Monthly Archives: September 2016

Let’s Learn About 4 Cloud Tools to Kickstart Your Marketing Team’s Productivity

Are forces beyond your control putting your marketing team under the microscope, with severe pressure to remain ROI-positive, despite being spread across an increasing array of customer acquisition channels?

You’re hardly alone. A recent report from Ascend has found that more than 80 percent of marketing professionals believe that data helps them arrive at “more accurate decisions” and/or “more cost-efficient decisions.” As a result of this phenomenon, organizations are becoming smaller and more agile, which means more people are multitasking, with heightened pressure to perform.

It is therefore critical for marketing teams to be equipped with the tools required to ensure maximum productivity and transparency. There are plenty of powerful enterprise tools that are optimized for flexibility among large teams, and you can always go the build-your-own route, but these options are unnecessary when you’re first getting started.

You might find it worthwhile to temper costs and try some affordable and free tools that can help with boosting marketing productivity. Here are four of the best to choose from.

1. Workflow management with WorkflowMax.
Whether you are ticking off small accomplishments or working toward some bold business targets, your marketing team needs to keep track of tasks, assets, discussions, assignments and projects. A workflow management platform can help you consolidate tasks into one integrated service, but there are plenty of apps that can do this. Ideally, the system you opt for should work seamlessly with other aspects of your business.

WorkflowMax offers an integrated platform to manage the major tasks involved with marketing and beyond, with modules that cover key functionalities like customer relationship management, timekeeping, documents, invoicing and payments. This way, marketing works in tune with the rest of your operational units, such as sales and accounting.

With more businesses opting for remote work or even hiring employees on a remote basis, then cloud-based project management tools play an even more important part in the organization. WorkflowMax has a no-risk 14-day trial.

2. Database hygiene with Trifacta Wrangler.
To an increasing degree, your marketing strategy is only as good as the data upon which you’re basing your choices.

Take content personalization as an example. Your audience may not be so careful filling out your lead capture forms — some people might use all lowercase letters and others all caps. So when the time comes for you to use that data for your email campaigns, you might end up alienating people more than endearing them.

It’s up to you to clean up and sanitize your database. Trifacta’s Wrangler tool lets you work on databases quickly and has functionalities such as removing or merging duplicate entries and backups. Best of all, Wrangler has a free edition and can be run on a desktop, which is especially useful if you want to work with confidential information before uploading it to the cloud.

3. Social media measurement with Cyfe.
Social media makes it extremely easy for you to directly engage with prospects and existing customers. The average user has about five social media accounts and spends nearly two hours daily on social media, with around 45 minutes of their workday checking social feeds. For marketers, that is a huge opportunity that is not to be underestimated.

Your business likely needs to be active on a handful of major social networks. Depending on what kind of company you’re operating and where your audience is most active, you might be on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus. As a result of this diversity, keeping track of the big picture of your brand’s reach, engagement and audience growth can seriously compromise your productivity.

Cyfe is an integrated business dashboard tool that lets you keep track of performance analytics across touch points — not only social. Among its pre-built tools are social media widgets that let you track post statistics, likes, traffic sources and audience demographics on Facebook, as well as view latest tweets and follower counts on Twitter.

Cyfe has a “forever free” plan that is reasonably powerful, while the $19 a month premium plan gives you full access to all functionalities.

4. Qualitative insights with SurveyMonkey.
Keep in mind that there’s only so much you can learn from your various analytics tools. Your marketing data may be able to tell you that a video you posted to a sharing community is getting thousands of upvotes, but these figures cannot readily tell you the reasons why people like it. Surveys can provide the stories behind the numbers.

SurveyMonkey provides cloud-based survey services and is the go-to polling tool for some 25 million users, including large companies such as Facebook and Samsung. SurveyMonkey offers templates for well-crafted surveys that can be modified or used as-is in order to gain additional insight about your brand and the people who might or might not be interested in it.

The app includes a basic free service, although you can also pay for premium enterprise-grade features. You can even pay for a targeted audience to fill out your surveys, if you are performing exploratory studies. This kind of groundwork may be antithetical to today’s “fake it ’til you make it” startup culture, but truly maximizing productivity calls for in-depth, data-driven strategies.

Improving your marketing workflow does not need to be expensive. With affordable cloud-based solutions, you can start enhancing your marketing team’s productivity and efficiency without the burden of committing to a large investment.

Best 5 Ways to Build Killer Relationships With Customers

As a serial entrepreneur, I know firsthand how important it is to connect with customers. Building relationships is key to learning your customers’ needs. And, you may gain more returning customers, referrals and net income in the process.

As a small business owner, you have an advantage when it comes to building customer rapport. The size of your company allows you to reach people at a more personal level than big businesses, which turns into stronger relationships with customers.

To create customer relationships, and keep them strong, you must do all you can to engage customers. Here are five ways to build customer relationships and keep them coming back.

1. Communicate.

As a key to any good relationship, communication is an essential way to build customer relationships. Promoting your business and listening to your customers are equally important.

