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7 Time-Saving Apps Every Business Owner Needs

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 06:00

Running a business often means that time is your most valued commodity, and like printer ink, there never seems to be enough of it when you really need it. We can’t add more hours to your day, but we’ve added these seven time-saving apps to our bank of ideas to help you get back some much needed time.

1. Dashlane 3
What it does and why we love it: Are you wasting time requesting hints for forgotten passwords? Then you’ll love Dashlane 3. Although there are free password manager apps out there, this app is highly rated by PC Magazine for its extensive features, including password strength reports, emergency password recovery, automatic password capture and its ability to sync across all of your Mac, Windows, Android and iOS devices. 
Cost: $39.99/year

2. AirFile 
What it does and why we love it: 
If you’re juggling multiple clouds like Dropbox, Copy, OneDrive and GoogleDrive, you can save time by using AirFile. It allows you to manage them all in one place. 
Cost: 
Free for 2 clouds or upgrade to AirFile Pro for unlimited

3. Phone Tag
What it does and why we love it: 
You can use this app to convert voicemail messages into emails or texts. The next time a client sends directions or a vendor provides contact information on your voicemail, you won’t have to scroll through messages to find the information again.
Cost: 
Starting at $9.95/month after a free one week trial. 

4. Lucy Phone
What it does and why we love it: 
The motto says it all: “Never wait on hold again.” Consider the Lucy Phone app to be your personal spot-holder. Just put in the company’s phone number and press ** once you’re put on hold. When an agent answers, you’ll get a callback.
Cost: 
Free

5. Remember the Milk
What it does and why we love it: 
This feature-packed app works like a personal assistant with a steel-trap mind. You can create to-do lists, organize your tasks and notes, get reminders, search, sync and prioritize. Remember the Milk is also available for Evernote, Twitter, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar.
Cost: 
Free for basic app

6. TimeRabbit
What it does and why we love it: 
We know you don’t have all day to spend surfing through Facebook, but we all get sucked in sometimes. If you’re curious, this app tracks how much time you spend on the popular social network. According to Statistic Brain, the average user spends 18 minutes on Facebook per visit. Multiply that by the number of times you log in each day and … Yikes! Where did the time go? With this app, a timer starts automatically when you log into Facebook. If you’re idle or navigate away from the site, the timer stops. TimeRabbit gives you reports that show just how much time you spend on the social site.
Cost:
Free

7. SelfControl
What it does and why we love it:
If you’re using Mac OS X, the SelfControl app can help you blacklist anything online or just block it for a period of time. Want to ensure you don’t waste time playing games, or scrolling through Twitter? Block any sites with this SelfControl. Be forewarned though: this is tough love. You won’t be able to access those sites until the timer runs out even if you delete the app or restart your computer. 
Cost: 
Free

These 7 time-saving apps should help you avoid distractions, remember passwords and much more. For more time-saving apps, check out twelve more here

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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.

© 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 Time-Saving Apps Every Business Owner Needs appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

15 Hygiene Tips to Keep Your Email List Clean as a Whistle

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 06:00

A healthy email list is vital to any business. Thanks to bounces, unsubscribes and address changes, you can lose upwards of one-third of your list each year. If you’re not replacing churned email addresses with new active ones, your business can feel the impact.

Here are 15 tips to help you clean, maintain and grow your email list.

Remove or win back inactive contacts

Many email list guidelines recommend waiting for a full year of inactivity before removing a subscriber from your mailing list, but many providers now advise removing inactive email addresses after just six months of inactivity. 

That said, it’s important that you try to engage a subscriber before removing him or her from your list. There’s a variety of ways you can win subscribers back or at least learn from their behavior before they go.

Tip No. 1: Send a “we miss you” email with a special offer or discount code to see if you can incentivize the customer to make a purchase.

Tip No. 2: Send a polite “fish or cut bait” email asking if they’d like to confirm they want to stay on your email list before you remove them.

Tip No. 3: Find out why they’re inactive. When you give your contacts a way to unsubscribe after a long period of inactivity, give them a one-click survey on your unsubscribe page to find out why they’re leaving. Too many emails? Irrelevant content? Not enough discounts? Use the information to keep the next contact from leaving. You can also include a similar survey on your unsubscribe confirmation page.

Maintain the working parts of your list

Tip No. 4: Mail your list at least once a month. It will keep your readers engaged, increase the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase or donation, and let you know (via bouncebacks) which accounts are no longer active.

Tip No. 5: There are some great tools to help you maintain a healthy email list. Kickbox helps eliminates bounces before you launch your email campaign by “scrubbing” your list and replacing it with a squeaky-clean version. Kickbox uses a real-time API to verify email addresses before it adds a subscriber to your list. It also detects disposable email domains, role-based email addresses (e.g., webmaster@, info@, support@) and low-quality addresses. All Kickbox users get 100 free verifications every day. What’s more, VerticalResponse users get a 10 percent discount for additional verifications.

Tip No. 6: You’ll also want to take a cue from your open rates. If 99 percent of your list isn’t opening your email, you’ll need to do some work on your subject lines and the timing of your emails (day of the week and time of day). Dasheroo allows you to instantly view key stats from your VerticalResponse emails alongside your other apps like Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics and many more, all in one easy-to-understand business dashboard! And it’s free.

Tip No. 7: If you’re not already doing it, consider segmenting your emails based on purchases or links clicked. If you sell clothing and certain customers only purchase men’s clothing, they may not want to receive your emails promoting sales on children’s apparel. Likewise, if you sell pet supplies, you can divide your list into categories based on the animal(s) they buy for or are interested in.

Grow your list

Tip No. 8: One of the simplest ways to collect email addresses is with a sign up form on your website or blog. It’s easy to set up, and you don’t have to think about it once you created it. VerticalResponse offers sign up forms for free with every account.

Tip No. 9: You can also collect emails at expos or brick-and-mortar locations. Encourage visitors to drop their card into a fishbowl for a chance to win something. People understand that by doing so, you will include them on your email list.

Tip No. 10: Some retail stores have great success obtaining emails at the register when customers pay. You can offer incentives, such as discounts and promotions, for signing up.

Tip No. 11: Tatango allows new contacts to add their email address to your list with a simple text. Customers text your business’s unique word to 33733, and they’ll be asked to reply with their email address. You can add up to 250 contacts each month to your VerticalResponse email list.

Tip No. 12: Run a contest on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest requiring participants to supply their email address to enter. Remember to follow contest guidelines for each social network. 

Tip No. 13: Justuno is a tool that allows you to build email lists with incentive-based promotions. Using an instant offer widget, you can offer site visitors a coupon code or free download if they join your email list.

Tip No. 14:  Include a link to your sign up form in your personal email signature.

Tip No. 15: Collect contact information with Twitter Lead Generation Cards, which requires the reader to do nothing more than click on the call to action and then hit submit. The beauty of these cards is that the person’s name, Twitter handle and email address is automatically filled in for them. You can see how to set up a Twitter Lead Generation Card in this short video.

For more marketing tips for your business, subscribe to the weekly VR Buzz Newsletter

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.

© 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 15 Hygiene Tips to Keep Your Email List Clean as a Whistle appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Ways to Get More People to Read Your Emails

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 06:00

Wouldn’t it be nice if your customers or clients read every email you sent? It would be amazing, right? Well, we’re here to help.

There are dozens of reasons for emails to go unread. Your customers are busy, and their inboxes may be inundated with messages. From company memos to promotional emails, we all know how emails can pile up.

So, how do you get your customers to read your emails? We’ve created a list of five easy-to-do tips to increase your “email readability.” While we can’t promise every email will get read, these tips are designed to up the ante and increase your open and conversion rates.

