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Get More Eyes on Your Content Using StumbleUpon

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 06:00

About StumbleUpon
If you haven’t used StumbleUpon, it’s worth your time to check out the discovery engine. StumbleUpon is a great way to uncover new content on the internet. The site finds and recommends content based on your interests. You can discover fun sites about cute cats, or find valuable articles and relevant information for your business. Taking advantage of StumbleUpon not only exposes you to some stellar content, but also presents a powerful way for others to discover your own business and unique content.

So how does StumbleUpon know what sort of content you might be interested in discovering? When creating an account, you’re simply asked to list your interests. This helps StumbleUpon hone in on particular websites and/or content that may be of interest to you. There’s also a rating system in which you can give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to each suggested website so that StumbleUpon can further tailor the content for you. My personal StumbleUpon account happens to be full of cute animal pictures, DIY arts & crafts, and photography.

How to Use StumbleUpon for Your Business
StumbleUpon also has an ad platform called StumbleUpon Paid Discovery that allows you to post your content (from a website or blog) online for 5¢, 10¢, or 25¢ per “stumble” or page view. The payment plan you choose is based on more or less detailed reporting, and priority for your content.

Here’s How We Use It
We love content marketing, and always suggest creating content for your business. StumbleUpon is an easy way to spread content to your customers, prospects and tons of new eyeballs. According to StumbleUpon, there are over 1 billion pages Stumbled each month! Just imagine the potential traffic coming to your website!

We use content as ads on StumbleUpon, but the end user or Stumbler doesn’t necessarily know he/she is seeing an ad. This is called native advertising, where the ads become part of the content. We can advertise VerticalResponse without having it be too “in your face.” And, the Stumbler gets great content to boot.

We post anywhere from 2-10 articles/blog posts a month and add Google Analytics to track the performance. The articles are set at the 5¢ level so we can get our content out to the greatest number of Stumblers. After you post an article (via URL), StumbleUpon will track it and give it a score (percentage) that corresponds to the number of people giving it either a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” The more people like the article or content, the higher the percentage will be. Create a cut-off score for articles so that you aren’t paying to run content Stumblers don’t enjoy. 50% or higher means that 50% of the people that Stumbled your content gave it a thumbs up.

How You Can Use It
Do you have a spectacular website with content about your business? Create a StumbleUpon Paid Discovery account and start adding articles. Start slow – add one article and specify how much you want to spend per day. Or, you can specify how much you want to spend on multiple articles per day if you have enough content.

Posting  is really easy. Select the URL of the article/blog/picture that you want to send to StumbleUpon users and click the button “Create a New Campaign.” Paste the URL and select the number of daily visitors you want to reach, or how much you want to spend.

This is a set-it-and-forget-it type of platform. You can check in on it once a week to make sure you aren’t spending too much or too little and check your scores. If they’re below 50%, pause them, but keep all the articles within Paid Discovery so that you know what you’ve posted.

Some StumbleUpon Content Dos and Don’ts

  • DOSign up for a standard StumbleUpon account (it’s free!) and start exploring. It’ll help you learn more about platform and how people use it.
  • DON’T – Start posting to your Paid Discovery account without reading the terms and conditions.
  • DO – Post content that is educational, creative and/or fun.
  • DON’T – Post content that is outright selling your product or business. For example, we would never post just our homepage, but we do post content that contains small ads (check out the green call-to-action button on the right of the blog).
  • DO – Find out what content people like based on your scores. We find that with our particular content, articles with a little sass seems to resonate for our Stumblers.

Reporting
Here is a peek at our Paid Discovery Dashboard. This is a quick look at paid Stumbles, organic Stumbles (users that have shared our articles), score, and effective CPV (cost per view). You can also see how much we are set to spend per day and how many active and pause campaigns we have in our account. You can also get more detailed reporting about each article if you click “Manage.”

Get Started!
Now you can get started and find and post great content like this:

The post Get More Eyes on Your Content Using StumbleUpon appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Non-Profits Investing More Time, Money in Social Media [Infographic]

Thu, 12/06/2012 - 06:00

We recently announced the results of our latest small business social media survey – complete with a snazzy infographic – about how much time and money our small business customers spend on social media.

Then we thought, what about non-profits? At VerticalResponse, we have thousands of happy 501(c)3 customers (we offer a pretty sweet discount for non-profits, including 10,000 free email credits each month, 50% off social media marketing and more). Non-profits depend on donations for funding, so they need to be super efficient with their time and budgets.

So how much do non-profits invest in social media, and is it growing?

We surveyed more than 100 of our non-profit customers to find out. Turns out that much of what they’re doing is pretty consistent with the small businesses we surveyed, with a few interesting exceptions:

  • More non-profits are on Facebook (96 percent), compared to small businesses (90 percent).
  • Non-profits are more active on Facebook: 76 percent post multiple times per week, compared to 66 percent of small businesses.
  • While both non-profits and small businesses say finding and posting content takes the most time, non-profits report that responding to questions on social media also takes up a substantial amount of time.
Here are more statistics in a visual infographic:

Are you a non-profit? Do you agree with the data? Let us know in the comments!

The post Non-Profits Investing More Time, Money in Social Media [Infographic] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Marketing Mobile

Wed, 12/05/2012 - 06:00

Holiday marketing has traditionally involved sales and, more recently, emails, but technology has brought a new marketing front to tackle – mobile. In the US alone, there are 331.6 million cell phone subscribers, with nearly half of the adults (45%) owning a smartphone. If you aren’t already including mobile in your marketing plans, there is no time like the present. While the 2012 holiday season is rapidly coming to a close, you can still implement these ideas now and reap the benefits well into 2013.

Here are 3 ways to incorporate mobile into your holiday marketing:

Email – While we’ve written about mobile email holiday marketing on the blog (and in this guide,) before, there are a few things to keep in mind when creating a mobile-friendly email. Your subject line and pre-header are really important in the small viewing area on a phone. Spend time crafting a catchy subject line and pre-header text. Including images is important, especially this time of year, but remember your recipients are looking at a small screen. Keep a balance of images/ text, and don’t use images that are too large, as they can take a long time download through the the WiFi that mobile phones use. Also include plenty of links – Your mobile shoppers will have a harder time visiting your website without a link. Include any/all great deals you’re offering, such as sales, free shipping or coupons. Keep in mind, 57% of smartphone owners who made a purchase, did so after receiving a marketing email message. Plus, remember to include your address, a link to a map with your business location, and special holiday hours. Your mobile audience will be looking for this info on-the-go, so make it easy for them to find it!

Macy’s includes a link to their mobile shopping site.

 

Cabela’s shared their mobile app through their Facebook page.

Social Media – The posts you share on social media can be similar to the content you share in your email campaigns. Post information about sales or specials you’re running, and provide links to a website or specific products/services you’re featuring. But make sure these posts are sharable; a fun or good offer can spread pretty quickly through social media. Using a tool like VR Social can help you schedule these posts for Facebook and Twitter, as well as create social coupons. Including shipping info in your posts is helpful as well, especially as deadlines for holiday delivery quickly approach. Not convinced about the importance of marketing on social? Check out these stats from The Social Skinny:

  • Social commerce sales should total $9.2 billion by the end of this year and are expected to climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015.
  • 20% of people would purchase within a social media site.
  • 60% of people are willing to post about products/services on Facebook if they get a deal or discount.

You definitely want your business to grab a portion of those sales, and since mobile users access social media through their phones, give them the info they need to make a purchase right then and there. And, don’t forget to mention any awesome mobile apps you have!

