How to Use Animations in Your Marketing Campaigns

Animations have been part of marketing campaigns for several decades now. Starting with stop motion graphics in the forties, animation has been pivotal in campaigns targeted at capturing audience interests and creating brand recognition. The use of animation in online advertising has spurred over the past decade thanks to faster internet. Explainer videos, YouTube advertising and viral video marketing campaigns have all enabled businesses to create effective brand narratives, often at very low budgets. In fact, according to one survey, more than 87.5% of marketers used visual content in over 50% of the articles they published.

Animated image of the Earth

Thanks to modern animation software apps, there is greater ability than ever to produce animation at relatively low budgets.…

The post How to Use Animations in Your Marketing Campaigns appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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The Simplest Answer to, "What Is Product Marketing?"

Pop quiz: If you had to define product marketing right now, what would you say?

A lot of folks have difficulty answering this question -- but don't worry, it's not your fault. Although product marketing is a prominent department across both B2B and B2C companies, it's pretty hard to find a good definition of it anywhere ... even on Google.

What makes it especially difficult is that it's one of the few job functions that touches product, marketing, and sales. It all comes down to knowing the target customer and testing to find ways to learn more about them and how best to interact with them.

The thing is, product marketing doesn't stop once the product has gone to market (if it did, well, product marketers at a one-product company wouldn't have much to do after the product's launch). The process of marketing a product lasts well after its launch to ensure the right people are aware of the product, those people know how to use it, and that the needs and feedback of those people are being listened to over the product's lifecycle.

Inspired by HubSpot's former product marketing director, Rick Burnes, let's talk about where to start in product marketing, the steps you need to take to launch a product, and what other aspects of your business can support this product as it grows.

For Rick's entire SlideShare, explore the presentation below.

Now, let's get into it. What does product marketing process look like before, during, and after a product is launched?

Product Marketing Starts With Your Customer

As Rick Burnes shows us in the slides above, HubSpot's early years faced a challenge that lots of small businesses face: product ambiguity. Except for the slight majority of people who perceived HubSpot as "marketing services" -- which is indeed part of our product stack -- our perception consisted of numerous other terms that our audience used to describe us.

This is a chief reason businesses implement a formal product marketing operation, and it starts with your buyer persona.

A great product means nothing if it doesn't get the attention of the people who would benefit from it. So, who's your audience for this product? How (and where) are you reaching them, and what's the story you're telling to present this product to them? When preparing to launch a product, working with the rest of your marketing team to identify your customer and this messaging is critical.

Seven Critical Steps of Product Marketing

When product marketers know exactly whom their product caters to, the marketing can begin. Here are seven things product marketers may do before, during, and after their product enters the market:

  1. Product Research: A helpful and well-made product isn't made in a vacuum, and it also isn't marketed in one. In the weeks and months prior to a product launch, product marketers work with the product's developers to test the product both internally and externally through controlled beta environments.
  2. Product Story: Products are also brought to market in the form of a story. What problem does the product solve? Who's facing this problem? How does it solve this problem? What does it do that competitors don't?
  3. Product-Focused Content: Product marketing's next stop is the desks of the content creators. Here, product marketers may create and A/B test various marketing copy, blog content, case studies, and landing pages on their website -- all dedicated to literally describing the product.
  4. Product Launch Plan: No product marketing team is complete without a written launch plan, spelling out every last stage of the marketing process and who's responsible at each point.
  5. Product Launch Meeting: When the product is launched, everyone involved meets the day it's rolled out. Much like a rocket launch, this is the product marketer's finest hour -- it's the climax of a product marketing campaign.
  6. Community Engagement: As product marketing generates enough buzz around the product within the industry, it's common for the marketing team to capitalize on what the market is saying about them. This includes reaching out to partners, influencers, and existing customers for commentary.
  7. Sales Enablement: As a product is being prepared for the marketplace, the sales team is waiting in the wings to develop a sales strategy around this new business opportunity. It's the product marketing team's job to meet with sales staff before, during, and after the product is rolled out to the public. This ensures the messaging created for this product is consistent all the way through to the first sales call.

As you develop your product marketing team, and your product marketing strategy, think about how the elements above might take shape, and who you'll need to work with to make it a success. Want more information on product marketing? Click below.

learn the secrets behind the coolest product videos and more



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10 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Under $50

10 Cheap Advertising Ideas for Your Small Business

A number of small businesses still aren’t spending enough advertising cash to get good results although they know they should. One of the reasons is a limited budget, but did you know that there are some solid cheap advertising ideas out there that are more effective than you’d think?

Cheap Advertising Ideas

Here are 10 cheap advertising ideas to get the word out about your business for under $50.

Service Apps

Ben Taylor is the founder of the HomeWorking Club. He points to several apps as cheap ways to advertise.

“If your business provides services, apps like TaskRabbit and Thumbtack help you to get into contact with customers who need them,” he writes.

TaskRabbit charges a $25 registration fee.

Notice Boards

He also suggests going old school by taking advantage of noticeboards in places like supermarkets. A package of markers and speech cards are cheap.

Business Cards

More old school suggestions that work and come in under budget. Vistaprint can supply 100 business cards for well under $50.

As far as the design goes, you can use a template or create your own. If you’re designing your own business card remember to keep it simple. Remember to include taglines and contact info.

You can also pay a small fee to local restaurants/businesses to leave your cards at the counter. Business cards fit nicely in the corners of bulletin boards at public locations.

Determining the ROI on these can be a little tricky because you’re handing them out in physical spaces . Ask new customers how they found your business.  You’ll get some indication of how effective these are.

