Why can’t small businesses innovate?

It would only stand to reason that a smaller, more agile company should be best positioned to create the most innovative ideas. Well…this isn’t necessarily so. Absent several key ingredients, such as money for R & D, available staff, and a lack of vision that big companies can make happen, small businesses have discovered that their challenge lies in learning to innovate in spite of, and sometimes because of these facts. Research conducted recently by Erik Hurst and Benjamin Wild Pugsley of the University of Chicago called “What do Small Businesses Do?” found that fewer than 50 percent of new business startups were born from a “new idea”. Furthermore, they found that most of these new businesses are essentially more of the same, offering an additional coffee shop, bakery or tax service to a marketplace full of these services. Not much innovation, greater competition, and little chance at exponential growth.

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So how does a small business get from the morass of just another business to one that is offering new and exciting services and products people are clamoring to try?

4 Strategies for developing a culture of innovation in your business!

  • Reward and encourage innovation – Give your staff perks and tangible rewards for coming up with and helping to implement new and innovative initiatives. Creating some enthusiasm around finding new and better ways to run your business ought to benefit them as well.
  • Know what your market wants and needs – Keep your finger on the pulse of current trends and ideas in your market. Attempt to not only keep up, but be on the leading edge, which is only possible if you are watching and listening!
  • Be sure to connect with your existing customers – Listening and taking into serious thought what your customers say about not only your business and products, but about what their wish list contains is vital in helping to recognise a direction you may want to explore. Keep the conversation focused on what are the customer’s problems, and use those to help fashion solutions!
  • Be open to new ideas – Don’t be reluctant to try something totally new. A great demonstration of this in action is Behance.net, a Web-based platform for creative works, where artists can display their work regardless of their resumes, seeking to turn more ideas into reality.

Why You Should Use Instagram in Your Small Business

Marketers looking for a way to engage and why you should use intagram in small businessgrow their reach would be well advised to look at the meteoric growth and popularity of Instagram, a free online photo sharing and social network platform acquired by Facebook in 2012. Instagram allows members users to upload, edit and share photos with other members through the Instagram website, email, and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare and Flickr. On Instagram, you can follow other users’ photo streams, be followed back by those users, and search for friends by name or find any friends that may have previously connected to you on other social networks.

Some just silly numbers!

Okay, just how popular has Instagram become since its founding in 2010? Here are 7 statistics that tell the story:

  1. Instagram has 100 million monthly active users. (Instagram)
  2. 40 million photos are posted per day. (Instagram)
  3. 28 percent of U.S. Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram. (Pew)
  4. 98 percent of Instagram photos posted by top brands are now shared to Facebook. (Simply Measured)
  5. 59 percent of Interbrand’s top 100 brands are on Instagram. (SimplyMeasured)
  6. There are 8,500 likes per second on Instagram. (Instagram)
  7. 1,000 comments are made per second. (Instagram)

How can your company use Instagram?

Understanding that individuals respond to sites like Instagram on an emotional level, small businesses taking the time to show what is important to the brand and to the core target customer are just where they would like to be. Smart business use Instagram as a snapshot into their company, and put a personal face to their small business and enrich relationships while doing so.

Private Picassos, a children’s art studio in New York City, found that by using Instagram to document their student’s progress, has resulted in parents commenting and sharing the photos, increasing their business. “I don’t do any paid advertising, so it’s a way to encourage your client to do the marketing for you,” director Valeen Parubchenko says.

Utilising the New Facebook Graph Search

Facebook is at it again, and this time it’s called Facebook Graph Search. It is their endeavor to sway their search results from a keyword-based model like Google’s, to one where Facebook can utilize its greatest asset, the social interplay between all its users. Still rolling out, Graph Search might not be available to you yet, (still only available in the US, and there’s a waiting list) but it’s coming sooner than you think. And if you have a business that relies on Facebook at all, you need to understand how this could benefit you.

Utilizing the New Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph search – What is it?

Facebook Graph Search is a search model where Facebook moves their search results from a model based on keywords, to one where it can use arguably its most valuable asset, the social data of all its users. You will see results based upon what your social spheres like, and view. As an example, your search will return with people that share your interests, websites, photos and videos they’ve liked or visited, as well as other connections you may share. These results are unique to you, since they are based solely off yours and your friend’s interests.

How can you make full use of Facebook Graph search in your marketing?

One of the key takeaways people appear to be gleaning from the release of Graph Search is that it goes a long way towards removing pages that are trying to game the system. Fake Likes and fans originating from strange locations out of your common spheres, will likely be viewed with some skepticism. So bid farewell to the “I will get you 30,000 Facebook Likes” industry, where often people found all kinds of new friends and fans from Bangladesh!

Rather, this appears that it’s going to significantly benefit businesses making a real attempt at engaging with social media. Some ways you can be ready for Facebook Graph Search are to:

  • Be sure your business page profile is completely filled out, so that users can find you.
  • Make certain to engage, not sell your visitors.
  • Be careful of what is posted online, especially on Facebook itself, as this can come back to embarrass your business in a big way!