1. Hook your readers with an intriguing subject line

First thing’s first. You need people to open your email before they can read it. That means you need to spend some time finessing your subject line. It’s a good policy to craft your subject line before you write the body of the email. It will help you focus your content. Plus, if you write the subject line last you might be tired of writing and produce a sub-par message.

So, how do you create a 50-character sentence that results in high open rates? Consider writing a subject line that falls into one of these six categories:

  • Pop culture. Keep an eye on what’s going on in pop culture and consider connecting it to your business or product. For example, an online baby retailer can create a subject line that includes the arrival of the Royal Baby.
  • Movie line or a song title. Draw on your film and music knowledge to create unique subject lines. A sporting goods store could use the song “We Are the Champions” in its subject lines during playoff season.
  • Curiosity. You want a subject line that makes a recipient say, “That’s interesting. I want to know more.” Curiosity improves open rates.
  • Outstanding deal. If you’re offering a great promotion, coupon, gift or deal you should declare it right in your subject line. It’s the same principal as “SALE” signs in brick-and-mortar establishments.
  • Take action. Use your subject line to tell readers what action you’d like them to take. Maybe you want your audience to enter a contest or read a how-to article. If so, mention the action from the outset.

Pro-tip: If you’re having trouble coming up with the perfect subject line, turn to the Conversation Starter. It’s a Mad Libs-style tool that will generate some ideas for you.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of a good format

In one glance, your audience should be able to tell what your email is all about. To do that requires organization. Your email shouldn’t look like a high school English paper; it should look more like a visual postcard. Here are some formatting tips to make sure your emails get read:

  • Create a title. Give your email a title. Take a look at the example below. The text at the top of the email instantly tells the reader about the contents of the email. Plus, the font is bold and larger than the rest of the text, so it stands out.

          

  • Use subheadings or bullet points. That same example has a subheading, “Getting started.” Subheadings are an excellent way to break up content. It makes the email easy to digest. If you plan to write anything longer than four sentences in your email, use subheadings to chunk the content out. The subheadings should be in bold and slightly smaller than your title text.

If subheadings aren’t the right fit, you can also use bullet points to keep your email neat and tidy. Likewise, if you’re creating a list of any kind, go for bullet points. For example, in your welcome email you can highlight the benefits of your product in a bulleted list.

  • Generate a call to action button. The green call to action button is eye-catching. You should create similar CTAs for your email. Sure, you can use a hyperlink as a call to action, but a clickable button is better.

          Pro-tip: Not sure how to make a call to action button? No problem. Check out our handy button maker.

  • Pick vibrant colors. In the example, the sender makes great use of the color green. It sets the call to action apart from the rest of the content. If there’s something you want to stand out, make it a vibrant color. Of course, you’ll want to use this color sparingly otherwise it will lose its effect.

3. Create an email buffet

Think of your email arsenal like a buffet, with all sorts of options that appeal to a broad audience. Your email strategy should be similar. You want to serve your audience a variety of different messages.

In other words, don’t send a promotional email for the same product every Friday afternoon. Instead, send a variety of emails. Here’s a quick list of emails you can send to keep the smorgasbord full.

  • Welcome email. When you get a new contact, send an email greeting within the first 48 hours. In a brief message, welcome them and explain what they can expect from your emails.
  • Announcement email. Have a new product? Launching a new service? Make it known to your contacts via email.
  • Newsletters. Keep your crew in the know with newsletters. These informational emails are a great way to keep your customers engaged. If you need a little help coming up with topics to include, check out this list of newsletter ideas.
  • Customer appreciation email. Give your customers a digital high five. Consider offering a special promotion or a giveaway to show how much you value your audience.
  • Promotional email. Entice your clients to make a purchase or book an appointment through promotional offers. Promotional emails are an excellent way to attract new customers and retain current ones, but you don’t want to send too many offers. Promotional emails are just another part of your buffet.
  • Invitation email. Whether you’re hosting an event or attending a trade show, you can always invite your customers via email.

4. Segment your list

One of the best ways to increase your open and conversion rates is to segment your list. By breaking your email list into specific groups, you can send targeted messages to your audience. A targeted message that lands in the right inbox is like an email slam-dunk. Not sure how to slice and dice your list? Here are a few ideas:

  • Demographics. Split your list by demographics like age, gender, or geographic location.
  • Survey results. Email a survey to your customers and use the results to categorize the names. For example, an online clothing retailer could group customers into pools like “winter apparel group” and “accessories group.”
  • Past purchases. If you track what customers buy, you can send emails based on their purchasing histories.
  • Email response rates. You’ll have a spectrum of active to not-so-active customers on your list. You can use this information to create groups. For example, you can put your active, loyal customers on one list and the once-in-awhile customers on another. Knowing this information, you can gear email campaigns accordingly.

5. Use online tools to improve your email success rate

As a small business owner, we know you don’t have a team of people to craft, check and send every email. Not to worry, though. There are several online tools that can help you create effective emails. Try some of these services and apps to improve your emails and save time:

The secret to email success is to constantly collect contact information from prospective customers and clients. To do so, you should set up an email sign up form on your website. It’s a hassle-free way for your business to collect email addresses from interested folks.

It’s always best to have a second set of eyes read your email, but sometimes in a one-person shop that’s not an option. To get around this, pop your content into Grammarly. This website will spot errors like misspellings and punctuation mistakes.

When you put your content into the Hemingway App it will highlight sentences that can be improved. For example, it will highlight long, convoluted sentences. Using this information you can clean up your content and create a streamlined message.

You’ll want to spice up your email with an image or two. If you don’t have any on hand, or don’t want to pay for them through stock sites, you can use Picjumbo or Unsplash. Both of these sites offer images for free.

When you need to edit an image, turn to PicMonkey. This handy website allows you resize, crop and edit pictures quickly.

If you’re a Google Analytics user, this link-building tool will help you track which links people click on the most inside your email. It’s a more advanced tool, but one worth checking out for measuring purposes.

Ready to create a survey? Check out SurveyMonkey. This easy-to-use site helps you create questions and deliver the survey to your email list. (As an added bonus, SurveyMonkey is integrated with VerticalResponse. Learn more about it on our website.)

Now that you’re armed with these five tips your readers won’t be able to resist your emails. As you work to improve your email strategy, monitor your metrics so you know what’s working.

For regular tips on email marketing delivered to your inbox, sign up for our weekly award-winning 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 5 Ways to Get More People to Read Your Emails appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Uncommon Ways to Help New Customers Discover Your Business

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 06:00

A growing customer base is critical to any thriving business. Industry research points out multiple elements to include in your overall marketing strategy to reach these gains. By doing so, you increase your ability to not only attract your target market but also encourage new customers to convert, and ensure you retain them.

In a challenging and oversaturated marketplace, this presents businesses of any size willing to take a risk and think unconventionally with a prime opportunity to draw in new customers.

Here are four uncommon ways to help new customers discover your business:

1. Create unique content that truly adds value

By now you’ve heard the phrase so often it’s become cliché, but yes: Content is King. Though everyone is creating it, not all businesses are producing content with significant added value. And that is the difference in success. 

Always remember, project the voice of the customer with your words. When creating content for your website or blog, ask yourself ‘Does this help the reader learn something?’. If the answer is no, start over until you strike the right balance between your brand identity and what your potential customers are looking for.

Launching a new product line soon? Post a short Slideshare presentation that outlines it for your target market in greater detail. 

Write e-books for each subject area featured in your business then allow people to download it in exchange for providing their email address. You’ll be offering great content while building your list. It’s a win-win. 

2. Share your expertise on info swap forums

Question-and-answer hubs like Quora and Ask.com have transitioned from being platforms for novice conversations to valued forums where knowledgeable participants can make a name for themselves offering thorough, in-depth (free!) advice.

To get started, log in and complete a search of the topics being discussed within your industry. From there, try commenting on any that have few or no responses. You’ll be able to gain more visibility, and it’ll show you can tackle a range of questions, further proving your expertise.  

