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Posts Tagged ‘small business’

3 Ways to Engage Your Customers

December 27, 2011 1 comment

By Heidi Adams

CONTESTS:English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...

Run a contest in-store or on Facebook or BOTH to promote a new item you’re going to carry.  Perhaps give consumers the chance to name it.  Name this new cookie flavor and win, a month’s supply.

If you’re not in the cookie business you could have them guess the amount of something or come up with the next promotion themselves.  It’s a great way to get feedback.   The prizes don’t have to be expensive, remember you’re catering to people who already like you.  Something like a gift card or even merchandise you were going to put on sale anyway works fine in this instance.

GIVEAWAYS:

If you’re like a lot of small businesses, you are trying to grow your online following.

Post from the Madison College Libraries page.

A fun thing to do on a Facebook Fan page is a give-away.  The giveaway would be randomly drawn from your list of fans once you reach a certain number.  For example, the Madison College Library wanted to reach at least 600 likes and they chose to give away a nook color once they reached that number.

Another tactic is to do smaller prizes but more of them – an example would be “help us gain 20 fans by the end of the week and we’ll give away a $15 gift card.”

If you’re a business that works with vendors frequently, you might be able to ask for some free product to help promote.  It’s always a great way for them to advertise, too.  “We got a set of widgets from our widget vendor, comment on this post and be entered to win them.”

THANK-YOU’s:

So you thanked the customer after they paid for their merchandise.  What about when they got home, or even the next month to see if they are still happy with their purchase? You might think it’s excessive, but if done the right way it will build your relationships.

Here is an example,  you up-sold the customer at your salon on a new shampoo that would work for them.  What about emailing them or better yet- Facebook messaging them to get their opinion?  You could word it like, “Thanks again for coming in last week!  What do you think about that new brand, is it working for you? Let me know what you think”

If you have the customer snail mail address, write them a letter, “Thanks for doing business with us. We hope that welder is getting some good use, let us know how it’s going and send us a pic of your work!”

In this rough economy a little goes a long way.  Be sincere and say thanks!

If you have ideas or thoughts on customer engagement comment below or write us an email: itrendmadison@gmail.com

Jump start small businesses with Groupon

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Steve Krause
If you’re a discount shopper you’ve probably heard about the online discount web site known as Groupon.  Well after hearing about this from a few friends of mine I decided to see what all of the hype was about.  After doing a little research online on buzzraid.com, I learned that Groupon is a group buying website where discounts on products are offered in certain cities or regions where it could be 75% to 50% off of random products like hygiene supplies, services like spa therapy, or a certain meal at a restaurant.

Check out buzzraid for more details on the logistics!

However, the only way customers can take advantage of these “hot deals” on Groupon is if a certain number of people buy the discount which makes it a win-win for the customer who gets the discount and for the store owner’s who get enough business to make the discount worth their while.

This buying website is a great tool for business owners to not only get people into their doors, but it’s also a way to attract new customers to your place of business as well.  With Groupon members constantly getting email alerts about discounts in your store they have to make the effort to forward the Groupon deal to their friends, family, co-workers, basically anyone they can to try and get enough members to take advantage of the discount and make the online voucher valid.

Sure, you’re probably going to have to offer somewhat of an outrageous one-time discount like 50% to 75% off on a product or service you offer, but if enough people buy the discount on Groupon to make the offer valid, odds are you’re going to get all of those customers who bought the discount into your place of business to use the voucher.  Once you get the people into your place of business to use the online voucher they might be inclined to buy other products or services you offer or even become new loyal repeat customers.  Makes sense doesn’t it?

I feel that this could be a successful tool for smaller businesses to attract new customers and help their businesses grow. With the way consumers are pinching pennies these days, what better way to get them into your place of business than to offer them a great discount.  The hardest part about starting up a business or even maintaining a business is getting people into the door.  That is the beauty of using Groupon for your business is it gets people into the doors.  After that it’s up to you to build a relationship with them and retain them as a long-term loyal customer.

I recently read a small business Groupon success story in an online article in Inc. Magazine written by Jason Del Rey entitled, “How to Use Groupon to Boost Sales”.  The article states how a small brewery owner Matt Lincecum woke up one Wednesday morning and his office phone was ringing off the hook, for hours.  The article went on to say how the calls were so overwhelming that he had to direct them to the company voicemail with the greeting, “We love you very much, but we are overwhelmed at the moment.  Please check our web site on Monday to make reservations there.”

The article also went on to explain how Lincecum’s brewery, Fremont Brewery, partnered with Groupon to offer a tour of the brewery, a pint of beer, and a pint glass for only $7, a discount of over 50%, but led to such a demand for brewery tours that Lincecum had to hire another person to help give and schedule the tours.

That’s a classic example of the power of Groupon and how it can help jump start a small business and provide an abundance of business overnight.  Groupon targets and attracts deal hunters and penny pinchers, but if you get them into your store and have them leaving happy and satisfied not only will you possibly have a new loyal customer, but you also have some dam good word-of-mouth advertising as well for they will be telling their friends and families about this new small business they love that they found on Groupon.

