VerticalResponse Marketing Blog

Subscribe to VerticalResponse Marketing Blog feed
Updated: 3 hours 40 min ago

8 Dos and Don’ts of Networking Follow up

10 hours 23 min ago

There are networking opportunities everywhere and whether it’s at a trade show, conference, meetup, or even chatting with someone on your commute you need to make the most of every opportunity because you never know who you might meet!  Here are eight actionable dos and don’ts for following up with someone in a professional way after you’ve connected:

DO: Send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn in a timely manor by including a personal note on where you met him or her and something you may have discussed.  For example, “It was great meeting you at the ABC Event. I’d like to keep in touch about the possible partnership we were chatting about.”

DON’T: Send a LinkedIn invite to every business card you collect. You should have a one-on-one meaningful conversation with someone before sending them an invitation to connect.

DO: Follow up via email to business cards you collected and personalize the messages. Ensure you let people know ahead of time you’ll be sending an email and have their permission, otherwise your email may be viewed in a negative light. 

DON’T: Buy a list of event attendees and email them all. This would be a violation of the CAN-SPAM act. Also, it’s not the best way to start a professional relationship.

DO: Try to follow up in a timely fashion, usually within a few days to a week of the event. It will help keep you top of mind of your potential clients or business partners. 

DON’T: Wait too long to follow up with a contact. Time flies after events and it’s easy to forget all of the people that you might have met. 

DO: When you reach out to someone go the extra mile about how your businesses or connection can be mutually beneficial. Take the time to research and understand what his or her company does, if you don’t know already.

DON’T: Go on and on about your company without understanding if it’s a good fit for the company that you’re reaching out to.

DO: Set a limit to the amount of communication. Do some testing to see the optimal amount of touches that it takes to connect with someone. Refine your cadence and amount of outreach accordingly. 

DON’T: Call or email again and again if there is no response. No one likes to be harassed or stalked.

DO: Extend an offer for a free demo or ways to learn about your product or service.

DON’T: Forget to include a link to your website.

DO: Include your LinkedIn profile link (personal or business) within your email signature to make it easy for people to connect with you.

DON’T: Have an unprofessional picture in your email signature or as your LinkedIn profile picture. 

DO: “Like” a business you’re interested in on Facebook and follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. When you do, the business or owner may follow you back.

DON’T: Try to friend someone’s personal page on Facebook or connect in other more personal ways. Sometimes it can be perceived as creepy.

These eight networking follow up dos and don’ts should keep you on the right path to growing your network and making successful new connections like a pro.  

What are your dos and don’ts of networking? Share in the comments.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 8 Dos and Don’ts of Networking Follow up appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

14 Sweet Valentine’s Day Email Subject Lines + 3 Ways to Spice Up Your Emails

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 06:00

Holidays are always great time to jumpstart your email marketing efforts. There are special occasions throughout the year when you can show customers that you value them while promoting your product or service at the same time. What better time than Valentine’s Day? 

According to the National Retail Federation, the average person plans to spend $133.91 on the holiday. That’s up slightly from $130.97 last year.

To capture some of that spending, we’ve put together a list of tips to keep in mind when sending out your Valentine’s Day emails and as an added bonus we have fourteen Valentine’s Day subject line examples.

1. Participate (or protest), even if you don’t sell typical Valentine’s Day items

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for candy, card, jewelry, and/or flower shops. Many people want to give or receive gifts that aren’t cliché. Or, they want to protest the entire day! That’s where you come in. Do the work for your customers and figure out which products or services make good gifts. For those who want nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, amuse them by providing an anti-Valentine’s Day gift, service, sale or entertaining content. Email a gift guide, a to-do list, throw an event, or create a board on Pinterest with ideas like the Dating Divas did to inspire your customers on this love-filled holiday.

For some examples of off-kilter Valentine’s Day offers in action, check out the following examples:

This email from WD, a technology company, promoted a hard drive as a gift.

The Dailey Method, a barre fitness studio, created a list of events leading up to Valentine’s Day including a “Give Love Day,” in which they donated $1 for each student who attended a class to the George Mark House. On Valentine’s Day, each student was allowed to bring someone they love to class for free.

7×7, a local San Francisco guide and website sent an email newsletter with a variety of Valentine’s Day content. They wrote an anti-Valentine’s Day to-do list, a list of “three sexy itineraries” for a memorable date on Valentine’s Day, and a wine list when your romance is more complex than sweet.

2. Show the love with free goods

Valentine’s Day is an ideal time to give out free stuff. It’s a holiday about giving, and who better to give to than your customers? The gift can be something simple, you don’t have to break the bank over it.

For example, Audible provided its customers with a free book download.

Try giving away gift cards with small amounts of cash on them, or one of your small signature products. If you own a restaurant, you could offer diners two free beverages, etc.

3. Entice with a captivating subject line

When it comes to email marketing, you have to include a subject line that will stand out. Otherwise, it’s going to get lost in the sea of emails that your customers receive every day. Your subject line should contain “something that alleviates a pain point [like] a discount, free shipping offer or an emphasis on getting the gift in time if you waited until the last minute,” says Kristen Hicks, an Austin-based copywriter who creates content for businesses.

Specifically, solid subject lines should include:

  • A few words. You want to keep your subject lines short so that readers can tell what information you’re trying to get across.
  • An urgent message. Use urgent language like “Time is running out” or “Act Now.”
  • Consider an incentive. Include an incentive like “Save 10%,” in your subject line. 

Need some Valentine’s Day ideas for your own emails? The following are 14 subject lines that can inspire you:

1. Our Valentine to You: Take $5 Off an Upcoming Event!
2. Clogged Pipes Aren’t Romantic. Take $50 off Rotor Rooter Services
3. Join Us for 7 Days of Love in February
4. Your Soundtrack for Valentine’s Day
5. 50 Sexy Books to Get You in the Mood (for Valentine’s Day)
6. ♥ Happy Valentine’s Day ♥ Just for you…
7. Got a Coffee Crush? Your 20% Offer is Waiting
8. A Unique Valentine’s Day Gift She Won’t Expect
9. Your Anti-Valentine’s Day Agenda
10. Hassle-free Romance
11. A perfect meal for your sweetheart
12. Score points with your Valentine!
13. 6 Ways to Make This Valentine’s Day One to Remember
14. Valentine’s Day on a Budget: Homemade Ideas

Need a few more? We’ve got 14 more examples for you. 

Send the love via email for free with VerticalResponse.

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred, CMO.com, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 14 Sweet Valentine’s Day Email Subject Lines + 3 Ways to Spice Up Your Emails appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Show Me the Money: 5 Small Business Grants to Consider

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 06:00

Marty Metro, owner of UsedCardboardBoxes.com and a VerticalResponse email marketing customer since 2006, will never forget the day he found out that his company won a $250,000 small business grant from Chase Bank.

“The grant absolutely helped us achieve the next step in our dream,” said Marty. “We’ve been able to hire more staff, purchase more inventory, get specialized machinery. It allowed us to take huge steps forward much much faster.” (Read how UsedCardboardBoxes.com uses email marketing to promote their products, and watch the video profile produced by Chase.)

As a small business owner, you probably didn’t start your own company based purely on financial reasons. Money certainly isn’t everything – but it does help.

In the last couple of years, big companies have come out with contests and programs that offer financial support and other resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Nearly any small business can apply; submission requirements vary, but typically ask you to explain your business and what you plan to do with the grant money.