Mobile-optimized website – Creating-mobile friendly emails and social posts are great, but if your website isn’t optimized for mobile users, you could lose potential customers. If you have a webmaster who can do this quickly, you may have it ready for the holidays, but if not, you can still optimize your site sooner rather than later. By 2014, mobile internet is expected to overtake desktop usage. Catering to your mobile users now will put you ahead of the curve, and get your customers used to shopping with you through their mobile devices. Mobile shoppers get frustrated navigating non-mobile sites and may leave before they’ve made a purchase or worse, go to a competitor’s mobile-friendly site. Mashable has a great list of things to consider when creating a mobile-friendly site, check it out here.

There you go, three fairly simple but important ways to use mobile for your holiday marketing and beyond. They’ll help your current customers remain loyal and could win you new ones!

The post 3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Marketing Mobile appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Social Media Etiquette Rules Emily Post Would Approve of

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 06:03

Emily Post’s name is synonymous with proper etiquette and manners. I have no doubt that if she were alive today, she’d have a thing or two to say about how people behave on various social networks. So, in Emily Post style, here are five social media etiquette rules that make the social world a happier place:

1. Don’t hijack threads in the name of your own agenda. Many of us have experienced or witnessed blog/social media thread hijacks before. Here’s an example: A blogger posts an article recommending some great companies in a specific industry. A reader feels as if this blogger has somehow forgotten to include their company in the blog post. The reader then comments on the post, mentions that the writer must have inadvertently excluded their company from the article and proceeds to provide a laundry list of facts about why their company is so awesome. Don’t do this. Not only does this make the thread hijacker look desperate, but it’s also disrespectful to the companies or products that were mentioned in the post. The best thing to do is to note the author’s name and contact information, and build a relationship (no stalking). Building relationships with online influencers, rather than hijacking their threads, will help raise their awareness of your company/product in a professional manner.

2. Include context if a Facebook ‘friendship’ is unclear. Facebook isn’t like Twitter in that you can’t just instantly follow someone – There are privacy concerns. On Facebook, you have to send a request, and the recipient must accept this request in order for you to become “friends.” The problem, is that when someone wants to connect or network on Facebook, the tendency to send a friend request with little to zero context is common. This results in a lot requests stuck in friend request purgatory. You’ll notice the request message says,”Do you know so-and-so? If you know so-and-so, send her a friend request or message her.” Do both of these if it’s not crystal clear how you know each other. Send a message reminding the person where you met, or why you want to connect, then send the friend request. This provides some context and increases the chance of connecting.

3. Don’t use vulgar language or make threats to others with different opinions. Unfortunately, there was a ton of this behavior plastered on Social Media sites during the recent election. It’s one thing to have passion for a cause, side, candidate, etc. but no amount of name-calling or threats will make someone change their mind and/or take your point of view. Crossing the line by berating others for having different views looks bad, and it’s alienating.

4. Give credit where credit is due. We read and share a lot of great articles every day on our @VR4SmallBiz Twitter account. When sharing third-party articles, blog posts, etc., always try to include the Twitter handle of the person or blog that penned the article. It not only provides a proper source credit for the piece of content, but it lets the person know you shared it. This can be great for building relationships with influential people inside and outside of your industry.

5. Say thank you – It sounds simple because it is. Take the time to thank someone who comments on your post, retweets your content or shares your Facebook photo. You’d be surprised by the responses that a simple “thank you” can get.

There you have it – five Social Media etiquette rules that everyone should follow. These rules not only make social networks a better place for all to enjoy, but they’d make Emily Post pretty darn proud.

The post 5 Social Media Etiquette Rules Emily Post Would Approve of appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Connect with Online Influencers – Dos & Don’ts

Fri, 11/30/2012 - 06:05

Connecting with bloggers and online influencers is a great way to gain visibility for your company. Their readers and followers tend to be super engaged, which means they may be more ready to buy. And, bloggers/online influencers generate content all the time, sometimes at a faster pace than a traditional news outlet.

These days in PR, there’s little distinction between a journalist and a blogger. They’re often equally influential, and we treat online influencers with the same respect and professionalism as we do a reporter at a major news outlet.

Because these influencers have built up so much clout, it’s not as easy as it used to be to get on their radar. So how do you get their attention? Follow these six dos and don’ts:

Do Conduct Research

Before you even think about reaching out, identify the blogger’s topic of expertise. Your product, service or pitch angle should be a good fit for it. If you’re a jewelry designer, you probably won’t have much luck with foodie blogs; but wedding bloggers might be right up your alley.

Online influencers also tend to be early adopters. So if you’ve got something new, offering them a sneak peek before it’s publicly available might be just the thing to get them to say yes to engaging with you.

Do Build up to the Pitch

Like journalists, bloggers and online influencers get hundreds of pitches from companies of all shapes and sizes, and they don’t have time to respond to every one.

Here’s a tip: Don’t pitch them anything at first. Instead, show consistent interest in what they have to say. How? Here are some quick ideas:

  • Comment on one of their blog posts every now and then with something substantive. (“Great post!” is not a substantive comment.)
  • Engage with them on social media – just don’t be creepy (see below).
  • Share their content with your social networks.

Seems like a lot of time and effort? Sure, at first. But the returns could be huge. When you do pitch influencers with your awesome, relevant product or service, you have a much better chance of piquing their interest because your name will be familiar.

Do Explore Sponsored Content

Some bloggers are open to agreements where they’re compensated for posting sponsored content (like a sponsored post, contest or giveaway). A quick skim of their blog or site should reveal if they do this.

If you decide to go down the paid route, don’t demand that they remove any mention that it’s a paid-for agreement. These bloggers have spent years building a loyal audience that trusts what they have to say. Even if the compensation is just free product, most big-time bloggers will disclose that fact if they write about you.

Don’t Be Creepy

Offline social mores should be applied to online interactions, too. Big no-nos include posting comments that don’t add anything to the public conversation, emailing them all the time, making snarky remarks about their cat (unless you’ve actually met said cat), etc. When you engage with bloggers and online influencers, be polite and genuine, and use common sense.

That said, in social media people tend to share a lot about themselves, and it’s OK to bond on a more informal, personal level – as long as the context is appropriate and you’re doing other things to build that relationship.

A note of caution: People – bloggers and online influencers included – use different social media networks for different reasons. Respect their limits. A good rule of thumb: If they don’t often share blog- or work-related content on a particular social media platform or account, don’t reach out to them there.

Don’t Ask Them to Publish a Review Sight Unseen

Bloggers live by their reputation. So, if they’re going to publicly endorse something, they have to really love it, and usually your word alone isn’t enough. Get them to experience your product or service.

  • If you have a physical product, send them samples in the mail along with a handwritten note.
  • If you’re an online service, give them a free trial.
  • If you have a local physical location, invite them to special events so they can check out your space.

Offer to give their readers a big discount on whatever you’re promoting. The more you can make them feel like they’re getting something exclusive out of talking about you, the greater your chances are of getting on their good side.

Also, influential bloggers make no guarantees that they’ll post a five-star review. Much like working with traditional press, if they end up posting something critical, there’s not much you can do about it unless it’s factually inaccurate.

Don’t Name-Drop

You might think that prefacing your influencer outreach with “This has been written up in so-and-so” or “I know so-and-so and thought you and I should connect as well” might give you some cachet. It actually can do the opposite, especially in highly competitive industries such as technology.

