The kids are back in school and Halloween is still weeks away but if you own a business that relies on holiday sales, it’s time to start thinking about the most wonderful time of the year. Otherwise it might not be wonderful at all.

Many small businesses wonder how they can stand out among the many extravagant marketing campaigns that are rolled out ahead of the holiday shopping season. Thankfully, social media allows these businesses to garner the attention of their customers and prospects without breaking the bank.

If you have not started putting together your holiday social media strategy, now is the time. Here are some things to keep in mind as you build this strategy:

  • Less is more. When you try to post on every platform out there, you will find yourself unable to do any of them right. Instead, focus on a few social media platforms that you know your customers frequent and concentrate your efforts on the visitors to these sites.
  • Focus on followers. Offer special deals that are only available to your social media followers. This encourages followers to share your deals with friends and family. This creates a buzz around your social media sites that will allow you to gain followers and get your brand noticed.
  • Ship for free. With people spending so much money over the holidays, they are always on the lookout for ways to save. When surveyed, almost 50 percent of consumers said that free shipping plays a significant factor in whether or not they make a purchase. Consider offering free shipping codes to social media followers or use social media to advertise free shipping offers.
  • Get personal. Facebook allows you to use its targeting features to reach a specific demographic. You can target your social media messages to reflect a particular age group or geographical area, for example.

Of course, no matter how effective your social media strategy is at garnering attention for your brand, none of it will matter if you don’t back it up with superior customer service. The holidays can be an especially hectic and stressful time of year for consumers. When you are there for them—responding quickly when they have a problem or question—they won’t soon forget. The result? Happy holiday shoppers that remain loyal long after the season is over.


Identifying the target audience for a particular product or service your company is selling takes a lot of time and money. After all, you want to make sure that you are marketing to exactly the type of customers who are most likely to buy what you have to sell.

If, after going to all this work, you approach a prospect through email, direct mail or any other marketing technique and they fail to respond, you just spent a lot of time and money for nothing. Or did you?

We’ve all heard the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In the case of marketing your business, adhering to this adage is essential to success. Here are three important follow-up tactics to employ so that never miss out on a sale because you gave up on a prospect too soon:

  1. Repeat yourself. If you made an offer that your prospect isn’t responding to, restate the same offer but in a new way. In other words, emphasize different selling points. Many prospects may be on the fence about whether or not to buy. Highlighting some additional benefits can tip the scale in your favor.
  2. Create a sense of urgency. If you didn’t get the reaction you had hoped for the first time around, consider offering a bonus offer if a prospect acts in the next 24 hours, for example. Free shipping is another offer that buyers often respond to. You also can try offering the product or service at a discount for orders placed within a certain time frame.
  3. Present another option. Maybe the reason your prospect is not biting is because your product isn’t exactly what they are looking for. As a salesperson, your job isn’t to sell the product you want to sell, it’s to sell the product that your customer wants or needs. If a prospect has made it clear that they aren’t buying what you are initially selling, it’s time to give them another option.

While it can seem fruitless at times, continuing to follow up with prospects will in many cases be rewarded with a sale. At the very least, prospects will appreciate your persistence and likely remember you in the future when they are ready to make a purchase.

Sales Staff Burnt Out? Creative and Unusual Ways to Motivate Employees

With the dog days of summer upon us, it can be difficult to motivate employees who are feeling less than fired up. That’s a big problem because when employees are feeling sluggish, profits and sales goals often grind to a halt.
If your sales team seems to be dragging a bit, it may be time to implement some creative ways to motivate them. Before you ask yourself how much this motivation will cost you, relax. Some of the most effective motivational tactics don’t involve spending a lot of money or paying out huge bonuses.

That said, money is always a great motivator. The key is to use it in a way that does more than just reward the top performer. For example, if outbound sales calls are necessary to your company’s success, try rewarding people for the number of times they are rejected. This motivates everyone to make as many calls as possible—the name of the game when it comes to cold-calling—but rewards them for trying!