Here are a few contests worth checking out:

1. American Small Business Championship

The American Small Business Championship is organized by small business association SCORE and warehouse giant Sam’s Club. More than 100 U.S.-based small businesses (two from each state, including the District of Columbia) will win a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expenses-paid trip to a regional business symposium, and a year of free mentoring from SCORE. Deadline: February 6, 2015. Submission requirements: Written entry or video. 

2. FedEx Think Bigger

The grand prize winner of the FedEx Think Bigger contest will get a hefty $25,000 small business grant. One second-place winner will get $10,000 and eight third-place winners will get $5,000 each. Previous winners include a farm that produces goat’s milk caramel sauces and a maker of custom-designed Moroccan accessories. Deadline: February 12, 2015. Submission requirements: Written entry, photos and optional video.

3. Tap the Future

Beer brand Miller is getting into the small business movement with its second Tap the Future business competition. Entrants participate in live, local events to claim part of the $300,000 prize pool, and can also win access to mentors like Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank,” also a contest judge. Deadline: Contest opens in February 2015; check mltapthefuture.com for updates.

4. Mission Main Street Grants

One the biggest ongoing grant programs, Mission Main Street Grants by Chase is awarding $3 million in the form of 20 small business grants at $150,000 each. (UsedCardboardBoxes.com entered – and won – in 2012.) Deadline: The current contest is closed and winners will be announced this month; check missionmainstreetgrants.com for updates.

5. Love Our Local Business

Supported by Intuit, Love Our Local Business is making “wishes” come true for 15 small businesses. Participants submit a business “wish” (what they want to do with $5,000) and Intuit will make it happen for the winners. Deadline: The current contest is closed, but you can sign up to get notified of their next program at loveourlocalbusiness.com.

Did we miss a small business grant contest? Share it below!

To help small businesses grow, VerticalResponse has a free email plan allowing you to send up to 4,000 emails free each month. Get the details here

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Show Me the Money: 5 Small Business Grants to Consider appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

7 Tools to Get Free Publicity for Your Business

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 06:00

As a business owner, you want to publicize your business without breaking the bank. In fact, few small business owners have much of an advertising budget, or a public relations manager. That’s okay. There are plenty of ways to attract customers online, if you know where to look. 

Of course, who has time to sift through websites looking for publicity options? Certainly not a small business owner with 101 items on his or her to-do list. To help, we’ve put together a list of seven free online tools that you can use to publicize your business.

1. Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

This free online tool is a great place to connect with reporters looking for sources. When a reporter needs a source for a particular article, he or she puts out a query asking for people with certain knowledge or experience to respond. If a reporter likes your response, you could land an interview for a story. Usually that means you’ll be quoted in the story with a link back to your website.

Collin Jarman, a digital analyst for marketing agency, COCG, uses the site and says it’s his go-to spot for free publicity.

“It’s a great tool that allows experts to share their knowledge with those it might help,” he says.

2. EzineArticles

With EzineArticles you can write a high quality blog post and share it on EzineArticles.com. Email newsletter publishers scroll through these articles looking for fresh content to mail out and could include your article in their next newsletter. These publishers often have large email lists, so if your article is selected your content could be seen by a sizable audience.

You can also include a resource box at the end of your article with links back to your website. The site does set quality expectations, so plan to turn in your best stuff.

3. Online directories

Gone are the days of searching for a business in the phone book. Now, people turn to search engines for answers. You want to make sure that your business is “findable” online. To help people find your business, make sure it’s listed in several online directories. These directories house pertinent information like your location and phone number. Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle and SuperPages.com are great places to start.

For a full list of online directories, check out “The Top 20 Places Your Business Needs to be Listed Online.”

4. Google My Business

If you haven’t checked out Google My Business, it’s worth your time. It’s similar to an online directory, but it has more bells and whistles. Through this tool, you set up a business profile page. You put in your vital business information like location, store hours, contact information and photos. When someone Google’s your business, they’ll see something like this:  

It’s a nice digital ad for your business. Plus, Google My Business works with Google+ so you can integrate your social media page with it. Customers can also leave and read reviews. Like we said, lots of bells and whistles. Overall, a handy tool.

5. Local calendar of events

Have an event coming up that could use some publicity? Visit the websites of your local TV stations and newspapers. A lot of news organizations have a free community calendar. You can submit the details through an online form like this and your event is added to a regional calendar.

6. Contact Any Celebrity

Getting a celebrity endorsement for your product would be a huge coup. Believe it or not, there’s actually a website out there that can help you contact celebrities. There’s a free seven-day trial for Contact Any Celebrity. You get access to a database of 60,000 celebrities. Typically, the contact information is to a celebrity’s agent or publicist, but it’s still valuable information.

Some celebrities participate in a “gift program” too. You send a celebrity your product as a free gift, and in return you could get a review that you can use to market your product.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll hear back from the A-list star, but you do have access to a long Rolodex. After the seven-day trial period, there is a monthly membership charge, so use the free trial to your advantage.

7. Your company blog

One of the best strategies to gain free publicity is to invest time in a company blog. By writing articles that your customers can learn from, you’ll start to gain traction with customers and other industry leaders.

It’s more of a long term publicity strategy, but one that will pay off as you grow your audience, Jarman says.

“Figure out what kind of questions you can answer for your customers and turn those questions into blog topics,” he suggests. “The more help you can offer people, the more trust you’ll build.”

You can share your content via email and social media.

Bonus publicity tool: PRWeb

There’s one other publicity tool that’s worth a look: PRWeb. We’ve listed it as a bonus tool because it’s not free.

PRWeb is a press release distribution channel. When something new and exciting happens at your business, write a press release and share it on PRWeb. This site hosts your press release, and distributes it to news outlets and search engines.

When your business rolls out a new product, wins an award, partners with a big name client or gives back to the community, you can create a press release on the site and track its progress. Analytics tell you how many people saw it, how many links were clicked and how often it was shared on social media.

You pay for each press release that you want distributed. Plans start at $99/press release.

Do you know of another publicity tool you like use? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 7 Tools to Get Free Publicity for Your Business appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Your Guide to Email Design

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 06:00

When it comes to email design, a lot of questions come up. How many colors should you use? What fonts or image formats are best? Should images be included in every email? There’s a lot to consider. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide with tips to create effective and well-designed emails.

In this guide, we cover the dos and don’ts of email design for commonly sent emails including email newsletters, sales emails, welcome emails and event/invitation emails. And, at the end of the guide, you’ll find a toolkit with time-saving resources.

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters are a great way to engage with your audience. That’s probably why 74% of VerticalResponse customers send newsletters.

Email newsletter design should adjust to include more text than a typical email, so layout is vital. As you create your newsletter, keep these tips in mind:

Don’t:

  • Write one long body of text.
  • Use one big image or PDF for your entire newsletter.
  • Use fonts that are hard to read (anything with symbols or heavy script letters).
  • Crowd the design or text by adding too much.
  • Use harsh or bold colors.
  • Give away the farm. The purpose of your newsletter is to aim for a click that leads back to your website or blog with more info.