Why? Influential bloggers want to be the first to know. Rattling off a list of competitors whom you’ve already talked to says to the blogger that he/she isn’t important enough to be at the top of your list. And, no one wants old news.

Have you had success getting on the radar of online influencers? Share your tips with the rest of us!

The post How to Connect with Online Influencers – Dos & Don’ts appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Marketing Resources for Startups – Go from Zero to Traction in 90 days

Wed, 11/28/2012 - 06:00

You’ve got an idea and you’re sure it’s a winner. You’ve read Eric Ries’s, The Lean Startup, have started figuring out your minimum viable product and are getting ready to test your assumptions. But, how do you build a base of customers from nothing?

If you’re like most founders, you’re likely bootstrapping your business from your own bank account or credit cards and trying to build it in the little spare time you have after your day job. You’re also likely to have a background in anything other than marketing. Starting your own business can be daunting, but a lack of money, time and experience shouldn’t keep you from succeeding. Here’s a list of inexpensive, easy-to-use resources that’ll help you reach out to potential customers and validate your idea, even before you’ve developed your product.

1. To Quickly Set up a Web Presence to Attract Customers: Launchrock

Launchrock is probably the quickest, easiest way to set up a website intended to start building an audience. The site builder is simple and intuitive – you describe your idea, upload a captivating image and point your domain name to the site. Launchrock then provides a simple form asking potential customers to sign up to be notified of the pending launch of your product. In less than an hour, you can have an attractive site that helps you build a list of eager customers who are eager for your launch. As you get closer to launch, consider transitioning to either a WordPress site or, if your product warrants it, a completely custom site on your own web host.

2. To Build and Communicate with Your Audience Through Email and Social: VerticalResponse

Who else would I recommend? You can download the list of customers who have signed up on your Launchrock site as a CSV file, which can be quickly uploaded as a new list directly into your VerticalResponse account. As soon as you get your first sign up, you can begin sending out emails/newsletters – no less than once every two weeks – describing your progress, sharing related news and information and providing value for your customers to stay top of mind. Take full advantage of the VR Social tools to automatically promote your Launchrock site on your Facebook and Twitter feeds and share related information to help you build your social following.

3. For Inexpensive Marketing Assets: Fiverr

The odd jobs listed on this site go from the incredibly useful (“I will create a logo for your needs for $5″) to the insanely ludicrous (“I will juggle a chainsaw and knives while yelling anything you want for $5″). If you’re in the need of graphics for your newsletter, simple site designs, short promotional videos or other marketing assets, Fiverr is a great place to start. The quality may not be ideal for more permanent branding purposes – for example, a logo I requested for a personal project was clearly created using an amalgamation of clip art – but, for quick and dirty marketing materials, the price can’t be beat. Once you have solid revenue rolling in though, you may want to hire a professional designer.

4. To Rapidly Drive Traffic to Your Site: Google AdWords

It can take as long as three months for some sites to get listed on Google. Even then, it can be difficult to crack the top results page of your most targeted keywords. Google AdWords provides an affordable way to target specific audiences by keyword and tweak your message to maximize signups. Spend about an hour researching keywords using the Google Traffic Estimator or the SEO Book Keyword Tool, focusing on relevant words and phrases that drive the most clicks for the least amount of money per click. Then create an ad to drive that traffic to your Launchrock site. You can build an audience this way for as little as $5 a day.

5. For High Quality Swag: Printfection

What’s a startup without a cool T-shirt? You have a ton of options for swag, including Zazzle, Cafepress and even VistaPrint. But the folks at Printfection really understand startup culture. They’ve developed a system that allows you to order small quantities of a variety of high-quality branded items at reasonable prices. Swag is a great way to reward your most valuable – and most vocal – customers, and it gives them the feeling that they’re part of the team. Customers often share the gifts you give them on social media through pictures and posts, providing valuable word of mouth marketing.

6. The Most Important Resource For Any Startup: Hustle
I’ve only just scratched the surface of the fantastic tools and resources available to you as a new startup owner, and the landscape is constantly changing. Despite the web’s ability to remove barriers to get you started, there’s one tool it can never replace – your own ability to hustle. Go talk to people on relevant web forums, press the flesh at tradeshows and meetups and never stop finding new ways to reach and talk to your customers. Share the passion you feel for your business with your customers and they’ll reward you with their loyalty and help spread the word with you.

The post Marketing Resources for Startups – Go from Zero to Traction in 90 days appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Holiday Email Volume Reaches Record Levels

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 14:54

If you opened your email inbox this past week and weekend and even into this week, you’ve likely been a part of history in the making. According to Chad White of the Retail Email Blog, ” The record-setting Cyber Monday helped propel email volume over the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend to an all-time high. Major online retailers sent each of their subscribers an all-time high of 5.3 promotional emails on average during the 5-day period beginning on Thanksgiving and ending on Cyber Monday. That was an 18% increase over the same period last year.” Furthermore, Chad states, “On Thanksgiving, more than 83% of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email, setting an all-time record for the day. In 2011, 75% of retailers sent their subscribers email on Thanksgiving; in 2010, 60% did; and in 2009, just 45% did.”

At VerticalResponse, we sent over 157 million emails on behalf of our customers from Wednesday, November 21 through Cyber Monday, November 26. With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday all occurring in a five day period, we knew email volume would be at an all time high. What we found interesting was how many of our customers sent out their campaigns on Wednesday, November 21, starting their Black Friday promotions  2 full days early. In fact, our customers sent more campaigns out on Wednesday, than they did on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday as illustrated below:

But, the actual number of emails sent, was highest on Cyber Monday as illustrated in the charts below.

We’ve also seen many Cyber Monday promotions extended into the early part of this week turning the weekend sales into a nearly 2 week affair. With the addition of #GivingTuesday, many non-profits and charitable organizations joined the hunt for inbox dominance.

According to the National Retail Federation, all that email is paying off in the form of sales, ” a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 226 million last year. Making sure to take advantage of retailers’ promotions to the full extent, the average holiday shopper spent $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending reached an estimated $59.1 billion.” The NRF also states, “consumers also spent more of their holiday budget online. According to the survey, the average person spent $172.42 online over the weekend, or approximately 40.7 of their total weekend spending, up from 37.8 percent last year.”

And, we’ve still got over a full month until 2012 winds to a close. Will more record email volume be sent in the course of the next 4 weeks? You know we’ll be keeping our eyes on it and will give you the details.

The post Holiday Email Volume Reaches Record Levels appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Do Social Media Right: 5 Tips

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

I just finished the “Social Media: Do or Die” panel here at the Inc. 500|5000 conference. It was awesome. I’ve been looking forward to this because VerticalResponse has a social media product and we’re always educating our small business customers about the importance of social media. I was hoping to get some fresh insights.

The panelists were a fun bunch and included Jen Rubio, head of social media at Warby Parker Eyewear; Aaron Aders, co-founder and market research director at SlingshotSEO; and Dave Kerpen, co-founder and CEO of Likeable. The panel was moderated by Howard Greenstein, Inc.com columnist and marketing technology strategist and president at The Harbrooke Group.

Now, on to the good stuff. Here’s what I think were the important points from the panel discussion:

1. Being small is a good thing.

Small businesses have an advantage when using social media because of their speed to market against the big guys; they have less legal hoopla and more time interacting with their followers.

2. Social isn’t just for communicating to the public.

Social media is more than just for sales and marketing; it could be a valuable tool for internal communications, too. Software like Yammer can help you set up an internal social network for your business.

