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December eNewsletter

Welcome to our December business eNewsletter focusing on small business trends for 2019.

Quote of the month:
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” – Colin Powell

In this Issue…


Countdown to 2019: How Local Marketing Can Transform Your Small Business
By Rieva Lesonsky

Many small businesses are dependent on local customers to survive – retailers, restaurant owners, accountants, contractors, remodelers, home services providers, among many others. For these business owners, marketing has become a little more complicated.

Here, and in the article to be posted next Monday, we’re going to explore the marketing musts your businesses must employ to be successful in 2019.

Websites are a Must

It should go without saying that every business, no matter its size must have a website. But sadly, too many (some estimate 40%-50%) don’t. If you don’t have a business website, you must build one immediately. A website helps you build your brand and gives you a consistent online “home” for your business. (A social media platform is not a substitute for a website.) Businesses that actively engage online can expect to grow 40% faster than they would without an online presence, according to a report from BCG.

If you’re just starting out, don’t stress. Your first website needn’t be elaborate. Just make sure to include the basics – address, phone number, hours, prices and services. If you want people to come by your company, (obviously vital to restaurants and store owners) include a map and directions.

You’ll need to find a name for your website (check out NameStudio), which should, if possible, be the same or similar to the name of your business. Figure out if you want to DIY your website or hire a web designer to create a site for you? And then decide what your site needs to include, such as:

  • Number of Website pages
  • Amount of website storage (images & videos need more storage space)
  • Tools (online forms, blogs, customer reviews, maps, slideshows)
  • Links to/integration with social media
  • Video and/or audio players
  • Shopping cart
  • Tech support
  • Ease of updating content

Check out this Checklist to Build a Website to learn more.

Make it Mobile-Friendly

All websites must be optimized for mobile viewing. Google’s algorithms primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, which impacts your placement in the search engines.

More important, consumers demand mobile-ready websites. In fact, as Eric Reynolds, the SVP and CMO of Clorox says, all “marketing essentially is mobile today.” On Thanksgiving, for the first time ever, according to Adobe Analytics and reported on CNBC, consumers rang up $1 billion in sales via their smartphones. And over $2 billion in sales on Black Friday came from smartphones.

Overall this year, nearly 40% of e-commerce sales came from mobile devices, which should soar to almost 54% by 2021 according to Statista. Studies show consumers prefer to complete their entire shopping journey on mobile devices, however mobile conversions are still lower than desktop because the mobile user experience is subpar.

You don’t want to lose customers, so make sure:

  • Your site loads quickly – you can test the speed of your mobile site here
  • Photos are large enough for shoppers to see, but don’t slow load time
  • Forms are short with drop-down options)
  • Your site is secure. If it’s not https://, Google’s Chrome browser shows a “NOT SECURE” warning next to the URL

Getting Found Online

While it’s vital for all businesses to appear on the major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) for local businesses, it’s even more important to be discoverable on local search sites and directories. When consumers search on smartphones for businesses, products and services (which about 70% of consumers do), Google considers the phone’s location before displaying search results, giving businesses using local SEO an edge.

To implement a local SEO strategy:

1. Claim your business listing on local search directories. Start by claiming your free listing on Google My Business. You may already have a listing, but if you haven’t “claimed” it, it’s likely not complete.

2. Make sure the information about your business that’s essential to potential customers – business name, address, phone number and hours of operation – is correct.

3. Use your Google My Business information as the basis for creating listings on other local search directories and maps. It’s important your name, address & phone (NAP) information is exactly the same on all local search directories. (According to Search Engine Bay the top 5 local directories are: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp and Facebook.)

4. Enhance your listings by adding details, including photos (before and after shots capture consumers’ attention), menus, current promotions or seasonal hours.

5. Include your business address in the footer of your site’s home page, Contact Us page and wherever else it’s appropriate. Add location-specific keywords (your city and neighborhood) in your site’s meta tags, title tags, descriptions and content.

6. Your data needs to be kept up-to-date. This can be tedious and time-consuming, so consider farming it out to an agency or your webhost.

Voice: The New Frontier

Voice search is the newest component of local marketing. Consumers are quickly embracing their digital voice assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Home, etc.) The statistics are compelling:

  • By 2020 there’ll be about 76.5 million smart speaker users in the U.S, according to eMarketer. Already more than 17 million Americans buy products using smart speakers.
  • ComScore predicts by 2020 50% of all searches will be via voice.
  • Capgemini reports 24% of consumers would rather use a voice assistant than visit a website.