Do:

  • Choose a color palette and stick to just one or two colors max. This creates a cleaner look. Use colors that relate to your company identity.
  • Place your logo and business name at the top in a masthead. Separate the masthead and footer with a background color.
  • Use more white space.
  • Use PNG or JPG images.
  • Save your images as 72 ppi or dpi.
  • Use easy-to-read and email-friendly fonts (e.g.,  Arial, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS)
  • Break your content into small sections.
  • Use lines to break up those small sections
  • Prioritize your content, putting the most important information first.
  • Keep things brief. Write a quick summary and include a call to action that takes readers to your site to read more.
  • Use images to break up text.
  • Include a table of contents at the top.
  • Create columns and stack content in an organized fashion.
  • Use no more than two readable fonts.
  • Use headings and subheadings to keep the newsletter organized.
  • Include at least one call to action. (Two or three links is common).
  • Include social media buttons.
  • Use “Isolation Effect” colors for your calls to action
  • A/B split test design changes
  • Add social media buttons
  • Use a responsive template so your newsletter will look great on all devices.
Sale email

Every business hosts a sale or a promotion at some point, and email is a great way to spread the word. Designing this kind of email is a snap. Here are your design dos and don’ts:

Don’t:

  • Write mountains of text.
  • Include a dizzying amount of links or calls to action.
  • Rely on text only.
  • Use one giant image.

Do:

  • Explain the sale or deal in a short sentence or two. Whether it’s 25 percent off, free shipping or a gift with purchase, explain how it works.
  • Include one straightforward call to action.
  • Use an image to convey what the deal is.
  • Include social media buttons to encourage engagement.
  • Use PNG or JPG images.
  • Save your images as 72 ppi or dpi

 

Welcome Email

New contacts may need a little encouragement to go from interested bystander to paying customer or contributing donor. To help with this process, you can send lead-encouraging welcome emails. You’re making a first impression when you send an email like this, so a polished design is a must. Here are a few tips:

Don’t:

  • Assume your contact knows everything about your business or non-profit – Include info about yourself or your business.
  • Overwhelm contacts with too much text, or too many images and calls to action.
  • Send an email that looks dry or stale. That’s not the first impression you want to make.
  • Underestimate the power of images. Show people what you do or sell.

Do:

  • Include your business name and logo.
  • Include a brief description of your business, product or service.
  • Focus on one specific aspect that will convince prospects to act.
  • Include images that represent your business.
  • Include your contact information.
  • Include one call to action.
  • Use a clean layout. You don’t want text and images jumbled together.
  • Use PNG or JPG images.
  • Save your images as 72 ppi or dpi.
Event, Save the Date, or Invitation emails

When your business or non-profit hosts an event, or you’re inviting people to try a new product, or service, email is an effective way to promote awareness and recruit guests. To design an email that boosts your guest list, here are some tips:

Don’t:

  • Use the email to do anything other than invite guests to the event or new product/service. Focus the content on the event or invitation and its purpose.
  • Overdo it on the text. Keep it simple.

Do:

  • Create a short message that generates excitement about the event or invite.
  • Include all of the specifics like date, time and place, or how the service works.
  • Pick a simple color scheme. Again, use one main color and several accent colors. Use colors that match your logo and website.
  • Use a call to action button that allows contacts to sign up for the event, learn more, or get started on your website.
  • Personalize the email so it feels less like a “cold call” and more like an email from a friend.
  • Use PNG or JPG images.
  • Save your images as 72 ppi or dpi.
Design toolkit

There will be overlapping design elements in every email that you send. Items like images and calls to action are needed in nearly every email. To help you incorporate these common elements with ease, we’ve created a quick list of tools:

Images

If you’re in need of images fast, check out stock sites like Thinkstock, iStock or Shutterstock. Search for terms that represent your business to find the right image, suggests Mitch Dowell, founder of branding and design company Branding Experiences. These sites charge by the image, but you’ll have a picture ready to go within minutes.

If you take your own pictures, use editing software to make your shots look professional. PhotoShop Elements and PhoXo are two options. (Check out other photo editing tools in this recent article.)

Recommended formats: save all photos as PNG or JPG, 72 ppi/dpi, and less than 1 MB – These load more quickly, and look crisper in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Call to action

Hyperlink text as a call to action, and use buttons. They stand out and add a professional touch to your email. You can use our handy button maker to generate crisp, professional buttons in a snap.

Not sure what your call to action should say? This article on creating an effective call to action can help you zero in on the right wording.

Color palettes

If you’re not sure which colors go together, use ColourLovers.com to pick the right shades.

Fonts

Here are a few of the most common, web and email-friendly fonts you should consider using:

  • Helvetica
  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia
  • Arial
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet MS

Templates

We have an array of adjustable, responsive templates to use. (A snapshot of a few templates is below.) These templates will help with your layout and design. All you have to do is add content and images.

Final thoughts

As you create emails, remember that the design is just as important as the text you write. Some might even argue that the design is more important because the look and feel of an email can encourage a subscriber to start reading.

So, keep this handy guide nearby when you’re ready to create a new email. In addition to using this guide as a resource, it’s a good idea to scan your own inbox for inspiration. See what others are doing and what formats and designs appeal to you.

If you have another design tip, feel free to share it in the comment section below. Tell us what’s worked for you, or what design elements you want to change in your next email.

Send your next email for free using VerticalResponse.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Your Guide to Email Design appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Ways Your Audience Can Provide Content Ideas

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:00

You’re ready to write an email, social update or blog post and the blank screen taunts you. Where to get started? Ideas are often best started at the source – your audience.

It can be tricky coming up with content ideas. Plus, if you write about something that isn’t of interest to your audience, your content will likely fall flat. So, why not go to the source and ask your audience to provide content ideas?

“If you engage your audience and write about the content they want to see, they are more likely to share it and give you content ideas in the future,” says Shawn Hogendorf, founder of the online publication StillwaterCurrent.com. “Don’t be afraid to ask.”

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Send an email survey to your contacts

Wondering what motivates your audience? Sending an email survey is a quick way to gauge what is important to your audience.

“Engaging your audience is like keeping an ear to the street at all times, and this allows you to take advantage of what people are already talking about,” says Hogendorf.

There are several survey resources available online. Try SurveyMonkey or SurveyPlanet. Depending on your preference, you can use a preexisting survey template or create your own. Keep the survey short, eight to ten questions at most. Your customers won’t finish it if it’s too long. Since you’re only asking a few questions, put some thought into each question. Make sure it provides the answers you need and send it out via email.

Use the responses to generate content ideas and use statistics from your survey in your blog post. Multiple survey results throughout the year can be compiled into a new blog post.

2. Ask fans to share pictures on social media

“Photos are a huge hit. Everyone takes photos, and images are easily shared across any digital medium,” Hogendorf says.

Consider asking your audience to contribute pictures like the Animal Humane Society does. To build on its successful adoption stories, the nonprofit encourages people to share their adoption stories and photos on its Facebook page and Tumblr.

Once several submissions are shared, you can combine them all into a picture-friendly blog post, email, collage or photo album on Facebook, or share them one by one on Instagram. The possibilities are endless.

3. Leverage your online reviews

Does your business get stellar online reviews? Use existing online reviews to create blog posts and spark ideas.

For example, take a look at this testimonial post that customer-service app, Desk, put together. You can do something similar. Take a longer review that a fan left on your Yelp page and turn it into a post. You can always reach out to that fan and ask for more information about his/her experience to build a longer article.

In addition to using reviews directly in a post, you can also use reviews to generate topics. For example, if a customer raves about a new product, a remodeling project or an employee that went the extra mile, write a blog post about that topic and include some of the comments from the customer in the article.

4. Ask questions

Before you publish, send, or post content on social, your blog or in an email, finish it up with a question or call to action for your readers. After all, questions in Facebook posts get 100% more comments than standard text-bases posts. Be sure to use open-ended questions to garner more commentary.

