepared – but not too polished

If you watch the Dun & Bradstreet video, you’ll see that the host and his expert guests are prepared, but not too polished. Clearly a lot of preparation went into gathering the right people in the same room at the same time. But the conversation never feels scripted or over rehearsed.

That feeling of spontaneity is crucial for success on Facebook Live. The whole point of watching a live video stream is to see things happening in real time. If your live stream feels more like a calculated presentation, your audience may view your company and brand as inauthentic.

7. Repurpose your content

One of the best things about Facebook Live is the fact that the video stays on your newsfeed and prospective customers can watch it any time – even if they missed the original broadcast.

While the excitement of watching a live broadcast isn’t as acute after the fact, you can still generate buzz by promoting and showcasing your live video recording to those who missed it. Your B2B customers and prospects still get valuable content, and you can use the recording to start promoting your next Facebook Live video.

Facebook Live is a powerful, engaging, cost-effective way for B2B businesses to attract leads, demo products, build trust and engage prospective buyers.

Live video generates buzz and excitement in a way other types of content simply can’t. By tapping into the innate power of Facebook Live, you can create powerful publicity for your brand, connect with interested buyers, position yourself as an innovator in your industry, and generate revenue faster than ever before.

References

  1. http://www.fastcompany.com/3028656/work-smart/the-proven-ideal-length-of-every-tweet-facebook-post-and-headline-online

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): 5 Things Small Business Owners Should Know

Originally published on B2B.DnB.com

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive trade agreement that impacts over 40% of the world’s economy. It aims to boost trade between a dozen nations around the world, all of whom are committed to economic growth through free, open trade.

According to the Small Business Administration, TPP “unlocks opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses…by addressing trade barriers that are particularly difficult for small businesses to navigate.”

No matter what your business’s size or which industry you’re in, this agreement could have huge ramifications for your growth in the coming years.

TPP At A Glance

  • TPP is a trade agreement between 12 different countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Brunei.
  • The deal was signed into agreement in 2015 and 2016, and is currently being ratified in each of the individual countries. The ratification process is expected to take another two years.
  • The purpose of the agreement is to foster free trade or liberal trade between all of the member nations. Some 18,000 different tariffs will be slashed or eliminated altogether, encouraging economic growth between and within each country.

So what does that have to do with your business?

Well, if you’re based in the United States and interested in selling your products or services to customers around the world, or if you sell B2B services to an organization with interests abroad, TPP is poised to make it easier than ever – and more profitable than ever – to do just that.

5 Important Facts About TPP

#1: It’s a pretty big deal

As a small business owner, hearing about an international trade agreement may not peak your interest, at least at first. But in this case, it should.

  • Over 800 million people call a TPP country home.
  • TPP countries will include almost twice as many people as the European Union.
  • TPP trade will generate some 40% of all the world’s trade.

Think of TPP as the Facebook of trade agreements – member nations come together to form a huge source of prospective customers and new markets for your business, as well as potential talent pools for new employees. Suddenly, you have access to business opportunities you never could have afforded to pursue in the past.

#2: Not all industries are impacted equally

While the goal of TPP is to benefit each of its member nations, not all industries within those nations are impacted by the agreement in the same way.

  • The auto industry will see a huge boost when big manufacturing countries like Japan can export cars to the U.S. more cheaply. At the same time, the U.S. will be able to export their cars to countries like Vietnam, which currently enforces tariffs of up to 70% on foreign imports.
  • Tech giants and startups will get a break thanks to some of the treaty’s provisions. Until now, companies like Google have faced heavy restrictions in markets outside the United States. These restrictions often involved setting up physical locations and real estate in the country they wanted to do business in. This agreement lifts that restriction, freeing the companies to operate 100% digitally and expand into the virtual markets of the other 12 countries.
  • S. food manufacturers and farmers should see up to 98% of all tariffs eliminated on food exports like rice, beef, soybeans, and seafood. Farmers will now be able to export their goods to countries like Canada and Japan, which have had high tariffs on meat.