Consumers search differently on voice, so you’ll need to change your search strategy. When using voice search, people speak naturally, in full sentences. This means targeting long-tail keywords is a must. To do this, think about what questions consumers would ask when searching for businesses like yours. Answer the Public has a great tool to help you with this. Check out, for instance, these questions for a lawn-care business.

While voice search is relatively new, consumers already have expectations:

  • 52% want to learn about your deals, promotions and sales
  • 48% want personalized tips and information that helps make their lives easier
  • 42% want to learn about upcoming events and activities
  • 39% use their devices to get more information about a business, such as hours of operation and location

These are just a few of the strategies you need to embrace to better market your services and products. Next week we’ll look at how you can get the most out of email marketing, social media and ratings and review sites.

Read this article at the SmallBizDaily.com


4 Sales Trends That You Need To Know About In 2019
By Lilach Bullock

It’s almost the end of the year, the perfect time to look back at what you’ve done and achieved, as well as look forward to understand what’s to come.

The world of sales has been rapidly changing in the last few years as new technology evolved and became more accessible to businesses and sales teams across niches. The question is, what will 2019 bring to the table? What will be the biggest trends in sales happening in 2019?

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about 4 sales trends that you need to know about in 2019.

1. Selling to the new generation: Generation Z

Millennials used to be the “new” generation that marketers and sales people needed to start focusing on – and while millennials are definitely increasing in terms of buying power, there is a new generation emerging that both marketers and sales people need to be aware of:

Generation Z.

This generation is formed of those born anywhere from the mid-90’s to the mid-2000’s so the oldest in their early 20s while the youngest are just barely teenagers right now. Of course, the bigger focus should be on the older of the Generation Z who are gaining more and more buying power. Currently, Gen Z account for approximately $29 – $143 billion in direct spending, and they are well on their way to becoming the biggest generation of consumers by 2020, which is right around the corner.

So, how does this affect sales? Well, this generation is quite different from previous generations, at least in some respect. For example, they were born with access to incredible technology and grew up using social media, smartphones, online shopping and all kinds of other technologies on a daily basis. They also care a lot about worldwide issues and their own impact on the world, particularly when it comes to environmental issues.

Plus, there’s one very interesting statistic that might surprise many people: some studies show that Generation Z actually prefers brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping (57% said they prefer online shopping).

How do you sell to this generation though?

The secret stands in understanding who forms this generation and what they care about – the more you learn about them, the easier it will be to come up with the best approach to sell to them.

2. A more strategic approach to sales enablement

One way or another, every sales team gets at least little bit of sales enablement, whether it’s the software they get to help them sell more efficiently or occasional training sessions. That said, there’s certainly been a lot of growth in this area in the past couple of years, with more and more businesses and organizations implementing sales enablement strategies, a trend which is very likely to continue in the coming year.

But, what’s more, there will also be a more strategic approach to sales enablement:

  • An actual strategy and plan with clear objectives and certain steps to be taken
  • A bigger focus on helping sales people develop their top skills and become better at their job
  • An easier way to onboard new sales people and help them jump right into selling
  • More focus on new technology that can aid the sales enablement process as well as individual sales people to sell more

How do you stay on top of this trend?

In order to stay of this trend, take the time to really plan out a sales enablement strategy, from helping to onboard new sales people as efficiently as possible to consistent coaching to your existing sales people.

Make use of technology like MindTickle to implement your strategy, as well as to leverage data as part of your sales enablement strategy. You’ll be able to create onboarding and coaching programs, simulated sales scenarios to help develop your sales people’s skills, plus you have access to Artificial Intelligence to help you maximize your efficiency and results and access to in-depth analytics to help you discover any knowledge or skill gaps that need your attention.

3. Machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence and sales

Artificial Intelligence has the power to disrupt entire industries – and sales is no exception. For example, I already showed you how AI can help with sales enablement and coaching. There are definitely a lot of ways that AI will continue to impact the world of sales in 2019, though.

The more you can implement Artificial Intelligence into the tools you use to sell, as well as into your day to day strategy, the bigger the impact on your productivity will be.