3. Don’t try to be everywhere at once.

Figure out which social network has the most impact for your customers and focus on that network. It’s better to excel in one and establish a strong, meaningful community than to be half-ass in several. (My word, not theirs!)

4. Foster community and customer service.

Social media is a two-way street. You can’t only respond to the positive and ignore the negative. Show your customers you care, and they’ll keep coming back even through the inevitable bumps.

5. Tie in your social media plan with your business plan.

To start a social media plan, begin with your overall business plan and think about how to integrate social media with all parts of your business (e.g., Twitter for customer service, LinkedIn for HR, Facebook for customers).

And, just to show that social media does impact the bottom line, here’s a story that one panelist shared: He had a bad experience waiting in a line at a major hotel and tweeted #fail. A neighboring hotel saw it and responded, “Sorry you’re having a bad time, hope the rest of your stay is better.” The next time, he stayed at this neighboring hotel; not only that, his friend asked if he’d recommend it for a family reunion because of the tweet he saw. Twitter works!

Finally, Dave Kerpen (one of the panelists) and his team at Likeable offered up a free ROI whitepaper that I thought was pretty informative. The great thing is you didn’t have to be at the show to get it; download the “3 Easy Ways Retailers Can Measure ROI From Social Media Efforts” here.

All in all, a good panel; loved the stories about real-life successes!

The post How to Do Social Media Right: 5 Tips appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Innovation and Its Impact on Entrepreneurship

Mon, 11/26/2012 - 06:00

The iPad mini – barely released, yet already the target of tech geeks everywhere for being contrary to Steve Jobs’ wishes, and a retread of the Kindle Fire or the Galaxy Nexus 7. Articles have started flourishing across the interwebs, calling Apple a “follower.” Does a new product/service need to be the best thing since sliced bread in order to be called innovative? There are many definitions of innovation and the need to stand out from the crowd can sometimes stifle perfectly viable entrepreneurial ventures out of fear of not being innovative enough. Let’s decipher what innovation means, and what it means to you, the small business owner.

Disruptive vs. Incremental

When people think of something truly innovative, they tend to believe it has to be revolutionary in a knock-your-socks-off kind of way in order to qualify. But take a look at some of the most successful tech companies of the last few years. Twitter? They basically took Facebook status updates and shrunk them down to byte size (or 140 characters). Instagram? A mobile Flickr for hipsters. And the list goes on, but do you see the trend here? Each of these (now) big-name companies started off by simply tweaking a concept that already existed, and made it their own, finding tremendous success along the way. They were evolutionary, not revolutionary.

The term “disruptive innovation” was coined by Clayton M. Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School. In his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen defines disruptive innovation as products/services that “bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.” In other words, disruptive innovations will open up a new segment in the market, which early adopters jump on first to be followed by the general consumer audience.

On the other hand, incremental innovations are, according to the Business Dictionary, “a series of small improvements to an existing product or product line that usually helps maintain or improve its competitive position over time.” As opposed to disruptive innovations, incremental ones are more evolutionary in nature, as they won’t allow you to carve out a new market, but instead strengthen your position in the market by simply refining your already existing offering, or offer a product with a slight twist on something that was already successful, and make it your own.

It seems widely established in the business world that both disruptive and incremental innovations are considered, well, innovations. So, why did Apple catch so much flack for launching a product that provided an evolutionary step in their established iPad’s lifecycle? One word: Expectations. People have grown to expect Apple to “wow” them at every new product launch, while the company itself seems content with tweaking its already successful products. So the general public’s perception seems to be that disruptive innovations only can be called innovations, while incremental ones are only refinements. Let’s take a closer look at bridging the gap between these.

Innovation vs. Refinement

In Don Lehman’s article on the Techblock, the founder of More/Real replaces the debate of disruptive vs. incremental squarely on innovation vs. refinement instead. To him, “overemphasizing innovation undervalues the benefits of refinement.” In other words, companies can sometimes be so blinded in their pursuit of the next great innovation, that they’ll miss out on the obvious moneymaker, which is simply continuing to refine the great product they already have on the market. The problem, according to Lehman, is that a lot of companies like to bandy the word “innovation” around, without necessarily knowing what it truly means, nor what their (or their customers) expectations are when it comes to what makes a product/service innovative or not. Companies use it because it’s “cool,” which isn’t exactly the end-goal when trying to run a successful business. It requires a lot more brainpower and resources in order to develop an offering that’s truly revolutionary. Refining a product or service gives you a solid basis to build from. As Lehman concludes in his article, “Innovation is important, exciting, and necessary. But so is Refinement. We need to celebrate refinement more than we have. However we shouldn’t be asking ourselves which is more important. Innovation and refinement are not goals. They are methods and strategies. The question we should be asking: Is this Better? That’s the only goal that matters.”

I’d like to add another question: Will people purchase it, regardless of it being innovative /refined?

Do People Really Need Innovation?

The real question is, and sorry to the idealists out there for being blunt, what’s going to bring in the most revenue? Specifically, what will you be able to offer that has the most potential to be bought by prospective customers, in large quantities? At the end of the day, it’s not so much about pursuing the Big Idea, but rather identifying what the market needs, not only at that point in time, but also for the foreseeable future. Your offering, and the way you position it, has to scratch an itch that consumers are experiencing, sometimes without even realizing it.

Circling back to my earlier Apple example, when the original iPad was first launched, people thought, “That’s just a big iPhone,” or, “Why would I need this, when I already have a laptop?” 2 and a half years and nearly a hundred million units sold later, doubters can put their doubts to rest: people actually did have a need for a lightweight device they’d be able to carry around, just to browse the Internet or read books/magazines on. What Apple was able to do was create a need, find a niche in a market over-saturated with desktop and laptop computers, by simply tweaking their iPhone concept and giving it a larger screen-size.

Let’s say you’re a burgeoning entrepreneur, or already in the process of mounting your own small business. Your fear is that a product/service you’re ready to launch isn’t innovative enough, that you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from the competition. What will determine the success of your business is how you manage it, from concept to launch, whether the market has a need for it, and then selling the heck out of it. When trying to raise capital to fund your business, investors and VC’s (Venture Capitalists) will be looking at your business plan, and how you plan on sustaining growth for your company, not just at how “innovative” your product/service is. Execution, and long-term viability are key, not nice and shiny new stuff that’s going to generate a few oohs and aahs for 2 minutes and then fade away. So make sure you’ve done your homework (i.e., market research, resources planning, etc.) and take the leap!

What do you think? Have any ideas of your own that you thought weren’t innovative (enough), but that you may have second thoughts about after reading this post? Share away in the comments!

The post Innovation and Its Impact on Entrepreneurship appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Is Your Email Marketing Holiday Ready?

Wed, 11/21/2012 - 06:00

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday are just days away, and the intense weeks of holiday shopping and spending still to come, makes email marketing a must. Our customer email data shows that email send volume increased by 10% from October to November, 2011 – not surprising, considering the major opportunity!

So how can you make your holiday offers and emails stand out in the crowded inbox this holiday season? Follow these quick and easy tips to send emails that get clicked, not deleted, this holiday season.

1. Add Value

Sometimes it’s a challenge to know what to offer. You can start by reviewing previously sent campaigns and see which offers led to the highest sales. For emails, you can see which sent emails had the highest open rates, clickthrough rates and conversions. This holiday season, the majority of retailers will offer free shipping and a percentage or dollar amount off a purchase.

