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How to Increase Brand Awareness for Small Businesses

Prospective customers can’t buy from you when they don’t even know you exist. Increasing brand awareness expands your reach, makes marketing campaigns more effective, and helps you grow your small business.

What’s the best way to increase brand awareness for a small business? Here are 10 smart strategies and tactics.

  1. Intuitive brand and clear message. From your logo, to your content, prospective customers need to be able to quickly understand what you do and associate your brand with your products and services. If people are confused and/or don’t understand what you do, look for ways to refine the way you’re packaging your business such as adding the right tagline that complements your logo and name.
  2. Consistent promotion. People won’t know your small business exists unless you put yourself out there. Find ways to consistently get your brand and your business in front of prospective customers so you are top of mind when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. Even when things get super busy, you can’t go dark for weeks or months on end. Every little bit counts.
  3. Earned and paid media. With the continued popularity of social media and decline of traditional news outlets, small business owners often overlook earned and paid media—two avenues that can be highly effective at increasing brand awareness. Don’t just limit you’re your scope to newspapers—pitch your small business to relevant blogs, industry publications, and influencers that will help you reach your target audience.
  4. Programs and events. For many small businesses, there’s still no substitute for those face-to-face interactions that happen when you throw an event. You get to interact with current and prospective customers in ways that just aren’t possible from your website or on social media. Programs and events also give you a chance to scale your promotional efforts more than trying to reach customers one at a time. Speaking of current and prospective customers, don’t get so focused on reaching new customers that you forget to invite the people who have already bought from you in the past. Current customers need love too.
  5. Strategic partnerships. Identify small businesses that offer complementary products or services and look for ways to combine your audiences to grow your reach. Ideas are almost limitless. You can partner with local restaurants, breweries, wineries, or other businesses. For example, if you sell home audio products you could partner with a landscaping supplier and host an event about outdoor theaters.
  6. Community involvement. One of the things that differentiates small businesses from big box retailers and national franchises are their connections to the community. Get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce, participate on panels, give presentations, or volunteer. Not only are you giving back, but you’re also building brand awareness.
  7. Word of mouth/Referral programs. Empower happy customers to shout about your small business from the rooftops and even consider rewarding them for their efforts. At the very least, encourage customers to tell their friends and thank them when they do. If you want to go one step further, create a formal referral program.
  8. Blogging. Create interesting, relevant, and shareable content that you think people are likely to share with others. Blog content can not only help generate more traffic to your website, but it also gives you something to share via social media—which also can drive people back to your website. Focus more on quality than quantity. If your content doesn’t add value or get people excited enough to share with others, you’re wasting your time.
  9. Social media. Why isn’t social media higher on the list? True it promises the most potential when it comes to reaching your targeted audience. However it can also be a black hole—sucking all of your time and resources away without any obvious way to measure your effectiveness. The key is to not only focus on growing your audience, but also looking for ways to convert those followers into active supporters/buyers.
  10. Email marketing. Growing your email list is only the beginning. Increasing brand awareness requires activating those subscribers to 1) actually open your email 2) click on your links and 3) forward/share with others. Think strategically about what content is going to add the most value for your readers and make them more likely to share and then test different content to see what drives new traffic back to your website. Looking for more ideas, here are some helpful tips on how to grow your email list at events.

Brand awareness doesn’t happen by accident. To get your business noticed, you need to consistently get in front of your target audience. Whether it’s through events, social media, email marketing, or a mix of the tips above, you’ve got to make it immediately clear what your business does and why people should think of you when they need your product or service. Prospective customers have an infinite number of choices—increasing brand awareness will help keep you top of mind when they’re ready to buy.



10 Ways to Increase Ecommerce Website Conversions

Within seconds, your ecommerce site needs to establish trust, successfully showcase your products, and make it as easy as possible for consumers to make a purchase. From your product pages to your checkout, increasing conversion rates requires an enjoyable and intuitive user experience as well as a clearly defined path to purchase.  

To help you capture more conversions from your ecommerce site, we’ve put together a list of 10 best practices.

1. Security Certificate/SSL

Before most website visitors would even consider making a purchase from your online store, they need to feel absolutely comfortable that their information (passwords, credit card number, etc.) is going to be kept private. Adding a security certificate/SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) marks your website as "secure" in browsers—giving your customers peace of mind and increasing the likelihood they’ll buy something. Best of all, adding a SSL is generally inexpensive at only $29 per year. Some hosting companies will even help you add the SSL to your site so you don’t have to wait on your website designer or pay through the teeth.