Here are the main ways that AI can help salespeople be more productive:

  • The ability to analyse huge amounts of data in a very short time will help you personalize your sales strategy
  • Get recommendations based on massive amounts of data, thus saving time with following up and reaching out to the right people
  • Predict the future – with access to so much data, plus the ability to analyze this data, comes a great power: the ability to predict the future. What will your next quarter look like based on your past work? What can you do to improve the results of your next quarter?

How can you leverage Artificial Intelligence?

AI is fortunately becoming more and more accessible by the minute. While the more complex systems might be out of range for the regular business, plenty of “regular” sales tools are implementing more AI-based features, such as CRM tools and prospecting tools.

If you want to also learn about your leads and prospects as well as accurately analyze your data, you can use tools like MissingLink to automate deep learning.

4. Moving towards the omni-channel experience

Earlier, I talked about Generation Z – the new generation of buyers that is rapidly gaining a huge buying power in the market.

One of the things that these younger generation expect more and more is an integrated experience across all of a business’s channels. The new generations use various devices at any given moment, they research products and services online extensively before they buy and they often demand personalized experiences that flow seamlessly from channel to channel.

This trend towards omni-channel marketing and creating omni-channel experiences has a huge impact on sales. Most importantly when it comes to the relationship between a sales department and a marketing department. While these departments are (historically) quite clearly separate, the move towards omni-channel marketing demands a much closer relationship between the 2.

How do you create more omni-channel experiences from a sales point of view?

There is a lot that needs to be done in order to develop a true omni-channel experience for all of your customers:

  • Identifying all the platforms and channels your audience uses and leveraging them
  • Creating a seamless transition between all channels and platforms that audiences have access to (for example, if a lead starts a conversation via text messages while they’re on the bus or train but then want to change the channel once they get home, then they should be able to do as seamlessly as possible, without wasting any time)
  • Finding ways to integrate technology such as social media into bricks-and-mortar stores

From a sales point of view, the most important thing is to collaborate with the marketing department. It’s not just a case of marketers updating sales people on progress or sending them leads occasionally, but rather a truly close relationship where the 2 parties actually collaborate, as sales and marketing are more intertwined than ever.

Conclusion

In order to improve productivity and overall sales, it’s important to stay on top of trends and implement new technologies and new tactics, such as:

  • Learning how to sell to Generation Z
  • Implementing a sales enablement strategy to help your sales team be more productive
  • Leveraging new technology like AI and machine learning to improve sales and knowledge
  • Integrating marketing and sales and developing more omni-channel experiences for your audience

What sales trends are you most excited about?

Read this article Forbes.com


Customer Service Predictions for 2019: 5 Small Businesses Weigh In
By Michelle Fitzsimmons

With the New Year fast approaching, it’s time to look ahead and see what trends will shape small businesses in 2019.

One of the most important drivers for any business is customer service, and recent figures show that it’s just as critical as ever: 61% of survey respondents in Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report said they stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience.

In light of this data, we asked five small business influencers how they plan to deliver better customer service in the New Year. From sending personalized gifts to customers’ pets to using a mix of automated and human-based messaging, each respondent* revealed insightful tips for how small businesses can up their customer service game in 2019.

As new technologies are introduced and more customer communications take place on social media platforms and messaging apps, customers will expect faster responses and across a larger spectrum of platforms.

Speed and accessibility of customer support will continue to be a top priority for both businesses and customers. As new technologies are introduced and more customer communications take place on social media platforms and messaging apps, customers will expect faster responses and across a larger spectrum of platforms.

Speed of response is especially important here at Unbounce. We recently increased the size of our customer support team, which has allowed us to significantly improve our chat acceptance rate – a measure of the number of conversations we’re able to have with customers at the time they request the conversation.

Companies should also be thinking about how they access customer information at the point of contact. Most companies gather useful information about their customers but rarely make this information available to the support teams that help these customers. Giving customer service teams access to detailed customer information at the point of contact will allow support staff to understand a customer’s needs before they even begin speaking with the customer, resulting in shorter calls and an overall more personalized customer experience.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonas-stanford/

We use automated messaging systems in order to deliver information that is not person-specific

Today, customer service is often considered just a necessary expenditure that a business needs to pare down as much as possible. With the advent of chatbots and intelligent automated messaging systems, this is getting even easier to do.

In order to differentiate ourselves from our competition, though, we’re going in the opposite direction. We use automated messaging systems in order to deliver information that is not person-specific (e.g. to tell our users about a new feature).