As readers get used to commenting on your stories, you can ask readers to share content ideas. Add this simple line to the end of your blog, “Have a story idea that you would like to see on our blog? Email us at abcbusiness@email.com.”

Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl has a following of 1 million on Instagram. Brathen often asks questions in her posts, like this example in which she reaches out to her fans and asks them to share their favorite cold remedies. She also promises to re-post the best remedies. The post received more than 100 comments on Facebook, and 400+ comments on Instagram.

How do you get your audience to provide content ideas? Share your responses in the box below.

Get more email, social, and content ideas by subscribing to our weekly email newsletter.

Wendy Erlien is a entrepreneur, writer, and communications consultant with a passion for helping small businesses and nonprofit organizations maximize their marketing reach.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Ways Your Audience Can Provide Content Ideas appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How to Garner Sweet Success on Instagram

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:00

Facebook and Twitter are no longer the bread and butter of the social media world. Instagram is quickly climbing the food chain as a social media marketing tool. No one knows this better than Fernanda Capobianco, the owner of Manhattan-based bakery, Vegan Divas.

The Brazilian owner uses Instagram on a regular basis to communicate with her followers, promote her brand, showcase her work and encourage sales.

“Instagram is very important because it gives us global recognition,” Capobianco says. “We have many local followers from NYC, but we also have a lot of followers from all over the world including Dubai, Japan and Australia.”

Using Capobianco’s Instagram feed as an example, we’ll share some of her tips to find Instagram success. You don’t need to run a bakery to learn from her Instagram knowledge, every small business owner can benefit from these helpful tips.

 Get a good picture

Instagram is all about eye candy. The images you share should be quality shots. Customers want to see that you care. Crooked, blurry photos won’t cut it.

You don’t need to call in a photographer every time you want to post something to Instagram, but you want your photos to look sharp. Here are two picture-taking tips:

  • Check the background. While the focus of your picture is usually your product or a person, the background still matters. Take a look at this picture on the Vegan Divas Instagram site. The cake is the center of the picture, but a nice wooden table makes a great background. Always check your background before snapping a picture. Break out a tablecloth or move your product to another spot to ensure the background adds to the picture.

  • Use photo apps for touch ups. You don’t have to be a pro to post great pictures, you just have to have the right tools. Here are two tools that can help you tweak your image to make it pop:
  •  PicMonkey. This tool is great for cropping, rotating, resizing and adding text to your image. It’s user-friendly and has all the basic options you’ll want to improve your image.
  • Pixlr Express. This tool does everything that PicMonkey does, but it also gives you filters to add to photos. In other words, you can soften a picture or turn it black and white.

Instagram has these other helpful photo tips to help your images pop.

Don’t just post product photos

If you only share product or service photos on Instagram, you’ll want to add some other ingredients to the mix. As with any social media channel, you want a variety of content. Every post isn’t meant to sell, Capobianco says.

“You want your feed to have a human feel,” she says. “You don’t want it to feel like a mechanical feed that’s strictly used to sell products.”

Here are a few non-promotional post ideas:

  • Post pictures of your customers and share a little something about them like this.
  • Share a video clip of your employees working like this post.
  • Share a picture from an event you attend like Capobianco does here.
  • Share pictures and videos that are connected to your industry. Magnolia Bakery shared a video that shows customers how to turn cupcake wrappers into a gift-wrapping bow.
  • Promote holidays that are relevant to your business. In the bakery world, National S’mores Day gets a shout out on Instagram.

Hashtag it up

Hashtags aren’t specific to Twitter, you should use hashtags in your Instagram posts too. Take a look at the hashtags used in the example below. These hashtags can help people find your content.

Here are a few hashtag tips:

  • Think of hashtags like keywords. What keywords would a customer use to find your particular picture? Use those words as separate hashtags just as Vegan Divas does in the example above.
  • Be specific. There are millions of pictures on Instagram so if you want your picture to show up in search results, specific hashtags are best.
  • Check other Instagram feeds in your industry for hashtag inspiration. You might stumble upon a few hashtags that you haven’t thought of.

Maximize your profile space

There isn’t a ton of text space on your Instagram profile, but you want to make efficient use of what little room you do have. Take a look at the example below and make sure your profile has the relevant information you want to communicate.

  1. Business website: A link to your business website is a must.
  2. Address. If you have a brick and mortar shop, include your location in your profile.
  3. Contact information. Include a phone number or email address so your audience can get in touch with you.
  4. A brief description. Since space is limited, take some time to craft a descriptive sentence or two about your business. Be sure to include any specialties that set your business apart.
  5. Profile picture. Post a picture of yourself or of the company logo.

For Capobianco, Instagram serves as an effective, free marketing tool that she can use to reach out to customers who might not find her through regular channels. This exposure helps elevate her business and her sales. Does it do the same for you? Tell us how Instagram helps your business in the comment section below.

Gain more social media insight by subscribing to our weekly email newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Garner Sweet Success on Instagram appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Social Media Pitfalls Non-Profits Should Avoid

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 06:00

Marketing-savvy non-profits are posting, tweeting and sharing multimedia with the best of them. To help guide you through the ever-changing platform of social media, we’ve put together this list of pitfalls for non-profits to avoid.

Pitfall #1: Soliciting money too frequently

As a non-profit, you need to ask for support, but if you ask too often you may risk turning off donors.

Solution: Work with partners to offer donation incentives

Aside from spreading solicitations, be creative with your donation drives. Try working with a local business partner to offer a special event or an exclusive promotion that benefits both the donor and your organization.

For example, The United Way of Callaway County used Pinterest to promote its Charitable Give Back Night where a local restaurant donated a portion of its proceeds to the non-profit. Autism Speaks is using Twitter to promote 25% off a Look.com purchase for a $1 donation to the non-profit.

Pitfall #2: Not posting enough

Social media pages that aren’t updated frequently allows followers to forget. If you’re not engaging with your audience, they are less likely to respond when you need them.

Solution: Use automation tools to keep pages updated

To keep your social media pages up-to-date, consider using an automation tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule your posts ahead of time (You can do this with VerticalResponse too). Try to schedule at least one post a day during the week. (We have great tips on how to handle social media automation.)

Pitfall #3: Not posting content people want to share

There’s no faster way to spread the word about your non-profit than getting people to share your posts. In fact, according to MDG Advertising, 68% of people are more likely to take the time to learn about a charity if they see a friend posting about it on social media.

Solution: Vary your content to see what gets shared

If your audience isn’t too keen on sharing your content, it’s time to shake things up. Try a variety of posts to see what your audience responds to.

National Mill Dog Rescue, for example, found that high quality memes get shared a lot on their Facebook page.

Memes that have a really great quality photo, a succinct and relevant message that truly matches the image and have an overall great graphic design get a lot of shares,” explains Michele Burchfield, the non-profits marketing and development manager. “In social media, shares are truly gold.”

Pitfall #4: Only catering to new (or existing) supporters

While attracting new supporters with shareable content is important, so is keeping your existing base. Be careful not to neglect an entire group of followers.

Solution: Vary your posts

National Mill Dog Rescue posts on Facebook 8 to 10 times a day. Burchfield says they work hard to post content that appeals to every section of their audience.

“We strive to post content that not only will engage our current supporters, but also attract new ones, and for this purpose, we need variety,” she says.