Here are some other, decidedly untraditional, ways to motivate employees and make the workplace a little more exciting:

  1. If there aren’t clients visiting, how about ditching the suit and tie (or khakis and polo) and instituting unusual dress down days. Favorite sports team day. Ugliest t-shirt day. Pajama day. You get the idea.
  2. Cater a special breakfast or lunch to the office or consider bringing treats regularly to help raise morale. How about renting a smoothie machine for the afternoon?
  3. Sometimes the best motivation for an employee is to know they are appreciated. Do you let employees know you value them? If you don’t, it’s time to start. You also can accomplish this as a group, as well. Gather everyone in the office one Friday morning and tell them they all get the afternoon off as a way to say thank you.
  4. Consider adding a nap room. It may sound odd, but companies of all sizes are converting a small office into a nap room. A quick 15-minute snooze can refresh employees and help them be more productive all day long.
  5. Welcome Fido or Fluffy to the office. Maybe letting employees bring their pet to the office every day is not feasible (although some companies do just that), but a special pet day can help boost morale and promote camaraderie.

Of course, these ideas may be a little too extreme for some businesses but they do drive home the need to make the office somewhere your employees want to go instead of a place they have to go. And remember, happy employees are productive employees.


If you are a small business, you know that you need to keep up with technology and incorporate it into all that you do. Failing to do so is a sure way to lose money.

But technology can be overwhelming for many people. Are you a small business owner who has no idea how to move their business online? Does the prospect of crafting a social media strategy seem completely unnerving? Does technology in general make you feel completely inept? Don’t worry—you are not alone.

No matter why you have been unwilling or unable to embrace technology, the fact remains that if you don’t embrace it, you are missing out on customers and ultimately, profits. Knowing you need to utilize technology doesn’t make it any easier to do so, however.

Technology can be downright intimidating, especially for someone with no background in IT. And before you decide how to implement technology, you need to know what type of technology to implement. Here are the first steps to take in your journey toward moving your business into the digital age:

  1. Go Mobile. You must have a responsive website. In other words, your website must work well on all types of mobile devices, from tablets to smartphones.
  2. Get Social. Today, engaging with your customers online is as important as engaging with them at the cash register or on the phone. You don’t need to be on every social media site but you do need to be on at least a few of the major ones.
  3. Embrace Big Data. You may be a small business but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to take advantage of big data. If you are not collecting information about your customers and prospects by tracking their purchases and online habits, for example, you are missing out on huge opportunities to increase your sales numbers.

The next thing you need to understand is how to implement technology. This can be especially difficult if you have no background in IT or run a small business that cannot afford one IT staffer, let alone an entire department.

First and foremost, if you know nothing about technology, you need to find a partner that does. In almost all cases, that means an IT outsourcing firm. Most small business owners are surprised to learn how affordable such firms are—especially when they consider the return on their investment.

The right outsourcing firm will design a responsive website for your business. It can even manage this website. Further, such a firm can get you up and running on social media and take care of day-to-day tasks, such as posting on Facebook and tweeting. Finally, an IT outsourcing partner will make sure you are getting the most out your data.

Technology is a big deal. Implementing it doesn’t have to be if you know where to turn for help!

At a Loss for Words? How to Come Up with Great Content Topics

In today’s digital marketplace, getting noticed online is essential to the success of your business. The key to getting noticed is writing and publishing outstanding content. Without quality, engaging content, your brand simply won’t get the attention it deserves.

Coming up with engaging content can be a difficult task. In fact, most marketers will tell you that it is their biggest challenge. In light of this fact, we’ve assembled a list of ideas that may help to get your creative (and marketing) juices flowing.

  • Follow the leaders. What are the thought leaders in your industry talking about? While you don’t want to cover all of the same topics, when you keep up with the experts in your field you get a feel for what is trending in your particular industry.
  • Provide answers. If you have customers, chances are these customers have asked you questions about products or services they want or need. Expanding on these questions makes for great content.
  • Get social. See what topics are trending on social media. If people in your industry are talking about it, they will want to read about it on your blog or website, as well.
  • Read the Comment Section. Comment sections can be a goldmine of content topics. When you read what people have to say about issues relevant to your industry, you can address those comments in your blogs or articles.
  • Brainstorm. Writing content can be a lonely task. That is why it is important that you take time to brainstorm with people in your office from time to time. What do they think you should be writing about? Just bouncing ideas off other people can spark ideas you may not have otherwise considered.
  • Conduct Interviews. Are you a blogger for an interior design website? Interview an up-and-coming designer. Chances are he or she will be thrilled with the exposure. What’s best, such interviews may help you come up with other ideas.
  • Talk about your failures. Not every blog or post has to have a happy ending. Cautionary tales are a great way to save your readers from making the same mistake you—or someone else—has made.