Facebook Groups

“There are lots of options for advertising on Facebook,” Taylor writes. “At a basic level you may even be able to promote your business on local groups. With a budget of $50 and some good targeting, you could reach plenty of target customers.”

You can also make your own Facebook group. As a small business you have the option of putting one in a buy and sell category.

Another quick tip to make your advertising dollars go further. Having theme days for your Facebook group will attract people. One good example revolves around asking people to share their gripes on a Monday.

HARO

Sign up as a source . Reporters and writers look for experts at HARO to comment on pieces they write. There’s a standard subscription that’s under a $50 monthly budget. You’ll get lots of good exposure through links and position yourself as an expert.

Email Marketing

Jared Weitz CEO/Founder United Capital Source Inc thinks emails work.

“Conduct an email marketing campaign,” he writes. “There are many great low-cost tools, like MailChimp, that will allow you to send professionally crafted emails. You can even track open rates, clicks on links and visibility to those who unsubscribe.”

Email marketing works best when it’s regular and consistent. If you’ve got first names on your list, those are great to add to personalize the emails you send.

Infographics

Visual like infographics are effective ways to advertise. There are a variety of options here. Lots of free choices and paid ones that come in under $50 a month.

Small businesses should really give these a close look. Consider almost all of the info our brains receive is visual according to HubSpot. It’s a good idea to start by introducing your message with a brief summary.

Social Media Ads

For $30, you can reach thousands of prospects. However, you need to outline a goal before you start. Facebook and Instagram are two of the best places to get going.

You’ll find that each social media platform has a metric you can use to gauge its effectiveness. Google AdWords uses a Quality Score. Facebook uses a Relevance Score. The Facebook version is pretty simple to use. A score of one tells you your ad isn’t doing well. The higher numbers tell you the opposite.

There are a few ways to make these more effective. First is narrowing down your target audience to get more engagement. Making sure your ads have an attention grabbing image is good no matter what social media you’re using.

Webinars

These are effective but not always cheap. If you can handle the monthly subscription, there’s a few possibilities to look through here. ClickMeeting is a good one.

Here’s a few good tips to make these work. Visuals are important. Even though you can do these on the cheap digitally, you want to have some nice slides to capture attention. Having a handout is another good idea. A screenshot of all your slides gives prospects something to look at after.

Affiliate Marketing

You should be able to find a good service here that comes in under budget monthly. GoAffpro offers a connection to Instagram influencers for $19 a month.

There are a few things that a small business needs to look for to get the most from any service. First, it’s important to look for an option  that has some kind of real-time tracking.

You want to be able to have real-time data on things like clicks and impressions. It’s a good way to make sure your marketing efforts are on the right track.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "10 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Under $50" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

10 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Under $50

10 Cheap Advertising Ideas for Your Small Business

A number of small businesses still aren’t spending enough advertising cash to get good results although they know they should. One of the reasons is a limited budget, but did you know that there are some solid cheap advertising ideas out there that are more effective than you’d think?

Cheap Advertising Ideas

Here are 10 cheap advertising ideas to get the word out about your business for under $50.

Service Apps

Ben Taylor is the founder of the HomeWorking Club. He points to several apps as cheap ways to advertise.

“If your business provides services, apps like TaskRabbit and Thumbtack help you to get into contact with customers who need them,” he writes.

TaskRabbit charges a $25 registration fee.

Notice Boards

He also suggests going old school by taking advantage of noticeboards in places like supermarkets. A package of markers and speech cards are cheap.

Business Cards

More old school suggestions that work and come in under budget. Vistaprint can supply 100 business cards for well under $50.

As far as the design goes, you can use a template or create your own. If you’re designing your own business card remember to keep it simple. Remember to include taglines and contact info.

You can also pay a small fee to local restaurants/businesses to leave your cards at the counter. Business cards fit nicely in the corners of bulletin boards at public locations.

Determining the ROI on these can be a little tricky because you’re handing them out in physical spaces . Ask new customers how they found your business.  You’ll get some indication of how effective these are.

Facebook Groups

“There are lots of options for advertising on Facebook,” Taylor writes. “At a basic level you may even be able to promote your business on local groups. With a budget of $50 and some good targeting, you could reach plenty of target customers.”

You can also make your own Facebook group. As a small business you have the option of putting one in a buy and sell category.

Another quick tip to make your advertising dollars go further. Having theme days for your Facebook group will attract people. One good example revolves around asking people to share their gripes on a Monday.

HARO

Sign up as a source . Reporters and writers look for experts at HARO to comment on pieces they write. There’s a standard subscription that’s under a $50 monthly budget. You’ll get lots of good exposure through links and position yourself as an expert.

Email Marketing

Jared Weitz CEO/Founder United Capital Source Inc thinks emails work.

“Conduct an email marketing campaign,” he writes. “There are many great low-cost tools, like MailChimp, that will allow you to send professionally crafted emails. You can even track open rates, clicks on links and visibility to those who unsubscribe.”

Email marketing works best when it’s regular and consistent. If you’ve got first names on your list, those are great to add to personalize the emails you send.

Infographics

Visual like infographics are effective ways to advertise. There are a variety of options here. Lots of free choices and paid ones that come in under $50 a month.

Small businesses should really give these a close look. Consider almost all of the info our brains receive is visual according to HubSpot. It’s a good idea to start by introducing your message with a brief summary.

Social Media Ads

For $30, you can reach thousands of prospects. However, you need to outline a goal before you start. Facebook and Instagram are two of the best places to get going.

