15 Practical Ideas to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

15 Practical Ideas to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

Customer retention is incredibly important for growing a sustainable business, but before we look at some strategies for improving it, let’s put an important data point front and center:

According to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.

I’ve compiled a list of my 15 favorite tips–many backed by academic research and case studies–on improving customer retention, divided into five sections.

Effective positioning and messaging

1. Stand for something

A quick way to get customers to ignore you is to not stand for anything. Research from the Corporate Executive Board that included 7,000 consumers from across the U.S. found of those consumers who said they had a strong relationship with a brand, 64 percent cited shared values as the primary reason. If you want loyal customers, you need them to care about you. What do you stand for?

2. Utilize positive social proof

While negative social proof (“Nearly 90 percent of websites don’t use heat mapping software!”) has been proven to dissuade customers rather than encourage them, numerous studies on customer motivation have shown that positive social proof (“Join 20,000 of your peers!”) is usually the most effective strategy for getting people to listen and stick around.

3. Invoke the inner ego

Despite what we often say, most people like things that resemble them in some way. This cognitive bias is called implicit egotism, and is an important thing to keep in mind when communicating with customers. In order to attract the sort of customers you want, you need to identify your target customers down to the last detail and then craft a brand message that perfectly matches their pains, goals and aspirations. It’s easier to fill an existing demand than to create one.

Compelling marketing and sales

4. Use the words they love to hear

Not all words are created equal. Certain persuasive words encourage customers to buy more than others, in particular: free, new and instantly. When customers hear these words, and the promises they imply, they’ll enjoy their purchases more than they would have otherwise.

5. Reduce pain points and friction

All businesses, no matter the industry, are going to have to sell to the three types of buyers that are out there. According to neuroeconomics experts, nearly a quarter of these buyers will be conservative spenders, or “tightwad” customers. George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University recommends using bundles, reassuring words (e.g., change “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee”) and reframing as strategies to better sell to these conservative buyers.

Generous reciprocity

6. Realize that budget is negligible

Giving back to customers can appear incredibly costly, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, embrace the art of the frugal wow by understanding that reciprocity is built even with small gestures. In fact, psychologist Norbert Schwarz found that as little as 10 cents can create reciprocity between two individuals (it really is the thought that counts!).

7. Utilize surprise reciprocity

Although reciprocity works incredibly well on its own, research shows that it is even more powerful when started by surprise. For a simple example, recall a time that someone did something nice for you unexpectedly; the gesture probably wasn’t all that unusual, but the fact that it came out of nowhere left a strong impression on you.

8. Make it personal

In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers found that waiters could increase their tips by 23 percent by the simple act of returning to tables with a second set of mints. So do mints have magic powers? Apparently not: The researchers concluded that the mints created the feeling of a personalized experience among the customers who received them. So it was the personalized service received that made them enjoy their experience so much more.

Effortless customer support

9. Speed is secondary to quality

When it comes to customer service that keeps people coming back, the research shows that quality matters more than speed. According to a study by the Gallup Group, customers were nine times more likely to be engaged with a brand when they evaluated the service as “courteous, willing, and helpful,” versus the “speedy” evaluation, which only made customers six times more likely to be engaged.

10. Customers enjoy businesses who know them

Telling your team to spend more time with customers might seem risky, but smart support managers know that isn’t the case. Everybody views their service experience as more positive when they don’t feel rushed or ignored. Don’t spend time idly, though; have employees attempt to find out key customer traits, just like Derek Sivers did with his employees at CD Baby.

11. Choose the right platform

The best way to improve your online customer service efforts is to utilize the channel your customers most prefer. Although research has shown that a majority of people still prefer and use email more than other services, you need to pick the channel that makes the most sense for your business. Hosting companies know that online chats are critical when their customers’ sites go down, but other businesses may have customers who are just fine using email as their primary method of contact.

12. Make it a communal effort.

Countless case studies have made one thing clear when it comes to creating an efficient support system: You need to keep everybody in the loop. At Help Scout, we use tools like Campfire to access real-time notifications of what’s happening on the customer end; we were able to improve our response time by 340 percent by enabling a support room that all employees can access.

Sticky loyalty programs

13. Get people started

Consumer researchers Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze are known for their studies on The Endowed Progress Effect. Their results have conclusively shown that the biggest wall that prevents customer loyalty programs from sticking is getting people started. They’ve shown through their notorious “car wash study” that people are twice as likely to finish loyalty cards if they are automatically started (or rewarded) as soon as they sign up.

14. Get ideal customers to be VIPs

Additional research by Nunes on loyalty programs has shown that people love being VIPs or gold members of programs. There is one caveat, though. This only works when people know there is a class below them on the totem pole. Speaking to human nature, Nunes saw a notable increase in gold members’ participation as soon as he implemented a lesser silver class.

15. Label your customers

Research on voting patterns conducted by Stanford University showed that people are more likely to participate in something if they are labeled with a positive trait. Our friends at Buffer refer to their premium customers as “awesome” members, and even label their upgraded payment plan as the “Awesome Plan”–a much easier phrase to embrace than “paid member.”

There are many tactics, but no shortcuts

You can’t “hack” a personal relationship, so why should we assume business relationships are any different? Truth is, the tactics above should hopefully give you some fresh ideas for approaching retention, but they’re not a cure-all. Customers buy and stay loyal to companies they appreciate, believe in, and get value from. Your product or service will do most of the heavy lifting in keeping customers loyal, and there are no shortcuts for that.