2. Simple Checkout

You can have the most beautifully designed website but when it comes to buying, an online store’s checkout is far more important than CTA buttons, product pages, etc. To increase conversion rates, it’s absolutely crucial to streamline the checkout process as much as possible—requiring the minimum amount of information you need from the user to successfully complete the purchase.

3. Intuitive Navigation

Shoppers need to be able to find what they’re looking for and fast. If you have too many items in your navigation or you bury your most popular products 10 clicks deep, website visitors will quickly get frustrated and exit your website before buying anything. Click through your website from the eyes of a prospective customer. Where do you want people to go? What do you want them to do on each page? Are navigation items clear and intuitive? Are there any differences good or bad between navigating your website on a laptop versus from a smartphone?

Below, you can see how Stitch Fix has simplified their navigation with three primary options in their main navigation—Women, Men, Kids.

4. Persuasive Product Descriptions

What makes your product truly different? Why should shoppers get excited enough to buy something from you instead of Amazon or another competitor? Ecommerce product descriptions can not only help with online visibility and SEO by incorporating targeted content and keywords for search engines, but they should also get shoppers excited and elicit an emotional response—that’s ultimately what will get them to buy.  

5. Crisp Product Photography

Along with persuasive product descriptions, product photography can make or break your online shopping experience. We’re visual by nature and being able to see products online makes us that much more likely to make a purchase. In fact, according to stats from BigCommerce, 78% of online shoppers want more images from ecommerce sites. However, it’s not enough to just “have” product photos—every picture should serve a specific purpose and capture the most important elements of each item. You should also consider your brand personality and what that means for your image strategy—ex. do you want to be quirky? artistic? minimalist?   

In this example from Rothy’s, the shoe designs and shoe names are clearly the focus. Shoppers can quickly scan different loafers and view additional images when they scroll over/click each item. And while we’re on the topic of descriptions, look at some of those names. They could’ve just called the loafer “Blue” but instead they called it “Bottle Blue”—that slight difference can help shoppers paint a mental image of the color and help it stand out from all of the other “blue loafers” out there.

6. Positive Customer Reviews

Reviews are one of the quickest and most effective ways to increase online conversions. Shoppers want to hear from other buyers both in terms of whether your products are any good but also to see if there were any customer service issues that popped up. When you incorporate product reviews on your website, you’re letting consumers know you are a trustworthy seller. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce make it easy to capture reviews. There are also a number of apps you can add on to your website depending desired functionality and budget.  

7. Mobile Optimized

At this point having a mobile-friendly website should go without saying. Unfortunately, that’s still not always the case. To increase conversion rates, every aspect of your mobile website should be designed to make it as quick and easy as possible for people to make a purchase. This includes your mobile website speed and performance which you can test with this free tool from Google and how easy it is to complete the checkout from a phone.

8. Related Products

How many times have you been online shopping for one thing and wound up buying a number of other items that weren’t even on your list? I know it definitely happens to me. Review your related products to see whether there could be an opportunity to make them more relevant and/or incorporate them into different areas of your website (product pages, checkout, etc.)

9. Media Mentions & Recognition

This is especially helpful for new online stores that don’t have an established brand or many customer reviews. Mentions by local, regional, or national media outlets or any awards received by your business can help build credibility with website visitors.

Here, popup childcare provider Flexable does a great job of not only showcasing their media mentions, but also dovetailing the logos with testimonials—creating a powerful one-two punch of credibility.


 

10. Abandoned Cart Email

You were so close. Someone visited your website, found an item they liked, added to their cart and started to checkout and then—poof. Just like that they left without making a purchase. With an average of 77% of all online retail orders abandoned instead of purchased, if you’re not sending out abandoned cart recovery emails you are literally leaving money on the table. Some online retailers send a friendly reminder an hour or so after the abandoned cart while others incentivize shoppers with a time-sensitive discount. Either way, make sure you include abandoned cart recovery emails in your online marketing strategy to increase ecommerce conversion rates.