You’ll find that each social media platform has a metric you can use to gauge its effectiveness. Google AdWords uses a Quality Score. Facebook uses a Relevance Score. The Facebook version is pretty simple to use. A score of one tells you your ad isn’t doing well. The higher numbers tell you the opposite.

There are a few ways to make these more effective. First is narrowing down your target audience to get more engagement. Making sure your ads have an attention grabbing image is good no matter what social media you’re using.

Webinars

These are effective but not always cheap. If you can handle the monthly subscription, there’s a few possibilities to look through here. ClickMeeting is a good one.

Here’s a few good tips to make these work. Visuals are important. Even though you can do these on the cheap digitally, you want to have some nice slides to capture attention. Having a handout is another good idea. A screenshot of all your slides gives prospects something to look at after.

Affiliate Marketing

You should be able to find a good service here that comes in under budget monthly. GoAffpro offers a connection to Instagram influencers for $19 a month.

There are a few things that a small business needs to look for to get the most from any service. First, it’s important to look for an option  that has some kind of real-time tracking.

You want to be able to have real-time data on things like clicks and impressions. It’s a good way to make sure your marketing efforts are on the right track.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "10 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Under $50" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How to Unleash the Secret Superpowers of Numbers in Your Copywriting

There are all sorts of rules about writing. Grammar and style guides tell us how we should write. Especially how...

The post How to Unleash the Secret Superpowers of Numbers in Your Copywriting appeared first on Copyblogger.



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In the Spotlight: Two Blind Brothers Brand Fights Retinal Disease with Retail

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

Would you ever consider shopping blind? That’s what Two Blind Brothers asks of its customers. The company sells clothing. But its main mission is to raise money and awareness for retinal eye disease, a cause that’s close to the heart for both of the company’s co-founders. Read more about their journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Sells clothing and raises money for a good cause.

The luxury charitable clothing brand sells tees, Henley’s, hoodies and a variety of other clothes. But customers get the opportunity to simply pick a price point and then receive a selection of items.

Business Niche

Contributing to a cause.

100 percent of the company’s profits go toward developing a cure for retinal eye disease.

How the Business Got Started

Due to a personal connection.

Founders Bradford and Bryan Manning were both diagnosed at a young age with an eye disease that destroys central vision over time. So they left their careers in finance to create a charitable clothing company.

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

Biggest Win

Being endorsed by Ellen Degeneres.

Bradford and Bryan Manning told Small Business Trends, “When we started this project, it was meant to be a fun charitable passion project. We never expected that it would resonate with a national audience. Within 8 months of launching, Ellen Degeneres invited us on her show and bought $30k of shirts. It changed the trajectory of the project and the way we approached it. After that moment, we had the momentum and courage to invest in growing the charitable clothing brand.”

Biggest Risk

Launching their “Shop Blind” campaign.

The founders explained, “We had a creative marketing idea….we would challenge people to buy our products with no information and no images. We asked the question, “Will you trust us and shop blind?” We have to buy our inventory months in advance which puts financial stress on a fast-growing business.

They had to order inventory to cover more than 30 times the previous year’s holiday sales, since they didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of the holiday season.

They added, “It all worked out. We actually sold out.”

Lesson Learned

Build your business for the next big inflection point, not today’s problem.

They said, “Every time our business grew by 50% something breaks down because the former system couldn’t keep up. First, it was our production facility. Then, it was our fulfillment center. Then, it was our customer service system. Make sure you are investing in your infrastructure so that you aren’t constantly plugging holes. You want to continue to work on big opportunities.”

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Launching a new creative marketing campaign.

They explained, “As a clothing brand, it’s competitive. Not only do we need great products, but we need to capture people’s attention. It’s so important to offer a unique story and experience. We are lucky to have a great core story, but nothing is better than a completely fresh idea that people want to participate in and share. We had so much success with “Shop Blind” that we want to continue finding great branded experiences.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: Two Blind Brothers Facebook

This article, "In the Spotlight: Two Blind Brothers Brand Fights Retinal Disease with Retail" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

In the Spotlight: Two Blind Brothers Brand Fights Retinal Disease with Retail

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

Would you ever consider shopping blind? That’s what Two Blind Brothers asks of its customers. The company sells clothing. But its main mission is to raise money and awareness for retinal eye disease, a cause that’s close to the heart for both of the company’s co-founders. Read more about their journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Sells clothing and raises money for a good cause.

The luxury charitable clothing brand sells tees, Henley’s, hoodies and a variety of other clothes. But customers get the opportunity to simply pick a price point and then receive a selection of items.

Business Niche

Contributing to a cause.

100 percent of the company’s profits go toward developing a cure for retinal eye disease.

How the Business Got Started

Due to a personal connection.

Founders Bradford and Bryan Manning were both diagnosed at a young age with an eye disease that destroys central vision over time. So they left their careers in finance to create a charitable clothing company.

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

Biggest Win

Being endorsed by Ellen Degeneres.

Bradford and Bryan Manning told Small Business Trends, “When we started this project, it was meant to be a fun charitable passion project. We never expected that it would resonate with a national audience. Within 8 months of launching, Ellen Degeneres invited us on her show and bought $30k of shirts. It changed the trajectory of the project and the way we approached it. After that moment, we had the momentum and courage to invest in growing the charitable clothing brand.”

Biggest Risk

Launching their “Shop Blind” campaign.

The founders explained, “We had a creative marketing idea….we would challenge people to buy our products with no information and no images. We asked the question, “Will you trust us and shop blind?” We have to buy our inventory months in advance which puts financial stress on a fast-growing business.

They had to order inventory to cover more than 30 times the previous year’s holiday sales, since they didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of the holiday season.