Source: Inc. Magazine 

7 Reasons You Need a Mentor for Entrepreneurial Success

7 Reasons You Need a Mentor for Entrepreneurial Success

Mentors. They’ve been there, done that and have seen it all. Yet, a woeful number of entrepreneurs start their careers without one. In an age where instant gratification is glorified, it’s unsurprising that many entrepreneurs and young founders do not seek out a mentor as hard as they try to find a co-founder.

While arguments abound on why entrepreneurs do not need mentors but should only follow their own instincts and gut feelings, most successful tech titans have founders who had mentors. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs. Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula — an early investor and executive at Apple. And Eric Schmidt mentored Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.

Like most startup founders, I didn’t start with a mentor. I got into the industry and had to look up to someone who is well known in the field. This is not as effective as working hard to get a mentor to guide you while you run your business — but it’s better than nothing. Having been in business for more than seven years, I’ve realized the importance of having a business mentor.

Here are seven reasons having a mentor is important.

1. Gain experience not shared in books.

Experience is a very expensive asset — yet it’s crucial to business success. There’s only so much about a person’s experience you can gain from books. It’s an unstated truth that most authors do not feel comfortable revealing everything about themselves in books. Some personal experiences may be too intimate to be shared, yet how they dealt with it can help an inexperienced entrepreneur’s career.

Mentorship is one guaranteed way to gain experience from others.

2. You’re more likely to succeed with a mentor.

Research and surveys prove that having a mentor is important to success. In a 2013 executive coaching survey, 80 percent of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. In another research by Sage, 93 percent of startups admit that mentorship is instrumental to success.

Your chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentor. The valuable connections, timely advice, occasional checks — together with the spiritual and moral guidance you will gain from having a mentor — will literarily leapfrog you to success.

3. Network opportunities.

Aside the fact that investors trust startups who are recommended by their friends, a successful mentor has an unlimited network of people who can benefit your career. Since they are already invested in your success, it only makes sense for them to let you tap into their network of people when the need arises.

This is an opportunity you cannot tap into if you do not have a mentor.

4. A mentor gives you reassurance.

It has been proven by research that a quality mentorship has a powerful positive effect on young entrepreneurs. Having someone who practically guides you and shares your worries with you — often placating your fears with their years of experience — keeps you reassured that you’ll be successful.

Self-confidence is very important to success as entrepreneurs. A 2014 Telegraph report revealed that having a high self-confidence contributes significantly to career success — more so than talent and competence. Mentors have the capacity to help young founders tap into their self-confidence and see every challenge as an opportunity.

5. A mentor will help you stay in business longer.

When you imagine the number of businesses that fail, you’d wish a lot of business owners had mentors. According to SBA, 30 percent of new businesses may not survive past the first 24 months, and 50 percent of those may not make it past five years. However, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive longer than 5 years.

6. A mentor will help you develop stronger EQ.

Does maturity bring about a higher EQ in entrepreneurs? Emotional intelligence is crucial to entrepreneurial success. When a young entrepreneur has a more mature and successful mentor who advises them, they are likely to have greater control over their emotions.

We all know that a quick way to make a business fail is to mix it with emotions or make crucial decisions based on emotional feelings. Situations like this can be curbed as mentors will help show you how to react in given instances.

A story on Business Insider reveals how Schmidt worked with then inexperienced Page to manage the affairs of running a fledgling startup. An inexperienced CEO often makes decisions based on emotions, but one with a mentor like Schmidt is able to overcome critical hurdles by making smart decisive judgments.

7. Encouragement.

Enduring the consequences of failure on your own can set you back and impact your productivity. In hard times, having a mentor will help you keep your head high. Young entrepreneurs often deal with depression when they are unable to meet their goals and expectations. The impact of depression on entrepreneurs is often underreported. But entrepreneurs without mentors bear the brunt the most.

A mentor who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business is in the perfect position to give positive and soothing words of advice to you when things refuse to go your way. And not only do they have the right words to share, they would also have ideas to help you navigate your way to success.

Source: Entrepreneur Magazine

How to Get a ‘Yes’ to Your Next Sales Pitch

How to Get a ‘Yes’ to Your Next Sales Pitch

To gain that first appointment with a client, you must jump many hurdles—some of them higher than ever before.

The first is the busy-ness of your contacts. They won’t meet with anyone who can’t help them produce better results now. To your contacts, all salespeople sound the same, making it next to impossible for them to determine who is worth seeing. So they refuse meetings with everyone, betting that none are worth a spot on their already-overflowing calendars.

Adding to their stress: Even relatively low-level employees often are measured on financial performance. Your contacts feel pressured to work with people who can help them improve their financial metrics. They won’t give up even a half-hour on their schedules for a meeting with a salesperson who says, “I’d like to stop in and introduce myself and my services.” Potential clients see that as frittering away time better spent on making or saving money.

They’ve also heard, “I’d like to spend time learning about your business.” To your target contact, this statement implies that you don’t know enough to be helpful. This overture also sounds like wasted time and will earn an automatic “no, thank you.”

To merit a spot on your prospects’ calendars, you need a pitch that holds the promise of monetary returns for them.

Do your homework.

If you are going to book first visits, you need to sound like someone who has the business acumen, experience and ideas that can make a difference in your prospective client’s business—in other words, a compelling value proposition for your sales call.

This means doing your due diligence before you make that phone call or write that email. You need to know what the three or four major issues your prospective customer is likely to be dealing with—or will be soon.