There are a million things to write about but, unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult to come up with just one. Hopefully, the tips above will spark some incredible content. Happy writing!

Content Creation vs. Content Marketing

If you believe that content creation and content marketing are the same thing, you are making a common, but costly, mistake. While content creation is an important part of content marketing, it is still just one part of the content marketing equation.

A great content writer is a wonderful asset. However, no matter how well your content is written, if it does not speak to your target audience, it won’t matter. Further, if it isn’t distributed properly, your target audience won’t be able to find it.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a content marketer is to expect your content to magically produce results without an overall content marketing strategy. Since great content can’t be created in a vacuum, here are some things you need to consider:

  1. What do you want to achieve with your content?
  2. How will you measure whether or not you have achieved that goal?
  3. Who is your target audience?
  4. What type of content is your target audience most likely to respond to?
  5. What are the most effective ways to distribute your content so that your target audience will see it?

If your content marketing strategy is not working the way you had hoped then you will have to consider all of these things again. Sometimes you will only need to tweak one or two things. In other cases, you will have to completely overhaul your content marketing strategy.

By the same token, even if your content marketing strategy is right on target, that strategy will fall flat if your content is subpar. Your content must draw the reader in and make them want to learn more.

If you are unsure exactly what constitutes outstanding content, whether it be blogs, podcasts, video or any other type of content, here are the most important qualities of outstanding content:

  • It connects, educates and inspires its audience
  • It uses thought-provoking headlines, striking photos and/or interesting graphics to grab attention
  • It is original
  • It is consistent with your brand

Useful, original and well-crafted content is essential to your content marketing strategy. Equally important, however, is knowing how to get that content noticed by the people you want to see it, namely new business leads!

Happy Employees, Healthy Profits

If you are a business owner in the unenviable position of dealing with unhappy customers you are likely working hard to find out why your customers feeling are this way. One place you might not be looking to as the source of your customer satisfaction issues—but should be—is the happiness level of your employees.

According to several studies, businesses whose employees are happy, motivated and engaged have almost twice the amount of revenues as those whose employees are unhappy, unmotivated and disengaged. It is not hard to understand why. After all, when was the last time you were motivated to do business with someone who seemed miserable?
So how can you make sure that your employees are happy and engaged? Many business owners believe higher salaries and better benefits will do the trick, but this is rarely the case. Instead, making sure employees understand the important role they play in customer satisfaction is often the key.

The happiest employees know their customers well because they have a great deal of information about their customers. This helps them to better understand their customers and feel more in control. They also are able to better relate to them. It makes sense. Helping someone you feel as if you know is much more satisfying than trying to please someone you know almost nothing about.

It is also important that specific customers are always directed to the employees that specialize in what these customers need and have a specific knowledge of the products and services they require. This allows employees to better do their job which leads to a satisfied customer. And satisfied customers are more likely to provide positive feedback. Positive feedback is a great motivator so employees who receive such feedback will work even harder. When this cycle continues to repeat itself, everyone wins—the customer, the employee and the business owner.

If you still aren’t convinced that happy employees are the key to increased profits, consider this: Profits at companies that were recognized by Forbes Magazine in 2014 as one of the top 100 companies to work for saw an increase in profits of over 22 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Investing in the happiness of your employees can send your employees’ spirits—and your revenues—through the roof. And that gives everyone something to smile about!

Mobile Advertising Critical to Connecting with Customers

Mobile advertising allows businesses to connect with their customers anywhere and anytime. Despite this fact, many businesses have yet to capitalize on this booming trend.

While most businesses have made their websites mobile friendly, many have yet to make the leap into mobile advertising. This is unfortunate since mobile ads make connecting with customers and prospects fast, simple and effective.

Recent marketing studies show that 70 percent of consumers will contact a business after conducting a mobile search. A study by Google also shows that more than 80 percent of smartphone users will check competitor prices before making an in-store purchase.

To illustrate how far mobile advertising has come, consider that many brick-and-mortar stores are now incorporating mobile services into their physical stores. For example, interior GPS tracking allows retailers to offer promotions and information based on what aisle an individual is walking through at any given time.

If you are taking a wait-and-see approach to mobile advertising, don’t! Experts say that the use of mobile advertising is skyrocketing and will continue to explode in the very near future.

If you have yet to formulate a mobile marketing strategy, fear not. Listed below are some of the most essential mobile marketing techniques that you need to implement as soon as possible. By doing so you will be able to grab the attention of current and prospective customers wherever they may be!