They added, “It all worked out. We actually sold out.”

Lesson Learned

Build your business for the next big inflection point, not today’s problem.

They said, “Every time our business grew by 50% something breaks down because the former system couldn’t keep up. First, it was our production facility. Then, it was our fulfillment center. Then, it was our customer service system. Make sure you are investing in your infrastructure so that you aren’t constantly plugging holes. You want to continue to work on big opportunities.”

In the Spotlight: Charitable Clothing Brand, Two Blind Brothers, Lets You See What It's Like to Shop Blind

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Launching a new creative marketing campaign.

They explained, “As a clothing brand, it’s competitive. Not only do we need great products, but we need to capture people’s attention. It’s so important to offer a unique story and experience. We are lucky to have a great core story, but nothing is better than a completely fresh idea that people want to participate in and share. We had so much success with “Shop Blind” that we want to continue finding great branded experiences.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: Two Blind Brothers Facebook

This article, "In the Spotlight: Two Blind Brothers Brand Fights Retinal Disease with Retail" was first published on Small Business Trends



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71% of Customers Use Ecommerce Apps for Price Checking

These Ecommerce Mobile App Features Will Keep Your Customers Hooked

The overall ecommerce sales are increasingly coming from mobile devices. In 2018 it was 40% of the total sales, and by 2021 it is expected to jump to 54%. For businesses that develop ecommerce apps, it means they are better positioned to address this growth.

However, it is going to take more than coupons and discounts to keep your customers hooked on your app.

According to a new survey and report from Clutch, businesses must design ecommerce apps with the goal of delivering the best possible overall experience. This means addressing everything from browsing to checking out without any difficulty.

Seamus Roddy, who wrote the report further explained the need to deliver on all points when creating an app. Roddy said, “Businesses must consider customers’ motivations for using e-commerce apps: how likely they are to engage with particular brands’ apps and how they use the apps to interact with products.”

Clutch carried out the survey to determine the types of ecommerce apps people use most, the activities they carry out in the apps, and why they use certain apps. The goal of the report is to give businesses an understanding of how people use ecommerce apps.

The survey was carried out by Clutch with the participation of 501 consumers with retailer/shopping apps on their phones. The respondents were made up of 69% female and 31% male who used ecommerce apps anywhere from 1 to 3 times per month to multiple times daily.

What Ecommerce Mobile App Features Do Customers Want?

Almost two thirds (65%) of the respondents use mobile apps to get deals and offers available only in the app. But according to Clutch, businesses should go beyond just offering products with high discounts. It is best to create apps which cultivate community and browsability.

This, however, is not the primary reason people use shopping apps. For example, 71% of the respondents use the apps to check prices. And they check prices (22%) even when they are in brick and mortar outlets, undoubtedly for comparison. For this reason, Clutch recommends for stores with a physical presence to integrate the in-app and in-store experiences.

When it comes to purchases, overall 62% say they use apps to buy something. But people who use pure online retail apps are more likely to make a purchase. For this group, the number goes up to 90%, while 88% of them also use it to check prices. Additionally, 34% use the apps to get product recommendations on similar items.

Even though the numbers are impressive for large online retail apps, Clutch recommends for small businesses to avoid measuring up. Instead, it is best for small businesses to target their specific market and achieve success there.

Restaurants and Ecommerce Apps

The purchase rate for frequent restaurant app users is high, coming in at 79%. And almost the same amount (75%) use the apps to view menus. But when it comes to using the apps for recommending similar products it is only 9%.

When creating restaurant apps, Clutch suggests providing features which match the user behavior.

Creating the Best Possible Ecommerce Mobile App Features

Using all the Data, Clutch came up with six steps for creating shopping apps matching the e-commerce app users’ prefer.

The Six Steps

  1. Make shopping apps easy to use to save app users’ time and improve their buying experience
  2. Integrate shopping app users’ in-app and in-person experiences
  3. Compare metrics to competitors’, not to large pure online retailers
  4. Match your shopping app to your business product
  5. Avoid using discounts only to attract shopping app users
  6. Develop browsable apps

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "71% of Customers Use Ecommerce Apps for Price Checking" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

71% of Customers Use Ecommerce Apps for Price Checking

These Ecommerce Mobile App Features Will Keep Your Customers Hooked

The overall ecommerce sales are increasingly coming from mobile devices. In 2018 it was 40% of the total sales, and by 2021 it is expected to jump to 54%. For businesses that develop ecommerce apps, it means they are better positioned to address this growth.

However, it is going to take more than coupons and discounts to keep your customers hooked on your app.

According to a new survey and report from Clutch, businesses must design ecommerce apps with the goal of delivering the best possible overall experience. This means addressing everything from browsing to checking out without any difficulty.

Seamus Roddy, who wrote the report further explained the need to deliver on all points when creating an app. Roddy said, “Businesses must consider customers’ motivations for using e-commerce apps: how likely they are to engage with particular brands’ apps and how they use the apps to interact with products.”

Clutch carried out the survey to determine the types of ecommerce apps people use most, the activities they carry out in the apps, and why they use certain apps. The goal of the report is to give businesses an understanding of how people use ecommerce apps.

The survey was carried out by Clutch with the participation of 501 consumers with retailer/shopping apps on their phones. The respondents were made up of 69% female and 31% male who used ecommerce apps anywhere from 1 to 3 times per month to multiple times daily.

What Ecommerce Mobile App Features Do Customers Want?

Almost two thirds (65%) of the respondents use mobile apps to get deals and offers available only in the app. But according to Clutch, businesses should go beyond just offering products with high discounts. It is best to create apps which cultivate community and browsability.