Next Steps

Before you spend any more time trying to drive new traffic, don’t forget to look for opportunities to increase conversion rates on your ecommerce website. Even a percentage increase can mean dozens more orders and ultimately that’s what having an online store is all about.



The Future of Augmented Reality (AR) Shopping is Now

augmented reality shopping shopify ecommerce

As big as ecommerce has become with worldwide sales of $123.7B in the first quarter alone, there’s still one huge disconnect—how to seamlessly bridge the physical shopping experience of a brick and mortar with the speed and convenience of shopping online.

Augmented and virtual reality has been getting a lot of press over the past 12 months with the promise of completely transforming the way we shop. Yet it still seems like widespread adoption by online merchants and online shoppers is a long way off which for me is more than a little puzzling.

The tools are already there to create a seamless shopping experience. Powerful mobile technology combined with blazing fast internet connectivity and crystal clear image resolution. Yet even the largest online retailers still rely on static thumbnails with little or now chance to truly try a product online before you buy.

Today I saw a few tweets from Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify that really caught my attention. If you’re not familiar with Shopify, they’ve gone from one of the first ecommece software providers to one of the biggest and most innovative ecommerce platforms on the planet. From the very beginning, they’ve pushed the envelope to think about ecommerce beyond just building websites. Tobi's tweets definitely didn't disappoint. 

shopify augmented reality ecommerceFor the past few years, it turns out Shopify has been working hard on a way to simplify shopping with AR (augmented reality) and now they’re getting really close anticipating a fall 2018 launch.

With the new technology, consumers on iOS 12 this fall will have AR Quick Look — a feature that allows products to be previewed in AR directly from Safari. Best of all, Shopify figured out a way to make the functionality available without requiring users to download yet another app—an absolute deal breaker if you want to scale up quickly.

If an online retailer’s site contains product images that links to a specific file type (usdz file), a badge will appear in the upper right corner of the image. When shoppers tap on the badge, it will open AR Quick Look and let consumers see the product exactly as it would look on their book shelf, kitchen table, etc.
 

 

Shopify’s also working on backend support such as identifying partners that can assist with 3D modeling to help bring your products to life—virtually.

Imagine a completely immersive shopping experience. One where someone can visit your online store, find a product they like, see exactly what it would like in their space in real time, and then make a purchase with just one click using Apple Pay.

Ecommerce has relied on static, one-dimensional product thumbnails for far too long. Especially when the technology is there to do so much more. With augmented reality and companies like Shopify, ecommerce and online shopping are definitely going to get a lot more interesting. If you're currently running the iOS 12 beta, you can check out the new AR shopping experience on a live Shopify store.

Stay tuned. This is only the beginning



What’s a Good Ecommerce Conversion Rate?

what is a good ecommerce conversion rate1%? 5%? 10%? When you’re measuring the success of your online marketing and your ecommerce store, what’s a good conversion rate?

I was recently talking to an online store owner with a conversion rate of less than 1%--somewhere around .005. That means for every 2000 visits during a typical month, 10 people would make a purchase. Although conversion rates can obviously vary by industry and product type (we’ll talk more about that later in this post), I believe the website can do better.

How Do You Define an Ecommerce Conversion?

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to define ecommerce conversions as the percentage of visitors who actually make a purchase from your online store. The percentage of website visitors who add an item to their cart and those who make it to the checkout are also hugely important. After all, if you don’t get enough people in your sales funnel, they’ll never actually buy anything.

Where Does Your Website Traffic Come From?

First things first—your conversion rates will depend a lot on the type of products you’re selling and where your traffic is actually coming from.

If you’re selling bigger ticket items it might take longer for people to buy so your conversion rate could be lower than if you’re selling $10 t-shirts.

If you’re generating a lot of traffic from Facebook, Instagram, etc., people hitting your site might be window shopping and not have the same level of intent as those landing on your site from organic traffic or Google Shopping campaigns.

Google Analytics can be an incredibly powerful tool for understanding sources of website traffic. Even if you’re using ecommerce platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce that already have quite a bit of reporting built in, the depth of information you can glean from Analytics is second to none.

Once you’re in Google Analytics, just click “Acquisition” and then “Overview” for a quick look at traffic sources.  

website traffic by acquisition source

What’s a Good Ecommerce Conversion Rate?