Sites like these are typically supportive of inter-business promotion so definitely add links to your social media handles and website details in your post signature.

3. Give your brand a major overhaul

You’ve built it, but they’re still not coming? It may be time to undergo a brand refresh.

But before you call your graphic designer to get started on that new logo and website template, consider that this process often goes much deeper. You will likely need to tackle a variety of issues and resolve them to improve overall communications for your business.

On the positive side, this process will afford you the opportunity to re-evaluate your brand identity and decide whether you should reposition your business entirely within the market to capture an unforeseen key customer market.

Incorporate useful marketing theory tools such as SWOT Analysis and The Brand Wheel in your initial analysis to gain a stronger understanding of where the essence of your brand is now and where it should go.

4. Actively seek referrals from current customers
 
Before tweets and news feeds, there was word-of-mouth marketing, and it played a significant role in business growth. Even though it usually now takes the form of online reviews and rankings, simply put: Consumers are easily influenced by the opinions of others.

One benefit of referrals is that it eases the vetting process for a business. It offers a built-in ‘middle man’ who can advocate for your brand on a personalized, non-sales pitch level.

Begin this part of your journey by reaching out to 5-10 loyal customers with a referral incentive such as a unique promotional gift or discount off a new product. In exchange, ask if they can send you at least one hot lead from their network.

To make the process run a bit smoother, be sure also to create a simple resource that includes some basic information about your business that your advocates can easily pass along to any new prospective customers. 

For more marketing tips like these, sign up for the weekly VR Buzz 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 4 Uncommon Ways to Help New Customers Discover Your Business appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Use Pinterest Analytics to Increase Visits to Your Retail Website

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 06:00

Pinterest is a social networking site in which users post and share – or pin – pictures. The site’s visual format and user base have unique value for retailers. Though Pinterest has historically been dominated by women, that’s slowly changing as a third of new signups come from men. Twice as many pinners have household incomes over $75K, as opposed to those who make less than $30K. Understanding your Pinterest followers and using that information to grow your business is a huge opportunity with an estimated reach this year of over 47 million users.

Like any social networking site, though, success depends on speaking to your customers and posting things they are interested in sharing. That’s where Pinterest analytics come in. By understanding the analytics on your Pinterest business account you can maximize your website visits and sales. To help you do that, we’ve created a simple list of Pinterest metrics to monitor.

Top Pins in the Last 30 Days

Many Pinterest users come to the site seeking inspiration. The simplest way to understand what those users are interested in at a certain time is to look at the Top Pins in the Last 30 Days. Use these topics to inspire pins which will reach more people. These pins may highlight your products, or they may be general interest pins – some of which should link to your website – which encourage more people to follow you and drives more visits to your website.

Interests  

You can also examine your followers’ most popular interests. By learning what your followers like – be it home décor or travel – you can pin more images which fit in those categories. Again, these pins can be general interest pins, repins and images of your products. By connecting your brand with your audience’s interests, you can drive increases in engagement as well as website visits and sales.

West Elm does an excellent job of curating boards to reflect user interests. Take a look at this example. 

West Elm includes a variety of images and interests on their boards and many link directly back to the West Elm website which aids in helping their pins surface higher in the Pinterest smart feed which is based on the quality of the pin’s source and relevance of pins.

Within your Pinterest Analytics you can see your audience’s interests. Here is a screen shot of some of VerticalResponse’s followers interests:

Having this information is very useful to help you decide what type of boards to create to keep and draw your audience’s attention. 

Top Boards

In addition to strategies based on your audience’s general preferences, Pinterest Analytics can help you understand your own impact. Analytics can help you determine which pins and boards people interact with most, and what appears most in search results. These insights can help you refine your pinning strategy, helping you pin more of what people want and use keywords people are searching for.

Top Boards shows you which of your boards have had the highest interaction – or pin impressions – in the last 30 days. Here are examples from our VerticalResponse account:

To maximize the insight you get from this, you’ll need to organize your boards in a meaningful way. Don’t just have one board for all your products, and other boards for general interest pins. Instead, create different boards for different product lines and interests. That way, when you see which boards people are interacting with you can understand which products are resonating most with pinners. This tells you where your approach might benefit from improvement, and which boards you should pin to more for maximum impact. General interest board impressions can give you more information on what your followers are looking for.

Best in Search

Best in Search shows you which of your pins rank highest in search results. Use this information to hone your descriptions and emphasize keywords which help people find your pins and products.

Power Pins

Power Pins are your most effective pins. They’ve been repinned, liked and clicked frequently. They probably do well in search results. They speak to and engage your audience. Look for patterns in these pins and pin more interesting content that fits with those patterns.

If you notice pins of a certain subject becoming power pins, consider creating a board about that subject. Post both product and lifestyle content which reflects your brand and links back to your website.

Heather Cleveland is an independent residential designer with almost 6,000 followers. On folders of her designs, her most popular pins deal with kitchens. Because of this, a board of only kitchens has become one of her most pinned boards.

Pinterest can help you understand how your brand resonates with people, but the key to this intelligence lives in your Pinterest Analytics. Get started using Pinterest Analytics here.

Sarah Tanksalvala is a freelance writer specializing in marketing, energy, technology and lifestyle. Published in Forbes, the Denver Post, and more. You can learn more about here at SarahTanksalvala.com.

© 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 Use Pinterest Analytics to Increase Visits to Your Retail Website appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Get a Sneak Peek of VerticalResponse’s New Salesforce App [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 06:00

Salesforce rules the world when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. But even the world’s #1 CRM needs assistance on filling the funnel with customers. It’s at this intersection you’ll find VerticalResponse and our “soon to be released” Salesforce app integration. With VerticalResponse and Salesforce coming together in one application, you can couple the usefulness of email marketing with the power of a customer relationship management platform.

To get you excited, we dedicated our latest episode of Tips in 2 to highlight two of the app’s amazing features. Our very own Jill and Joe show you how you’ll benefit from the two-way sync capability and the new dashboard that allows you to easily see the performance of your emails.

To see details around these new features, click the video below to take a peek. 

For more information on our new Salesforce app, check out our recent blog post.

© 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 Get a Sneak Peek of VerticalResponse’s New Salesforce App [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Easy Ways to Streamline Internal Communication

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 08:52

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever before to access information and communicate from anywhere. Your employees aren’t always in the same place at the same time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate effectively. Thankfully we live in a time when communication can be streamlined using tools built specifically for promoting better business communication and productivity in the workplace. Consider these five ways to enhance your company’s internal communication strategy.

1. Send a company newsletter

We’re a fan of the monthly company newsletter; sending more than once a month can be over-kill. Use your newsletter as an outlet for summarizing news and updates. Inform your employees about sales goals and progress, as well as any press your business receives, new hires and anything else you feel necessary for the entire company to know. Keep your newsletter clear and to the point by adding a table of contents and anchor the headlines to their related sections. For longer articles, just use a short description of the article and add a link to the full article on the web.

2. Choose one tool for all company chats

Build a stronger working relationship amongst your employees, especially if your business operates in several different locations. The ability to chat in real-time increases productivity and builds a forum for your employees to feel comfortable sharing ideas. For secure, easy-to-use chat tools, check out Yammer, Hipchat and Slack. Chat one-on-one, in a group and invite clients to the conversation while controlling what they see.

All three tools save chats indefinitely, allowing you to reference previous conversations. Slack comes highly recommended by our Social Media Manager, Derek Overbey, due to its robust search functionality providing the ability to search entire conversations by keywords. You can also leave a conversation and pick up right where you left off upon return to the application.

Yammer is HIPAA compliant, so if your business is in the medical field or you have clients in the medical field, you’re permitted to chat away! Hipchat uses the same security protocol as online banks and allows you to deploy its service on your company server. Use all three applications on your phone, tablet or computer to chat anytime, anywhere.