“We create a Facebook posting schedule that incorporates variety in the posts throughout the day. We also vary the types of posts with links, text, photo or video. The purpose of our posts also varies. From educational to inspirational, we work to evoke various emotions and actions.”

Here are some of our tips on posting to appeal to both existing and potential supporters.

Pitfall #5: Not inspiring your donors

If your donors don’t have a reason to donate or support your cause, they won’t.

Solution: Show donors how they can help

Help donors feel good about their contribution by showing recipients benefiting from your non-profit, like this Habitat for Humanity video.

“The most successful social media posts are those that engage supporters with a compelling story, both visually and in words,” says Burchfield. “People truly appreciate feeling a part of something, and when we include supporters in our stories we see more engagement.”

Want to learn more social media tips? Learn how non-profits are maximizing their social media efforts.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at WendyBurt@aol.com.

Send your non-profit emails for free with VerticalResponse.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 5 Social Media Pitfalls Non-Profits Should Avoid appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Building Engagement on Twitter is as Easy as 1-2-3

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 06:00

Twitter is a fast-moving social network that can connect you with thousands of potential customers, or people who could help spread your message. However, engagement, which is vital to your success on Twitter, doesn’t occur naturally. You have to put yourself out there, especially if you’re new to the site. Use these three tips to help build your connections and encourage engagement with others.

1. Share Other People’s Content and Tag Them

First, you want to share content that relates to your own business or industry created by other people or businesses. This can be in the form of a retweet, using social sharing icons, or simply copying and pasting a link. Then, look up the twitter handle of the content creator or business. Include that Twitter handle in your tweet, and give the author/business props for creating great content. Here’s an example in which we shared an article from Dasheroo and included the author’s Twitter handle as well:

When sharing your own content, also try including the Twitter handles of your internal content creators (but ask for permission first).

Authors or businesses of the content you’ve shared appreciate this extra effort. They may repay the favor and share your content as well, getting it in front of a whole new audience. This is also a great starting point to building a relationship with someone who could have a positive impact on your business.

2. Thank People When They Share Your Content

If someone shares or retweets your content, reply back and thank them for doing so.

In our example above, we shared a blog post written by Dasheroo. Here, Dasheroo takes our advice and thanks us back for sharing their content. This then results in a dialogue and engagement.

3. Comment on Other People/Business’s Tweets

Like yourself, everyone else is also seeking out engagement on Twitter. Lead by example and get the ball rolling by replying, asking questions, or commenting on posts you find interesting or helpful. This often piques interest, or results in a dialogue.

In the example below, Social Media Examiner posted an article on Twitter that we found handy. Instead of just retweeting the content, we commented, thanked Michael Stelzner, owner of Social Media Examiner, and he replied. Voila! Engagement.

These are just three of our favorite and easy engagement-generating Twitter tips. Have any others to add to our list? Share in the comments or reply back to us on Twitter.

Get more email and social media marketing tips by subscribing to our weekly email newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Building Engagement on Twitter is as Easy as 1-2-3 appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Responsive Design & How It Impacts You [VIDEO]

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 05:00

Responsive design resizes or reconfigures a web page to the screen of the device you’re using, whether it be a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Why is this important? Take a look at the stats below:

  • US adults spend an average of 34 hours per month browsing the internet on their smartphones, according to a recent Nielsen report.
  • 51% of emails are now opened on mobile devises according to Litmus.
  • 70% of mobile searches lead to an action on a website within one hour according to iAcquire. If the website isn’t mobile-friendly, 40% will choose another action.

Attempting to view a website or email on your mobile phone only to have to zoom in, and scroll side-to-side is the result of a non-responsive design. This leads to frustration and, as the statistics show above, a loss of leads or potential customers.

In this 2-minute video, we discuss responsive design and demo how responsive emails look from your VerticalResponse account

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for our weekly email newsletter, The VerticalResponse Buzz. 

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Responsive Design & How It Impacts You [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Why You Should be Using Product Listing Ads Right Now

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 06:00

Comparison shopping sites like PriceGrabberNextag, and search engines like Google and Bing allow people to research, compare, and check the availability of products all at once. These sites are massive e-commerce aggregates, allowing customers to have access to all types of products from virtually anywhere. As an online retailer, this is exactly why you should be using Product Listing Ads – an effective way to bring your storefront to potential customers’ desktops and mobile devices.

How do they work work? 

A consumer goes to a shopping comparison site or search engine and searches for products by category, type, or by a specific product. As an advertiser, you bid for a chance to to be shown in that search query. Similar to paid search, if the consumer clicks on your ad amongst other products, you pay for that click. That click then results in a visit to your website and possibly a purchase.

The next time that same consumer is looking to buy the same or a similar product, they may bypass the whole search process and go directly to your website, resulting in a new customer that may not have found you otherwise.

What are the benefits?

  1. Comparison and shopping sites connect customers who are looking for products like yours with your website.
  2. If you’re a smaller retailer or a relatively new or unknown brand, this can help bring more traffic and customers to your website. It’s also good if you don’t have high organic or PPC (Pay-Per-Click) rankings.
  3. More visibility. You don’t have to wait for customers to come into your store or find your website on their own.
  4. You can show image ads specifically for what consumers are looking for versus a text PPC ad or an online display ad that may be more general.

How do you set them up?

If you’re an online retailer or e-commerce site, chances are you’re already using an e-commerce solution like Volusion or Shopify to manage your online store and inventory. If you haven’t procured one yet, that would be your first step. Next, you want to set up your account with all your product and inventory information like product images, descriptions, SKUs, product categories, etc. Google requires you to also set up a Google Merchant account before you’re able to create Google Shopping Campaigns. The final piece of the puzzle is a getting a data feed management tool to help manage all the different feeds that go into each of these different shopping engines.

Each engine has their own unique shopping autonomy and categories that require you to manually manipulate your data feeds for each engine. A quick Google search would yield the different requirements for each platform. Properly setting it up from the beginning will save you a lot of effort in the long run and will help to improve the overall profitability of your campaigns. Do the research to see what each engine requires, and use a data feed solution like GoDataFeed to help manage all your feeds.

After you’ve tailored all your feeds for each engine, you’ll have to set bids for your products. For Google, these bids will usually mirror what you might pay for similar keywords within paid search. For the shopping engines, bidding depends on competition and the amount of traffic so starting out will be some what of an experimentation. It helps to do some research for best practices and tips for the particular sites your are interested in.

More and more people are using online channels to do their research and shopping. As a retailer, whether strictly online or brick and mortar, being able to have your products shown to people who are actively looking for products you sell is invaluable. Listing your products on comparison and shopping engines are a great way to gain visibility and increase traffic to your site which will hopefully translate into sales. We recommend starting with Google Shopping first, as that’s where you’ll find most users, and it’s easier to get started if you are already using Google Adwords and Google Display Network for your marketing.

Before committing to the initial time investment, make sure the additional tools needed aren’t cost prohibitive. If you’re an online retailer, you’re most likely already using an e-commerce solution to run your online store so the missing piece is the data feed management tool. Like any other marketing initiative, consider your fixed costs as well as the costs to run the marketing campaigns within the engines and see if it makes sense for your business.

Are you using Product Listing Ads for your business? Tell us what you think of them in the comments.

Get more marketing tips like these by signing up for our weekly email newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Why You Should be Using Product Listing Ads Right Now appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Tips to Refresh Your Email Marketing Strategy

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:00

Email marketing continues to reign supreme when it comes to reaching consumers. When compared to Facebook and Twitter marketing, it’s nearly 40 times more useful for acquiring customers. To help refresh your email marketing strategy this year, we’ve outlined four tips to make sure you’re on the right track.