As you can see, the number of tariffs eliminated is industry-dependent.

So what if you’re not in agriculture, automobiles, or tech? TPP may still benefit your small business by making it easier to break into international markets, partner with international vendors, and access international customers.

#3: TPP may increase labor competition

TPP may encourage the outsourcing of jobs to other TPP countries, the hiring of foreign workers, and the building of facilities on foreign soil.

This prospect may be alarming for employees who fear their jobs being outsourced, but labor competition is a win for any business owner. With the strong economic relationships developed through TPP, business owners from member countries may enjoy access to a growing talent pool that must compete for the best jobs and wages.

As a business owner, you’ll have more options than ever when choosing where to open your next location, where to scout and hire talent, where to build your next factory, or how to staff your marketing team.

#4: TPP is committed to digital commerce

Google, Uber, and other tech giants aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from TPP. Small business owners, entrepreneurs, and anyone who does business online stands to gain from this agreement.

Under TPP, infoproducts such as eBooks, music downloads, software, and videos can now be sold to member countries without tariffs.  You no longer have to worry about complicated foreign tax laws or tariffs that change depending on your customer’s country. Instead, you can sell directly to the customer in the form of a digital download, without having to own real estate in their home country.

#5: TPP promises faster customs processes

Have you ever ordered a product from another country and had it shipped to your home country? If so, you know just how long it can take. The reason for the delay is often customs, where the product you ordered undergoes scrutiny and checks by border officials.

TPP streamlines the customs process, making it faster and more efficient to ship goods between member nations.

As a small business owner who sells products to other countries, this could have a huge impact on your bottom line. Customers will be able to get their products much more quickly than before, which will significantly improve the buyer experience, build brand loyalty, and boost your bottom line.

Conclusion

In the very near future, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will open a new era of trade between some of the most prosperous and emerging nations in the world. As a small business owner, you stand to benefit from this agreement by taking advantage of lowered taxes on exported goods and services to these countries.

If you currently do business abroad, the implementation of TPP should save you money. If you’ve been thinking of doing business abroad, now is the time to get started. By focusing your operational and marketing strategies on member nations of TPP, you’ll position your business to take advantage of the many lucrative opportunities this agreement has to offer.

Interested in taking advantage of lowered tariffs for your industry? Find out more about TPP here: https://www.dandb.com/supplier/small-business-may-be-getting-a-trade-boost/
 

References

  1. https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/TPP-Benefits-for-US-Small-Business-Fact-Sheet.pdf
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715
  3. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715
  4. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715
  5. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34451423
  6. https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/TPP-Benefits-for-US-Small-Business-Fact-Sheet.pdf

 

How Going Green Can Win You Contracts, Clients, and Working Capital

Originally published on B2B.DnB.com

What if you could reduce your carbon footprint, make a positive impact in the world, and snag the attention of venture capitalists while you’re at it?

No, it’s not a dream come true. It’s one of the latest trends in supply chain economics.

IFC and Puma are leading the way with a groundbreaking partnership that gives their suppliers access to affordable working capital – and all for going green.

In this new program, the fees suppliers pay to borrow money depend on how they rank in areas like environmental impact, health and safety, and social standards.  The more sustainable they are, the lower the cost of the credit.

As a diverse supplier, you have an emerging opportunity to ‘greenify’ your products and services – and not only because it’s good for the planet. Going green has economic and business-building rewards as well.

Here’s how going green can improve your business’s reputation, win you new contracts, save you money on operating costs, and get you access to working capital.

Save money on-site

One of the most immediate benefits of going green is saving money. Hard costs like electricity, air conditioning, and lighting can cut into your small business budget and force you to spend precious dollars on the cost of building maintenance.

But when you work to improve the sustainability of your workspace, office, or building, you’ll be able to save hundreds, even thousands on operating costs and utilities throughout the year and long-term.

And since everyone loves saving money and saving the planet, your commitment to go green will only improve your reputation in the eyes of clients, customers, and competitors.