This, however, is not the primary reason people use shopping apps. For example, 71% of the respondents use the apps to check prices. And they check prices (22%) even when they are in brick and mortar outlets, undoubtedly for comparison. For this reason, Clutch recommends for stores with a physical presence to integrate the in-app and in-store experiences.

When it comes to purchases, overall 62% say they use apps to buy something. But people who use pure online retail apps are more likely to make a purchase. For this group, the number goes up to 90%, while 88% of them also use it to check prices. Additionally, 34% use the apps to get product recommendations on similar items.

Even though the numbers are impressive for large online retail apps, Clutch recommends for small businesses to avoid measuring up. Instead, it is best for small businesses to target their specific market and achieve success there.

Restaurants and Ecommerce Apps

The purchase rate for frequent restaurant app users is high, coming in at 79%. And almost the same amount (75%) use the apps to view menus. But when it comes to using the apps for recommending similar products it is only 9%.

When creating restaurant apps, Clutch suggests providing features which match the user behavior.

Creating the Best Possible Ecommerce Mobile App Features

Using all the Data, Clutch came up with six steps for creating shopping apps matching the e-commerce app users’ prefer.

The Six Steps

  1. Make shopping apps easy to use to save app users’ time and improve their buying experience
  2. Integrate shopping app users’ in-app and in-person experiences
  3. Compare metrics to competitors’, not to large pure online retailers
  4. Match your shopping app to your business product
  5. Avoid using discounts only to attract shopping app users
  6. Develop browsable apps

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "71% of Customers Use Ecommerce Apps for Price Checking" was first published on Small Business Trends



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The 5 Types of Social Media and Pros & Cons of Each

Over 97% of marketers are now using social media to engage with their audiences. But if you’re tasked with starting a social media strategy for your company, you might be wondering which type of platforms you should be on.

The list of social media platforms is growing, and well-known platforms like Facebook are always evolving and adding new features. With a greater and greater need for a social presence and an overwhelming amount of platform choices,

it can be hard to pick which social channels to use. You might not want to spread yourself too thin by managing a channel on every imaginable platform, but you also don’t want to miss great brand-awareness opportunities.

To help you make informed decisions about which platforms to use, this post will guide you through some of the coretypes of social media, examples of platforms within each category, and the pros and cons that each type might present. By the end, you should have a much clearer idea of what kind of social media strategy will work for your business.

Social Networking

Major Platforms

Social networking is possibly the most traditional form of social media.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are often called “networking” platforms because they allow user accounts to interact with each other in a variety of different ways.

If you’re a small business, like a restaurant, a platform like Facebook could be a great place to start your social strategy. With Facebook, you can build a business profile that includes links to your website and details about your menu.

Once you’re profile is all set up, you can post regular updates about your business, “like” other pages, and answer customer post comments or messages. Business profiles also allow other Facebook users to give you reviews.

For companies looking to offer a professional service, B2B or publishing companies, LinkedIn is another great way to grow your following. LinkedIn emphasizes career-related networking.

Brands looking to build an audience of professionals from a certain industry can create a business profile there, categorize it with an industry type, and then use posts and messaging to publish updates. They can also use messaging and comment features to interact with their audiences, or users who comment on their posts.

A Twitter account could be helpful to companies in a wide spectrum of industries, from entertainment to e-commerce. This platform similarly allows you to create a profile where you can list and link company information.

You can then use Twitter to post about company updates, tag companies or customers in posts, retweet positive customer tweets, and respond to customer questions via tweet or direct messages. Like Facebook, you can also post content like photos or videos.

On all three networks, users can easily communicate with others through simple actions like tagging, hashtagging, commenting, private messaging, reacting to posts, and re-sharing content.

Aside from social interaction, newsfeeds on common social networking platforms are designed to show off a mix of text and visuals, rather than one primary content type.

This flexibility makes social networking platforms easy to begin a social strategy on because you can experiment with different forms of content before branching out to platforms that require more specific content types.

Here’s an example of Facebook’s newsfeed:

Facebook newsfeed

For those who want to dabble in video or graphics, these platforms could be a great place to test this new content. With the growth of video marketing, many have begun to launch more advanced features like Facebook Stories and Twitter’s live streams.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have also started to encourage native video and photo uploads more heavily. Recently, Facebook even adjusted its algorithms to favor live video and image uploads. This has caused these types of native content to gain greater user engagement.

If you’re still not sure where to get started, check out our beginner’s guides for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Photo Sharing

Major Platforms

Two of the biggest platforms that specialize in photo sharing are Instagram and Pinterest.

Instagram offers a visual feed with posts showing photos and short videos followed by a caption. Users can also post live video or create Instagram Stories that disappear after one day. Like the social networking platforms above, users can interact with others through tags, likes, comments, or direct message.

This platform would be helpful to companies like restaurants or stores that want to photograph and display and update followers about their food, goods, or products in a crisp, clean way.

Instagram has become a home to influencer marketing, as 93% of influencer campaigns took place on the platform in 2018. It also offers opportunities for advertising and ecommerce because of its highly-visual layout.

Unlike some social platforms, Instagram emphasize visuals and doesn’t allow link sharing directly in posts. Basic users on Instagram can only share links in their bio. Verified users, or accounts with over 10,000 followers, can post links in their Stories.

To show you how visual the platform is, here’s a look at Instagram’s search feed:

Instagram search feed

Although basic users have minimal linking options, Instagram has tried to make the platform even more friendly for ecommerce businesses with the addition of Shoppable posts.