However, any user (whether a paying client or a free trial user) who writes to us will receive a personal, human reply. Whether someone writes to us on social media, through email or in the general contact form on our website, (s)he will get an answer from a real person (usually their account manager – every person who uses DashThis gets his or her own account manager that they can speak to at all times).

In sounds incredibly simple, almost banal, but taking the time to talk with clients instead of constantly rerouting their questions to a forum or a help center article, makes all the difference in the world.

People want to do business with brands that not only offer the best product, but also with whom they feel a personal affinity. Our account managers become friends with their clients; They ask about their weekends, maybe even share their dogs’ names and what hockey teams they root for.

At the end of the day, that’s what sets us apart.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathalie-cou%C3%ABt-b9a08132/

We have around 220,000 customers currently, and we want to figure out a scalable, effective way to get closer to them.

We recently tackled the challenge of how do we improve our customer service by injecting personality into our business at scale.

How do we evoke a personal connection with our customers? We have around 220,000 customers currently, and we want to figure out a scalable, effective way to get closer to them.

After brainstorming we came up with an idea to tap into our customers’ souls through their pets. When a homeowner signs up for our service, we gather information on if they have pets, and if so, what their names are. We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn.

We decided we could use this info about our customers to send a personalized gift to our customers’ pet, addressed to the pet.

This really wowed our customers; We received personal thank you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to Facebook and thank you tweets. It worked really well for the time and money we invested.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zach-hendrix-8b6a963/

One of the most important aspects to consider when creating a great customer experience is keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers.

At DentalPlans.com, we have found that one of the best resources is our members. We will continue to enhance our presence on social media, as well as provide additional avenues for customers to contact us, such as live chat, email and telephone, so we can listen to – and really hear – plan members and continue to provide them with an exceptional experience. DentalPlans.com will continue to ensure that all of its employees are trained and updated on the latest information to allow them to speak to plan members with confidence and deliver one-call resolutions.

One of the most important aspects to consider when creating a great customer experience is keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers. DentalPlans.com excels in this area because we utilize member surveys and monitor online reviews to gather feedback directly from plan members, which allows us to act quickly.

Training and coaching is also very important. One hundred percent of our calls at DentalPlans.com are recorded, which allows for us to provide coaching and share best practices, based on the interactions we have with plan members. We leverage these calls along with other soft skills through our learning management system and create modules and learning journeys for all of our employees.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-a-powell-mba-2aba811/

I believe 2019 will see chatbots becoming the first point of contact in sales.

One of the most impressive AI tools improving customer experience is chatbots. While chatbots are not so complex that they can deal with every issue under the sun, they aren’t humans, who have a tendency to make catastrophic errors in customer relations that are often irreparable. AI chatbots sound remarkably human and iterate with every exchange, which makes them a tremendous force for good.

Chatbots are no longer just for basic customer service questions. These bots are now capable of giving complex responses and suggestions, including recommending specific styles based on short questionnaires and even direct ordering.

I’m particularly fond of programs like Zendesk and Freshdesk, which exist to make the customer experience better. These apps are based on the reality that automation in HR is becoming more of a reality every day. Automation in HR can have a huge benefit for the workflow of your business as technology of this nature can help to shorten the amount of time and effort employees spend dealing with issues such as time tracking, relevant tax forms, health and security forms or procedures, general record management and making important files or documents easier to locate.

I believe 2019 will see chatbots becoming the first point of contact in sales. Chatbots show promise in creating effective landing pages and boosting conversions. AI can now collect basic customer info and create a more user-friendly shopping experience. Consumers actually prefer these interactions since they are faster and simpler than traditional sales methods.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nate-masterson/

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution for Your Business?

Clearly, delivering fast yet personalized customer service—with effective communications at the center—is a top priority for small businesses in 2019. It’s in precisely how businesses opt to provide top-notch customer service where we see some differentiation.

In order for small businesses to exceed customer expectations in the New Year and beyond, a communications solution that not only supports but also energizes your efforts is a must.

8×8 cloud communications provides businesses of all sizes with a powerful voice, chat, collaboration and conferencing solution that delights customers and empowers employees. With features like call recording, CRM integration and cross-platform messaging, businesses can enhance every customer interaction while also increasing team productivity.

Unlike your perennial resolution to eat right and exercise, upgrading your business communications to deliver better customer service is one New Year’s resolution you can easily keep.

Responses have been edited for clarity.

*The influencers featured in this article are not 8×8 customers.