3. Store and share files in one place

Protect the files you share with your co-workers and clients by using Dropbox or Box. Both services allow you to control the content being shared, along with the ability to manage who is sharing content. It’s important for your employees to access documents from one place, but you also need to make sure your documents are stored securely. Dropbox and Box provide solid security structures with strong encryption methods, password protected links, and superior access controls.

Box also provides the functionality to make live edits to shared content and automate workflows for reviews and approval. This is especially useful for franchises that need an easy way to manage brand consistency for marketing materials used by their franchisees.

4. Conduct conference calls from one, secure phone number

Every business needs a reliable conference call tool. Two recommendations are GoToMeeting and UberConference. Schedule conferences with multiple offices, loop in employees working remotely and schedule meetings with clients or vendors. Using both tools, you can see a picture of everyone included on the call and know who is speaking at any given time, which is a huge plus for businesses that have multiple locations.

Your employees may not know everyone in the company, so the ability to put a face to the people they’re working with helps build a stronger community.

Both tools are simple to use and allow you to record your meetings. One of the advantages UberConference has over GoToMeeting is the ability to use the same phone number you signed up with. Check out both to find the tool that best fits your business needs.

5. Manage projects from one dashboard

If you aren’t using a project management tool, it’s time to consider using one. It’s essential to keeping all communication regarding projects in one place. With tools such as Asana and Trello, you can manage workflows smoothly and efficiently. Both applications require minimal effort to set up and are easy-to-use.

Asana designed its layout to appeal to those who are more ‘list-oriented’. Using Asana, you can create ‘to-do’ lists, manage projects via the calendar function, assign tasks to tags and easily keep track of project updates.

Trello has more of a visual dashboard that displays projects as boards. Each project board allows you to create cards where you can add comments, upload files, and assign tasks. Drag and drop cards to lists to keep track of progress.

Set up a free account with both to find out which layout you prefer.

Use these five ways to streamline your internal communication. You’ll be on your way to creating an environment where your employees feel comfortable communicating ideas and feedback with one another leading to innovation, increased productivity, and a better company culture.

Want more marketing tips? Sign up for our weekly 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 5 Easy Ways to Streamline Internal Communication appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

5 Retail Tips to Make the Most of Dads and Grads

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 06:00

What do dads and grads have in common? They both give us reasons to celebrate this time of year. We’re in the midst of high school and college graduation season, and Father’s Day is right around the corner on June 21. With 2014 spending on dads and grads in the $17 billion range, it’s smart to take advantage of this double opportunity. 

While these two groups differ greatly in their wants and needs, there’s no reason you can’t market for both occasions at the same time. In the process, you’ll save on the cost and effort required to promote these events separately.

5 tips to capture retail sales for both fathers and graduates:

1. Remind.

Now that Mother’s Day is over, remind people to think about gifts for dads and grads. Use signage, banners and ads in your store, on your website, and on your social media pages. Spread the word with direct and email campaigns, local newspaper ads, and other events where you’ll have a marketing presence.

2. Share ideas.

Many shoppers struggle to come up with gift ideas. Suggest items you offer that top dads’ and grads’ wish lists. Create corresponding merchandise displays in store to make it easy for shoppers to go straight to your gift suggestions. You can create simple gift guides that can be shared via email and on image-centric social media channels like Pinterest and Instagram

3. Gift wrap for free.

Make sure you have gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons and bows in patterns that are appropriate for both groups. Then let your customers know that when they shop for the dads and grads, you’ll wrap every gift they purchase from you, free of charge.

4. Offer gift cards.

For the dads and grads who’d rather choose their own gifts, gift cards are an ideal solution. At checkout, offer gift card boxes for a special touch. Possibly include a coupon or offer with the gift card to encourage the recipient to come in and use it. 

5. Capture repeat business.

Before shoppers leave your store, give them a compelling reason to return. For example, you might promote a special summer sale, reward them with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, or invite them to an event.

Marketing gift ideas for dads and grads is a popular retail trend. Now’s the time to go after these sales for your business.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published by Bags & Bows. The post has been updated for accuracy and relevance.

Stay in touch with the dads and grads on your list 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.

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How to Use Google Ad Extensions to Boost Visits to Your Retail Store

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 06:00

Google defines Ad Extensions as “a type of ad format to show extra information (“extending” from your text ads) about your business.” You may find ad extensions effective since you’re giving searchers more reasons to click on your ad. These ad extensions can improve visibility by taking up more real estate on the search results page. Additionally, because you’re giving more information to searchers, they help improve click-through-rates (CTR) and bring down price-per-click (PPC) costs.

There are multiple types of ad extensions that can be used to show different information. In order for ad extensions to appear, you must show up in the top 3 positions of the search results page. There are no additional fees for using ad extensions. They’re treated the same as receiving a click on your regular ad. Below we break down each type of extension.

Click to Call Extensions

These extensions give searchers a call button link to directly call your business. These are good to use if your business requires or allows for calls to your location. For example, if you have a pizza delivery restaurant, this extension could prompt people to call and place an order.

Location Extensions

Location extensions are great for local businesses who want people to come into their brick and mortar stores. Two studies commissioned by Google last year confirmed that “local searchers are ready to act. Many visit a nearby location within a day and complete purchases at a higher rate than consumers who conduct non-local searches.” For example, florists, cleaners, or boutiques can show up for people in certain geographic locations. These extensions show the address and phone number and link to Google Maps for easy directions.  If searchers can see your location without having to look it up separately it may sway their decision to come into your store.

Review Extensions

If your retail location has won awards, such as having a Zagat rating or Best Of category, you can display this on your search ad. Additionally, you can pull in reviews from customers as well. This symbol of excellence may be the deciding factor between a potential customer choosing between your restaurant and another one for lunch.

Sitelink Extensions

Sitelink extensions allow you to add links to additional pages and content on your website. This gives you the ability to share the information you think your potential customers may be interested in. If you have a retail store, you can highlight sales, promotions, or popular items. Additionally, you can use it to showcase your blog or a store locator.

Callout Extensions

Similar to sitelink extensions, callout extensions offer a way to highlight additional information. The difference is that callout extensions don’t link to any specific page on your site. The ideal way to use these is to “call out” things that may influence a buyer. For example, “free shipping”, “money back guarantee”, etc. can be good uses for these call outs.

Social Extensions

The social extension shows searchers how many followers you have on Google +. Probably the least important of all the extension types, but having a high follower number does signify trust which can bode well for your business. If you’ve taken the time to build your social following it’s worth including since your ad is taking up more real estate on the search results page.

Whether you’re a local business or an online retailer, competition can be fierce. Leveraging ad extensions can help you get the leg up on your competitors by making information more accessible to potential customers. Ideally, you should make use of every extension you to influence searchers decisions. Check out Google’s support page to learn about additional extensions, implementation and more.

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© 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.

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A New VerticalResponse for Salesforce is Coming Soon

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 09:47

February 2005. Do you remember what happened 10 years ago? Here are a few things from pop-culture that you may recall:

  • The New England Patriots won 24-21 over the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl XXXIX.
  • A video-sharing website called YouTube launched in the United States.
  • “Million Dollar Baby”, Jamie Foxx, and Hilary Swank took home Oscars from the 77th Academy Awards.

Plus, a big moment in VerticalResponse history happened that year. VerticalResponse for Salesforce launched. Just like life without YouTube, business didn’t have AppExchange back then. Hard to imagine. Instead, there was an integration into the Lists section of a VerticalResponse account that enabled you to pull over Leads or Contacts. As the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

Even with on-going updates, our AppExchange offering has been long overdue for a refresh. Our recent hard work is now paying off as we’re excited to bring you a new and improved experience. Our new VerticalResponse for Salesforce integration is coming soon so we wanted to give you a sneak peek into three things you can expect.

