3 Keys to Build a Strong Online Community

May 19, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Last time, we talked about mistakes you might be making in your online communities. Today, the discussion continues with tips on building a stronger online community.

Data Research BackgroundMost of us are good at building a community. We have groups of family and friends who we interact with on a regular basis, spend time with, and gather together for celebrations and other events. We have strong relationships within our real life communities and they create a space for us to live and grow authentic lives. A strong online community can create the same thing for your brand and your business.

But how do you build a strong community online? We all know that establishing and building relationships with our clients is the best way to strengthen and grow our business. We just don’t always know the best way to go about it.

Here are three keys to building a healthy online community.

Be Consistent

People thrive on consistency. If they’re going to follow you on social media, or read your blog, then give them something to follow and something to read. Post regularly rather than sporadically. Posting consistently creates anticipation and allows your followers to make you part of their regular routine. So create a posting schedule and then stick to it.

Provide Valuable Content

You’ve gotten people to follow you online. That’s the easy part. The hard part is keeping them interested and engaged. Providing good content that is valuable to them is the key to keeping them interested. You also want to make sure the content is relevant to your brand, whether it is an “Ask the Expert” series or sharing content that is interesting for your readers and has a tie-in to your field. Also, keep in mind that valuable content does not include sales pitches or ads for promotions. You are asking your followers to make you part of their routine. Making sure you provide content that is valuable and relevant is key to getting and keeping your online community happy.

Listen to Your Community

Not sure what to post or whether your posts are effective? Listen to your community. Ask them what they’d like to see or where they want the conversation to go. Take a look at engagement rates and things like click thru rates, shares, likes, and comments. They’ll tell you what is working and what is not working. By listening to your community and allowing them to drive discussions online, you’ll have a much better idea of what new services you need to consider offering, or what direction you should be taking your business offline.

The important thing in building a community is the interaction between you and your followers. Interaction is key, because otherwise you just have an audience whom you are speaking to rather than a community you are communicating with. By taking the time and effort to focus on building those relationships online, you’ll start to see positive results in business growth overall.

4 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Social Media Community

May 12, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

47351-You’ve done what you’re supposed to do. You have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. But having a social media presence is not the same as building a healthy social media community. Here are some mistakes you’re probably making, and how to turn them around.

Assuming that just having an account is enough

You’ve set up a Facebook page and you have a Twitter feed. There are links to them on your website. But that’s not enough. You need to post regularly, engage your followers, and make it a valuable experience. Nobody is going to want to follow you if you never post anything or, even worse, only post sales and promotions. Building an online community requires time and effort, and people who understand how to create interaction and foster the right kinds of conversations. Everyone has a Facebook page these days. You need to create a more valuable experience for your followers.

Valuing follower numbers over engagement numbers

Many of us assume that large, or growing, follower numbers are an indication of positive growth. But it doesn’t really matter how many followers you have if none of them are interacting. Engagement numbers are a much more powerful indicator of how successful your social media strategy is. Instead of paying attention to how many followers you’ve gained this week, dig a bit deeper and determine how many engagements (click thru rates, likes, shares, or comments) you’re receiving. That is a much truer indicator of how successful and effective your social media community is.

Not engaging with your followers

You are building an online community, and that means that you need to create and foster conversations on your social media feeds. So post regularly. Provide valuable information. Create conversations. And then continue to participate in them. If a follower posts a comment or engages with one of your posts, respond to them. A community means that everyone participates in an ongoing conversation. So don’t just post and run. Nobody wants to feel deserted or like their opinion is not valued.

Treating your social media as a sales channel

Your online community should be just that – a community. Nobody wants to follow a page that is just one long string of ads and promotions. Can you post information about sales or promotions? Of course! But it should not be the primary focus of your social media content. Focus on fostering community and providing valuable information and you’ll see your sales improve all on their own.

Studies show that one of the top things consumers are doing on their mobile devices is engaging in social media. It’s one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. Make sure you’re doing it right and you’ll see it pay off in increased sales and business growth.

Next time, we’ll continue the discussion with tips on building an even stronger online community.