Here are a few more easy ways to add value for holiday shoppers:

  • Consider offering free or expedited shipping to help out your last-minute shoppers (there are plenty!).
  • Share a coupon redeemable online or in-store. (If you use VerticalResponse to create your emails, you can create a coupon using VR Social.)
  • Offer a first-time customer or refer-a-friend discount for existing customers.
  • Add an expiration date to your offer to create a sense of urgency.

2. Give Your Message Some Holiday Flair

A well-designed email goes a long way! Here are some quick tips to keep your emails looking sharp:

  • Balance text with images. Whether you go by the “80/20” rule (80% text and 20% images) or the “70/30” rule, include some eye-catching images that represent your products or services to draw your readers in.
  • Keep it short and simple. The holidays are high-volume email times and readers only have a few seconds to scan your email. Make it count! Clear offers and calls-to-action are key for good clickthrough and conversion rates.
  • Check the appearance of your email on mobile devices. About 40% of emails are now read on a mobile device according to a recent infographic by Marketing Tech Blog.
  • Include pre-header text. The pre-header text shows up right after your subject line and is a great opportunity to pull the reader in with additional key information about your offer.
  • Remember to include holiday imagery as appropriate.

Here’s a nicely designed Black Friday email from one of our VR Plus customers, Shades Shutters and Blinds:

3. Make It Shareable

Increase the chance of your holiday emails or promotions to be seen by more eyes with these easy tips:

  • Include links that allow the recipient to share your email on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Add a “Forward to a Friend” link to encourage email sharing.
  • Include links to your company’s social media pages, and tell your subscribers about social media exclusive offers to encourage new followers.

4. Check It Twice

When looking over your email, here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Is the “from address” recognizable to the recipient? (Company name is usually best. The reader may not recognize the name, “Dave” for example, even if he is the CEO!)
  • Does the subject line clearly reflect the content in the body of the email? Need help writing those holiday email subject lines? We’ve got a Holiday Subject Line Express tool that can create 18+ holiday-related subject lines in less than 30 seconds. That’s faster than a six-year-old can eat a candy cane!
  • Do the images link to relevant web pages on your company website?
  • Is the promo code or offer easy to find?
  • Are there clear instructions for redeeming offers?
  • Are there clear calls-to-action? (Buttons are a great way to make your calls-to-action stand out. You can create free buttons with our Web Button Generator.)
  • Did you include expiration dates and/or disclaimers?

There’s nothing worse than noticing a typo or broken link after an email has already gone out. Here are some tips to avoid getting coal in your email stocking:

  • Have one or more people (other than the email creator) review the email. Have proof-readers click each link to ensure it works and examine the subject line, headers, and body of the email closely for typos or other errors.
  • Send a test email to multiple email browsers, such as Yahoo!, Outlook and Yahoo. Each email provider can render email code slightly differently. By looking at the test email in more than one browser, you ensure the consistency of your email and can correct any errors.

Keep in mind, while it is natural to increase email sending over the holidays, it’s also important not to overwhelm your subscribers. Too much deviation from the norm can lead to higher unsubscribe rates. Monitor your email open and unsubscribe rates after each email, and consider sharp drops in opens or rises in unsubscribes to be an indication of over-sending.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Happy holiday sending!

The post Is Your Email Marketing Holiday Ready? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Holiday 2012 Spending & Promotion [Infographic]

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 06:00

As indicated in our recent blog post, Holiday Promos That’ll Get Your Registers Ringing, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, predicts that over $1 billion will be spent in a single day on Cyber Monday. And, nearly $586 billion will be spent over the 2012 holiday season. With all that spending going down in such a short period of time, we thought it would be fun to create a Holiday Spending & Promotion infographic using data from the NRF study and our own email and social media marketing know-how to help you understand the flurry of holiday spending and how to capitalize on it for your business:

Want to publish this infographic to your own site?

The post Holiday 2012 Spending & Promotion [Infographic] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advertise Your Local Business Using Google AdWords Express

Mon, 11/19/2012 - 06:00

In June 2011, Google launched AdWords Express, a pay-per-click online advertising solution geared towards local businesses. It’s so simple to use that you only need to enter your business name, select a business category, set a monthly budget and create an ad. Google’s automated system takes care of everything else. Your ad shows up in Google whenever someone in your geographical area searches for your type of business (e.g., auto repair, florist, etc.). You can choose to send the user to your website or, if you don’t have a website, Google allows you to send users to a Google+ Business Page. This page is essentially Google’s own business directory, and will list your company’s information.

Using AdWords is a big opportunity that you can maximize to drive customers to your site, and Google makes it easy. You can set up your free account here.

A recent Local Consumer Review Survey (2012) conducted by Search Engine Land showed that 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses:

The 1-2-3s of setting up Google AdWords Express:

In an example below, I’ll go through the entire process of setting up AdWords Express for Klimisch’s Auto Body Shop in Vallejo, CA. I wanted to use a real world example, so I’m helping one of our co-workers (Jenny Klimisch) set up AdWords Express for her family business. You’re welcome Jenny!

1) Create an account in Google AdWords Express 

If you’re already using any Google services, you can use the same email to sign up for your AdWords Express account.

2) Create your ad

The “ad category” in your AdWords Express account is your line of business, so we chose “Auto Body Shop” as our category.  The ad headline and ad text are the most important part of the entire set up. This is the ad that users will see when they do a search for your product/service.A best practice for writing your ad headline and text would be to include keywords users will most likely search for in Google. Call out anything in your text that sets your business apart, such as awards, history, special offers, etc. 

Also, include a call-to-action in your ad text. In our example below, we chose an award-based ad text since Klimisch’s Auto Body was voted best auto repair in Solano County by the Times-Herald. Google advertising policy requires that advertising claims be supported by third-party publications. These claims need to be visible on an advertiser site. 

The call-to-action we used for this ad was “call for a free estimate.” This is a compelling call-to-action for what we want the user to do. The payoff or benefit of calling is to get a free estimate.   

3) Set your budget

Google has a recommended monthly budget based on how much your competitors are spending per month. You can also enter your own monthly budget. The best part: you only pay when users click your ad!

4) Set up billing

Billing setup is pretty straightforward: just enter your billing and payment information. Google will require you to agree to their advertising terms and conditions.

It’s as simple as that! In about 5 minutes your business will have a presence on Google, the biggest search engine and business directory out there. You’ll start seeing more leads and sales almost instantly. And, as opposed to basic advertising, you only have to pay when someone clicks!

The post Advertise Your Local Business Using Google AdWords Express appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to be Creative When You’re Moving Fast

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

I’m pretty excited that I got to hear Caterina Fake at the Inc. 5000 conference. Why? She’s noted as one of the most influential women in technology. Her previous ventures at Flickr and Hunch sold to Yahoo! in 2005 for a reported $35 million and eBay for a reported $80 million, respectively. She’s no slouch.

Since there are such few women in technology, I was excited about listening to her ideas on how to be creative as a company and also how to execute on these creative ideas.

I know this well. I’m going through this right now at VerticalResponse. I allude to what we’re doing in a past Inc.com post, Why My Company Pivot Scares Me, and am trying to get as many great ideas as I can!

At my company, we have a ton of things we want to do for our customers and have to balance that with “there aren’t enough hours in a day” to get things done.

So, the message I got from Caterina’s session is that it’s very important to carve out time for being creative. Coming up with creative ideas doesn’t happen in one-hour blocks, so there needs to be larger blocks put aside for amazing thinking.