Pinterest is well-suited for ecommerce companies, such as those who sell home goods, and businesses that would like a place to share crisp standalone product images with links.

It similarly offers a photo-based feed with posts that can include a photo and short description. Unlike Instagram, it allows all users to link directly to websites or product landing pages in posts.

One interesting aspect of the platform is that users can heart posts from others, or assign them to a themed “board.” For example, users might make boards centered around topics like “Inspirational Quotes” or “Bedroom products.”

Once a board is created, other users can also follow it. A business could potentially make a board with their own product posts, or find their products on another user’s board.

Here’s an example of what a board looks like:

Pinterest Home and DIY board

 

Before getting started on one or both of these platforms, you’ll want to determine whether your goal is to gain brand awareness or link-based traffic.

While Instagram and Pinterest can both be helpful tools for product shots and brand awareness, Instagram’s active audience is much larger than Pinterest’s. Instagram has also hosted over 25 million business profiles.

When choosing a platform, you may want to consider your content-related bandwidth. Both require visual imagery, but you might also need to include video creation within your Instagram strategy. Here’s a great guide that demonstrates what it takes to gain followers on Instagram.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Platforms like Instagram help with brand awareness. Approximately 60% of people say they’ve learned about products or services on Instagram.
  • Pinterest and Instagram provide an outlet for showing off visual content or product shots.
  • Platforms like Instagram also allow you to experiment with visual or short video content

Cons

  • Upkeep on these platforms might require a photo budget or dedicated production time.
  • Some platforms, like Instagram, require you to post from a mobile app.

Video Sharing

Roughly 83% of marketers say video gives them a strong ROI and 90% feel the level of video competition has increased. Adding a video platform to your social strategy could make your brand look relevant and keep you up to speed with your competitors.

Video can be helpful to a wide range of industries. While a restaurant could have a vlog with cooking tips, a technology company might focus its video strategy around product demos.

To help you pin down a strategy that’s right for your industry and service, check out our video marketing guide.

When it comes to long-form video, Youtube and Vimeo are the leading platforms. While Youtube has the bigger audience base and better SEO capabilities, Vimeo’s smaller platform is very community driven.

Youtube also seems to have better opportunities for advertisers and monetization, while Vimeo offers viewers the perk of no pre-roll ads.

For a longer list of similarities and differences, check out this head-to-head piece where we compare the business capabilities of Vimeo and YouTube.

Along with Youtube and Vimeo, the more traditional social networking platforms have also begun to embrace video marketing more aggressively. In the last few years, Facebook launched Facebook Stories and Facebook Live, and added a tab on their mobile app dedicated to video. Meanwhile, Twitter has allowed users to launch live video streams which are powered by its Periscope software.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Interactive Media

Major Platforms

Apps like Snapchat and TikTok allow users to share photos and videos, they also have a variety of unique interactive and highly experimental features. These two apps include AR/VR filters, musical overlays, and interactive games. Their audience bases are also prominently Gen-Z.

Because mainly large companies are just starting to experiment with these new applications, marketers who are just beginning a social strategy don’t need to prioritize these interactive apps before traditional social networking platforms.

The large companies on these platforms tend to produce high production-level content. Brands with large followings might also publish Snapchat Stories, or videos that are curated from fans. Without a high-budget or giant online following, these strategies might be difficult for a company that’s just starting out on social.

Brands and influencers on these apps tend to cater their content to the platforms’ younger audiences. For example, on Snapchat, you might see stories that present beauty tutorials, wellness tips, news, or trendy new products.

If you’re really interested in interactive media, there are still a few viable ways you could get involved with Snapchat or TikTok.

While major brands, like VICE and BuzzFeed have become Snapchat Discover partners, the average business can still create a Snapchat business account that can be searched and friended by users. This account allows you to send publish temporary stories, just like individual accounts can. However, those with a business account can also purchase ad space.

Here’s a quick video that shows someone using some of Snapchat’s basic features:

To be embedded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=cfqABVVN9ck

If you’ve set up an account, check out this guide to getting started on Snapchat.

TikTok, which offers short, repetitive clips -- similarly to Vine, has begun experimenting with testing ads with GrubHub as their first client. According to Digiday, these video ad spots will run for about five seconds and can be skipped instantly by the user.

Outside of ad space, Guess is one notable brand that has used its account to create trending campaigns with trendy hashtags. Universal Pictures has also had influencers create posts to promote its films.

If you do test out these platforms, you might want to make sure your industry and content fits in with the young age demographic. You should also try to properly estimate the time and money that might go into keeping these accounts up to date and relevant.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Producing regular content could be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Business accounts aren’t promoted up-front on the Snapchat interface. You may want to promote your channel on your website or other social channels because users will need to search for you with your Snapcode or username.
  • Snapchat and TikTok are limited to mobile and aren’t as easy to use.

Blogging/Community

Major Platforms

  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Tumblr and Reddit both allow users to post about interesting niche topics, like memes, events, politics, and pop-culture. When users publish a post, these platforms allow other users to share them or add to the conversation with their own commentary.

Both blogging and community building platforms could be helpful to those who want to encourage discussion around very niche industries or topics. For example, on these platforms, you might see discussion about anything from alternative health to machine learning.

By blogging, you can write posts about topics in your company’s industry and link them to your product or site. While many people have a blog on their website, platforms like Tumblr might be great to use if you haven’t set this feature up -- or just want to see what others in your industry are blogging about.

With a discussion site like Reddit, you could share a link or a post about a specific topic on a discussion board related to your industry and see how users respond. You could also start your own board if a topic you’re looking to encourage discussion on doesn’t have one yet.