  1. Create a quality app. Apps allow customers to interact with your business without having to access the internet. Plus, when your app is on their phone or mobile device, they are reminded of you every time they use that device.
  2. Add value. A great looking, easy-to-navigate app is important, but make sure it offers something of real value. Does it make a customer’s life easier? Solve a problem? If an app is all show and no substance, people will quickly tire of it.
  3. Get personal. Apps can collect a great deal of user information but if this data is not collected and analyzed it is useless. Take full advantage of user insights to personalize the mobile experience for individual customers and sales leads. Collected data also can be used to make sure that you are capitalizing on your most effective marketing efforts.
  4. Integrate. Make sure your mobile marketing strategy follows your customers and prospects wherever they go—from their laptop to their phone to the social media sites they visit the most. Today’s consumers expect a seamless experience no matter where they are or what device they are using. If you aren’t providing that type of seamless experience you can be sure that someone else will.

Implementing a successful mobile advertising and marketing strategy that evolves with your customers can be challenging but the payoff is huge. Likewise, failing to implement a mobile strategy can have equally devastating consequences for your business.

If you are overwhelmed at the idea of multi-touch marketing you are not alone. Many business owners are reluctant to embark on this type of marketing campaign. This is unfortunate since multi-touch marketing is easier than you may think. It also is a great way to reach out to prospects and convert sales leads.

With all of the different forms of marketing available today, connecting with customers and prospects has never been easier. Despite this, many business owners are understandably frustrated when they reach out to customers only to receive less than desired results. So how can these results be improved? The answer is multi-touch marketing.

No single marketing technique is 100 percent effective for every prospect. That’s why it is so important to use a combined approach that includes things like direct mail, social media, content marketing, email marketing, and even cold calling.

Research tells us that, on average, it can take eight touches before you start a substantial conversation with a prospect. Multi-touch marketing allows you to get to this point faster and more effectively. In addition to improving a marketing campaign’s performance, multi-touch marketing also allows you to better anticipate your marketing costs; speed up the sales cycle; and streamline your marketing strategy.

When embarking on a multi-touch marketing campaign, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Marketing materials must have the same look and feel. This will ensure that whether a prospect receives an email, is directed to your website, or opens a direct mail piece, they recognize it as coming from your business.
  • Results must be continually monitored so that adjustments can be made when necessary. There will be parts of your campaign that will speak to some prospects more than others. By monitoring things like response and click-through rates you will be able to decide which parts of the campaign are working better than others, and if necessary, make adjustments.

Marketing campaigns that combine elements such as inspiring online content, powerful emails, thought-provoking blogs, social media, and direct mail inevitably involve a greater investment of time and resources. However, it is well worth the effort. These marketing campaigns are also a far better investment than single-touch campaigns because they allow you to better connect with prospects and increase sales.




Emotional Intelligence and Authenticity the Keys to Succeeding at Work

One of the factors critical to your success in the workplace is your emotional intelligence (EQ). Researchers have found that people with high EQ perform better and make more money than those with low EQ.

EQ is defined, in part, as the ability to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. In order to reap the benefits of a high EQ, however, you must be genuine, as well. In fact, as Travis Bradberry writes in his article, 12 Habits of Genuine People, EQ on its own won’t do anything at all when it comes to your job performance.

The article cites a recent study from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington that found people are skeptical of EQ unless the person with EQ is authentic, as well. When it comes to farmers and ranchers, this is particularly true.

Farmers and ranchers have little time for slick salespeople who aren’t genuinely interested in what they need to succeed. While Bradberry’s article doesn’t touch on the Ag industry specifically, it is an important reminder for those who work in that industry.

It’s not enough to just go through the motions, trying to demonstrate qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence. You have to be genuine.

It is easy to see why farmers and ranchers are attracted to salespeople who have a high EQ but are also genuine.

Genuine people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. They are firmly grounded in reality, and they’re truly present in each moment because they’re not trying to figure out someone else’s agenda or worrying about their own.

Bradberry lists the 12 habits of genuine people, including they treat everyone with respect; they are trustworthy; they aren’t driven by ego; and they aren’t hypocrites.  If you want to be the best marketer or salesperson you can be, you would be well to develop these habits. Whether you are selling irrigation systems or electronics, without these habits it is unlikely that you will be successful doing it.