1. Make emails mobile friendly

Mobile is the preferred method for reading emails. According to a study from Mobile Ink, 65% of email is being opened on mobile devices. And that number continues to rise as more people purchase smartphones. From 2013 to 2014, the amount of smartphones shipped worldwide increased by 23.8 percent. By 2018, 1.8 billion smartphones will be used around the globe.

In a perfect world, your emails will pique customers’ interest when they’re on the go, and they will make an immediate purchase or do so when they get to their laptop or desktop. 

How to implement: Your emails need to be use responsive design, which means they adjust to the screen size of any device. If you’re using templates in the latest version of VerticalResponse, your emails are automatically responsive, and you don’t need to do a thing. If not, you may want to hire a designer, or it might be time to use an email service provider that provides responsive templates.

Along with responsive design, we recommend using a serif font (those with legs or tails) for your headlines and sans serif fonts for any other text. These are easiest to read on a computer screen. Use font sizes between 12-22pt to make sure your email is readable. Headlines can be 22pt, additional font in the email can be 12 pt or more.

2. Ask your audience what they want to read or see

To get a grasp on what content your audience wants to receive, you have to ask. You can survey them, and then use the results to dictate the kind of content you create. Ask about what kind of content appeals to them, what products or services they’re interested in. You can also ask how often they want to receive email from your business. 

How to implement: There are many free survey products you can use to get a grasp of what your audience wants. For example, there’s SurveyMonkey, KwikSurveys, and SurveyPlanet, just to name a few.

Surveys are easy to create with these DIY sites. Just remember to keep your survey short, maybe 5-7 questions so you don’t lose your audience. Once you complete the survey, include a link to it in an email.

3. Measure results

An email marketing strategy is never complete without some form of measurement. You have to know how you did to improve upon your efforts the next time around.

“Create content that suits your audience but also spend time measuring it,” says Jasmine Sandler, an independent digital marketing expert. “You need to measure it as much as you create it.”

How to implement: Here’s a quick list of metrics to watch along with the average rates you should aim for.

  • Conversion rate: How many people clicked that call-to-action link you included in your email? How many downloaded that how-to guide you’re advertising? Did anyone make a purchase from the last email you sent? The average conversion rate is five to 10 percent.
  • Bounce rate: How many emails that you sent were undeliverable? The average bounce rate, depending on your industry, is between eight and 12 percent.
  • Open rate: How many of the emails were actually opened? The average open rate for brand emails is 18 to 25 percent.
  • Unsubscribe rate: How many people clicked “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email? The average unsubscribe rate is .25 percent.

Note: All these metrics can vary based on your industry, your list and your mailing practices. Need more help gauging your metrics? Check out this previous post.

4. Email your blog posts, videos and images

You put a lot of effort and energy into your blog posts, videos, or images. You should include this content in your emails.

“If you’re wise, you can leverage other content that you’re spending money and time creating,” says Sandler. “You could send out a list of the hottest articles of the week or a wrap up.”

Aside from the fact that you’re going to get more eyes to see your content, you can also increase your website traffic.

Look at Carol Tice, who runs the Make a Living Writing blog for freelance writers. The entrepreneur, who boasts 12,000 subscribers to her blog, sends out sections of it to her readers and prompts them to “read more” on her website. VerticalResponse does this successfully with our weekly VR Buzz newsletter. 

How to implement: Choose content, images or videos that have already received a lot of hits, likes or attention. It’s a good indication that your readers enjoyed them. Don’t include an entire article in your emails; include only a teaser, and then link to the rest of the article on your website or blog.

There are many factors that go into a successful email campaign. As long as you plan ahead, and are willing to look back at your work to see what you can improve, you will be on your way to a better email marketing strategy.

Get six more ideas in our free guide, 6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing. Ready to get started? Send your emails, newsletters and offers for free with VerticalResponse. 

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred, CMO.com, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Tips to Refresh Your Email Marketing Strategy appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Top 5 Affordable Tools to Make Infographics in a Snap

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 06:00

What makes infographics so popular? Jennifer Gregory, a content marketing writer and blogger, says that infographics have become more prominent because, “Each of us learns differently. A lot of people are visual learners. Seeing the visual illustration of a concept is useful for a large percentage of people.”

Plus, Infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than a normal text article, according to HubSpot

To effectively produce an infographic, large companies turn to their creative team, but small businesses might not have the same resources. Thankfully, there are a number of sites that can help you create infographics quickly and on a budget. We’ve put together a list of the top five:

1. Piktochart

Piktochart comes complete with pre-programmed themes, more than 1,000 images to choose from and the ability to share your completed infographic. You can try is out with a free package, where you’ll be able to use the templates and 20 uploaded images, or pay up to $29 a month to receive the full benefits, which include icons, privacy controls and 200 uploaded images.

2. Canva 

Canva offers a free, simple to use platform that contains hundreds of fonts and millions of images to incorporate into an infographic. Premium images are only $1 each, and the photos can be edited right within the program. You can share and edit your infographics with coworkers at any point in the creation process.

3. Venngage

Like Canva and Piktochart, you get a limited number of free features on Venngage like themes, templates, charts and icons. The themes include reports, presentations and posters. Images from the web or your own computer can be uploaded into the infographic as well. Here’s a look at a few of the templates you can use in Venngage:

4. Visme

Visme, which is trusted by brands like Microsoft and Symantec, allows businesses to create infographics with a plethora of images and templates. When tapping into the free version, you can make up to three projects, are given 100 MB of storage space and can publish or download infographics as JPGs.

For $5 per month, you gain access to all charts and infograph widgets, premium support and 250 megs of storage.

Here’s what the inside of the Visme editor looks like:

5. Sprites

Want to create an interactive infographic? Try turning your infographic into a video with Sprites. The infographics themselves are fully scalable and ready for any device including iPhones and iPads, and users can choose from a number of themes and images for free. If you pay $6 per month, you will receive Google Analytics integration, the ability to upload custom themes and password protection on any infographics created.

Want to see what an infographic looks like as a video? Check out this example.

No matter which website you try, keep in mind that a good infographic serves the same purpose as a blog post, photo or newsletter. “When you create an infographic, it’s really important to approach it the same as you would an article,”says Gregory. “It has to tell a story in an interesting way, both visually and contextually.” 

We recently put together some of our favorite marketing infographics of 2014. Check them out.

Have you used any of these tools to create infographics? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred, CMO.com, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. 

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Top 5 Affordable Tools to Make Infographics in a Snap appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

The 3 Design Elements Every Memorable Logo Needs

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 06:00

What kind of statement does your logo make? Is it colorful, clean, and/or creative? Does it ignite enthusiasm, relay power, or exude spirituality? A recent study and infographic created by our parent company Deluxe reveals the impact your logo design makes. Plus, they include the three design elements every memorable logo needs. Discover design tips, the psychology behind design elements such as color, and more below.

Interesting findings from the survey/study include:

  • 80% of people surveyed say color increases brand retention
  • 37% of Fortune 500 brands use the color blue in their logo
  • 21% of Forbe’s “Most Valuable Brands” use Helvetica font

What color is your logo, and do you agree with the findings above? Let us know in the comments. 