My team will probably tell you that I get a ton of thinking done when I’m on a plane or taking off for a vacation. They’ll find me asking a lot of questions and communicating with them more frequently on a more strategic level than if I were at the office. (OK, I nitpick, too.) Much of my time at the office is spent talking to team members about issues at hand, and finding out how we’re doing compared to plan. Big-picture, creative thinking tends to get pushed aside by these more immediate concerns.

Caterina spelled out some interesting ways to find more time in your day to be creative. These three were the ones that I thought were particularly cool:

  • Work when no one else is working – I do this a lot so I can get stuff done!
  • Avoid meetings and have what she calls two-pizza teams. These are teams that are sized to be fed with two pizzas in a sitting. (So, no more than eight on a team if each person has two slices.) It eliminates the need for a lot of meetings and more things can happen on the fly.
  • Eliminate activities that require you to be around people you can’t stand. Pretty good one!

Now it’s time to execute! What do you think of these ideas?

The post How to be Creative When You’re Moving Fast appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What Motivates People to “Like” or “Unlike” Brands on Facebook

Wed, 11/14/2012 - 06:00

Have you ever noticed how seriously people take their ‘friendships’ on Facebook? Deleting, “unfriending,” or “unliking” someone (or some business) can be taken as a serious blow. And, as little as we’d like to admit it, being removed from someone’s Facebook world is a kind of big deal. So why do people do it? Simple… You annoy them.

“Unlike”
Baby pictures, overly pushy political or religious posts, and TMI (Too Much Information) status updates from friends are just screaming for a ‘delete,’ but as a business or brand on Facebook, what causes followers to flee? According to Lab42’s latest research, 73% of social media users “unliked” a brand because of the following reasons:

1) Brands posted too frequently
2) The consumer stopped liking the brand
3) A bad customer experience

But don’t let this discourage you, as social media users still find brand Facebook pages highly valuable. According to the study, 87% of people on Facebook “Like” brands, 82% of people think Facebook is a good place to interact with brands, 75% feel more connected to a brand on Facebook, and drum roll please… 50% of consumers think a brand’s Facebook page is more useful than a brand’s website!

It’s apparent that brand Facebook pages are valuable and important, but how do we ensure people don’t do the unthinkable and “unlike” our business? Simple… Don’t annoy them.

1) Reducing potential annoyance can be as simple as monitoring the frequency of your posts, and if need be, posting less often.

2) Consider using page post targeting on Facebook to target your posts to specific audiences. Posts can be sent based on gender, relationship status, education, age, location, language and more. The more targeted your posts, the more relevant (and less annoying) you’ll be.

3) Let users know that if they’d like to receive/not receive your posts, they can check/uncheck, “Get Notifications,” “Show in News Feed,” and/or “Add to Interests.” This can be done under the “Like” button found on each brand page. This will let users control how often they want to hear from you, without losing that beloved “Like.”

Interestingly, 22% percent of users were discouraged from liking a brand/service/product, etc. due to embarrassment – “Did you really just ‘Like’ Beano?” (sorry Beano). The top 3 categories social media users find most embarrassing include:

1) Adult novelty items
2) Diet/weight loss products
3) Health & wellness

If your company falls into this category, it’s OK, people obviously value you, they just may not want to admit it to their friends. And, there’s a simple fix for this. Users can hide their “Like” for your brand on Facebook. I know it may seem harsh, but this way, users still receive your posts, giveaways and more, without having to tell the world. Facebook lets you know how to do this on their site.

“Like
So what motivates or encourages social media users to “Like” a brand on Facebook? According to the study, a consumer’s number one motivation for liking a brand on Facebook: promotions/discounts (psst… we have a tool for that).

For more in-depth information about how and why customers value, “Like” and “Unlike” brands on Facebook, check out the study depicted in this infographic from Lab42:

The post What Motivates People to “Like” or “Unlike” Brands on Facebook appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Holiday Promos That’ll Get Your Registers Ringing

Mon, 11/12/2012 - 06:00

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, over $1 billion will be spent in a single day on Cyber Monday. And, nearly $586 billion will be spent over the 2012 holiday season. That’s a lot of holiday cheer!  The survey also found that 36% of shoppers decide where to shop based on offers for sales and discounts. So, what kind of promotions can you offer to get your registers ringing? Grab some jingle bells and a dreidel and let’s go!

Free Shipping – The Tried and True Promotion that Everyone Will Use
Free shipping rules when it comes to holiday promotions because people are buying and sending gifts to family and friends, near and far. Did you know there’s a day purely dedicated to free shipping? It’s called “Free Shipping Day” (intuitive, eh?) and it’s on December 17th. You can get the details at freeshippingday.com.

Free shipping is such an important factor in holiday shopping that the NRF’s survey indicated that 90% of retailers plan to offer some form of it for online shoppers:

  • 37% plan to offer free standard shipping with conditions (e.g., with a minimum purchase)
  • 30% will offer free standard shipping without conditions.
  • 30% said their free shipping offers will start earlier this year than last.

Don’t Just Get it There – Get it There in Style
How can you go the extra mile and make your free shipping offers stand out from the rest? Try offering your free shipping earlier (like pre-Thanksgiving), or offer an upgraded shipping service (2-day express) if you can afford it. Amazon Prime draws a lot of shoppers who take advantage of their 2-day shipping, especially during the holiday season.

You may want to try offering free gift-wrap as a complement to your free shipping. It’s a great way for the gift giver to ensure their gift arrives on time and is ready to open – and you save your gift shopper precious time and energy. Offering free shipping and/or free gift-wrapping can cut your margins, but there’s a good chance you’ll more than make up for it in volume. You’ll have to invest in some manpower to wrap and pack too.

Take the Ordinary and Make it Extraordinary
It’s pretty easy to take a standard promotion, put a creative spin on it and come up with something fun and unique that can surprise and delight your customers.

How about the following ideas:

  • Shake the Snow Globe for a Sprinkle of Savings – Save 20-50% (Allow customers to click on, or “shake up” a virtual snow globe to reveal a discount, or simply link customers from a snow globe image in an email or social post to a web page with the offer.)
  • Spin the Dreidel to Reveal Your Offer (Same thing, allow customers to “spin” a virtual dreidel to land on a particular offer, or link customers to a web page to reveal their offer.)

With both of these examples you can entice your customers to actively participate in the offer to see what kind of offer or discount they might receive. Most people assume they’ll get the lowest percentage off. Surprise and delight them by giving them a higher percent off  like 40 or even 50%. It’s much more compelling than just a straight offer for 40% off. And, it’s memorable. You can bet the next time you send out an offer, your engagement will improve too.

The following types of promotions can also be highly effective during the holiday season:

  • Daily deals – Offer a deal or special product for each day. Ideas include: “12 Days of Gifts,” “8 Nights of Offers,” or “24 Days of the Holidays.”
  • Doorbusters – Create specials for a select amount of hours, or until you run out of the item.
  • Gift of the day – Highlight different items each day.
  • Gifts by price point – Feature gifts by price point like under $25, under $50 to appeal to shoppers with a limited budget in mind.
  • Gift by end user – Provide grouped products like gifts for him, or her, gifts for the home
  • Come back & save – Send an offer to customers who recently made a purchase.
  • Save now & save later – Give an offer or discount with a purchase so customers can return post-holiday to save again.

Make it Last…Or Don’t
Put some thought into how long you want your promotion or offer to last. During the busy holiday season, shorter, more frequent offers work better on time-crunched and instant-gratification-seeking shoppers. For instance: 12-hour sale, weekend only offer, 3 day sale. Time your offers to best serve your customers. You can also try sending email offers out at night when most people are at home relaxing and browsing online. You can even host special shopping hours early or late to accommodate your customers and offer deals during these events.