So, what kind of sustainable upgrades will save you the most?

Common green building upgrades include…

  • LED lighting
  • Low-flow and automatic sink faucets
  • Green hand dryers in restrooms
  • Paperless offices
  • Energy saving heating and cooling systems

Wait a second – aren’t energy-efficient upgrades expensive?

While the upfront cost can appear pricey at first glance, the money you’ll save over time promises an astonishing ROI – often within months of making the upgrades.

  • Ace Armature Motorshop, a motor service small business in Stockton, California, saw a 50% reduction in their energy bill after installing energy efficient lighting.
  • Four Points Sheraton saved some $22,000 in energy costs after installing efficient lighting and laundry in their hotels.

When you make energy efficient upgrades, you’ll be able to put the money you save back into your business. With it, you can streamline operations, expand into new markets, develop new products, and increase your overall marketing spend to win even more business.

Reduce operational costs

When you change the way you develop products and services, and opt for more sustainable production methods, your changes can have a ripple effect on your business’s bottom line.

Suddenly, you’re not just saving money on your electric bill or cooling costs. You’re seeing a measurable increase in profits thanks to the small commitments you’ve made to go green throughout your supply chains.

Depending on your industry, that might mean switching to a more sustainable vendor, buying more product in bulk, ending a joint venture with a decidedly non-green company, or streamlining production processes for efficiency.

For UPS, it meant adding hydraulic hybrid trucks to its fleet and cutting fuel costs by over 45%.

These types of changes have both an immediate and long-term effect: on your bottom line, on your reputation, and on the planet.

Enhance your reputation with prospective clients

Going green will reduce your carbon footprint at home, but it will also have a positive impact on supply chains and partners in your local, national, and international markets.

Likely you do business with many different vendors from many different places. When you decide to go green, you become a leader for your clients, customers, and partners. As you reduce operational costs and boost profits, more and more people will look to you for insight on how and why to go green. You’ll naturally emerge as a thought leader in your field, which in turn will enhance your reputation with prospective and current clients.

In this way, going green is an incredibly effective business strategy. Doing so improves your reputation, positions you as a thought leader, fosters relationships with other successful business owners, and opens doors to opportunities you may not have known existed.

In other words, if you’re in business to boost profits, realize your goals, and make an impact, green is definitely your color.

Get access to financial opportunities

Imagine what you could do with an extra $1 million for your small business? Do you know exactly how you’d spend it? I bet you do.

While there’s no shortage of funding available, the competition is fierce, especially for diverse suppliers. Going green gives you another opportunity to bypass the competition and get the capital you need to grow your business, your way.

Beside IFC and Puma, there are countless corporations and venture capitalists looking to invest in small, diverse, green businesses. Some of these businesses are obviously green, such as Sungevity, an Oakland-based solar energy company that won $72.5 million in venture capital in 2014.

But you don’t have to be in a green business to win brownie points for going green. Just look at Impossible Foods. This food manufacturer based in Redwood City creates meat and cheese products out of plant-based materials. In 2014, their ingenuity and sustainable supply chains earned them $75 million in venture capital from Google and others.

Next Steps

Going green is not just something huge corporations do to save money or give themselves a PR boost. As sustainability becomes more and more the rule than the exception, savvy diverse suppliers are doing whatever they can to jump on the green bandwagon before their competition.

If you don’t have the resources to install LED lighting at your office, or work with more sustainable vendors, don’t worry – there are still small, easy, affordable ways to greenify your business and attract the attention of clients and investors.

Instead of…You can…

Instead of Installing LED lighting throughout your office, you can purchase individual LED bulbs for lamps.

Instead of purchasing a new heating/cooling system, you can turn on AC or heat only when absolutely necessary.

Instead of firing all your vendors and hiring new green vendors, you can replace your most expensive vendor with a money-saving green vendor

Small changes can have a huge impact on your bottom line and your carbon footprint. As you begin to make changes, follow organizations like Puma and IFC who are championing small diverse businesses that go green. When the time it right, you’ll be poised to make the connections and get the capital you need – and all for doing your part in saving the planet.