Creating Customers For Life

April 28, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Embracing calmnessWe all work very hard to bring customers in the doors. But did you know that bringing in new customers costs 5-10% more than retaining the customers you already have? It is definitely worth your time and effort to keep your existing customers happy.

By building on the relationship you have already established with them, you can turn these customers into lifelong customers who will continue to come back to you again and again over the years.

Here are three key things to do when creating customers for life.

Provide stellar customer service

From consistency and quality in the services & products you provide to the attention and service your staff provides to them, every single contact your customers have with your company should be a positive one. So make customer service a top priority with your staff and follow through to make sure that your clients are happy with what they are receiving.

Show your appreciation

Show your customers how much their loyalty means to you and your business. You can do this in lots of different ways, but the two most effective are a simple thank you message (not one tied into a promotion) and a well designed loyalty program that rewards them for doing business with you. Need ideas on setting up a loyalty program? Check out our blog post from last year: Ready to Setup a Rewards Program

Give your customers what they want

Whenever you aren’t sure whether what you’re doing is working or if you should change or do something differently, the best people to ask are your customers.  So go out and get feedback from them. Ask them what they want. Find out from them what you could be doing better or what they think you should change. Really listen to them. Then follow their advice. Make the necessary changes to match their needs and they’ll continue to bring you their business. Never underestimate the value of making someone feel valued.

Creating customers for life is one of the more powerful business strategies you can utilize. Loyal customers positively impact your bottom line in many different ways. They visit you more regularly and spend more money per visit than new customers. And they recommend you to their friends and family, helping you grow your business even more. In every way, loyal customers are more valuable to gain and to keep.

Mobile Marketing Trends In The Spotlight

April 15, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Doing business the modern wayIt seems like these days, everyone is out and about all the time and we are accessing more and more of our information while we’re on the go. Here are a few mobile trends that are important for your business.

Responsive Websites that are optimized for mobile are king

Mobile search is expected to surpass desktop search this year. What does that mean? It means that more people are doing everything online via their phone or tablet rather than their desktop. Mobile interactions could very well be the only interactions you have with your customers (& potential customers). This is becoming so important that Google introduced a new label in its search results, indicating if a site is mobile friendly, meaning it looks good & works well on a mobile device. So you want to make sure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile. An optimized, responsive website could mean the difference between a potential customer finding you on their cell phone, or not.

Location Based Marketing (Geo-targeting) is growing

With so many consumers using their mobiles phones while they’re on the go, Local search is going to continue to grow. Local search allows consumers to search for specific businesses or promotions based on their current location. So, if you and your mobile device are near Central Park in New York City, it will show you businesses and promotions in that area close to you. What does this mean for your business? It means that it is now more important than ever to claim your listings on places such as Google and to make sure that places such as Yelp and Google Maps have your correct address listing and are showing the correct business location on their maps.

Localized Payments are the future

With the rise of mobile comes the rise of localized payments, such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay. The market has already shown that people prefer to make the bulk of their purchases online, quite frequently using their mobile devices. Apple Pay could very well succeed where Google Pay wavered, with the bulk of Apple users already storing their credit card information in their iTunes account, and accustomed to quickly and seamlessly purchasing things without having to reenter that information every time. This year will see a rise in consumers who want to use localized payments to pay for things in store as well, such as using their Apple Pay account to pay for services at your business location. It’s definitely a trend to keep an eye on.

With the rise in mobile usage, and the importance of being able to reach your customers while they are on the go, it’s more important than ever to stay on the cutting edge of technology. These are just a few of the important mobile trends that will continue to grow and impact your business moving forward.

The Importance of Staff Training

April 1, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Portrait of business colleagues holding each other and laughingFew things are more important for the strength and growth of your business than your employees. And devoting time and resources to their professional development is one of the most productive investments a business can make. Unfortunately, we often get so bogged down in the day-to-day running of our businesses and staff training takes a backseat. But staff development just makes good business sense and here’s why.

It increases job satisfaction, which increases productivity.

Staff development and training makes employees feel valued. It shows that you have an interest in their future and in helping them grow within your company. It makes them better equipped to do their jobs and to move into new roles. Studies have shown that happier employees who feel valued by their employer are more productive overall.