Instead of introducing yourself and your services, your prospecting pitch needs to be built on your ideas about the root causes of your prospects’ challenges and how they can think about them, hopefully leading them toward a groundbreaking solution. It sounds like this: “Hi, Mary, this is Anthony with XYZ Inc. My company helps people deal with the challenges of low productivity, high consumable costs and employee dissatisfaction. I am calling to ask you for 20 minutes to share the three biggest trends impacting your business and give you some ideas that help our clients produce better results at lower costs. Could we meet for 20 minutes on Thursday? I’ll share these ideas with you, and even if you never buy from me, they will help you and your team.”

This pitch doesn’t suggest that I will talk about my company or myself. It doesn’t indicate that I am going to try to make a personal connection; instead it says I am going to help the prospect think about her business and its problems. You have to focus on helping your prospects with their biggest challenges, those same challenges you discovered when doing your research.

Pitch to the correct contact.

For decades salespeople were told to start as high up in the organization as possible and then let the C-level executive introduce them to his or her team. This used to be wise advice, but now folks in the C suites want consensus about solutions before they weigh in, and if the salesperson hasn’t been vetted by their teams, the executives aren’t likely to push their solution onto lower-level workers.

Today there’s a new contact to target with your prospecting: the CEO of the Problem. The CEO of the Problem is the person who must achieve results in dealing with the issues that you can resolve. The contacts who fit this role will also be the people who are the most susceptible to your message because they’re the ones struggling to produce results. You can help them, and they will meet with you, provided you’ve convincingly conveyed your ability to help when you reach out with your prospecting call, voice mail or email.

(Note that the CEO of the Problem may have a C-level title. But the larger your prospective client company, the less likely that your vital contacts rank this highly.)

Nurture your prospects.

The Internet gives customers access to vast information that salespeople were once relied upon to deliver, which is another reason you’re unlikely to land a meeting if you offer only to introduce yourself and your company. But the upside for you is that the Internet also provides salespeople with easy access to crucial contacts as well as the means with which to communicate with them.

It takes time to gain an appointment with your prospective clients. It isn’t easy to earn respect for the value you create. To do that, your prospecting effort needs to include newer modes of communication, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media, to connect directly with your prospective clients.

These new tools allow you to demonstrate that you can create value by proving that your ideas can make a difference for your prospects. Build a campaign in which you reach out 12 times, “touches” that you can use to stay connected with your prospective clients by providing valuable insights and ideas. Send them white papers and links to TED Talks or keynote speeches by industry experts; mail them a trade magazine article or a link to an article containing industry news. Map out a strategy in which, for instance, you connect on LinkedIn, send an email with a link to content your prospect will find valuable, and follow that up with a phone call.

Such a campaign will massively increase the odds that you receive a yes to your request for a meeting. Who wouldn’t want to meet with someone who can help improve his or her business?

Source: Success Magazine

39 Behaviors of the Most Likable People

39 Behaviors of the Most Likable People

There are a lucky few born with natural charisma – masters of working a room in seconds with handshakes and laughs. Candidly, I was not the most likable person in the room during my late teens and early twenties.

I admired the way likable people made me feel and how others people gravitated toward them. It hit me that our greatest gift is the way we make people feel. I wanted to learn the secrets of their success.

Starting in 2011, I started learning how to be more likable. The most effective thing I did was notice the behaviors and traits of the most likable people – and then adopt them as mine own.

Here’s a list of 39 things that the most likable people do on a daily basis – so you can do the same.

  1. They actively listen.
  2. They make a great first impression.
  3. They’re accountable for their mistakes.
  4. They do what they say they’ll do.
  5. They treat everyone with respect.
  6. They ask questions instead of making assumptions.
  7. They laugh.
  8. They live for themselves, not to please others.
  9. They follow-up.
  10. They smile.
  11. They remember your name.
  12. They offer to help.
  13. They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
  14. They send thank you notes.
  15. They encourage others.
  16. They speak slowly and confidently
  17. They don’t judge you.
  18. They apologize.
  19. They forgive, but do not forget.
  20. They don’t speak for you.
  21. They know how to give a compliment.
  22. They know how to accept a compliment.
  23. They tell the truth.
  24. They celebrate others.
  25. They have good body language.
  26. They don’t criticize others.
  27. They give you their undivided attention.
  28. They don’t make you feel defensive.
  29. They don’t take credit for other people’s success.
  30. They maintain good eye contact.
  31. They let you do most of the talking.
  32. They know how to have a tough conversation.
  33. They admit when they’re wrong.
  34. They are consistent.
  35. They don’t interrupt.
  36. They’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
  37. They don’t exaggerate.
  38. They can laugh at themselves.
  39. They’re optimistic, without being unrealistic.

This is a way of life

Take notice that these behaviors are all about being a good person and making others feel good. They aren’t tactics and tricks. They’re a way of life. You will see dramatic change when you make the necessary effort to practice these behaviors and truly adopt them into your daily life.

Putting this into action

Meaningful change is achieved when you consistently make small improvements over time. My results came from focusing on one or two of these behaviors at a time, and practicing them in my interactions until they became a habit. Only then would I move to the next one.

Learning to be likable takes time, self awareness, and practice to authentically mold these behaviors into a natural routine. There are no shortcuts.

Source: Inc. Magazine

Tim Ferriss, Sheryl Sandberg, Lewis Howes, and More Share Their Best Business Advice

Tim Ferriss, Sheryl Sandberg, Lewis Howes, and More Share Their Best Business Advice.