Read this article at the 8×8.com


5 Business Social Media Trends to Pay Attention to in 2019
By TNJ Staff

As 2018 nears its conclusion, business owners and marketers should be thinking about what they can do to make their companies more successful in the New Year. Hopefully somewhere near the top of their priorities list is finding ways to leverage their social media channels more effectively.

Gone are the days when companies can treat social media as an afterthought or a supplemental marketing channel. Today, social media platforms are where a business has an opportunity to consistently demonstrate its value and reinforce its voice. They are the go-to places where customers ask questions, offer accolades, and air complaints. No business can ignore the significance of its social media presence because it influences how people perceive its brand. So what can you do to bolster your brand’s success through social media in 2019?

One should be cautious about making social media predictions because the ideal social strategy is unique for every business. However, there are some online marketing trends worth considering as you evaluate what tactics will grow your business.

1. The growing importance of personal branding to business branding – Especially for small businesses, putting a real, human face to a business name helps build loyalty. A brand that’s more relatable and has the human element naturally garners more trust – and trust is essential for building relationships.

One way to humanize a brand is to promote the personal brand of the business owner or a high-level leader. This tactic has become a staple for many organizations, as demonstrated through guest blogging, podcast and webinar appearances, and other publicity opportunities. Through allowing people to get to know the character and expertise of company leadership, a business can strengthen its brand reputation.

Businesses that embrace this in 2019 will have a distinct advantage over companies that hide behind their logo.

2. Long-form content for making an SEO impact – While word count is not the only thing that can impact how prominently an article will appear on the search engine results page, SEO experts say long-form content will be able to give you an edge. Although Google doesn’t penalize blog posts if they fail to reach a certain word count threshold, it stands to reason that a high-quality article with 1,600 words will likely outrank a high-quality article with 500 words. It’s for that reason we’re seeing more publishers requiring guest authors to submit articles with a minimum of 1,000 or more words.

We’ll see more company blogs embracing long-form content and incorporating it into their content strategies. Therefore, businesses that have found they aren’t getting SEO traction with short posts may want to “go long” and add longer articles rich with information and insight that will attract readers and give Google a reason to rank them more favorably. This trend will definitely make a difference in your results in 2019.

3. Acceleration of personalized marketing – With more companies digging into their data and using it to create customized marketing campaigns that target individuals’ interests at different points in the buyer’s journey, the pressure is on. Customers have come to expect brands to tailor special offers and discounts to their wants and needs. To accommodate that expectation, more businesses will need to consider targeted advertising and retargeting campaigns on social media channels. I anticipate that social platforms will continue to refine their targeting offerings as the demand for individualized content grows.

4. Video’s prominence as the preferred form of content – In a survey by Wyzowl “The State of Video Marketing 2018,” 97 percent of marketers said video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service and 76 percent said it has helped increase sales. Additionally, live streaming video will continue its emergence as a powerful way to engage people on social media. In fact, according to statistics compiled by Go-Globe by 2020 82 percent of internet traffic is expected to be live video.
Video’s prominence tied closely to the first trend, personal branding’s influence on the business brand. Video allows for a company to put a face to the business. It enables prospects and customers to get to know who leads and works in a business. Video gives businesses an opportunity to show not only what they do but also “who” they are.
Also, keep in mind that social media algorithms might give video posts better organic reach than other types of posts.

5. “Pay to play” – the path to more exposure – In 2012, brands could expect, on average approximately 16 percent of their fans would see their updates according to an article on Hubspot. Fast forward to today and that reach has plummeted even more.

With the diminishing organic reach of business content, most companies will need to invest in sponsored posts, boosted posts, and social media ads if they want to stay top of mind. Fortunately, social media advertising doesn’t have to break the bank; a small amount of money can go a long way and this trend should continue well into 2019.
Change: An Ever-Constant Trend – The one trend you can always count on resurfacing year after year is that businesses must – to some degree – adjust their social media approach to gain broader awareness and increase engagement with customers.

Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Figuring out what the next big trend is tells us what we should focus on.” While that might be true for Facebook, realize it isn’t always so for every business. The thing about trends is that following them doesn’t guarantee success. Pay attention to social media trends, but before you jump on the bandwagon, carefully evaluate if incorporating them in your marketing strategy will be consistent with your brand and practical for your business.

Read this article at the TNJ.com


The views and opinions presented in this newsletter do not necessarily represent those of SpiritBank.
Property of SpiritBank. 2018.