Rather than just telling customers about your business, have conversations with them. Find out what your customers need, then show them that you have a solution to their problem.

If you have employees, teach them how to effectively communicate with customers. Instead of waiting for customer service to become a problem, foster communication skills with customers while onboarding new employees. Maintain an employee policy, requiring timely follow-up, to make sure the customer’s needs are met. Make sure your staff returns voicemail messages and emails promptly.

2. Exceed expectations.
Your customers expect great products or services from you. You should continue to raise the bar on what your company offers.

To put it simply, under promise, and over deliver. When you impress customers, they keep coming back.

To exceed customer expectations, you can deliver a product or service faster than anticipated. When you deliver earlier than expected, the customer will be happy about the surprise. For example, tell a customer their order will be ready by the end of the month, knowing you will have it ready a week earlier.

3. Ask for feedback.
Whether customers have a good or bad opinion about your business, they will make their feelings known. Invite customer feedback to show you are listening. Place comment cards on your business counter, or conduct a survey.

Customer feedback helps you hone your customers’ specific needs so you can find the best solutions to their problems. The better your offering meets their needs, the more your business will grow.

Always listen carefully to comments and respond promptly, whether it’s a compliment or a complaint. The worst thing you can do is ask for feedback then not address concerns. Even negative feedback is valuable and can give you an honest gauge of customer satisfaction.

4. Connect.
With technology, there are more ways to begin conversations with your customers than ever before. There are many online tools and social media outlets you can use to reach customers.

When you engage with customers online, be careful not to create a one-way conversation. Ask customers questions, and respond to their inquiries.

Also, make sure your website is top-notch, and start a blog to engage your customers and prospects. Build customer relationships through your online presence.

5. Show appreciation.
Reward long-time customers with a loyalty discount program. You can hand out reward cards, or use a loyalty program app to track customer rewards.

With a loyalty program, customers earn points for buying your goods or services. After earning a certain number of points, the customer gets a reward. For example, you could reward a customer with a discount on their next purchase.

Also give away inexpensive branded items, such as pens or notepads, or even expensive items, like shirts, hats or jackets with your logo on it. It’s a small yet effective way to say thank you to customers while keeping your business top-of-mind.

Should You Know About How Going Cheap on Employee Training Is Costing You

When your business adds a new employee, one of the first steps is to provide work-specific training. This may be something as simple as acclimating the person to the policies and procedures unique to your organization or as complex as learning the set of tasks necessary to operate equipment or software.

However, long after an employee has begun work, your business needs to invest in occasional training. If professionals can gain career traction through taking a particular course or getting certified in a certain area, your business stands to gain by signing them up for training. It’s important to offer these opportunities equally, across all departments, constantly looking for ways to help each employee improve and advance. Here are a few ways employee training can boost your business’s bottom line.

Training improves retention.
When any employee leaves, you have the not-so-desirable task of recruiting, interviewing and onboarding a replacement worker. You may think that the primary reason employees leave surrounds salary, but in actuality, the motivation for changing jobs goes much deeper. Many times they’re looking more intently at the future career potential of a new position than the salary.

For that reason, even an occasional course might make the difference between an employee leaving and staying. Many businesses fear that if they send employees to a type of training that will improve their credentials, those employees will simply leverage what they’ve learned and find a better position elsewhere. In fact, that’s proven not to be the case. Even if each course or certification costs your business thousands of dollars, that amount can quickly be recouped in replacement hiring costs if an employee stays rather than leaves.

Training shows career investment.
As businesses try to create a work culture that attracts top talent and keeps them on staff, they’re beginning to see the many benefits of investing in a person’s career rather than merely waiting for the results of their daily work output. Businesses that take an interest in whether or not each employee has job satisfaction are more likely to keep those employees. This means learning what each employee’s career aspirations are and doing whatever it takes to help.

Training can be a large part of that investment. By first understanding each worker’s long-term goals, you can create customized training plans that help them get from their current positions to where they want to go. You don’t have to send every employee offsite for third-party training, either. You can create branded training sessions and host them via webinar, record the results and offer past classes as part of a training library on your company intranet. This will let you provide consistent training to everyone on your team, whether they’re in the office or working from home.

Training creates higher-skilled employees.
When businesses go through economic slumps, sometimes training is the only thing they can offer to help their employees. While pay raises are always appreciated, employees have actually listed many other factors as more important. Appreciation for the hard work they do actually ranks at the top of that list, demonstrating the full value of caring about your workers. In a highly competitive business environment, businesses often find that if they don’t invest in their employees, they may be easily won over by competitors trying to lure them away.

When a business has a full staff of highly-qualified employees on staff, it can use those qualifications to impress clients, get funding and more. If you don’t put that investment in and your competitors do, you may find they are winning the market in your specialty area. The qualifications of your team do make a big difference and when you invest in them, you boost your own business’s image.

If you haven’t sent your employees to training recently, it might be time to change that. For best results, sit down with each employee and outline individual career goals, creating a training plan that will get the best results.