According to an article from BigCommerce, average ecommerce conversion rates are 1-2%. However, they suggest setting a 2%+ conversion rate as the baseline goal for your online store. And I completely agree. Why limit yourself to only 1%? Wouldn’t you like to generate as many conversions from your website as humanly possible?

Assuming you have a good product and visitors to your website didn’t land there by accident, every click means you have a chance to capture a sale.

How to Improve Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate

When an online store has a low conversion rate, the first thing I look at is the user experience.  Here is a handy 5 question checklist to help you get started and improve your ecommerce conversion rate.

  1. Is the website easy to navigate? When you have too many items or your navigation isn’t intuitive, visitors typically bounce out.
  2. Does the website showcase the products and services in the best possible light? I can’t stress this enough. If you’re using a template, make sure the template is the right fit for what you have to offer. If you’re building a custom website, think about your design through the eyes of your target customer—what do they want to see?  
  3. Do the product descriptions pull the reader in and elicit an emotional response? All too often, ecommerce stores mail it in by using the same product descriptions that can be found on similar products from competitors (or distributers if you’re dropshipping). That’s a big “NO NO!” Unique ecommerce product descriptions are hugely important for organic search and for your website visitors.
  4. Is the product photography interesting? Similar to product descriptions. If you don’t get your product photograph right, you’re going to have a really tough time capturing more conversions. Your product photography should capture your brand voice and your brand personality.
  5. Is it easy to make a purchase? Most of the major ecommerce platforms make this part really easy as they have a standard shopping cart functionality already built into their sites (ex. BigCommerce, Shopify, etc.). Regardless, you always want to make sure you ask for the minimal amount of information possible to make a purchase. For example, if you aren’t interested in sending out email newsletters or growing your email list, it might make sense to remove an automatic opt-in when shoppers complete an order. If you’re mainly targeting B2C shoppers, you probably don’t need to capture “business name” as part of their contact information.

Next Steps

Before you spend all of your time trying to increase Facebook likes or Instagram engagement for your online store, spend some time improving your ecommerce conversion rate. After all, none of the social media will matter if you’re not able to get people to buy. Don’t settle for anything under 1%. Swing for the fences! You can (and should) do better.  



How to Track Phone Call Leads for Business

how to track phone call leads for businessWhere are your phone leads coming from? Do you know? Whether you're placing an ad in a  local newspaper or promoting your business on Facebook, it’s not always clear where your leads are coming from--making it impossible to maximize your ad spend.

Ask “How Did You Hear About Us?”

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to get a sense of where any new leads and calls are coming from. When you’re speaking with callers, look for an opportunity to ask them how they heard about you. You can create a quick checklist in Excel to track responses. One potential drawback—customers don’t always remember where they found you. They might group a Facebook ad and googling your business into “online” which ultimately won’t be of as much value of knowing exactly how they found you.

Call Tracking Software

For as little as $19 per month, you can use call tracking software such as CallTrackingMetrics. Instead of having to ask (and possibly annoy) every new customer and caller, with call tracking software you can quickly and easily track calls from every one of your marketing campaigns by creating custom phone numbers that are unique to each campaign. Beyond the conversion data which is already worth its wait in gold, the other great thing about call tracking software is the ability to listen to calls—helping you identify opportunities to improve customer service.

Call Extensions in Google AdWords

Similar to call tracking software, Google AdWords call extensions allow you to include a forwarding number on your website and a call extension in your ads so you’re able to draw a direct line between Google AdWords conversions and actual phone calls to your business. You can even set the duration of the call based on when you consider it a lead (ex. 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc.)

Click-to-Call Buttons

If you’re advertising on Facebook, consider experimenting with a click-to-call button as your primary call-to-action for your social ad. This is especially great when you’re trying to reach mobile shoppers. Although your cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion will likely be higher than a post focused on engagement and social shares, anyone clicking on the call button has more intent on taking the desired action—in this case a phone call.

Tracking Phone Call Leads from Social Media

Whatever method you choose, it’s crucially important for you to be able to track any and all phone call leads. Once you have an accurate idea of where your calls are coming from, you’ll have a more complete look at your marketing campaign performance and can focus your budget on the channels that are generating the most calls. 

As a disclaimer, I use affiliate links for some of the products listed. They are all products I absolutely love and trust and would recommend regardless of whether they have an affiliate program.



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