It increases loyalty.

Employees who feel valued and like the company is invested in their professional growth are more loyal and less likely to leave for other outside opportunities. That means you can spend more money and attention on improving your business and less on training new hires.

It can save you money.

Staff training is the best possible way for your employees to learn their jobs and develop skills to do them more effectively. Having a professional development program in place can help streamline the training process and, over time it can save you money. Employee retention can also help you save money, as you have to spend less time, money, and effort hiring new staff.

It helps create and foster best practices.

By creating processes and training everyone, you are creating best business practices. Ongoing training helps you to refine and maintain these best business practices. These practices will not only make your staff better at doing their jobs but will also help you streamline your business and set you up for healthy growth.

By taking an interest in your staff and putting programs into place to help them grow professionally, you’re making a huge investment in your business. And it doesn’t even have to be costly or time-consuming. It is as easy as taking an interest in your staff and taking the time to discuss their future goals with them. From there, you can develop the type of training system that will work best for your business and your employees. And that’s a win-win situation.

Why is Content Marketing So Important?

March 17, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Group of Multiethnic People Discussing About MarketingEveryone is talking about content marketing these days, and telling you that you should be doing it better and more often. But what is content marketing and why is it so important anyway?

Content marketing is the creation and sharing of valuable content (or media) that is relevant to your target audience in order to attract and keep customers. It could be anything from a blog post on your website to an infographic hanging in your waiting room; or anything from a video demonstrating a popular technique to a Pinterest board you maintain with useful photos/links/information for your clients. The key is that it needs to be valuable to your clients and relevant for their lives and your business’ expertise.

Okay, so now we know what content marketing is. But why is it so important to your business?

Well, you want to be a resource for your clients and potential clients. Providing your readers and followers with valuable content is a great way to establish a relationship with them and set your brand up as an expert resource to look to when they have questions. It allows you to communicate with your clients without always trying to sell something to them.

Benefits of Content Marketing

  1. Content marketing is a great way to build your brand and voice. In order to build your brand and your voice you need to communicate with your clients. Content marketing allows you to establish a relationship with your clients and allow them to get to know your brand and your voice.
  1. Content marketing sets your brand up as an expert resource. By providing content to your readers that is relevant and valuable to them you are setting your brand and business up as an expert resource. Done well, this will eventually mean that people will seek out your brand when they need information or guidance because they trust your brand. It is a great way to build a relationship with both current and future clients.
  1. Content marketing allows you to communicate with your clients outside of selling services to them. You don’t want all of your communications and interactions with clients to be about selling them something. Content marketing allows you to interact with people and establish a relationship with them by sharing information that they find useful. Once you’ve established a relationship with them, they are much more likely to come to you when they’re looking to purchase a service.

 Types of Content to Create & Share

Content needs to be valuable and relevant to your clients. It needs to be something they find useful, interesting, or relevant to things going on in their lives. It should set your brand up as an expert resource for them to turn to. And it should not be selling anything. If you can create content that meets these criteria, then you will be very effective at growing your brand through content marketing.

Content marketing should not just be an afterthought of your marketing strategy. It should be the most important component of your marketing strategy, and should touch all other aspects of your strategy, from social media and blog posting to marketing and promotions. Done well, it is the most effective means to grow your business.

Do You Have A Social Media Strategy?

March 5, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

56676-Social media is one of the most important parts of your marketing plan. But we’re often so busy attending to the day to day details of running our business that we forget to really think about what our approach should be. In this age of social media, when everyone is always online, you need to devote some time to crafting a social media strategy beyond just using it to share your specials. Here are a few things to think about when creating your social media strategy.

Focus on sharing knowledge – You know your business well. So share some of that knowledge with your followers. Set yourself up as an expert on certain topics that you and your business are passionate about. Then create posts that help showcase those topics and highlight your expertise. When your followers have questions, you want them to come to you for advice and answers.

Create a posting schedule and stick to it – You don’t have to post everyday, but you should post regularly and it should be on a consistent schedule. So figure out what works best for you and for your followers and stick to it. You want your followers to know when you will be posting and to start looking forward to seeing your posts.