 

 

1.Tim Ferriss: Choose your friends wisely.

“The best advice I’ve ever received is ‘you are the average of the 5 people you associate with most.’ I’ve actually heard this from more than one person, including bestselling authors, Drew Houston of Dropbox, and many others who are icons of Silicon Valley. It’s something I re-read every morning. It’s also said that ‘your network is your net worth.’  These two work well together.”

2. Sheryl Sandberg: Seize incredible opportunities that come your way.

“The best advice I ever received was from Eric Schmidt, when he was Google’s CEO & I was thinking about not taking the offer from Google. He told me that when picking a job, only one criterion mattered: fast growth. He said, ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”

3. Lewis Howes: Invest in yourself.

“Grant Cardone told me to invest more of the money I make back into my brand and in myself. Always invest in you!”

4. Guy Kawasaki: Listen to your customers (while you still have the chance).

“I’ve had lots of good advice but this one is one of the best. ‘As long as people are complaining, they still want to do business with you. When they stop complaining is when you need to worry.’ It was from Marty Gruber, president of a jewelry manufacturer that I was working for in Los Angeles, way before my tech career.”

5. Vanessa Van Edwards: Seek learning opportunities in everything.

“Every time you think to yourself, ‘I already know this’ or ‘This isn’t for me,’ try turning it around by asking, ‘How can I make this work for me?’ This instantly puts you into a learning mindset and helps you see opportunities everywhere. I learned this from Marie Forleo and it has fundamentally changed how I approach my business life.”

6. Nir Eyal: Build a meaningful network.

“The most insightful advice I can remember receiving came from Andy Rachleff, who at the time was teaching at Stanford. He helped me understand the tremendous power of the network effect.”

7. Tara Gentile: Know your customers inside-out.

“I’ve learned to really think about who I actually want to sell to, instead of some generalization or profile of who might buy from me. Every time I’ve named individual people and created content with them in mind, those people have actually worked with me. No solicitation, just genuine connection by tailor-making what works best for them. Of course, I’ve also met many other amazing people who needed the same things.”

8. Michael Port: Never stop chasing your dreams.

“I asked a friend, who made more than 30 million dollars by the time he was 30, why he thought he was successful. His response: “there’s all this money our there, someone’s going to pick it up, it might as well be me.”

9. Chase Jarvis: Fail often.

The best business advice I’ve ever received was from the legendary Sir Richard Branson (an investor in CreativeLive and mentor/inspiration to me). His simple but brilliant advice is to always manage the downside. “When you prepare against catastrophic downsides (avoid “betting it all” or “mortgaging everything”) it allows you to create a culture where you can take lots of small to mid-size risks, learn and build.” Put simply – it’s exceedingly rare that greatness comes from a single blind all-in swing or a brash act. Boldness is required but the boldness that sticks around to experiment regularly, to fail small and often, and cultivate a culture of risk taking is what generates the most big wins in the end.

10. Derek Halpern: Do great work and promote the hell out of it.

“The best business advice I ever received came from a simple quote from John D. Rockefeller. He said, ‘next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.’ Right now, we live in an overcrowded world, and if you’re not out there promoting yourself, you’ll NEVER make an impact. That’s why this quote is so important. Do good work and promote the heck out of it.”

Source: Creative Live Blog

Is Your Mortgage Website Losing Potential Clients? 5 Questions to Ask

Is Your Mortgage Website Losing Potential Clients? 5 Questions to Ask

 

Fresh new marketing initiatives and new targets for sales have likely been discussed, but what about making ‘digital’ a real focus for your business in 2018?

Here are 5 reasons we think you would invest in a new website in 2018, and why it’s the first step towards really getting serious about making digital part of your marketing efforts for the new year. Let’s dive in…

1) Your website offers a poor experience to users on the move

 

Mobile internet browsing is huge. In 2008 a marketing analyst Mary Meeker predicted that in 2014 mobile access to the internet would overtake desktop usage. She was right, with the tipping point actually occurring in late 2013. In July 2015 another report was conducted, concluding that time spent browsing the internet on mobile devices clocks in at 4.3 hours per day (on average) compared with 2.8 hours on desktop devices¹

Of course, we’re now in 2018, so it’s absolutely critical that your website’s mobile experience is top notch.

The stats above just show that we’re consuming websites on the move as well as when the feeling takes us, by impulsively searching for services we require or products we might need, such as during an ad break whilst sitting on the sofa watching TV.

Why is this a reason to invest in a new website?

As a business you can’t ignore the change in the way people are consuming websites. You need to ensure that your website looks fantastic and offers a flawless user experience (UX) on mobile devices (as well as desktop ones too). Otherwise you’re going to lose potential business – no question about it.

If your website was redesigned more than a year ago it’s also worth noting that Google has started to roll out its “Mobile First Index”. Because most people are now browsing the web from their phones, Google is starting to determine where your site ranks based on how your website renders on mobile, rather than on desktop. Here’s some more information on this if you want to read more.

Even if your current website is responsive and adjusts when viewed on a range of different devices, if it was created even back in early 2017, chances are there are improvements that can be made now we know more about how users interact with responsive websites.

We see 2018 as the perfect time to redesign your website to put mobile users first.

2) The content on your website isn’t communicating the right message anymore

 

 

Content – often left as the last piece of the puzzle in a web design project – is actually one of the most important elements of your website. Why?

Because words go a long way in converting your website visitors into customers and clients. Pair up awesome design with great content and you’re on to a winning combination.