These two platforms specifically encourage web chatter and post shares from users that care about the same topics.

Both also allow users to follow you or subscribe to your blogs or Reddit boards so your content could show up on their feeds. Here’s an example of what Reddit’s feed looks like.

Reddit feed

When someone publishes something on Reddit, other users can up-vote or down-vote it. Up-voting makes a post show up higher in Reddit feeds while down-voting does the opposite.

On Tumblr, the feeds are organized by time. However, a post can show up higher when it is re-shared by other users. When a user shares or interacts with your Tumblr content, they give it a note. When they reshare, they have the option to post a comment with the post that gets added to a thread.

Here’s an example of how notes and threads can be used to encourage discussion:

Tumblr music recommendation thread

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Both platforms allow you to share text posts, photos, and videos about your business, brand, or individual thoughts.
  • These platforms enable you to start conversations about a topic.
  • Both platforms allow linking to outside websites.

Cons

  • Longer blog posts might take time to craft or write.
  • Getting downvoted on Reddit or no reaction from Tumblr users means your posts may go unseen.
  • Your audience might be too niche or limited to just those on the specific platform you use.

A Few Things to Consider

Before you start logging in and setting up your accounts on a bunch of platforms, be sure to consider these factors:

  • How much time do you have to devote to strategizing around a social platform?
  • Do you have resources for creating graphics or videos?
  • Do your goals involve boosting brand awareness, or traffic and revenue?
  • Will you need an additional staff member to run this platform, or will it be easy to maintain?

Once you’re on a platform or two, be sure to stay in the know of how it’s changing and what marketers are doing. For a current outlook, check out our Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing.



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The 13 Best WordPress Calendar Plugins in 2019

A good calendar plugin is necessary for any company -- the more events and appointments your business requires, the more likely it is that you need a visual way to lay them out to avoid confusion.

But separating your calendars from the rest of your website or software is an ineffective way to run your business, especially since planning meetings through back-and-forth emails can waste a ton of your time. This is especially true of individual appointments, and large events.

Choosing the right calendar for your needs will make your company more productive and efficient when communicating with clients and potential customers. And, ultimately, a calendar plugin can free up your time so you can spend more of it improving your customer experience, conducting experiments, or testing other high-value activities to grow your business.

If your company uses a WordPress website, you're in luck -- there are plenty of calendar plugins you can use, and we've made a list of 13 here.

But before we dive in, let's explore the characteristics you'll want to find in any WordPress calendar plugin.

The Characteristics of the Best WordPress Calendar Plugins

The best calendar plugins in 2019 do several things:

  • Display your availability for client bookings or events.
  • Allow clients or groups to self-book in those free times.
  • Request and store customer data in a customer database for future use.
  • Record the event in your calendar.
  • Send confirmation notifications to the involved parties of the event's creation.
  • Send updates in the event changes.

It's also critical your calendar plugin includes important information such as the event time and date, how many people are involved, what equipment will be needed, who needs to be present, staff required, and other relevant logistics.

Next, let's take a look at some of the best WordPress calendar plugins in 2019 to help schedule your workflow and smooth out your clients' booking experience.

1. HubSpot Meetings

Price: Tiered pricing, free to $3,200 per month, depending on your needs

HubSpot Meetings is a standalone meeting scheduler, although it integrates with WordPress through the HubSpot WordPress plugin.

While the freemium version allows you to create a unique meetings link with your calendar and availability, the paid version lets you set up and embed a calendar on any website (including your WordPress website).

The real benefit of this tool is that it pipes the data and meetings into a free CRM, so you don't have to worry about stitching together data from multiple sources. When you have to wear many hats, that level of organization and seamless integration is a huge productivity benefit.

2. The Events Calendar

Price: Tiered pricing ranging from free to $299 per year

The Events Calendar plugin is designed to help any user plan large events. Events are displayed in SEO-friendly microformats, which eliminates the need to click on the event.

You can export your events to other relevant platforms. The plugin allows calendar view and list view for events. It's compatible with iCal, Google Maps, and Google Calendar. Search functions make finding the right event easy and intuitive -- even from your mobile device.

This calendar is ideal for venues that regularly host events, including bookstores, philanthropies, concert halls, cafes, and other public gathering places. It's also good for performers or artists on tour.

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3. Events Schedule

Price: $35 one-time fee

This mobile-friendly plugin is the perfect scheduling tool for people hosting conferences and other group gatherings. It's ideal if you need to translate for an international audience and is optimized for SEO purposes.

You can choose from five different styles of calendar and select how you want to filter the events you create -- including custom colors and design capabilities. Those who want a more active role in event management can edit, add, or delete events as needed in the Visual Schedule builder.

Compatible with WooCommerce, this plugin offers tons of integrations with outside tools too, such as other WordPress plugins and themes.

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4. MotoPress Timetable and Event Schedule Plugin

Price: Free

MotoPress Timetable and Event Schedule is a wonderful WordPress calendar plugin for spas, gyms, or other industries that rely on client bookings and mobile website traffic.

It has a color-coding system that allows you to classify and categorize event types, and shortcode makes it easy to embed on your website. Calendars can be edited for size, color, time zone, label, category. Additionally, language and filters can be applied to make the calendar searchable.

Multiple calendars on a page are easy to find as they're assigned an individual ID. Upcoming events are displayed via widget, which is crucial for encouraging attendance.

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5. Responsive Timetable

Price: $26

Responsive Timetable acts like many calendar plugins for WordPress in this list, but one of its main features is that it can display four events in the same time slot simultaneously, which makes this a good tool for conferences or breakout sessions where multiple events are happening at the same time.