Responsive Email Templates

The new VerticalResponse for Salesforce will offer fully responsive email templates. No matter which template you use, or images you add, your email will look great on any device. Want to check out how your email is going to look on a mobile phone? Or, tablet? We built in a preview page so you can be confident in your email before you push send.

Additionally, with the updated integration, you’ll be able to open your VerticalResponse account in a new browser tab. From here, you can set up and send your emails. This is a welcome change if you’re not a fan of the scroll bars in the current application (blame the iframe, for any inquiring minds). We made the design and interface much more streamlined for you. 

Two-way Syncing

You’ve always been able to pull your Leads or Contacts from Salesforce to create a list, and then send back updated reporting. Now you’ll also be able to sync Contacts from your VerticalResponse lists, including those attached to a sign up form, and update back to Salesforce. And, of course, you’ll still be able to sync your email reporting data to your Leads and Contacts.

Create and Sync Contacts from Salesforce Campaigns or Reports

Speaking of syncing lists, you’ll also be able to use either a Salesforce Campaign or Report to create a list in your VerticalResponse account. And the information will sync automatically. You heard us correctly! No longer will you need to click the Update Statistics button to send the data from your VerticalResponse account to your Leads and Contacts. VerticalResponse does it for you. You can still choose to sync the data whenever you like. We just made it so you’ll never worry about any data differences between the two programs. 

There’s more to come in addition to these three new features with the updated VerticalResponse for Salesforce integration. The release date is coming soon so stay tuned for more information. 

To read more about VerticalResponse product updates, see our Product Update category on our award-winning blog. 

© 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.

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4 Ways to Use Pinterest to Drive More Visits to Your Website [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:00

It’s no secret Pinterest is a hub for ideas and inspiration for millions of people. The question you may have is how to use this influential social network to benefit your business. According to eMarketer, with Pinterest’s U.S. user base expected to reach 47.1 million this year, we’ve put together this short video that explains four easy ways to use Pinterest to attract more visitors to your website.

This Tips in 2 video will walk you through the following steps:

  1. Name your Pinterest profile and verify your website.
  2. Install the Pin It button on your website.
  3. Link pins back to your website.
  4. Link pins to offers to grow your email list.

For additional Pinterest tips read the 8 Must-Dos for Pinning to Your Business Pinterest Account

For helpful marketing tips in less than two minutes, check out our other Tips in 2 videos

© 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.

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Email Anti-Spam Laws Around the World [Infographic]

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:00

How familiar are you with email spam legislation? It can be tricky to navigate since the laws vary from one country to another. The U.S. anti-spam law is called CAN-SPAM. In Canada, the law is known as CASL. No matter where you live, if you’re sending an email, it needs to be compliant with the laws where your recipients are residents.

Most laws are similar to the U.S. CAN-SPAM law. Here are the important parts:

  • From label needs to be the sender of the email
  • Subject line has to reflect what’s in the email
  • A way to unsubscribe must be included
  • Subscribers to your list must be opted-in, not purchased

The last requirement is the one that gets a lot of people, especially in the U.S. as the CAN-SPAM law doesn’t require opt-in. To help keep all the different laws straight, we’ve created an infographic to break it down for you.

 

Grow your email list as an effective way to help your business thrive. To do so, use an opt-in method like a sign up form rather than buying a list. If you mail to a country with strict spam laws, use a double opt-in form in case you’re ever asked to prove signup. Lastly, be sure to stay current on the laws to stay in compliance.

© 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.

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12 Steps to Create an Effective Customer Survey

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 06:00

Whether you’re testing out a new product or want feedback about your customer service, there comes a time when every small business and non-profit can benefit from a customer survey. By asking your customers and donors to answer a few quick questions, you can gain valuable insight.

One of the best ways to conduct a survey is through email. In this post, we’re going to show you how to create a meaningful survey online and compose an invitation email to get customers to participate. Ready to get started?

First things first. Let’s talk about your survey.

1. Define your goals

What do you want your customer survey to accomplish? You need a well-defined goal before you start creating survey questions. Do you want to improve a particular service? Do you want feedback about your new website? In two to three sentences, write down what you want to learn from a survey.

2. Select an online survey tool

There are many online tools that can help you create a customer survey. We use SurveyMonkey. VerticalResponse is integrated with SurveyMonkey, so you can create a survey and email it to your target audience with ease.

3. Select a template

Most online survey tools offer a variety of pre-made templates based on your needs. You’ll be able to edit questions to suit your business and customer survey goals, and you’ll be able to get on with your day quicker if you’re not starting from scratch.

4. Add your own branding

Include your company logo in your survey, and use the colors that are in your logo as well, so your survey is consistent with your brand. 

5. Create clear questions

Now you’re getting down to brass tacks. It’s time to create a set of survey questions. Here are some tips to make sure your questions are efficient and on topic.

  • Revisit your goal. All of your questions should be geared to meet the goal of your survey.
  • Ask about one thing at a time. Don’t try to combine several elements into one question. It’s too difficult to decipher answers in the end.
  • Don’t try to sway your audience. Ask straightforward questions that are free of opinions.
  • Be specific. For example, a question like, “Do you regularly order office supplies online?” is vague. “Do you order printer cartridges from ABC Office Supply at least once a month?” is more specific and gives you more detailed information. 
  • Ask between 5-10 questions. You don’t want the survey to be too long or recipients may stop in the middle of it.
  • Select question types. With most survey tools, you have a variety of question types to select from. You can set up multiple choice, comment boxes, drop down menus and sliding scales. We suggest sticking to one or two question types per survey. You don’t want a hodgepodge of question types; it can be confusing to the participant.
  • Cover all possible answers. If you’re asking multiple-choice questions, make sure there’s an answer that fits for everyone.

6. Review it

Before you send your survey to your recipients, ensure you proofread it, and take a trial test. Have a co-worker do the same to catch any errors. Make adjustments if necessary.

With the customer survey complete, you can now create an email invitation to encourage participation.

7. Create an enticing subject line

In your email subject line, tell recipients that you’d like their help with a survey. The subject line should be concise and use active language. Here are a few examples:

  • We need your help. Take our 3-minute survey.
  • Tell us what you think & win a gift card.
  • Help us by completing our quick survey.
  • Have 2 minutes? We’d love your feedback.

8. Write an effective invitation

The body of your email invites the recipient to take the survey. Think of a birthday invitation. It’s friendly and offers vital details like whom the party is for and how long it will last. A survey invitation is similar. We’ll use the email below as an example of how to write your survey invitation.

  • Warm greeting. This survey is personalized and thanks the customer for using their service. Try something similar. The point is to begin the email on an appreciative note. 
  • Who and what the survey is for. Tell recipients whom the survey is for and what its purpose is. Explain why this survey is important like the example does.
  • Commitment time. How long will the survey take? This piece of information is a must. Your customers are busy, so if you don’t explain the time commitment they will likely ignore it. To get the best results, shoot for a survey that takes 3-5 minutes to complete. 
  • Possible incentive. You could include an incentive. Enter participants in a drawing for a prize, for example. This is especially helpful if your survey is on the longer side. If you plan to do this, mention it in your email.
  • A quick close. Bring your email to a close by thanking the customer, or if you’ve designed the invitation in a letter-style like the example above, a quick signature line works.

9. Create a call to action

The call to action should be clear. In the example above, the clickable red button takes recipients right to the survey. Make the process as seamless as possible.

10. Segment your list

Who should your survey go to? In some cases, you may want to send the survey to your entire email list. However, you may want to send it to specific segments, or parts of your list like those who recently purchased a product, or those who live in a specific area of the country. Segmenting your list will give you the most relevant responses.