GIve your business logo a lift with our logo design service

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The 3 Design Elements Every Memorable Logo Needs appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Pinterest Releases Promoted Pins to All

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 06:00

Small businesses now have new social media advertising opportunities to try out in the New Year. Pinterest recently announced that they’ve released their successful Promoted Pin functionality to every U.S.-business as of January 1, 2015.

Promoted Pins were launched 8 months ago and tested in beta for particular brand advertisers. Pinterest found that while in beta, the Promoted Pins performed just as well, if not sometimes better than organic pins, achieving a 30% bump in earned media (free impressions) for businesses. They found that Promoted Pins also succeed for a wide array of industries, and perform long after a campaign ends (because, as they stated, Pins are evergreen and last forever).

In addition, Pinterest is also rolling out Pinstitute, “a new program for businesses to learn how to connect with Pinners and see an even greater return from Pinterest.” It aims to educate businesses about advertising options and is offering online workshops, tools, and webinars specifically for small businesses.

Here are more specifics regarding Promoted Pins:

What’s a Promoted Pin?

Promoted Pins are similar to promoted posts on Facebook, or promoted tweets on Twitter. The pins look like organic content, but are paid ads. Take a look at the example below from Pinterest. The pin with the shot of a lantern is the Promoted Pin.

It looks like any other pin, right? That’s the whole idea. Pinterest wants these promotional posts to blend in with the rest of its content. The only difference is that on the very bottom of the pin it says, “Promoted Pin.”

Why should you use Prompted Pins?

Promoted Pins are the new wave of social media advertising. By using this new program, your pins are put in front of a bigger audience than the organic audience you’ve cultivated. As more people are introduced to your products and business, you can increase your following and (hopefully) your sales.

Promoted Pins take your audience back to your website. That’s an automatic boost in website traffic. It’s a domino effect. More people see your pin, visit your site, learn about your business and buy your product or service.

What kind of success can you expect?

Pinterest rolled out the Promoted Pin program in September of 2013. A few businesses were selected to test it out. Big names like Kraft and General Mills have used Promoted Pins for close to a year and have had success. Since Pinterest has tested this program with some heavy hitters, it shouldn’t come with a lot of bugs.

On average, Promoted Pins are shared eleven times, which can boost the number of people who see your pin by 30 percent. That could be a big windfall for small businesses looking to boost their exposure and sales through social advertising.

Where do you sign up?

Ready to dive into the Promoted Pin pool? You can’t just sign into your Pinterest business account and get started. At least, not yet. Pinterest is asking all interested business owners to sign up for the service on its website. Pinterest will contact you with further details.

How does it work?

Once Pinterest gives your site the go-ahead, you’ll select a pin that you want to promote. Through a series of screen prompts, you’ll enter keywords to help your pin show up in search results. You’ll also define your audience by gender, location (city or regional area), language and device. You’ll set a start and end date, along with a budget.

Of course, there are things you can’t promote. Pinterest has a set of rules on its website that you’ll want to check out.

Do you plan to use Promoted Pins? If so, why? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Pinterest Releases Promoted Pins to All appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Social Posts That Can Captivate Any Audience

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 06:00

Social media posts might be short and sweet, but you need to go beyond the basic promotional message to standout in the jungle of posts, tweets and pins.

When it comes to being creative and standing out, wedding photographers JoAnne and Jason Marino have the market cornered. One look at their marketing photo for their business, Imagine Photography, proves it.

This dynamic husband and wife duo are known for their unique brand of photography and it spills into their social media marketing.

We could all use a little creative inspiration when it comes to social media. To go beyond the “Look, we’re having a sale!” post, we asked the duo, who run a small business just like you, to give us four social media posts that go beyond generic promotional messages.

1. Behind-the-scenes pictures

Don’t just talk about what your company sells on social media, show its personality. Take a behind-the-scenes photo once in a while and share it. Facebook photos generate 53% more likes than the average post, so keep a camera handy to snap a quick photo of the day’s events.

Whether that’s a shot of you packing boxes, donating to a local charity or hanging out with your clients like the Marino’s in the post below, it’s great to show the “human” side of your business.

“We do this as it not only gives clients a look at us behind the scenes, but it also shows that we aren’t just a company or a name, but fun people just like them,” says JoAnne and Jason Marino.

2. Knowledge

As a small business, you are an expert in your field. You have amassed a certain amount of knowledge and skill to get you where you are today. Why not share some of that knowledge with your social media audience?

Photographers can post a picture and explain how they took it, the lenses they used, the speed aperture, and filters.  Online retailers can share a blog post about the little-known demands of an internet-based business and a non-profit can offer deductible donation tips.

The Marino’s say these posts solidify your authority in the field to both clients and colleagues.

3. Real moments

Social media gives you the opportunity to share what the Marino’s refer to as “real moments.” By sharing a picture, quote or video that connects on an emotional level rather than a sales level, you’ll attract more viewers.

On the Imagine Photography Pinterest page, for example, this shot of a couple isn’t a sales push for the company, it’s a moment that others can relate to.

Try to share similar posts that evoke an emotion. For instance, non-profits can share photos or an article or about a family it recently helped, an auto mechanic can share a picture of himself covered in grease, working late on a customer’s car. Any image, video or story that your audience can make a connection with will work.

4. Social media love

When you team up with another business or organization, be sure to talk about the partnership or project on social media and tag each other.

When the Marino’s shoot at various wedding venues, they always include the business in their posts. Take a look at the example below.

Let’s say your business is working with a new website designer, mention the new plans on your social sites and give the designer a shout out. When your non-profit gets a big donation from a local business, head to your social channels to share the news and be sure to include the business in a thank you post.

By sharing these posts, you not only boost your exposure, but you also build a rapport with other brands. It’s a win-win.

By using these four ideas you can help increase your brand awareness, website traffic and sales. That’s what these posts do for the Marinos.

“Social media gives us an outlet to push content to a wide range of people that wouldn’t necessarily see our website. The shares, comments, likes, pins, repins and retweets we get on social media really draw people to our site to dig deeper into who we are which leads to more clients.”

Aside from promotional posts, what kinds of social posts work best for your business? Share in the comment section below.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Social Posts That Can Captivate Any Audience appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Survey Reveals The Best Tone of Voice to Take with Customers

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 06:00

Have you ever read an email, Facebook message or a tweet and had a hard time interpreting the tone? It can be tricky to figure out the attitude behind a digital message. 

Tone is especially important for businesses that use email or social media to offer customer support. Customer support emails and messages come in many forms. Some small businesses send emails to communicate order related activities like shipping delays or overbooked services. Some use email or respond to messages on social media to troubleshoot problems and offer support or solutions.

As a small business, you have to choose your words and punctuation wisely to set the right tone. To help you craft emails with tone in mind, Software Advice, a company that helps small business owners find the right software, conducted a survey on this topic.

“We were looking to help customer service professionals understand the impact of written tone in email,” says Jay Ivey, market research associate with Software Advice.

The survey offers some great insight to help small business owners handle online customer service. With Ivey’s help, we breakdown the data and offer tips you can implement.

Casual or formal?

When offering customer support, do customers prefer a casual or formal tone? According to the study, 65% of customers prefer a casual tone to a formal one. This held true over a wide range of ages.

Ivey suggests using friendly, personable language in neutral situations. Taking a casual tone may help customers see your business as more personable, which can improve the relationship you have with your audience.

What’s casual and what’s too casual?

So what exactly does casual mean, are there any specific elements that go too far such as an emoticon (smiley face)?