Each event displays fields for price and reservations links, and there's no cap to the number of events you create. The calendar is visually customizable with the Live Editor tool, and shortcode is provided to embed calendars on your site. You have three design layouts to choose from and can filter as you need.

Responsive Timetable has a unique feature -- it allows a pop-up to appear on your site for your chosen upcoming event, which can help drive traffic. Alternatively, you can even customize the event pop-up for your brand's needs. Users can also download a PDF of the event details if they choose.

The plugin is optimized for SEO and mobile devices.

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6. Simple Calendar – Google Calendar Plugin

Price: Free

Simple Calendar is a solid choice for users who just need basic calendar functionality without all the special effects.

It integrates smoothly with Google Calendar, and all changes from Google Calendar will be synced with the calendar on your WordPress site. Several calendars can be combined into one if needed. Calendars automatically adjust to the local time zone and date of international users. Events are easy to display in list or calendar form, and they're easy to embed directly into your website or newsletter.

There's limited individual coding needed to be done, but you can customize things including category, color, and event tags. Their event tags are one of their strongest features. For more complex features, they have add-ons worth checking out.

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7. Event Calendar WD

Price: Prices range from free to $100 per year

Event Calendar WD is a fantastic plugin for those who need mobile-friendly and SEO-friendly calendars capable of showing recurring, multiple-day, and single-day events. The number of events created has no cap, so create as many as you need.

There are five different themes you can choose from, and each of them can be adjusted to the user's needs. Filters and headers can also be changed. More than 14 premium add-ons make this a Swiss Army knife of plugins, with various functionalities designed to tailor your website to your business.

Events Calendar WD integrates with Google Maps and lets you add categories, locations, tags, and videos to your event directly from your website. Events are easy to create and even easier to share.

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8. Event Organizer

Price: Approximately $52 for the personal plan, $105 for business, $157 for developers

Event Organizer is a strong calendar plugin option for users -- particularly, developers -- who need to create recurring and multi-day events using their calendar plugins. Paid add-ons are available as needed for extra functionality.

The software is compatible with these payment options:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • iDeal
  • Pro-Offline

Users can add, edit, or delete events from the backend administrative portion and translate calendars. The software defaults to deleting past events. Event Organizer offers customizable ticket booking templates for you to design, and the plugin includes three individual widgets in addition.

It's important to note -- when searching for it, spell "Organizer" like "Organiser", as its creators used the British English spelling.

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9. EventON

Price: $24

The EventON WordPress plugin helps you design calendar events but letting you select the address, time, and date. It's simple to promote your events -- this is probably the best plugin to do that.

Photos and Google Maps can be added to your events as well, and you can select the colors for your calendar to the rest of your site. EventON has different views, so if you want to see from day-to-day or month-to-month, you can.

The whole calendar is searchable, so finding the event in question shouldn't be difficult. If you want to pay more, you can buy the WooCommerce integration for ticket selling.

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10. All-in-One Event Calendar

Price: Tiered pricing, ranging from free to $99 per month

All-in-One Event Calendar is a good option for people wanting to sell tickets on their website. It allows you multiple views of your calendar -- by event, day, week, or month -- all of which you can easily filter. Google Maps is integrated and the plugin is SEO-optimized.

Once you fill out the initial form, the calendar creates an event. Events can include:

  • Tags
  • Categories
  • Contact info
  • Color codes
  • Dates
  • Times
  • Locations

All of these are gathered from the intake form. The plugin integrates with Outlook, iCal, and Google Calendar. It's worth checking out if you need to reach a large audience.

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11. My Calendar

Price: Free

This calendar plugin has some truly unique features. For instance, My Calendar is a developer's dream when is comes to creating custom calendars and templates.

Creating an event triggers an email notification to be sent to the participating parties, and the settings can be set to post your new event directly to Twitter as needed.

This is a good option for users who need to manage multiple sites and calendars. The main appeal is that the plugin enables many sites to host the same calendar, or one site to host many calendars, all through the same WordPress page. You can also display your calendars in a miniaturized version on your website.

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12. Modern Events Calendar

Price: Free to $39+ per month for the Pro version

The appeal of Modern Events Calendar is mostly that it doesn't require a ton of customizing to function well and look good. However, if you need a complicated ticketing support system, this may not be the one for you.

The plugin provides list and calendar views and well as a countdown. The free version lets customers book directly in your calendar for single and recurring events. There's no cap on when events have to end in the calendar. If you want to get fancy with your functionalities, invest in the Pro to get weather updates, show maps, and localize time zones.

This plugin works with Stripe and PayPal if you need to accept payment from customers.

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13. Stachethemes Event Calendar

Price: $35 one-time fee

Stachethemes Event Calendar is a mobile-optimized calendar with WooCommerce integrations that offers a single-page admin feature. It allows you to directly sell merchandise related to your events from the calendar event itself.

There's a quick auto-update feature and direct customer booking based on your availability.

Event booking options are integrated with WooCommerce, iCal, and ICS, and calendars are available in six different types of views. Every calendar is customizable with colors, fonts, and design.

Some calendar features include:

  • Easy to set up recurring payments
  • Easy to share on social networks
  • Works across multiple sites

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Ultimately, any one of the WordPress calendar plugins above would be a solid choice for your WordPress site, although some are better than others depending on your context and specific needs.

Aside from decreasing time wasted emailing back-and-forth to find workable dates, these plugins simplify the process and smooth out the day-to-day kinks.

Whichever you choose, just make sure it works best with your project management workflow. If you want to check out a free tool that's easy to test out, try HubSpot Meetings.



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