Want to learn more about securing venture capital from organizations like IFC and Puma? Read about their new program here: http://www.supplychaindigital.com/procurement/4270/Puma-and-IFC-reward-suppliers-in-emerging-markets-for-environmental-and-social-performance
 

References

  1. http://energywise.co/energy-efficiency-costs-less/
  2. http://www.pge.com/en/b2b/purchasing/supplychainresponsibility/gogreen/index.page
  3. http://www.pge.com/en/b2b/purchasing/supplychainresponsibility/gogreen/index.page
  4. http://www.inc.com/jeremy-quittner/venture-capital-flows-to-sustainability-companies-and-earth-day.html
  5. http://www.inc.com/jeremy-quittner/venture-capital-flows-to-sustainability-companies-and-earth-day.html

How to Start Outsourcing Small Business Tasks in 5 Easy Steps

Originally published on B2B.DnB.com

In the small business world, outsourcing is the process of hiring contractors to manage areas of your business you would otherwise do yourself.

While the mainstream media tends to draw associations between outsourcing and job loss, outsourcing is actually one of the smartest business moves you can make as a small business owner. This is especially true if you regularly find yourself working longer hours than you’d like. You likely end up wearing too many hats throughout the day, and often waste your time on tasks that could easily be managed by someone else.

For many entrepreneurs, outsourcing marks a key shift in small business growth. It is a stretch to attempt to manage every aspect of your business on your own. Assigning tasks to qualified freelancers and contractors can become an essential aspect to operating your business.

Is Outsourcing Risky?

If you’re used to having your hands in every area of your business – from operations and marketing to accounting and payroll – outsourcing can feel a bit risky.

How do you know the work will get done correctly? What if the person you hire makes a mistake?

Is it not easier and cheaper to keep doing everything yourself? The answer, in short, is ‘absolutely not.’

In this article, you will learn why paying freelance contractors to do essential small business tasks is almost always more cost-effective than doing things yourself.

I’ll also reveal a simple 5-step process to get started with outsourcing, including how to find qualified freelancers you can trust to help your small business thrive.

4 Big Benefits of Outsourcing

The benefits of outsourcing can be substantial. Here are the top four ways outsourcing can be used to streamline small business operations and speed overall growth:

#1: More time to run your business

Whether you are B2B, B2C, a startup or a one-person show, there’s a reason you began this entrepreneurial journey. The reason: you have a passion and talent for what you do.

That might mean a passion for great wine or a talent for web design. It could be speaking, coaching, or writing books. Whatever it is, that passion forms the core of your business, and is likely how you prefer to spend your time – helping customers, working with clients, and sharing your unique value with the world.

But you can’t run a business on passion alone. You also need to prepare invoices, balance the books, create marketing campaigns, and complete all sorts of mundane tasks that seem to have little to do with your passion.

When you outsource these tasks, it frees up your time to focus on what you do best. When you’re able to pour more of your energy into the areas of your business you’re passionate about, instead of spending your time scanning receipts and doing data entry, your entire business will flourish.

How outsourcing can help make you money

Consider how much money you make per hour when you’re doing what you love. If you run a coaching business and you charge $250/hour, every hour you spend not coaching incurs a loss of $250. That means spending an hour doing your QuickBooks or fixing your website just cost you $250!

Now let’s say you decide to outsource those tasks to a qualified freelancer at $50/hour. Your time is then freed to take on a client for $250. After paying your freelancer, your profit is now $200.

So which would you rather do – miss out on $250 or make $200? With outsourcing, the choice is yours!

#2: Increased quality through expertise  

When you don’t outsource, you’re responsible for the success of every area of your business. I’m good at a lot of things, but I’m certainly not an expert at everything. I bet you’re the same as me.

Maybe you’re a whiz at accounting but really struggle with design. Maybe traditional marketing comes naturally to you, but you have no clue how to approach social media.