11. Review and send

Review your email. Test the links and double-check your copy. When you’re happy with it, schedule it to go out when you want your recipients to get it. After a few days, consider sending a reminder email to those who haven’t completed the customer survey.

12. Collect and review responses

Collect your responses. Then, take the time to analyze all of the data and use it to make informed business decisions moving forward.

Get more tips and tactics by subscribing to the weekly VerticalResponse 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.

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5 Event Ideas that Attract Customers

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 06:00

Customer events are outstanding ways to create excitement and attract new prospects and loyal customers to your business. But how do you come up with an event idea that people want to attend and then get the word out? Here are five ideas for customer-attracting events that any business can use:

1. Learning event – At this type of event you focus on teaching attendees “how-to” do something. Options are limitless and could include things like a winery having a food and wine pairing, a makeup artist could reveal the latest techniques in contouring and highlighting, an esthetician could address the benefits of proper skincare and the effects of aging, a plumber could advise about the benefits of pipe maintenance and how much money people can save with proper upkeep. 

2. Interactive/Hands-On event – Similar to a learning event, a hands-on event takes that learning and literally puts it into the hands of an attendee. It allows attendees to roll up their sleeves to learn and do at the same time. Some interesting examples of a hands-on event could include a plant nursery showing how to pot succulents in mini terrariums, a printer demonstrating how to create letterpress cards or invitations, or a software company allowing customers to create an app using their technology. 

If you’ve ever stepped foot in an Apple store, you know the power of putting your product or service into people’s hands. When they see it, touch it, experience the results of using it and how it can help them, it’s priceless. 

3. Charitable event - Events that have a cause tied to them are brilliant at attracting customers because there’s a “feel good, do good” element. Shopping or spending for a cause is something people take pride in and it’s what helps make these type of events successful. You can do a charitable event any time of year, just make sure you connect your theme and cause to something that is relevant to your audience and something they care about. Examples could include a retail clothing store hosting a donate your old denim or coat drive, a toy store could have a buy a toy, donate a toy event. A local pet shelter could host a Friday Night Puppy Night like the San Francisco SPCA does where parents can drop off their kids for a night of movies and cuddling puppies. You can bet some of those kids end up taking a puppy home (my house is proof of this!)

4. Special Guest event - Inviting a special guest to host or MC your event can be an awesome draw to get people to attend. Many local sports athletes will lend their name and presence to causes they support. A restaurant or cafe could get a celebrity chef to cook a special meal and sign cookbooks, a wedding consultant could get a well-known makeup artist to provide “big day” makeovers, a winery could have a famous cheese monger present rare cheese and wine pairings. People love to have special out of the ordinary experiences and these events deliver on that. 

5. VIP event – People love to be part of exclusive, special things and a VIP event can help attract them like crazy. You can create a members-only event or a VIP event for your most loyal customers and offer them special shopping hours, a nice discount and elevated customer service. These types of events have been wildly popular for years and spawned the now well-known concept of Friends & Family day events, etc. The key to doing VIP events well is to keep it small and manageable so you can offer only the best experience since these are your best customers. You can base “best” on a number of things including amount spent, number of purchases, number of referrals, etc.

Now that we’ve discussed five types of customer-attracting events, let’s look at how you can get the word out.

How to Get the Word Out

Once you have all your event details set, you need to get the word out to potential attendees through various channels:

Email – A great place to start is your own list of email subscribers. Because they’re already engaged and invested in your brand, they may have a higher likelihood to attend an event you have. Send an event invitation via email far enough in advance that your subscribers can plan it into their calendars. Make sure you include all the necessary information in your email. If you’re hosting a physical event, include the full address of the venue, parking information, etc. If you’re inviting people to a demo, webinar, or new service, include full log in or sign up details. Also include a link back to your website, and contact info such as a phone number or email address for your business so someone can call with questions if need be. Always include a call to action to register or sign up to attend the event.

Plan to send a few email invitations and reminders as you get closer to your event. You can offer early bird discount pricing, or offer different level of tickets and benefits to instill a sense of urgency. For more event invitation tips read the 6 Components of a Successful Event Email

Direct Mail Postcards – In the digital age we live in, some may pooh-pooh the notion of sending a direct mail postcard, but postcards are very effective to get the word out. Postcards arrive already opened (there is no envelope to have to tear open or email to click) and if you use compelling imagery and messaging, your recipient has a good chance of reading it. Postcards also serve as easy reminders because they can be placed on a desk or refrigerator as a visual cue of the event. 

Social - In addition to inviting potential attendees via email and postcards, you can also invite guests via Facebook by creating an event. It’s a great way to invite people that you don’t have email addresses for. Creating an event on Facebook is quite simple by following these instructions.

Make sure you cover your other social bases by sharing details and a link to register on your other social channels like Twitter and LinkedIn. Create a hashtag for your event and use it every time you share details about your event on any social network. Just be sure you research any hashtag prior to using it to ensure it isn’t being used for something else you might not want. 

These five customer-attracting event ideas and tips about how to get the word out should help you make your next event a success. For more tips, read The Best Ways to Promote Your Small Business Event. 

Send your event marketing emails 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.

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5 Ways to Use LinkedIn for B2B Marketing

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 06:00

While Facebook and Twitter dominate the B2C space, LinkedIn is the site where B2B marketers go to find clients and make connections. It’s the only social networking platform solely focused on business, making it the perfect place to invest in marketing efforts. 

According to a study by WebMarketing123, LinkedIn is the most effective platform for lead generation and sales for B2B marketers. To help you maximize your efforts, here are five ways you can use LinkedIn for your B2B marketing needs.

1. Consider upgrading to a premium account

In order to receive the full benefits of LinkedIn, you can purchase a premium account. The site offers a 30-day free trial, so you can see if it’s right for you. After your free trial, plans start at $59.99 per month.

Under the business account, you can send 10 inMail messages per month, do advanced searches for leads, view unlimited profiles and see who’s viewed your profile over the last 90 days. 

If you upgrade to the sales plan, LinkedIn sends you lead recommendations, allows you to view decision makers at companies, imports your Salesforce contacts, lets you message using InMail and gives you access to 25 locked accounts outside of your network per month.

2. Reach out to influencers through InMail

InMail is useful for numerous reasons. After you log into your account and see who’s checking your profile, you can reach out to those people and see if they’re interested in working with you. If you’re trying to contact prospects but not having any luck finding their contact information online, InMail allows you to message them directly.

3. Enhance your company’s LinkedIn page

Your company’s LinkedIn page needs to show your prospects what you do, and what you can do for them. Explain why your company and product are valuable and use language that your target audience understands.

 

Under the specialties tab, use keywords that people are most likely to use when looking for a business in your field. For your cover photo, choose one that displays your business’ story and represents you in the best way possible. It can be as simple as showing your flagship storefront or a photo of your products.

4. Joined LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn groups are platforms for connecting with others in your field and starting relevant discussions. Under the Interests tab on the site, click Groups, and you’ll see a list of recommended groups that fit your business. Go ahead, join a few.

Within the group you join, you’re able to post discussions and participate in other users’ threads. You can also see who the top contributors are and whether or not any of your contacts are also members. Here is an example of a LinkedIn group:

After you join, make sure you’re an active member by posting questions and starting discussions that will get people talking. Ask questions that many other professionals in your community would want to know the answer to, and answer other people’s questions as well. That way, you’ll showcase your business expertise.

5. Post thought provoking content

Aside from group discussions, another way to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to post content that gets people thinking. You can do this by using LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

When you first log in to the site, click on the pencil icon within the status update bar. You’ll be able to access a writing platform.

Write about changes to your industry, your thoughts on upcoming business legislation that impacts your niche or an article about the lessons you’ve learned as a business owner. There’s no limit to what you can write about. The idea is to showcase your knowledge. Show the B2B world that your business knows its stuff.