So, what’s the problem with content on many business websites?

  • It’s not regularly fine-tuned and updated, so it makes your website appear extremely stagnant, and can even make your business project a totally different message to the one you intended.
  • It’s written like a series of statements and facts. E.g. “We were founded in 2009 and offer web design services to small businesses”. Rather than in a way that addresses the problems your clients are facing and how you can solve them to make your client’s life easier.

Why is this a reason to invest in a new website?

Content is still king online, more so in 2018 than at any other time, so having a website that makes it super-easy for you to effortlessly add new content is essential if you want your website to be a success this year.

A website redesign is also the perfect time to re-evaluate your message and re-work your content to make sure it’s resonating with your target audience(s). Our top tip would be to also ensure that if you do redesign your website this year, make sure you pick an easy to use CMS (Content Management System) and put a lot of work in to fine tuning your content and making sure it’s of high value to your prospects.

3) Your visitors can’t easily find what they need or complete an action on your website

 

The ideal client you want to appeal to may have changed over time in your business, so there’s a good chance your website is outdated in this respect too.

Can visitors find valuable information on your website? Information that’s valuable enough and compelling enough for them to make contact?

You might also have a few different types of user visiting your website, each type looking for something different. Does your current website cater for all their individual needs?

Why is this a reason to invest in a new website?

It’s a valid reason because if your visitors can’t find what they need, or carry out tasks they want to complete on your website, then it’s ineffective and a complete waste.

Our top tip here to avoid this with any website redesign you carry out in 2018 would be to create “user stories” or “user personas”.

This is where you give your customer type one a name (e.g. Customer #1: John) and create a persona for him, and list tasks he’d likely be looking to carry out or information he’d be wanting to access on your website.

Often, once you’ve got all your personas mapped out (you might have three or four) you’ll get a lightbulb moment, giving you clarity on how to structure your new website and what kind of content you need to include to ensure visitors convert into clients / customers.

4) You aren’t using video on your website (and on other channels too)

 

You’re bound to have noticed that video played a big part in 2017 when it came to inbound marketing strategies.

According to an awesome infographic from HubSpot ², Groupon Works has concluded that by 2017 video will take up 69% of all consumer web traffic (the equivalent of 4x as much as web browsing and time spent emailing) ³.

Creating high valuable, useful, entertaining videos and publishing them on YouTube and other social media channels is a great way to generate web traffic, especially as filming and recording is easier now than ever.

Why is this a reason to invest in a new website?

Video usage will only increase in 2018 as our attention spans get shorter and we demand more information quickly, so embracing video is a no brainer if you want to get serious about inbound marketing.

Including video in a big way on your website is also increasingly popular now. Why? It’s just so engaging if done correctly. The way in which you use video on your website will differ depending on the type of business you’re in. Are you selling a product or service? Try having an explainer video created for your new website, and then integrate it front and center on the homepage. I’d be willing to bet you’ll see an increase in conversions.

5) You don’t have a clear ‘digital strategy’

 

Having a ‘digital strategy’ in 2018 is going to be imperative. If you don’t have one now you need to work on putting one in place, and your new website can be the centerpiece that brings it all together.

A digital strategy is really the process of specifying your businesses vision, goals, opportunities and related activities to maximize the business benefits of digital initiatives. It’s basically putting in place a digital plan to succeed online.

Let’s say you’re a florist. Your digital strategy might be made up of:

  • regular social media posts on your business Twitter / Facebook pages, sharing new products, bouquets, arrangements to encourage engagement and sharing among followers.
  • the creation of videos on your YouTube channel and website educating users about how to pick the right flowers for the right occasions.
  • publishing high value articles in the blog on your website to encourage sharing, distribution and as a result more traffic to your website.
  • weekly email newsletters to your customer list informing them of special offers and promotions and recycling content you’ve posted on your website.

As you can see it’s really all about content creation and distribution on different channels.

Why is this a reason to invest in a new website?

Because your new website will be the central hub where you are adding and publishing new content which can be shared across all the channels mentioned in the florist example above. All your digital activities should point people back to your website, which if finely tuned and professional in its appearance will convert those visitors into customers.

 

2018 is the right time

A new year is the perfect time to address the five issues we’ve mentioned above and your website should play a key role if you’re going to take digital seriously and want to see results. Far too many businesses sit back and leave their website to get outdated. If you utilize it and integrate the points mentioned in this article you can drastically improve the return you’ll get on your investment of a website redesign. So to conclude, get serious about digital in 2018 and you can without doubt make 2018 your best year in business!

10 Social Media Tips for a Mortgage Company

10 Social Media Tips for a Mortgage Company

 

Why use social media to grow your business? It’s where your customers are. There are nearly 2.5 billion social media users across the globe. And more than 50 percent of small business owners in the U.S. rely on social as their primary digital-marketing technique because of its effectiveness for finding and connecting with new customers. It also doesn’t cost an arm and leg to use like some traditional marketing methods.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to join the many small business owners who are using social to build awareness, drive sales, and gain new customers. This collection of social media tips for small business will have you well on your way to do just that.