Whatever your weak spot, outsourcing to an expert ensures professional, high quality results across all areas of your operations. In other words, if you’re not a web designer but you design your site yourself just to save money, all you end up with is a subpar website.

Skimping to save money does your business a disservice because the quality of the work does not reflect the value you provide your customers.

How outsourcing can save you money

Outsourcing to experts in specialized areas like web design, marketing, SEO, and development can save you money as well.

Let’s use the same web design example from above. If you’re not a designer, it may take you hours to make one simple change to your website – a change that an expert designer could have completed in a few minutes!

Remember what your time is worth. Would you rather lose $500 spending two hours on a website tweak, or pay a professional designer $100 to do it for you? Spend your precious time doing what you do best, and leave the rest to the pros.

#3: Passive income

Outsourcing allows your business to keep booming, even when you’re miles from the office.

Without outsourcing, your business growth is limited by the number of hours in the day, and how much you personally can get done.

With outsourcing, your business continues to move forward in the hands of your capable freelancers. For instance, you could be relaxing at a barbeque while your Virtual Assistant is busy answering customer emails and fielding calls. Outsourcing helps your business generate revenue even when you step away, which is a sure sign of success.

#4: Projected success

Speaking of success, outsourcing is a great way to position your small business as an established entity – no matter how small you may be right now.

When you employ a team of professional freelancers, you’ve suddenly gone from one-person show to a bonafide organization. While they may be located remotely, you now have a team that will make your business appear even more established, trustworthy, and knowledgeable.

How to Get Started with Outsourcing in 5 Simple Steps

  1. Identify your goals

When you make the decision to start outsourcing, determine which aspects of your business needs the most support. What, specifically, would you like a freelance contractor to do? Common outsourced tasks include:

  • Web design and development
  • Social media management
  • Customer service
  • Data entry
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Virtual Assistant (VA) services

Look for parts of your business that don’t necessarily need your personal touch, as well as areas where you lack expertise.

Be sure to specifically articulate what you want done by writing it down. Instead of “I need help with accounting,” write “I need someone to create and send invoices, email clients who have not paid me, and track employee hours in my accounting program.”

  1. Find the right freelancers

Websites like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com are great places to connect with skilled freelancers and niche experts. Once you know which tasks you need to outsource, you can search for freelancers with matching skills and connect with them online.

  1. Create a detailed job posting

After determining which tasks you’d like to outsource and finding a handful of qualified candidates, create a detailed job description and post it on the freelance website that looks most promising.

Be specific about the work you need done, your expectations for the freelancer, the project timeline, and your budget. If applicable, ask for work samples and recommendations.

  1. Hire multiple candidates

After reviewing submissions from various contractors, hire your top three choices to complete a sample task or project. Be sure to pay freelancers fairly for their time. This sample project will demonstrate the quality of their work. It will also give you insight into the contractor’s workflow. Observe their communication style, responsiveness, and professionalism.

At the end of the sample project, determine which freelancer best met your needs. If you weren’t thrilled with any of your choices, go back to step 3 and tweak your job description to better reflect your expectations.

If you found a great freelancer, consider hiring them for a minor project first. If that also goes well, you may want to hire them for ongoing work.

  1. Repeat the process

Repeat this process for every area of your business that can be outsourced.

As we can see, outsourcing is a powerful, cost-effective way to streamline operations, increase profits, and spend more time on the areas of your business you’re most passionate about.

When you’re able to focus on your passion, that positive energy infiltrates every area of your business. It’s this kind of passion and energy that positively impact your reputation and speed your business growth.

7 Secrets of Online Event Marketing Success

Originally published at Hoovers.com

Online events are fantastic for building brand awareness and driving small business sales. Unlike traditional events, which require a physical location and incur a variety of different hard costs, online events are low-cost and low-maintenance with the potential for very high returns.

Just like a live event, virtual events require a strong marketing plan to ensure their success. The right preparation is key to making sure your online event is not only well attended, but attended by the right people – the ones most likely to purchase your products and services and become loyal fans of your brand.