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.

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6 Must-Have Types of Customer Help Content

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 06:01

Helpful content is, of course, an important part of marketing your business. Customer help content may be something you’ve thought about, and maybe even created some. But it’s also likely the task of creating help content gets pushed down the to-do list when more pressing things come up. But don’t put off creating help content for too long as it can be a time saver for you and your customers.

By providing useful and relevant help content, you provide your customers the ability to help themselves and create a better customer experience. Help content can also remove obstacles that may make it difficult for customers to use your product, service or even make a purchase from your business. And, help content can lighten the load on your customer support team.

Here are 6 types of customer help content you should think about to make your customers successful.

1. Text Help

Text help is the backbone of most customer support help. Creating and writing text help takes some time but it’s straight forward to do and can be updated quickly. Text help provides your customers the ability to find what they need, when they need it. Remember to include how to use your products and services, but also how to contact you, or get more help if needed. 

2. Help Videos/Demos/Webinars

Help videos can provide your customers even more support if they need a visual way to understand something. Videos are an effective complement to text content and can be useful for visual learners. When creating help videos, think brevity when it comes to length. One minute or less is ideal. Otherwise, you may lose your viewers attention before he or she gets the answer they need. We create help videos, plus a series of Tips in 2 videos to help our audience become better at marketing their businesses.  

3. FAQs/Popular Questions/Glossary 

When your customers ask the same questions over and over again, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or Popular Questions page is a useful addition to your help content. You can address common pain points in a single page and alleviate a lot of phone calls and emails to your support team (or yourself!).

Depending on your business, a glossary could also be useful. Think about the acronyms or terms you use every day, and create a page to help your customers understand your business or product better. Make this information available on your website, blog or help pages. Take a look at how Jiffy Lube handles the common questions they get about car care.

4. Community /Forum

A Community page, or Forum, is a useful addition to your help content if you have a complex product or service. A community is where customers can post questions and get answers about your products or services. A community does require more effort and some budget to get set up, but it can be a great resource for your customers. Passionate customers willing to help with common questions add a ton of value and are important to the success of a community or forum. Enlist someone to manage the community who is knowledgeable about your business to ensure all information is correct and that people are getting helped. This type of help can extend to other content you’ve created, such as videos, guides or blog posts. You may already be familiar with the VerticalResponse help community. The American Diabetes Association has a great example of a forum as well. 

5. Size Charts

Size charts are a must for online customers buying clothing, shoes, or anything that comes in different sizes. If you have customers from different countries include size conversion information as well. It’s a good best practice to show customers how to find the right size. Modcloth has this down pat. Take a look at how they include all of this information, plus a link to contact support, all in one small window.

6. Social Help

A social network may not be the first thought when you think of customer help content, but your customers might. Social networks have become an important way to not only reach customers but to help them as well. Make sure the person managing your social channels is able to answer questions quickly and accurately. Your customers expect a timely response. Take a look at the Yahoo help Facebook page. They help customers by doing regular posts that answer questions before they come up.

How to Create Customer Help Content

So, how do you get started creating customer help content? A brainstorming session is a useful way to generate new ideas and gather common pain points or obstacles your customers may have. Your employees, salespeople and support team can help you determine what kinds of help content your customers might need and the best place for them to find that information. Use these questions to kickoff the discussion:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What do they like or need from your business?
  • What questions do they have about using your product/service?
  • What are their top concerns or pain points?
  • How do they learn best? Reading text, watching videos or asking questions over the phone?

Answering these questions will set you on your way to creating a useful help content for your customers and your support team.

Send your email newsletters today with VerticalResponse. It’s free up to 1,000 email contacts.

© 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.

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3 Tips to Wake up NonResponders & Boost Email Open Rates

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 06:00

Figuring out what makes your subscribers tick can be a head-scratcher. Why does one email marketing campaign perform well, while another perfectly good one seems to fall flat?

We’ve previously covered some of the reasons why habitual email nonresponders become that way, and provided you with tips for re-engagement. But what do you do when you want to drive more opens and clicks for a single email and are short on time? The answer, of course, is to schedule a follow-up nonresponder email.

Nonresponder emails are great for promotional content like sales, events and fundraisers that have a specific goal and/or expiration date – whether it’s redeeming a specific coupon, registering for an event, or donating to a current fundraising campaign. In previous buy one, get one free promotions to our customer base, we’ve seen as much as a 40 percent lift in our overall open rates by sending a nonresponder email to subscribers who didn’t open the original email.

So with that in mind, here are three tips to wake up those nonresponders and give your open rate a boost:

1. Segment your list
The first order of business is to segment out subscribers that didn’t open your email the first time around and create a new list of nonresponders. VerticalResponse and most Email Service Providers (ESPs) include this feature. Once you have your list of nonresponders there are two quick changes you can make to your original email to try to get more people to open your follow-up.

2. Try a different time of day or day of the week
Determining the best time to schedule your email takes some trial and error. Notice I said scheduling, and not sending? We know you likely wear a million hats, but if you’ve fallen into the bad habit (and we’re all guilty) of procrastinating on your email and sending it at the last possible second, it might be time to try scheduling in advance.

If you sent the first email early in the morning, try sending the nonresponder email later in the day. You can look at your reporting for when the majority of your opens and clicks happened to provide some data to work from. Also, if your first email went out on Monday, try a different day of the week and don’t be shy about testing on weekends, either. We could dedicate an entire post to timing (and we have), but for now, keep the scheduling time of your nonresponder email in mind as a way to make it stand out in the inbox.

3. Tweak your subject line
Aside from timing; the other quick and easy way to make nonresponders notice your follow-up email is to change the subject line. If you don’t have an enticing subject line, it doesn’t matter what your email content looks like if nobody opens it. One way is make your subject line emotionally responsive. If your campaign or promo has an expiration date, try adding time-sensitive wording to your nonresponder subject line such as “hurry,” ending soon,” last chance,” etc. For more help with subject lines, read our six tips for creating compelling subject lines

Using these three tips can help you re-engage nonresponders and get them opening and clicking your emails leading to better results.

Send effective emails today using VerticalResponse – It’s free up to 1,000 email contacts.

© 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.

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8 DIY Tools to Grow Your Email List Fast

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 06:00

It’s time to kick your email list into high gear. We’re talking warp speed here. Since a healthy email list is one that keeps growing, we’ve put together a list of eight do-it-yourself tools to help you collect emails at full throttle.

Let’s not idle any longer. Here are eight tools you should try to boost your email list:

1. Create a sign up form

Tool to use: VerticalResponse sign up form

One of the best tools to collect email addresses is a sign up form. Encourage visitors to provide their email address when they stop by your website. How, you ask? We’ve made it simple for you. VerticalResponse offers free sign up forms. Just log into your account, create the form and we’ll host it on a landing page for you, plus you can place it on your website and on your social networks. When a new contact joins the list, we’ll add it to your email list.

Want to learn more about how sign up forms work? Check out this article, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sign Up Forms.

2. Add a pop up form to your site

Tool to use: PopUp Domination

Grow your list by enabling visitors to enter their email address in a pop up message on your site. With PopUp Domination you can create a tasteful message that appears on your website and asks users to sign up for your newsletter or claim a special offer in exchange for their email address. You can pick from ready-made templates, customize the message, add your own images, create your own call to action button and get access to analytics.

3. Offer an on site incentive

Tool to use: Justuno

Give website visitors an incentive to sign up for your email list with Justuno. This tool collects emails by offering visitors an on site incentive, like a downloadable coupon in exchange for an email address. Pretty cool, huh? That’s not the best part. VerticalResponse has an integration with Justuno, so when a new contact signs up, it goes directly to your email list. Instant growth!