Instant Access wtih QR Codes-Smartphones

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Written By: Jai Ingersoll

QR Code is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code. It is a type of two-dimensional matrix barcode that was first designed in 1994 by a Toyota Japanese subsidiary called Denso Wave, and was created for the automotive industry in order to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. QR code was also designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed and is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes.

This barcode system has become popular outside of the automotive industry due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The code consists of black spaces arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data that includes binary, alphanumeric, or Kanji symbols. The amount of data that can be stored depends on the character set, version and error correction level. Error correction capability allows the data to be restored even if the symbol is partially dirty or damaged. A maximum of 30% of code words can be restored.

QR codes can be used for in-store product labeling, entertainment, commercial tracking, transport ticketing, or product marketing. Most of the applications target mobile-phone users via mobile tagging. Anyone can generate and print a free personal or business QR code by visiting a free QR code-generating online site like qrcode.kaywa.com. Google has a popular Chart API to generate QR codes called Create QR Code. A QR code reader application for using the QR code can be found on all smartphone devices by downloading a free QR code application. Anyone using a smartphone can scan the QR code with a QR reader and hard link directly to a URL that is encoded in the QR code. I went to the Kaywa site as well as QR Stuff.com and created a code for my band Sensuous Enemy that looks like this:


QR codes can be used for both print and online digital pieces of viral marketing and are used for many different reasons. For instance, there is a University of Wisconsin calendar hanging on my wall with QR codes listed for each month. I took my phone and scanned in the codes, which all took me to separate pages of the UW bookstore. Each code takes you directly to what is on sale at the UW bookstore for that particular month. This is great for students who use smartphones, as it takes them right to the website without having to type in the URL.

Greattv.com is an online site that shows 101 applications of how to use QR codes. A few examples QR codes can be used for are: business cards, clothing designs, product packaging, magazine/newspaper ads, billboards, in store signs, books, land/house for sale signs, theme parks, taxi stands, restaurant guides, and many more.

Another example of using QR codes, with educational and informational purposes, is described in an article put out by Educause.edu titled 7 Things you should know about QR Codes. In this article, the publisher refers to an urban planning project that used QR codes to provide education and information at public city gardens. The public gardens were set up with free Wi-Fi access and an information booth near the entrance, where guests could access instructions on how to download a QR reader if their phones didn’t have it already installed. Placard signs were posted with QR codes that would take the visitor to a specific website, and included all the information about a particular item the QR code was listed for. The guests found that immediate access to the plants was very valuable.

QR codes can be used in libraries as a resource tool for library books by placing them on placards in equipment rooms. The QR code could include a renewal phone number encoded, an online link to a how to manual, to learn what types of learning take place in each area, as well as a link to scheduling software that offers the opportunity to reserve a room.

All in all QR codes link the physical world with the virtual by providing instant access to descriptions and resources for objects and locations. The QR codes support almost every business and industry type and can be used for unlimited connections to online information. As long as there is a website with information, there can be a QR code created to connect to it.

Mobile Apps Offer Solutions

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Technology has touched our lives profoundly. It has changed the way we work on a daily basis. Cell phones are no longer simply a wireless device to make phone calls, individuals can now operate a businesses entirely with their smartphones. Our world has certainly transformed, at breakneck speed, into the technology revolution. No other time in our history has there been so much rapid change.

IPhone Application Pic With the invention of the smartphone, our society has most certainly “gone mobile”. Every task imaginable can now be performed on a handheld device. Although the following list is exhaustive, I’m sure there are some smartphone features that have been overlooked.
What can smartphones do? Information sharing, business computing, social networking, calendaring, phone calling, texting, emailing, photo taking/sharing, video recording/sharing, video calling, GPS & mapping, musical entertainment, games, movie downloads, reading electronic books, watching television, shopping, and mobile banking. Smartphones are portable, fast, affordable and are empowering millions of people with real-time connectivity and solutions for consumer needs. For interesting mobile facts, check out this video on YouTube: The Growth of Mobile: Stats and Figures that will shock you!

Since the surge of applications, or apps, the conveniences and access to tools for consumers have risen exponentially. Apple’s tagline is “theres an app for that” pretty much sums it up. If you can dream up a task, there is an app. An app is a compact internet software program that runs on smartphones which performs a specific task for the user. Tasks, or apps, are so plentiful that they are offered for download from “app stores” and are grouped into categories. Some apps are free and others are available for a nominal price.Currently, Apple has over 500,000 apps for work, games, education, music, travel and social networking to mention a few. The Android market has over 200,000 apps available, many dedicated to business efficiencies.

What does this mean for Madison businesses? According to an article titled “Going Mobile is More than a Trend”

In this day and age, very few consumer’s carry cash. Most items are purchased with a credit card or debit card. For business owners who travel, are selling goods and services at tradeshows, your business is home-based/customer-location based , or for street vendors, there is a new app-based solution to accept payments called Square. By downloading an app and adding a small piece of hardware to your phone, a business owner can complete a sale anywhere.

Check out this how to video for details: Credit Card Processing Without a Merchant Account is Possible with Square

Going mobile and incorporating apps in business allows opportunities to connect with customers in new ways and allows for more efficient business operations.

Articles you may like:
How to Build an App for Your Small Business

By: Beth Eggemeier