Social media for small business: 10 tips to set you up for success

1. Start with a plan

Just like a business needs a business plan, your social media actions need to be informed by a carefully crafted strategy. As we establish in our six-step guide to creating a social media marketing plan you must:

  1. Set social media goals and objectives. It’s important to go beyond vanity metrics such as likes and retweets and also focus on factors like leads generated, conversion rates, and web referrals. Use the S.M.A.R.T goal framework—goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely—when establishing your social media goals.
  2. Conduct a social media audit. This means determining who is already connecting with you on social, which networks your target audience uses, and how your social media presence measures up against your competitors.
  3. Create or improve your existing accounts. After choosing which social networks are best suited for your small business, build up your social presence on each network, in accordance with your broader business goals and audience. If you already have existing social accounts, ensure they’re updated to reflect your brand values.
  4. Find inspiration. Look at what content those in your industry are already sharing, and use social listening to discover insights about appealing to prospects and setting yourself apart from your competition. It’s also advisable to look at industry leaders (Nike, Coca-Cola, Amazon, etc.) to see what they’re doing right and how to implement those tactics in your own strategy.
  5. Create a social media calendar. This is an essential part of your all-important content marketing plan. It should include the intended dates and times that you want to publish Facebook and Instagram posts and tweets, as well as any other social media content.
  6. Test, evaluate, and adjust your strategy. You should be constantly fine tuning your strategy based on performance metrics. Analyze things like number of clicks per post, the reach of your social campaigns, and the number of page visits resulting from social— then adjust and improve based on this data.

2. Decide which platforms are right for you

Not all social media platforms will be suitable for your business and the goals and objectives you’ve set. Below we offer a high-level look at the most popular platforms.

  • Facebook: The world’s most popular social media network with more than 2 billion users as of September 2017, it features the largest number of regular users, making it the most appealing network in terms of sheer reach.
  • Instagram: Instagram’s claim to fame is its visual-centric approach, where successful marketing is based in large part on the aesthetic appeal of the content you share. This platform also boasts the best engagement levels among all social networks at 59 percent, according to the 2016 Bloglovin’ Global Influencer Survey.
  • LinkedIn: The world’s largest social networking site for professionals with more than 467 million users.
  • Twitter: Twitter is renowned for its brevity thanks to the 280-character tweet limit.
  • Snapchat: A disappearing content platform that’s especially popular with younger demographics.
  • YouTube: An excellent resource for brands who have the resources to take advantage of the popularity of online videos.
  • Pinterest: What makes Pinterest unique is its users, who are searching to find ideas for all parts of their lives. This makes Pinterest ideal for driving action, such as a purchase or a visit to your website. With this information, you can begin the process of whittling down which social sites make the most sense for your business. It could end up being one, some, or all.

3. Know your audience

Determining the traits of your target audience is a critical component of market research. Without this information, you’ll have no idea how to appeal to them.
You need to know things like age, gender, location, pain points, goals, average income, etc.

One of the best ways to conduct successful market research is by creating audience personas for your customers. You can create an audience persona by:

  • Collecting demographic data from social media, surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews
  • Looking for trends within this data (behaviors, ages, occupations)
  • Establishing their pain points and goals
  • Turning these traits into representations of people, complete with names, job titles, career histories

4. Use social media to promote and sell your products or services

Using social for promotion isn’t as easy as simply tweeting about your brand every once in a while or using Facebook advertising. You need a strategy in place to optimize your results.

For starters, use the famous 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle) of social curation: 80 percent of your social promotional and selling success (the event) comes from just 20 percent of the cause (your social curation). Therefore, your social content across all your channels should be no more than 20 percent promotional. The other 80 percent should be about your customers—engaging with them and sharing relevant content that they will find valuable.

Then, you must use each social channel according to its strengths.

For instance, if you’re selling T-shirts or jewelry, your best bet is using Instagram or Pinterest due to their image-centric nature. If you’re an apparel, beauty or jewelry retailer in the U.S., you now have the ability to tag your images in Instagram, so detailed product information, as well as a link back to your site, appears alongside the image.

Similarly, on Pinterest, small businesses can sell their products directly on the site, thanks to Buyable Pins, allowing customers to make a purchase in only a few clicks.

5. Incorporate images, videos, and graphics whenever you can

Use visual elements as much as you can, no matter what social platform you’re using. Sixty-seven percent of marketing decision makers say that they use visual content on social media for its engagement value, according to Lewis’ The State of Visual Communications in 2016.

Incorporating visuals—from static images to videos, GIFs, and memes—in your social media content is easy. Just make sure that whatever visual asset you’re using is relevant to your content and the audience.

6. Choose quality over quantity

It’s tempting to put your brand on as many social platforms as possible in an attempt to reach as large an audience as possible. But there’s no benefit to spreading yourself too thin.

When quantity increases, quality usually drops because you’re more focused on quotas: a certain number of tweets per week or a certain number of Facebook posts per month.

Instead, focus on quality over quantity. Go where your audience is and deliver them value. You’ll be rewarded for it.

If you’ve done your research and created audience personas, you should know which platform(s) your target customers prefer. Focus your efforts there, sharing quality content that solves their problems, makes their lives easier, entertains them, etc.

Remember the Pareto Principle: The majority of your social content shouldn’t be promoting yourself, it’s about adding value for the audience.

7. Use the right tools

Save time and effort by using the tools that make social media easier.

In 2017, the average daily time spent on social media by users was 135 minutes. Running a small business demands your time and attention in many other areas—you can’t afford to get sucked into social longer than you have to.

8. Monitor and respond to all social media conversations around your business

Social media can act as a stand in for the face-to-face conversation in today’s digital world. Responding directly to the audience allows you to humanize your brand. Fail to engage your audience and they might think you’re not invested in what they want. And that’s not good for your bottom line.