4. Add a Facebook tab to collects emails

Tool to use: Pagemodo

With Pagemodo you can add a tab to your Facebook page so visitors can get in touch with you. You can set it up to look like a contact form. Visitors just fill in a few fields, including their email address, and submit it to you. You’ll get an email with the new contact information and the message.

Pagemodo has additional features too. You can run social media contests and customize your Facebook page with this tool as well.

5. Collect emails via text message

Tool to use: Tatango

Your subscribers can text their email address to you with Tatango. The subscriber texts a keyword, which triggers an automatic request for their email address. You can create a customized response when a new email address comes in. That new contact is added right to your email list within VerticalResponse.

6. Gather emails while selling products

Tool to use: Shopify integration tool

Does your small business sell products through Shopify? If so, you can collect email addresses when a customer makes a purchase. A customer is already typing important information, so it’s the perfect time to ask for their email address too. Those new contacts will flow seamlessly into your master email list with the VerticalResponse integration

7. Use your email signature to encourage sign ups

Tool to use: WiseStamp

How many emails do you send out a day? Yeah, it’s a lot. Why not put those business emails to work for you? Use WiseStamp to create a custom email signature. In your signature, you can include your picture, contact information and business updates. One of those business updates could be a link to a contact form, like the one you set up in VerticalResponse. Just add the URL to your email signature. The text can read, “Sign up for our newsletter” or  “Join our email list.” When clicked, the subscriber is taken right to the contact form to sign up.

8. Run a social media contest

Tool to use: Woobox

A social media contest can rack up email addresses. From a simple giveaway on Facebook to a ‘Pin in to Win it’ contest, Woobox can help you create and manage all kinds of social media contests on all of the big platforms.

When you create a social media contest, one of the things a participant should be required to do is enter their email address. As more people participate, your email list grows larger.

Which tool will you use to rev your email list engine? We suggest starting with one or two of the tools listed above and add more options as time and resources allow. Most of the tools listed have a monthly subscription fee, so you’ll need to select the best options for your business.

Get your free email sign up form and send your 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.

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5 Customer Appreciation Emails Retailers Should Send

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 06:00

In business, it’s all about customer retention. According to Gartner Group, 80 percent of your future revenue will likely come from just 20 percent of your existing customers. So, how do you keep your existing customers coming back for more? Try sending customer appreciation emails. By doing so, you remind your clientele about the great value they receive from your company and make them feel appreciated.

A variety of genuine customer appreciation emails can help you thank customers for being part of your success. They can also break the routine of newsletters, event emails and offers, while maintaining trust and connection. These emails don’t need to be long or elaborate. In most cases, you can keep it short and sweet with a heartfelt note that conveys your appreciation.

Here are five examples of emails you can send throughout the year to show your gratitude:

1) Thanks after a purchase

When someone buys from you, send them a quick email thanking them and telling them how they’ve contributed to your business. This email shouldn’t be too long. A relevant image and a short note would be appropriate.

Take a look at this thank you email from non-profit, Ugmonk. It tells donors exactly what they’ve helped to achieve, and though that’s the central message, it also notes future goals and opportunities to give and buy.

2) Celebrate a holiday – especially a random one

Send an email commemorating a holiday and thank your customers for their support during the year. It’s even cooler if you send an email commemorating a non-traditional holiday like Star Wars Day, or Talk Like a Pirate Day. These are wonderful opportunities to surprise and delight your loyal customers with something unexpected. 

By sending emails on random holidays you lessen the chance of your email being overlooked. Every month and day of the year celebrates something different. Pick one that speaks to you and use it to thank your customers. Connect your expression of gratitude with the holiday, and offer your valued customers a discount or freebie, like this email from Jack Threads.

3) Say happy birthday

Send your customers an email and wish them a happy birthday. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your customers in a positive, appreciative and non-”salesy” way. You could couple this with a discount or freebie to make them feel even more special. If you don’t know your customers birthday, celebrate your own or the founding of your business in the same way.

Here’s a nice, customer-focused birthday message from a retailer. See other great examples in this post on Effective Birthday Emails that Light up Our Inboxes

4) Ask for feedback

Who better to provide feedback about your business than your own valued customers? People like feeling heard. Affirm that you’re asking their opinion specifically because you value them as a customer. It’s an effective way to show your appreciation. Soliciting honest feedback through surveys on a regular basis allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers’ needs in their journey with your business and is also an opportunity to monitor your brand’s identity in the marketplace.

5) Celebrate a company milestone

Did you just make your 10,000th sale? Fifth anniversary? Unveil a new website? Whatever the milestone you’re celebrating, let your customers know they were a part of helping you reach that goal. This can be a unique opportunity to focus on your business as well as your customers.

Take a look at the example above. The email thanks customers and offers a discount for their support. You can also talk about your success, where you came from, what inspired you and what this success means to your business. Then explain how instrumental your customers have been in that journey.

Sending an email is an affordable way to show customer appreciation. It keeps you connected to your customers even when they aren’t buying, and fosters goodwill by letting them know you value their support and business.

Send your emails for free with VerticalResponse.

Sarah Tanksalvala is a freelance business, technology and lifestyle writer based in Evergreen, Colorado.

© 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.

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10 Questions to Ask In Your Business Demographics Survey

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 06:00

Discovering valuable information about your customers has always been coveted in the business world. The reasoning behind this is logical. If you understand who your customers are, you can strengthen your relationship with them, build trust and credibility. You can also collect the information needed to make the right decisions for your company. A business demographic survey is a great tool to unearth and collect this kind of insight.

Choosing the Right Questions

When conducting a survey, you first need to decide the type of questions to ask based on the goal of your survey. When looking to understand your market, use a business demographics survey. This data can help you widen your customer base. Or, use the information collected to tailor your product or service to better serve your customers.

Here are 10 sample questions to consider:

  •      How long has your company been in business?
  •      In which industry is your business?
  •      What is your title at your company?
  •      How long have you been in your current position?
  •      How many people are employed at your company?
  •      What was the annual revenue for your company last year?
  •      Does your company have more than one location?
  •      Does your company do business online?
  •      Does your company serve consumers, businesses, or both?
  •      Which marketing channels do you use to promote your business?

Number of Questions

While we’d all like to ask our customers 100 questions, that’s not realistic. So how many questions should you ask? According to SurveyMonkey, “the relationship between the number of questions in a survey and the time spent answering each question is not linear.”  

Chart via SurveyMonkey

What this means is the more questions you ask, the less time people devote to each individual question. While there are no hard and fast rules on how many questions to ask, keep the question count low to receive higher quality data.

Tips to Increase Response Rate 

Not only will you receive more reliable responses by asking fewer questions but also higher participation. No one likes to click through pages of questions so this is one way to boost the rate of response. Additionally, make it easy to answer your survey from any device. A questionnaire that is mobile-friendly prevents people from abandoning the process simply because the interface is funky.

Don’t be shy about throwing in a little extra for devoting time to your survey. Everyone likes to be rewarded. Give your survey recipients some motivation and thank them for filling out your survey. This can be done on an individual basis, or as a drawing for all who participate. It doesn’t take much more effort and it’s an easy way to increase response rates.

That said, expect an average response rate of about 10 percent. You’ll want to send your survey to a large enough pool of recipients in order to make it statistically relevant and meaningful. 

Survey Tool

Finally, to conduct your survey, use a simple tool like SurveyMonkey or GetFeedback. This will ensure your questionnaire is mobile-friendly. SurveyMonkey offers a free option that allows you to send 10 questions and receive 100 responses, and VerticalResponse has an integration with Survey Monkey so every time you get a new survey response, it creates a new contact in your VerticalResponse account. 

These business demographic survey questions and tips should get you on your way to collecting the information you need to grow your business. For more tips, check out The 4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Creating a Survey, and see the survey category of our blog to learn more. 

© 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.

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