I hope these ideas get you in the holiday spirit and inspire some great promos that’ll get your registers ringing!

If you want to learn more, have a listen to our recorded webinar: Promos for the Season.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

The post Holiday Promos That’ll Get Your Registers Ringing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Facebook Wants to Give You Stuff! Will You Let Them?

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 06:00

May 18, 2012 was the day that changed Facebook forever. Their Initial Public Offering was the day that Facebook had to start thinking more about making money rather than just innovating. But, not all is lost when it comes to innovation on the world’s largest social network. Facebook recently released some updates that can bring value to many users and businesses across the platform – and just in time for the holidays.

Meet Offers and Gifts.

With more than a billion people spending large quantities of time perusing the site on a monthly basis, it didn’t take Facebook long to realize that matching people with commerce was perhaps a more digestible way to make money than filling the right side of your account with more ads. Plus, it has the potential to produce a sizable amount of revenue. So what are Offers and Gifts all about? Let’s take a look:

Offers: Offers are a free way for users to receive discounts from brands, businesses and organizations. When you “Like” the Pages of the businesses you’re interested in, you’ll see their updates, including their offers, in your news feed.

To redeem an offer, all you have to do is click “get offer” below the offer’s headline. Facebook will send an email to the main email address associated with your account. Or, if you have multiple email addresses, the one you choose when you claim the offer.

When you receive the email, open it, as it includes important details about redeeming the offer. You can also redeem offers from your mobile phone.

To redeem your offer, you simply bring the email to the business and show it to the staff. You can do this by either pulling it up on your mobile device or by printing it out.

So how can offers help a business? Some of the challenges of having a Facebook Page is both gaining “Likes” in order to build a meaningful audience, and turning that community into legitimate customers. Offers helps businesses tackle these two issues. Remember, “Liking” the Facebook Page of a business is really the best way to see the offers they’re posting. So, as people get more comfortable with seeing offers appear on their feed, they’ll be more liable to “Like” your Page and access specials you offer.

Secondly, the offer can be redeemed in your physical location, via your website or both. This has the potential to bring more people in contact with your business both online and offline. If they have a good experience, they may be enticed to come back again, even without an offer. This can have a positive impact on building your customer base.

Just so there’s no confusion, you do have to pay a fee to make your Offers available. But, your offers show up as a post in the news feed of your “Likers,” rather than as an ad, that many people tune out. A fairly simple 4-step process gets your offer into the news feed of your fans. And, it can be quickly shared with others too, improving the viral potential of your offer. If you’d like to learn more about Offers from the business side, visit the Offers for Page Admins section on Facebook.

Gifts: You may have seen a little red package under the your “birthday notifications,” or on a friend’s profile page. Have you clicked one yet? If you haven’t, you may be wondering what heck they are, and what do they do? They’re Gifts. With Gifts, you can now buy, give and ship a real gift to your friend directly on Facebook within just minutes. The process is very easy:

1. Choose a gift for a friend or family member.

2. Select a reason for the receiver to visit the Gift producer.

3. Choose the theme and reason you’re sending your gift (e.g , birthday, wedding, get well, etc.).

4. Personalize your message. Businesses can benefit from Gifts too by having their products available in the Gifts offering.

5. Review your order and give your gift!

It’s that simple. And, on the receiving end, your recipient will see this:

Once your recipient opens the gift, he/she is left with a nice little post on their Timeline letting everyone know you gave them a gift.

For businesses, if you’d like to have your products considered for the Gifts offering, submit your information on the Facebook Gifts: Merchant Interest Form. (NOTE: Gifts are still rolling out to the general Facebook user base. You may not be seeing them on your account yet but should very soon. For more information, you can click here.)

So there you have it. Two new offerings from Facebook that can provide value to users, businesses and even to Facebook stockholders (maybe). If you’ve used Offers or Gifts, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Facebook Wants to Give You Stuff! Will You Let Them? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Tips to Get a Head Start on Your Holiday Marketing

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 06:00

It’s already November and there are probably a lot of things running through your mind: turkey, sales, holidays, cranberries, and maybe even coming up with a holiday marketing plan for your business. Does it seem too early to be thinking of “12 Days of Christmas” emails or “25% off” sales for the holidays?  Think again!  According to a study Epsilon recently conducted, consumers are looking to purchase early in the season, especially large items. But, most businesses plan their email and social marketing to drive sales during the after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Houston, we definitely have a problem!

To avoid missing this early shopping window, we have some tips to help your business capitalize on this opportunity and front-load your sales for the busy season.

1. Start planting holiday seeds now – Even in the first week of November you can get your recipients and followers ready for the upcoming holidays. Should your emails and posts be all holiday-related? Not necessarily, but you can start including holiday-specific information, special offers or even a slightly more jolly website. Remind your customers that the holidays are coming, that you have specials planned and they should stay tuned for more goodies along the way.  You may also want to consider having a pre-holiday sale to catch the early bird shoppers and self-gift buyers.

Bath & Body Works created an email for their fall products, but also mentioned holiday was coming up.

2. Create an email plan – Sure, you (and everyone else) will be sending out emails and special sales for Cyber Monday, or events during December, but what else are you planning? As previously mentioned, now is the time to get your recipients thinking about holiday shopping. If your business offers a service, remind customers that you’ll be there, even during the holidays. If you’re a winery and can host events, mention that you’re open and available for holiday parties. For a service-oriented business, like plumbing, send an email that includes your emergency contact info ahead of time – there’s nothing worse than a plumbing mishap gone wrong during a holiday party. Sending holiday related emails now will set you apart from all the other emails that’ll hit inboxes in just a few weeks.

3. Get active on social media – According to a study by Mr. Youth, 66% of social media users who purchased on Black Friday/Cyber Monday did so as a direct result of interacting with brands (and family) on social media. This holiday season, use the network you’ve built on social media to boost your sales and spread the word about your business. Now’s the time to post holiday info, but don’t go overboard -  your posts need to be balanced. Share interesting and relevant information, but limit the offer-related posts to around 25%. Keep posts fun, interesting and shareable!

Need content ideas? Post how-tos for your products or services, holiday season survival tips, stories about your organization’s success, pictures or video to display your its fun side… Your social networks will spread the word when you provide content they enjoy. Your emails also make for great content on your social networks.

Have you considered using Pinterest as part of your holiday marketing mix? Tagging pictures with a dollar amount instantly adds a price banner and the pin is automatically added to a gifts category. This makes gift guide creation super-easy and shareable!

4. Create your nice (or naughty) list - This is something you should also get a headstart on. Create email lists based on your recipients’ interests, purchase history, or email engagement (recently clicked or opened). Also create lists based on age, gender, price range or items in a gift guide. Once you have your lists set up, create specific emails and social media posts targeting the interests of the people on your lists.

Most importantly, keep in mind the email and social rules/best practices that you follow all year – they don’t change just because the air is frosty. Give things/content of value to your recipients and followers, and they will stick with you through the holidays and well into 2013!

Want even more information? Watch our recorded webinar, Email and Social for the Holidays.

The post 4 Tips to Get a Head Start on Your Holiday Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Remarketing 101 – The Basics You Should Know

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 06:00

Did you know that over 95% of users leave websites without converting? Ninety-five percent?! It’s hard enough getting customers just to visit your web site, so using creative tactics to keep visitors engaged is important, and that’s where remarketing comes in.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing, also known as retargeting, helps businesses like yours advertise to people  who have shown interest in your brand or website, but left without converting. A conversion can range from making a purchase, to inquiring about more information, or taking some other desired action. Remarketing allows you to keep your brand in front of your online visitors after they’ve left your website.