More than 80 percent of all customers expect a business to reply within 24 hours of a social media posting, according to Altitude Software’s 2016 The Omnichannel Evolution of the Customer Experience.

Social media engagement also offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate your brand’s unique personality.

Don’t hesitate to reply with a bit of humor, all the while showcasing your business’ expertise. Using photographs of you and your employees at work is also an effective way of connecting with the audience, as data shows that image-rich social content drastically increases engagement.

9. Schedule content to free up more time for engagement

Sharing relevant content is important, but it shouldn’t get in the way of the time you need to actively engage the audience.

10. Find inspiration from successful brands and those in your space

There’s no shame in using winning strategies on social that other brands have used to great effect. Taking inspiration from established brands on social media and experiment with some of their tactics on your own channels.

You can also monitor and take inspiration from what your competitors are doing. If you see a great idea, you can adapt it for your own campaigns.

 

 

 

5 Reasons a Mortgage Company Needs Content Marketing

5 Reasons a Mortgage Company Needs Content Marketing

 

Constantly clamoring to grab the attention of prospective customers, small businesses are competing with a lot of noise. To avoid getting skipped over or ignored, savvy digital marketers must craft messages that their target audience wants to see. When small businesses communicate with their customers by providing information instead of offering a sales pitch, the consumer will listen. The message and the brand are no longer an interruption, but a valued information provider.

There’s a name for this tricky tactic — it’s called content marketing. Content marketing means consistently creating and distributing information that is valuable and relevant to those people within a small business’s target audience. Ultimately, the goal is for your content to entice a consumer to do business with your company.

You might be thinking, “That’s not what I do — I’m not a writer!” But whether you sell gizmos, fix cars or build homes, content marketing for your company can help you attract and retain customers.

Here are some of the ways content marketing drives results for small businesses.

1. Boosts brand awareness.

Consistency is a key ingredient to a successful content marketing strategy. This means publishing fresh content at a regular frequency, creating many opportunities for a target market to see the company’s name. Your brand becomes familiar to them, and you’ll be top-of-mind the next time they need your services.

2. Builds an identity as a trusted expert.

If there are 50 attorneys in a town but the only one provides helpful information that educates the community about plumbing maintenance, problems, options and innovations, that brand will stand out as the expert. By doing this, a brand is demonstrating its expertise, so prospective customers need not question or research its know-how. Since this small business is helping consumers without getting paid for this advice, it will also earn a reputation for being trustworthy.

3. Encourages your client to take action.

When consumers need to spend money or make time for a service, it’s natural to procrastinate. However, once a consumer gets clear answers to his or her questions, or hears a story that he or she can relate to, that person could finally be motivated to make a purchase or schedule an appointment. Producing content that guides a consumer through the buyer’s journey (awareness, evaluation, and purchase) results in more sales.

4. Shareable content brings people in the door.

Creating a steady stream of fresh information on a variety of topics opens several avenues to drive traffic to a website — through search, social media, traditional media and more — which ultimately results in phone calls, orders or foot traffic. Marketing tactics that are already in place, such as pay-per-click advertising, digital banner ads, public relations efforts, social media accounts and search engine optimization don’t work as well without content to promote.

These vehicles need something to talk about and link to. Publishing new, relevant content gives people a reason to click. Covering unique, timely and seasonal topics will interest a broader audience and encourage repeat visitors. It also boosts ranking in search results, making it more likely that potential customers will find your small business before one of your competitors.

5. Keeps your website fresh.

Most consumers today rely on the web to find the information they need to make decisions. So, a website often will be a consumer’s first impression of that business. A stagnant, stale website is less interesting and less professional than one with updated content that changes regularly. Undecided consumers who are researching their options might check out a website and social media presence more than once. When they come back, seeing something new and relevant makes their visit a better experience — and shows that the brand is a professional organization.

Content that provides basic information is everywhere today. If you want your content marketing to be successful and work for your business, you need to go deeper than everyone else. Think about what the next step is after someone learns or completes the basic steps. Be specific and give the audience more than they can find anywhere else.

By focusing on your content, you’ll be ahead of your competition in terms of delivering the best content to your target audience. Next, promote that content as much as possible, track your results and identify where you can make improvements. As you learned above, you need to be adaptive if you want your content marketing investments to truly work for your business.

Content marketing is a long-term strategy. You can support it with short-term tactics to drive immediate results, but its power in growing a brand and business comes from its ability to generate long-term, sustainable, organic growth for your company. That means you need to make a commitment to publishing quality content on a consistent basis. Don’t give up. Persistence wins when it comes to content marketing.

10 Key Strategies to Boost Your Mortgage Search Rankings

10 Key Strategies to Boost Your Mortgage Search Rankings

 

For the traditional brick-and-mortar establishments looking to stay relevant in this day and age, online visibility matters more than ever.

This is even more so when you consider the fact that physical business establishments lack the versatility of businesses with no physical addresses but a strong online presence.

While visibility is important for every kind of business regardless of whether it is purely virtual or has several physical locations, you will find that physical establishments, especially those that are not particularly widespread, wholly rely on local search rankings to stay on the map.

There are guidelines which, if you adhere to them, can work wonders for your local search visibility.

Are they different from what you’re already doing? 

If you’re not ranked high in your local SERPs (search engine result page) for relevant keywords in your location, then the answer is yes.

SEMrush Ranking Factors Study 2017

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Dive into the study!

Here are 10 golden strategies to ensure that your business stays on top of Google, Bing, and other major search engines.