Whether your online event is one-time or ongoing, a webinar or a course, a large virtual summit or a VIP mastermind group, these 7 secrets of marketing success will help you get more sign-ups, attract more attendees, and transform those attendees into paying customers.

  1. Choose a Proven Topic

No matter what format your online event takes, the topic and format of the event should be based on research. The best online events have components of education and entertainment. They provide an enthralling experience for attendees while sharing valuable information that make their lives better.

While it may be tempting to brainstorm highly creative, innovative topics for your online event, it is far more effective to design your event around the problems, questions, and interests of your prospective customers.

Find out what your prospects are struggling with, or what they’re most passionate about. Then, choose event topics, speakers, classes, and offerings based on what you have discovered.

How can you determine which topics will succeed with your target market?

You can…

  • Create a survey and send it to your email list
  • Research comments and threads on forums and social platforms
  • Look at past events held by your competitors, and poll attendees about what they liked and didn’t like

When you plan an online event around a topic your audience is sure to be interested in, half the marketing battle is already won.

  1. Conduct social outreach

Even if you have a robust email list and social following, one of the biggest benefits of holding an online event is exposing new prospects to your brand.

In addition to marketing your event to existing and past customers, leave yourself enough time to connect with new leads that may be interested in attending your event.

  • Track trending topics and keywords on social media that are relevant to your event. When the opportunity presents itself naturally, engage with prospects and share your event as a solution to their problem or answer to their question.
  • Follow and friend prospects that fit the target market description for your event. Engage them by sharing their content, liking their pages, and commenting where appropriate. Work to build an authentic relationship first and then direct them to your event sign-up page when the time is right.
  • Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups whose members may be interested in your event. Become an active member of the group and provide valuable insights and help to other members without asking for anything in return. When the moment feels right, share your online event with members who may be interested.

You can also conduct a paid PPC campaign to promote your event via social media. However, given the organic nature of social interactions, your best bet is to develop authentic relationships with individuals first, then supplement with a paid campaign second.

  1. Design a great landing page

For online event marketing, your landing page is everything. It is the catalyst that excites prospective attendees and inspires them to sign up for your event.

In Step 1 and 2 above, you laid the foundation to drive targeted traffic to your event landing page. Now that you have a proven topic for your event and targeted traffic coming from social media and your email list, it’s time to create a landing page that converts.

  • Choose a strong, benefit-rich headline that immediately captures the attendee’s interest.
  • Make use of video, graphics, and multimedia. Consider split-testing different layouts to see which page design works better.
  • Focus on the benefits of your event. What will participants get out of attending? How will your event make their lives better? What problems are you solving?
  • If applicable, include the photos and testimonials of past event attendees. If your event features industry experts or thought leaders, be sure to include their photos and bios as well for an extra boost of social proof.
  • Make sure the only place people can click is to the registration page. Don’t include any external links that could distract them from your goal.

Your landing page can make or break your online event. Make sure it’s benefits-focused, light on text and heavy on social proof. Make it as easy as possible to sign up for your event, and constantly remind the attendee what they’ll get for attending.

  1. Create an email autoresponder campaign

Now that you’ve secured plenty of sign-ups with a great event landing page, you’re marketing is as good as done, right?

Sorry! Step 4 is actually where the real work begins. Getting sign-ups is great, but what you really want is for everyone who signed up to actually attend your online event.

According to Shibani Roy, a senior digital marketing executive at LeadSquared, the average registration-to-conversion rate for webinars is as low as 30%. [1] Hubspot estimates even lower average attendance at just 25%.[2] That means if you get 125 people to register for your online event, only about 30 are likely to show up.

The best way to increase your chances of higher attendance is by making use of email autoresponders. These ‘set it and forget it’ campaigns allow you to automatically remind registrants about your upcoming event through strategically timed emails.