Why remarket?

Because most website visitors leave without making a purchase, your business could be losing potential sales. There may be several reasons why a visitor doesn’t complete a purchase, which is why remarketing can be an affordable and effective way to reengage potential customers. Remarketing allows you to target specific visitors who’ve already shown interest in your brand, increasing its effectiveness by saving advertising costs and increasing your Return on Investment (ROI).

How does it work?

By simply adding a bit of code to your website or URLs, remarketing “tags” can be placed on your online visitors with a “cookie” or a pixel. Visitors will then be served with relevant banners, text, or video ads (that you create/provide) as they browse the internet. Here’s one of our own banner ads:

For example, a customer visits your online store, browses your listings, places an item in their shopping cart, but never actually checks out. As that visitor browses the Internet, he/she will see ads that remind them to go back and complete said purchase. Their interest is recaptured and they return back to your site to complete your desired action. Effective remarketing ads can be a great opportunity to promote a sale, upsell new products, and cross-sell existing products.

 

What type of remarketing is right for my business?

Whether you’re working with a remarketing company or utilizing self-service remarketing tools, there are many paths you can take. Here are a few examples of different types of remarketing:

Site Remarketing – The most popular form of remarketing, like the example above, is a great way to stay top of mind with customers after they’ve left your site.

Search Remarketing – When using search remarketing, you’re targeting users on search engines who have searched keywords or phrases relevant to your business offerings. Keep in mind, user queries don’t always mean intent to purchase.

Social Media Remarketing – Similar to site remarketing, you can place a pixel on shared links on social networks, like Facebook, and serve relevant ads.

Email Remarketing – If your business is using email marketing, email remarketing can be a great complimentary addition. Customers who have high engagement with your emails have the potential to be great customers with the right motivation.

 

Why choose remarketing?

1. Stay Top of Mind – You’ll stay in front of your audience after they’ve already left your site.

2. Higher ROI – Remarketing lets you reach qualified customers who’ve already shown interest in your brand, product, or website at a much lower price than traditional reach campaigns.

3. Retain Visitors – You drive users through your sales process with different CTA’s (calls to action) at different stages of your funnel.

4. Better Performance – When used properly, remarketing generally has better clickthrough and conversion rates than traditional reach ads because of its unique ability to segment users based on the specific actions they’ve taken on your website.

There are many other types of remarketing tactics that can be used. SEOMOz has a great detailed introductory blog post while Business2Community and SearchEngineWatch break down a variety of other remarketing tactics. With the holiday season ramping up, it’s a great time to get started with remarketing.

 

Posted by Barney
Barney Garcia is an SEM Analyst for VerticalResponse.

The post Remarketing 101 – The Basics You Should Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Remarketing 101 - The Basics You Should Know

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 06:00

Did you know that over 95% of users leave websites without converting? Ninety-five percent?! It’s hard enough getting customers just to visit your web site, so using creative tactics to keep visitors engaged is important, and that’s where remarketing comes in.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing, also known as retargeting, helps businesses like yours advertise to people  who have shown interest in your brand or website, but left without converting. A conversion can range from making a purchase, to inquiring about more information, or taking some other desired action. Remarketing allows you to keep your brand in front of your online visitors after they’ve left your website.

Why remarket?

Because most website visitors leave without making a purchase, your business could be losing potential sales. There may be several reasons why a visitor doesn't complete a purchase, which is why remarketing can be an affordable and effective way to reengage potential customers. Remarketing allows you to target specific visitors who've already shown interest in your brand, increasing its effectiveness by saving advertising costs and increasing your Return on Investment (ROI).

How does it work?

By simply adding a bit of code to your website or URLs, remarketing “tags” can be placed on your online visitors with a “cookie” or a pixel. Visitors will then be served with relevant banners, text, or video ads (that you create/provide) as they browse the internet. Here's one of our own banner ads:


For example, a customer visits your online store, browses your listings, places an item in their shopping cart, but never actually checks out. As that visitor browses the Internet, he/she will see ads that remind them to go back and complete said purchase. Their interest is recaptured and they return back to your site to complete your desired action. Effective remarketing ads can be a great opportunity to promote a sale, upsell new products, and cross-sell existing products.

What type of remarketing is right for my business?

Whether you're working with a remarketing company or utilizing self-service remarketing tools, there are many paths you can take. Here are a few examples of different types of remarketing:

Site Remarketing – The most popular form of remarketing, like the example above, is a great way to stay top of mind with customers after they’ve left your site.

Search Remarketing - When using search remarketing, you're targeting users on search engines who have searched keywords or phrases relevant to your business offerings. Keep in mind, user queries don’t always mean intent to purchase.

Social Media Remarketing – Similar to site remarketing, you can place a pixel on shared links on social networks, like Facebook, and serve relevant ads.

Email Remarketing – If your business is using email marketing, email remarketing can be a great complimentary addition. Customers who have high engagement with your emails have the potential to be great customers with the right motivation.

Why choose remarketing?

1. Stay Top of Mind – You'll stay in front of your audience after they’ve already left your site.

2. Higher ROI – Remarketing lets you reach qualified customers who’ve already shown interest in your brand, product, or website at a much lower price than traditional reach campaigns.

3. Retain Visitors – You drive users through your sales process with different CTA’s (calls to action) at different stages of your funnel.

4. Better Performance – When used properly, remarketing generally has better clickthrough and conversion rates than traditional reach ads because of its unique ability to segment users based on the specific actions they’ve taken on your website.

There are many other types of remarketing tactics that can be used. SEOMOz has a great detailed introductory blog post while Business2Community and SearchEngineWatch break down a variety of other remarketing tactics. With the holiday season ramping up, it's a great time to get started with remarketing.

 

Posted by Barney


Barney Garcia is an SEM Analyst for VerticalResponse.

Small Business Saturday® is November 24 – Are You Ready?

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 08:30

Small Business Saturday® is just around the corner and we've got tips to help you think big about this awesome day dedicated to shopping small.

What is it exactly? Small Business Saturday® is a day dedicated to shopping and buying from locally owned small businesses. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, right when consumers are revving up for the holiday shopping season.

Spearheaded by American Express OPEN Forum, the first Small Business Saturday® launched in 2010. Since then, it's turned into a bona fide national movement.

Check out these stats: 

  • 103 million people shopped at small businesses on Small Business Saturday® in 2011
  • Participating small businesses saw a 23 percent increase in transactions last year on Small Business Saturday®
  • Small Business Saturday® has 2.8 million “likers” on its Facebook Page.
  • 200,000 tweets about Small Business Saturday® were circulating around the Twittersphere last year

Potential customers will be out in force supporting and looking to “shop small” for the holidays, hence getting involved/participating should be high on your to-do list.

Where to start?

Head over to our new Small Business Saturday® microsite and load up on lots of free marketing tips and resources, including:

  • A week-by-week checklist to help you prep for the big day (11/24)
  • A variety of Small Business Saturday®-themed email marketing templates, so you can let your customers and subscribers know you’re participating (and send them an awesome offer if they buy from you that day)
  • Pre-written tweets and posts that you can publish on Facebook and Twitter
  • Lots of other marketing goodies

What are you doing and/or offering to get those registers ringing on November 24? We'd love to hear!

 

Posted by Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @sungmoyle.

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