1. Update Your Business’ Information

One of the best ways to see just how visible your business is, is to conduct a search yourself. Then, here are some questions to ask!

What did you find when you searched for your keyword + location (Local 3-Pack vs. Organic Search)? 

Where is your business’s website ranked for your search in the 3-pack and Organic Search (i.e. 1stposition, 10thposition, 1stpage, 5thpage, etc.)?

 

Is all the information concerning your business aggregated in one result or spread across different pages? 

If you have a hard time finding basic information such as your physical address and other contact information, chances are everyone else is too.

Google’s latest update on its local SERPs has without a doubt made things a bit harder.

The modification of the “local 7-pack” view to the “local 3-pack” view translates to fewer opportunities to remain visible.

This means that to feature on the top tiers of the search rankings you must be at your absolute best. That means building a ton of citations, niche directory links, optimizing your Google My Business profile, and increasing your reviews on your GMB page is key!

2. Fill Out the Local Listings

Since listings can always be linked back to your website, they’re always a good way to bring in more traffic.

Furthermore, filling out listings, such as citations and niche directories improves your SEO significantly by creating an identity for your business at the top of every local search result.

If your information is restricted to directories that are based on your industry, creating a listing page would not be necessary as you could just claim the available listings.

For any citations or niche directories, make sure your information is filled out completely and everything is consistent across your business for each listing. For example, business name, address, phone number, website, description, etc.

You can use tools like WhiteSpark or BrightLocal to create, manage, and monitor your business’s and competitors’ citation listings on the web.

Don’t just be listed anywhere, build citations and niche directories that add value. There are a ton of directories and citations created every day. Your business should be listed in the ones that can actually send you referral traffic.

3. Create Some Buzz About Your Establishment

Now that people can find you, all that is left to do is to give them reasons to look for you.

Creating a blog gives you a platform where you can effectively communicate with your local community as the authoritative voice of the business.

It is a great way to create lasting impressions and bond with your customer base. This is where a lot of local businesses fail. They will have a SEO company blogging for them creating shallow content that won’t rank for visibility.

Google likes very detailed, informative, and insightful content. That is what the search engine likes to rank at the top, especially when indexing millions of websites that have similar content.

4. Get the Right Local Keywords and Make Good Use of Them

An integral part of making your business more visible online is using the right keywords. The Keyword Planner is an invaluable free tool for your business as it helps you narrow in on the right keywords to use in order to target your local customer base.

However, don’t rest on your laurels just yet because finding the right keywords is half the journey.

When it comes to local SEO rankings, quality will always trump quantity. As such, a short, effectively used keyword, even if it appears just a few times, will still get you the kind of visibility you need while saving you from over stuffing.

Think about it, how impressed would you be if you read a blog stuffed with nothing but keywords and a few sentences here and there? Not very, I presume.

Nevertheless, Google particularly hates keyword stuffing and has created algorithms such as Hummingbird and Rank Brain to better determine the intent of visitors searches to return the best search results.

Therefore, even if you stuff your content with keywords it won’t match what the user is searching for and your money or time spent won’t add value to your business.

5. Ensure Your Website is Compatible with All Devices

If you’re looking to reach a wider market, it is important that you ensure your website’s design is pervasive and suitable for use over all platforms.

Test your business’s website on a number of devices to see how smooth and responsive it is. Does it adjust to the size of each platform?

Pay special attention to mobile devices because more and more people are accessing the internet on the go.

Google is also relying on mobile website’s performance to determine overall rankings on all platforms.

For example, if your mobile website’s performance is poor, then this may affect your desktop performance as more users are searching on mobile compared to any other device.

6. Interact with Your Customers; Ask for Reviews 

Sites with more genuine reviews are typically considered before those with obviously spammed positive reviews.

Asking your customers to voice their opinions on sites such as Yelp and Google My Business might seem counter-intuitive at first but the higher your positive rating, the higher Google will rank your business in the local SERPs.

There are new tools, such as Birds Eye or Reviews that Matter, which allows you to ask customers for a review when they are in front of you, allowing them to leave a review in 1 minute from their phone.

This increases your chances of getting a review when asking someone by 40%!

Then continually monitor your reviews with Bright Local across all of your review platforms, so that you are able to respond to any negative reviews in a positive way. This is important for reputation management!

7. Make Good Use of Social Media

Does your business have a bigger following on one social media site than another? 

If so, ditch the poorly performing page and stick to where you’re most visible. Creating a social media page is an even better way to connect with your customers in a way that they can relate to.

8. Visual Content is Important

Having pictures of your business, whether it is the premises, the insignia or the various products you sell, could mean the difference when it comes to putting you ahead of your competitors.

Never underestimate the power of well-taken pictures.

9. Strictly Abide by Your Hours

Nothing is as frustrating for customers who decide to pop in at your establishment only to find that you’re closed early or not yet open, despite the hours indicated on your listings.

You can easily alter the opening and closing hours on your listing if you intend to change them.

10. Invest in a Mobile App

Last but certainly not least, get a mobile app for your business. It might not seem like such a necessity but according to statistical projections, businesses with perfectly functioning mobile apps are bound to be more prominent and have a more authoritative feel.

Conclusion

Staying visible online might seem like a daunting task if you’re not particularly well versed in its technical side. Most local business owners don’t have time to understand all of this anyway. The good news is that you don’t have to undertake all this alone.

Use these vital local SEO strategies and much more to ensure that local businesses such as yours stay on top of the search rankings.