Autoresponders are not only great ways to remind registrants about your event in the weeks, days, and hours before it happens; they are also fantastic for promoting the benefits of your event, providing further testimonials and social proof, and introducing registrants to other aspects of your brand.

  1. Leverage brand ambassadors and industry experts

The next proven way to market your online event is by leveraging relationships with brand ambassadors and industry experts.

Work with your current customers and colleagues to promote your event to their networks and exponentially expand your marketing reach.

  • If you have a loyal customer who’s also well connected, ask them to share your event with their friends and followers.
  • Offer affiliate incentives or discounts to current customers who can secure sign ups to your event.
  • Reach out to industry experts and thought leaders in your field, and ask them to take part in the event. Find ways your event will benefit their audience, and offer an incentive for sharing your event with their email list and social networks.

Leveraging personal connections is the best way to market your online event, but don’t worry – they don’t have to be your personal connections! Reach out to colleagues and even competitors and present your event as a mutually beneficial opportunity to provide value to your respective audiences.

  1. Time it just right

When it comes to online event marketing, timing is everything. Give yourself plenty of time to engage attendees and partner with influencers long before your event is scheduled.

As the event draws near, make sure to time your email campaign for maximum impact. The closer you get to the day and hour of the event, the more reminders you’ll need to schedule.

Here’s a sample email campaign schedule for the week leading up to an online webinar:

  • 7 days before the event – benefit-rich reminder email
  • 5 days before the event – email with video testimonials from past attendees
  • 3 days before the event – reminder email with social share request
  • 2 days before the event – reminder email with incentive to share with friends
  • 1 day before the event – TWO emails with last-chance incentives and reminder of benefits
  • Day of event – email link with online event access
  • 30 minutes before event – resend link with time-sensitive reminder
  • Event start – “We’re live, join us!” email reminder
  • 10 minutes post start – “We’re live, where are you?” autoresponder sent to registrants who have not joined the event

Depending on the type of online event you’re holding and the nature of your attendees, you may need to send more or less reminder emails in the days and hours leading up to your event.

Regardless of your event type and audience, the marketing experts at Hubspot recommend sending a minimum of two email reminders in the 24-hour period before your event happens. [3]

  1. Follow up

After choosing a killer event topic, conducting social outreach, designing a great landing page, creating an email autoresponder campaign, leveraging relationships with industry experts, and timing your reminders perfectly, you’re sure to hold a successful online event.

After the event, you have an opportunity to entice attendees with special offers and to purchase your products and services.

While you’ll likely make a special offer during your online event, not everyone will make a purchase. While interest is still high in the days and weeks following the event, be sure to follow up with another email autoresponder.

Use this campaign to…

  • Reiterate the value provided during the event
  • Give access to slides, videos, or recordings from the event
  • Offer complementary products and services attendees will likely be interested in

Conclusion

Online events are a great way to boost profits short-term, but they’re also wonderful tools for cultivating long-term lasting relationships with new and existing customers. If you take the time to prepare and research before the event, and follow up strategically after the event, regular online events will prove to be some of the most indispensable tools in your marketing toolkit.
 

References

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-registration-to-attendance-rate-for-webinars

[2] http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33540/18-Ways-to-Guarantee-Nobody-Misses-Your-Next-Webinar.aspx#sm.0000kr8c1jg01ezty001ss0qb064v

[3] http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33540/18-Ways-to-Guarantee-Nobody-Misses-Your-Next-Webinar.aspx#sm.0000kr8c1jg01ezty001ss0qb064v

5 Digital Marketing Trends That Work Wonders for Small Business

Smart Simple Marketing - Small Business TrendsIt’s tough to keep up with digital marketing trends, isn’t it?

Every day there seems to be a new “must-have” app, new software programs, and new ideas about how to use digital tools to drive profits and win customers.

A lot of these trends come and go, while others become staples of any solid small business marketing strategy.

So how do you know what to pay attention to, and what to ignore? And how can you tell the difference between fly-by-night trends and new techniques that will really give your business a major boost over time?
[Read more…]