Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sooner or Later You'll Need to Ship

If you have a small business sooner or later you'll need to ship. You will soon discover that fees are all over the place, regulations are many and can be difficult to wade through, and service can be non existent.

After several years of experience, my shipping company of choice is still the good old USPS. Nothing beats the Postal Service's prices, the service, once you're out of the post office, is reliable and consistent, and most rules and regulations are easily found on their website.

Just about everyone can come up with a horror story on any shipping service, but I don't have one yet on the USPS. They won't leave something with a neighbor. They won't leave a package on the doorstep. They will only get a signature from an intended recipient.

And I'm currently finding why UPS gives up to $100 in insurance free on their shipments.

Stay tuned...more to follow.        

Monday, April 23, 2012


How does your business show up in Google Places? Places is an app that can be accessed from mobile phones. Used mainly for restaurants, gas stations,  and coffee shops the app can be used for any product and service.

If a potential customer's car breaks down out of town---Places can help them to the nearest service center. It's important to review information periodically when you find your business on Places. Anyone can enter information regarding your business---customers and employees both. You, as business owner, need to claim the business and keep information like telephone numbers and hours of operation accurate. From a mobile phone it's simply a click on a telephone number and the customer has you on the phone.

And as more and more people use phones to search for products and services, the local search on places will be used to locate home repairs and services and many products that we turn to the Yellow Pages today. In fact, when was the last time you turned to the hard copy Yellow Pages?              

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting the Word Out

One of my favorite stories to tell is when I was looking for a bicycle to buy. I love buying local and supporting my local economy---I've always viewed it as a mission to support my local small businesses even before it was fashionable to do so. 

I was having difficulty finding the particular bicycle that I needed and ended up doing an internet search. I went to another state to make the purchase because there were no businesses listed with the brand that I wanted locally. It is important to have the word out on your business in various ways on the internet otherwise your customers could be going to the next state over and passing you up. 

Every now and then you can get the word out on your products and services for free. Bing currently is offering a free mobile site for businesses complete with a QR code for you physical location so customers can scan the code in to phones and easily locate that mobile site.

On the mobile site you can add monthly/weekly deals, product photos, events, and hours. It is a handy (and handsome) website widget that can help your customer and can even be easily emailed to friends or shared to Twitter and Facebook.

To contact you by phone the customer simply hits the button. This is how the mobile web was designed to work---easy and fast, with a "meet you at the store or event" sharing ease of use.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Product Descriptions

Selling online can be a bit challenging. Even if you spend a lot of time writing an accurate description of an item, you may not include everything a potential customer needs to decide to make a purchase and most people will not stop to ask questions but will go to the next shop that may have a better description.

And once they've left your site, chances are you've lost them. So your product descriptions are important. When you're writing descriptions you should use all your senses to examine your item:

  1. What does it really look like? Does it shine? What color is it? If it's vintage or used are there defects or patina? Accurate descriptions will include all the details
  2. Does the item have a feel to it? If it's a machine is it heavier than it looks? If it's a sweater, is it soft? 
  3. Does it smell? Has it been used in a smoky environment?---fess up unless you can get rid of the smell (Febreze doesn't do it). If it's vintage does it smell musty?
  4. What about sound? 
  5. Don't forget about taste if that applies.
Some customers will only look at the pictures---so make sure they accurately show the product. These customers will usually ask questions that are already answered in your posting---that's OK because then you have the opportunity to expound on why you and your product is the best that they can buy.

So when you are listing online don't forget to create an atmosphere for your customers to make them feel as if they are physically right there with that product and they just might stick around for a purchase.    

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making Emails Mobile

More and more emails are being opened on mobile devices first. According to one study desktop clients are falling by the wayside while mobile clients are being used 20%+ more.

Products can really shine on a mobile phone and customers can zoom in on the details. In addition phone numbers in the body of the email can be clicked on making it easy for customers to connect with your business for answers to questions.

Mobile customers are also more likely to share and pass on the emails too, many people handle social media on their phones.

So while you design your emails for desk top clients, web mail clients like Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail, keep those phones in mind---they're the future.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Expectations---Your Plan

Nurturing customer relationships in the hope of creating or attracting new customers is a great social media marketing goal.

Let's say you have a product that has hit saturation point in your current local market. You have current customers who are using your product but the product has a lifespan of 5 plus years. And while your current customer base will provide incidental sales of services and accessory purchases, there won't be any more big ticket items for at least another 5 years. You need more customers and you can get the word out with social media and interaction with your current customers.

Social Media is about nurturing your current relationships, interaction with your customers, demonstrating customer service, and demonstrating just how wonderful your business is.

Your website then moves on to being the authority regarding your business. Customer leads who find you through social media proceed to your website to learn more about your services and products. They find your store policies, detailed location and event information, and hopefully, just how much of an expert you are in the area your business is located. The more detailed the information is, the more likely the lead generated will take action and a sale will be made.

Social media becomes a fine complement to your website generating new curiosity and excitement, complements and customer interaction and new paths to customers who are already thinking about your products and services.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giving Your Customers Plenty of Room

Today's online environment allows even the smallest business to give customers plenty of room to comment and love what you do. It also allows you to handle any issues, explain and amend any contrary comments.

Many sites that come up on search engines allow businesses to be entered by customers who then go on to comment and rate the business. I've seen good comments and bad in my research of businesses that I'm in need of--everything from veterinary services, to dog grooming to dentists.

The good comments are worthwhile if there are more than one or two.

The bad comments only hold weight if they go unanswered. When the customers concerns are acknowledged and diffused the negative comment can become a huge marketing opportunity to show just how responsive your business is to customer service.

Monitoring the web through a weekly search of your business name and genre on search engines, in addition to using web tools offered free by Bing and Google allows you to uncover just what customers are saying about you. And this needs to be done whether you have a website or facebook page or whether you have even placed your own business information on the web yourself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Video on Your Website

Video's are easy to add to a website--- simply host on one of the major video hosting sites and you can embed directly into your webpage any movie whether it's a short video demonstrating your business, services, and products or a how to video so customers have a reference on how to use your product once they get it home.

If you're a retailer, many manufacturers offer product videos that you can mine and embed right to your site to help demonstrate and sell the products you need to sell the most. Just copy the code and add it directly to the coding of your page.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when posting videos and the most important is to resist the temptation to have the video auto play as soon as your customer lands on your page. Give your customer the option to play the video by providing a full range of controls and leave the customer in charge of when or not to play.