Software Advice asked participants if emoticons, colloquial words or exclamation points were too casual. For the most part, participants are okay with casual email elements, with 49% giving all of these elements a green light. Here’s a breakdown of the results:

Local San Francisco startup/online florist, BloomThat is known for their excellent online customer service and friendly tone of voice. Check out their Twitter feed to get an idea as to how they handle customer service inquiries or complaints – Usually with a digital smile!

Tone should depend on the situation

While most customers want to keep their email conversation light and casual, it’s not appropriate for all situations. Your tone will impact your customer’s satisfaction, so it’s important to match your tone to the news that you’re about to deliver.

According to the survey, if you need to deny a claim and do so with an overly casual tone, 78% of participants say it will negatively impact customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, if you grant a claim or request using an overly formal tone, 65% of participants say it will negatively impact customer satisfaction.

Take a look at the pie charts below to see how your tone in these two situations can impact satisfaction.

“Always strive to understand your customers’ likely emotional state,” Ivey says.  “Adapt your word choice and tone accordingly. For instance, be especially judicious about using an informal tone in potentially sensitive situations, such as denying a refund.”

Again, it’s about finding a balance between casual and professional.

The point of a customer service is to listen and offer solutions. The best way to do that is by creating “humanized” messages. Customers want to know that your business cares about them and there’s a person listening to them on the other end. The study shows that you should always consider their feelings and create support emails that offer a casual yet professional tone.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Survey Reveals The Best Tone of Voice to Take with Customers appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

6 Design Tips to Make Your Email Newsletter Visually Appealing

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 10:30

Many businesses rely on email newsletters to build customer relationships and keep their business top of mind with their audience. This powerful email tool has a lot of benefits, which is why small businesses like The Boxing Club work to ensure their newsletter design is visually appealing.

“I think the most important aspect of a newsletter is that it’s visual and engaging,” says Cassandra Velez with The Boxing Club. The fitness club in San Diego sends a monthly newsletter to current and prospective members.

With the help of Velez, we’ve created a list of six actionable design tips to make your email newsletter visually appealing. So let’s get started.

1. Create a header

Your newsletter needs a header. It’s the equivalent of a newspaper’s name. It sits at the very top of your newsletter and usually includes the title of your newsletter, company name and logo.

You can use online DIY tools to help you create your header. Check out Share As Image or Pixlr. With these programs, you don’t need any graphic experience to create and save graphics to your computer. Simply create your header once, and use it again and again.

Here are a couple of examples:

2. Let your logo dictate color scheme

To be visually appealing, your newsletter needs a color scheme. Since your logo is part of your header, consider using those colors throughout your email newsletter as font colors or borders.

3. Stick to standard fonts

When selecting fonts for your newsletter, the main priority is legibility. Stick with basic fonts like Times New Roman and Arial. You don’t want to use too many fonts either. Pick one or two fonts for the entire newsletter.

4. Use subheadings

Your newsletter should have several different pieces of content that are broken up by subheadings. It should look a lot like a newspaper. The subheadings should be in one of the clear fonts that you selected. The size of the subheadings should be smaller than what’s used in your header, but larger than the text you use for articles.

5. Stack content

If you’re using a newsletter template through an email service provider like VerticalResponse, you’ll be able to select a layout and add content to it. When it comes to layout, you want to stack content or section it off in blocks.

Here’s are two examples from Behance and Format:

6. Use pictures

A well-designed email will have a good balance of text and images. When a recipient opens your email, they are instantly drawn to images. By adding a few pictures, you pull the reader in while enhancing the text at the same time.

When you create your next newsletter, add pictures that are easy to snap with your digital camera. For example, take a picture of an employee that you plan to highlight or grab a shot of your newest product to include in the next edition.

Of course, some businesses don’t have a lot of “photo-worthy” opportunities. An online magazine that sells monthly subscriptions, for example, might not have a lot to take pictures of. If you’re in the same position, use simple graphics, or consider buying stock images from sites like iStock to incorporate into your newsletter. We use stock images on our blog and in our weekly newsletter, the VR Buzz.

Overall, you want a email newsletter that’s attention grabbing. It should have a clean, organized layout that makes it easy for the reader to digest all of the content. These tips are meant to spruce up your newsletter, increase readability and ultimately create an email newsletter that your audience looks forward to.

Know of a nicely designed email newsletter? Share it with us in the comments.

Create your own visually stunning email newsletters with VerticalResponse.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 6 Design Tips to Make Your Email Newsletter Visually Appealing appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Aspects Every Outstanding Product Announcement Needs

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 09:20

Email is a fantastic way to announce a new product or service your business is offering. The key to getting your audience excited about your latest business offering is by answering these four questions in your next product announcement email:

  1. What is is?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. What’s included?
  4. How do I get it?

Tell them what it is: 

Get to the point. Let your audience know exactly why you’re emailing them, and the product or service you have available.

For example: “ABC Yoga Studio is happy to announce a new Vinyasa class” or “Our latest collection now available at XYZ Clothing Store.”

Be simple and direct in letting your audience know what is new. Use your brief, short and direct statement as your email headline or even your subject line. Within your email, you should also include an image of the new product or a picture that represents your new service. Yes, it’s really true that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s one thousand less words you need to write to help sell your new product!

Let them know why they should care: 

In your email, tell your audience why they should spend time caring about your message. Tell them directly and succinctly what the benefits are to your new product or service that would directly impact them. Make it relatable to a problem they are trying to solve.

In our yoga studio example, you could say something such as, “Our new Vinyasa class is perfect for students looking for more movement and flow between poses. It’s great for strengthening the body and mind.” Clearly articulating the benefits of your new product or service can pique the interest of customers.

Tell them what’s included:

The goal of a product announcement email is to get your readers interested enough to click on your call to action. You don’t need to include a laundry list of every single item that’s included in your new product. However, you should include the main features that would be of interest.

In our clothing store example, you could say something like, “Our latest collection inspired by the early ‘70s includes Jane bags, jumpsuits, suede skirts and more. All of our clothing is made with our promise of quality.”

A simple list of the key features of a new product or service will help keep your email focused. If you’re offering a special discount or promotion to introduce the product, that should also be very prominent in your email. For example: “For a limited time only, save 15% off any item in our new collection.”

Tell them how to get it: 

Make it very clear what your email recipient needs to do to get your new product or service. If you’re selling the product or service online, a clear “Shop Now” button works. If you want to drive people to the website to get more details, try “Learn More.” If you want to drive users to call or visit, make your phone number or your physical address stand out in the email.

We have a handy call to action button generator for your emails.

Here’s a great product announcement email from Picjumbo. This email includes all four pieces of information that should be in an announcement email. It has a strong headline telling people what’s new. The sub headline tells the recipient how this new product can benefit them. The body copy provides a little more detail as to what is included in the new plugin and highlights their introductory price. Plus it has a big call to action button that reinforces their offer.  

Using these four must-include items in your next product announcement email will give your customers a better understanding of your new product or service, and will hopefully lead them them to click, buy, call or stop in.  

Send your next product announcement email for free with VerticalResponse.  

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Aspects Every Outstanding Product Announcement Needs appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

SEO Tips for 2015

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 09:24

Get your business found by search engines and potential customers in the new year. In this two minute video, our Search Engine Optimization manager, Chipper, provides SEO tips for the New Year, including the importance of mobile, and search engines such as Bing and Yahoo!

Get more marketing tips and tactics by subscribing to our weekly blog updates.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post SEO Tips for 2015 appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Pages