Keep your branding consistent – you always want your followers to know that they’re following the right Facebook page or Twitter feed and know who they are interacting with online. So your logo and branding should match across all media (from your website to email marketing and onto Facebook and Twitter).

Engage your followers – You want to generate discussion and encourage your followers to interact with each other and with you as your business persona. So create posts with that in mind. Ask them questions. Start discussions. Whether it is a link to an article or video you’ve created, a question or poll you have for your followers, or just a link to an article they might find interesting, post things with the goal of creating a dialog.

Once you sit down and create a strategy, stick with it. Then take a look at how your new strategy is affecting your social media statistics as well as your bottom line. From there, you can make smaller changes to make your strategy even more effective.

In this day and age, where everyone is interacting online 24 hours a day, your social media presence is key. Make sure you are using it effectively in order to grow relationships. Now, more than ever, it can have a positive effect on your bottom line.

What the Net Neutrality Ruling Means for You

February 27, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

binary dataOn Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to implement a new net neutrality policy designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all legal content equally.

The policy, called the Open Internet Order, requires internet service providers to act as neutral gateways rather than a gatekeeper who handle access to different types of internet content in different ways or, more importantly, at different costs.

What does this mean for the small business owner?

It means you will be ensured equal access. The new regulations will ensure that all information you want to access on the internet (from webpages to audio, video, and other formats) will be treated equally by internet service providers. Internet service providers (ISPs) will not be able to discriminate against content by blocking it or slowing down its delivery through slower transmission feeds while charging for faster lanes of their internet network.

That means that your small business has as much access to the internet as a huge corporation. It means that your customers (& potential customers) will be able to locate and visit your website and that the site will load for them as quickly and easily as it does today.

The new policy bans three key things that help protect both consumers and you as a small business owner.

  • No blocking – Broadband providers cannot block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No throttling – Broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization – Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no ‘fast lanes.’ This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing the content and services of their affiliates.

So what happens next?

The new policy will go into effect in 60 days. Several ISPs have threatened litigation over the new policy, and there is also a movement in Congress to make net neutrality part of an updated version of the Telecommunications Act. That legislation would ban paid prioritization but would stop short of treating broadband like a utility.

Once again, as small business owners, all of us need to speak up and become part of the conversation.

Maintaining a Healthy Brand in 2015

February 25, 2015 Kathy Watts permalink

Branding Word ConceptYou’ve put a lot of work into building your brand and it is an important part of your business identity. But you can’t just neglect your brand now that you’ve created it. It needs a bit of regular maintenance in order to keep it healthy. You do such a great job of helping your clients look their best and maintain their health.

Here are a few key things to do in order to keep your brand and your business happy, healthy, and growing:

Keep offering all those amazing services (& think about adding a few new ones)

Your clients come to you for a reason: You’re good at what you do. Keep up the good work. Make sure your services menu is up to date and that your staff is still receiving the necessary training to continue to offer consistent services. And take some time to talk to your staff and clients about any new trends or treatments that they’d like to see you offer.

Keep providing excellent customer service

Your clients are loyal to your brand for a lot of reasons. And one of the biggest ones is your fantastic customer service. They know that whenever they have an interaction with your company it is going to be a positive one, especially if they have a question or a problem. Excellent customer service not only helps you maintain loyal existing customers, it also helps you bring in new clients due to your stellar reputation. So keep up the good work!

Put Your Strategic Marketing Plan into Play   

Remember that marketing plan you put together last year? You know, the one we talked about way back in October of last year, in preparation for 2015?  Well, have you implemented that plan yet? If not, pull it out and get started. A strategic marketing plan makes it easy to plan out your marketing calendar and allows you to create more effective promotions throughout the year. Didn’t have time to put one together yet? Check out our post: What will you do in 2015? and get started.

By doing a few key things on a regular basis, you can easily maintain the health of your brand. Plan out some time on a weekly basis to pay attention to what is going on with your brand, evaluate what is working and what is not, and then be ready with a plan in place for your marketing and planning needs. By maintaining the health of your brand, your business will keep on thriving.