Don’t Dis Design – It Matters!

So you don’t think design plays a part in first impressions? Think again! A study by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2012 showed that it takes two-tenths of a second to form a first impression, give or take a nanosecond.

This makes it ever more important, as the ability to obtain good design is proliferating, to ensure that we are doing all we can to grab that favorable awareness. This really is vital for small business, as a poor design will often lead to trust issues, a key factor for smaller enterprises attempting to build their brand.

dont-dis-design

How can we promote good design?

The first place to start is with some thought. Discovering how you would like to present your brand and products is largely influenced in the planning stage. That very same study revealed that your logo has the lion’s share of a visitor’s attention, with images and social interaction following closely on its heels.

In a nutshell, the visual elements matter! So now that you have the data, you have no excuse. I mean you really don’t, because expense is not really a viable excuse for inaction. Crowdsourcing sites like 99Designs, CrowdSpring and others have made what was in the not so distant past a very expensive proposition, into a very achievable endeavor.

How can you expect to benefit?

The benefits of good design are more plentiful and often less obvious than you may think at first. While a killer look for your website and graphics is a no-brainer, other elements like product packaging, advertising, and even infographics are shared, Pinned and ReTweeted from your pages.

This can have a substantial effect on your site’s reach, and client base. Moreover, the good feelings that an exceptional design impart may be intangible, but not when you watch your site’s traffic increase as a result of it! Take a cold hard look at your design elements today!

10 Ways to Get More Customers to Open Your Emails

Are your email open rates a source of embarrassment? Taking action to increase them is a lot easier to do than you may think. According to Epsilon.com, email open rates sport an industry average of around 27.4 percent, with wide variances for markets. Understanding your email open rates and the way to improve them ought to be high on your to-do list!

customers-in-email

So without further fanfare, here’s our down and dirty 10 best tips for bettering your email open rates.

  1. Create something worth reading – No doubt, the most effective way to have your email opened is to write something your email list can’t wait to get more of.
  2. Length & timing – We’re all very busy, and lengthy emails that ramble and fail to get to the point are seldom looked forward to. Likewise, not making use of optimum sending times doesn’t help.
  3. Build great subject lines – This is the biggest aspect in whether or not your email gets opened. Take the time to write great subject lines.
  4. Use your first line effectively – Closely connected is the first line, part of which is visible in their inbox. This too is valuable real estate, and don’t permit yours to be occupied with stuff like “If you don’t see any images in this message…”
  5. Address their needs and concerns – Solve problems and offer solutions.
  6. Offer deals and savings – Everyone wants a great deal, and email is an excellent way to communicate any deals or specials your company is offering.
  7. Be the authority – We always have something to learn, and if you are able to position yourself as someone who offers something valuable for your readers, your open rates will flourish.
  8. Try and be entertaining – Don’t be boring! Use humor, wit, and a little bit of controversy every now and then, but be careful not to offend at the same time.
  9. Make your “From” line recognizable – Having your company name or the person who is branded as the sender imparts trust.
  10. Be sure and resend your unopened email – Quite simple to do, resending your unopened email is a simple way to raise your open rates.

Are You Making Any of These Social Media Errors?

Social media marketing is usually a terrific way to engage, find and sell new clients on your company, but only if you aren’t prone to making it harder on yourself. Social media blunders are incredibly easy to step into, and really messy to get away from. Social media is very important to do correctly! Creotivo.com reports that a full 74 percent of brand marketers saw an increased web traffic after putting in a mere 6 hours each week on social media, while a whopping 83 percent have actually abandoned a purchase after a negative customer service experience.

social-media-errors

So to help you ward off the mistakes that may be looming in your social media marketing, below are five social media mistakes to be sure to avoid!

  1. Not engaging with your audience – Make sure you are actively engaging your social media audience. Ask questions, conduct polls, share funny stories (hopefully somewhat relevant) and ask their thoughts: they’ll gladly give them, and you’ll be far wiser and nearer to your goals in a number of ways.
  2. Boring, unexciting content – If you can’t work up any excitement about your brand, you won’t get other people to, either. Impart passion for your brand, excitement about what you’re doing, and you’ll find this can be contagious. Generating a buzz about your business starts with you!
  3. Constant promotion – Nobody wants to be constantly pitched to, and there is no place this is more true than in social media. Once you’ve developed a relationship and trust, it’s going to be far easier to insert the sporadic (soft) selling message.
  4. Not responding to your customers – There is no quicker way to ruin whatever goodwill and respect you’ve developed in your brand than to ignore your customers. It’s way too easy to completely miss customers and prospects posting their concerns, questions or complaints on these very platforms! Don’t be that guy!
  5. No coherent social media strategy – Not having, or not knowing why, you’re using social media is a recipe for floundering, and wasting a lot of time and money. Moreover, not every company is well-suited to every platform, so give this some thought.

We’ll leave you with a link to a great demonstration of what NOT to do! In an example that’s being shared widely, (much to their chagrin) the food site Epicurious. After the recent Boston marathon bombing, they sent out these unfortunate tweets.