The 10 Customer Service Trends for 2010 | Small Business Trends

December 28, 2009

From the author of “BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World” we thought we’d share an excellent article on customer service trends for the coming year. Simply click the link below. Happy New Year and here’s wishing you great customer service success in 2010!

The 10 Customer Service Trends for 2010 | Small Business Trends.

Social Media 101: Website basics for the New Year

December 23, 2009

Because all of your social media activity starts – and ends – with your website, that’s the place we’ll start in Part II of our Social Media 101 series. Your website is the foundation of your social media program.

Assuming that you have a website (and, if you don’t you need to get one, fast!) there are several questions you should ask yourself right now:

  1. What is your website’s primary function? Some websites – ecommerce sites – are set up to make sales through automation. Others exist to offer more information and drive sales via phone, email or walk-ins to the brick and mortar site. In order to measure how effectively your website is performing, you need to establish goals to measure against. For example, perhaps you want your ecommerce site to generate 10 sales per week. Or, your informational site to attract five phone calls or email inquiries per week or maybe to have 20 coupons downloaded. The numbers are up to you, but you need to set those goals.
  2. How is your website performing? Now that you’ve set some measurable goals, how is your website standing up against them? If you’re not making enough ecommerce sales, is it your product or is it your marketing? If the phone isn’t ringing, is it what you’ve got to sell or the way you’re selling it? On an ecommerce site, you might change up your product mix – or even your pricing – and see if the outcome changes. Otherwise, it’s time to make sure it’s not your site.
  3. Is your site user friendly? According to Dana Meek, a website designer with Wizbee.com business Mighty Creative, to design a user-friendly site, you need to think like your target customer. “Think about what they want to find most as well as what you want them to find. Figure that into your navigation bar so they see it right away.” One way to see what customers want most is to use analytics. If you manage your own site, you should be able to see what pages received the most views. If your site is managed elsewhere, ask your Webmaster for a monthly report or, sign up for free Google Analytics and you can get your own site reports. Dina Meek, a social media consultant with Mighty Creative says “ watch your reports for a few months to determine trends. Then, make any necessary changes to your navigation to capitalize on those trends and improve your overall results.”
  4. Is your website visible? Search engines are always evolving and it’s important to keep up with what they look for in order to connect potential customers to your website. Some of the ways to make your site more visible to search engines include the use of keywords, title tags and links. If you manage your own website, you can handle these upgrades on your own; otherwise, you should schedule a meeting with your Webmaster to be sure that the keywords and tags that you used to build or last update your site are still relevant. In our next Social Media 101 article, we’ll talk about Search Engine Optimization, so stay tuned!

Five important things to do before you pop the cork

December 2, 2009

It’s that time of year when most businesses are thinking about the company Christmas party, sending out holiday greetings and taking a little time off to spend with the family. But for business owners – particularly if you are on a calendar fiscal year – there are a few other items you need to pay attention to before you bid farewell to 2009.

  1. Call your accountant – If you’re lucky and have had a good year, he may instruct you to make purchases, like upgrading technologies, or to make charitable donations so you’re not left with too much taxable cash. It certainly makes sense just to check in to see if there are any financial loose ends that need shoring up. This is also a great time to make an appointment with your financial advisor for January to review insurance policies, retirement funds, etc.
  1. Analyze vendor contractsSmall business guru Ty Freyvogel suggests you review your contracts and ask important questions such as. Are we getting optimum pricing based on how much business we’re doing together? Is the relationship mutually beneficial? Now’s the time to make either make necessary changes or thank the vendors your happy with.
  1. Review your marketing plan – Ideally, you should have done this already, but if not give it a good once over now. What expenditures gave you the best return on investment? How can you incorporate social media, which is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds, into your overall strategy? In the rapidly evolving world of marketing, it doesn’t hurt to take one more look at your 2010 plan as this year draws to a close.
  1. Talk to employeesThe Associated Press reports that especially in difficult economic times it’s important to check in with workers. Let them know where you see the company headed in the coming year and pay attention to the feedback they give you; you may hear of issues you were unaware of that will help as you move forward into a new year.
  1. Dust off the business plan – Again, it might be best to do this at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but it’s never too late to check the map. Your business plan is the most important document you have in terms of guiding your company to success. So at the very least, review the executive summary section and make sure you’re either still on course, or well positioned to change course if necessary in the coming year.

Social Media 101: Why it makes so much sense

November 23, 2009

No doubt you’ve heard the terms “social media” or “social networking” by now. You may even have a profile on Facebook, and think you might have a grasp of what Twitter is. But as a business, are you using any of these tools? If your answer is no, you may be making a big mistake.

Social Media is the newest marketing “estate” built on the cornerstones of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube (MySpace, while very hot with the under 35 set for a time, has been surpassed by Facebook and will, in the coming months, be converted to an all-entertainment interface). It’s a big new world and not one that can be discussed in a single article. So the Wizbee Word will, over the course of a series of posts, break this subject – so important to the way you will market as the future unfolds – down into digestible parts.

First and foremost, particularly for small businesses, it’s FREE (or at the very least, far more affordable than most traditional media). Consider this, as reported by Socialnomics, a blog following Social Media trends: Gary Vaynerchuk grew his families winery business from $4 million to $50 million using social media. Using more traditional media Vaynerchuk found that $15,000 in direct mail gained him 200 new customers and $7,500 in billboards brought in 300 new customers. But spending nothing on Twitter attracted an astounding 1,800 new customers.

Nothing is more viral than Social Media. The term “viral” refers to the ability to pass something along over and over. So if you post something on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, everyone who sees and likes it can pass it along to all of the people in their network with the click of a button. Another example from the Socialnomics report: Naked Pizza, a New Orleans Pizzeria that specializes in healthy pies, set a one-day sales record using Social Media. In fact 68% of their sales came from people “calling in from Twitter.” And 85% of their new customers were from Twitter. Those new customers most likely came from existing customers, already following Naked Pizza on Twitter, who shared the sales message with all of their networks.

Anyone can do it. If you want to produce a television commercial, radio spot or print ad, you’ll need an army of specialists to get the job done. But with Social Media, just a little training and spare time allows you to handle the job yourself. Most account set-up is easy, there’s a wealth of information on the web on how to achieve the greatest results and, as long as you have decent typing skills, you can keep your Social Media sites up to date. What Social Media does cost is time. Either you need to take the time to figure it out and manage it, or hire an expert to do it for you. Some will even train you and your employees so that one upfront expenditure can be amortized over months of actual use.

The bottom line is, as you finalize your marketing plans for the coming year, don’t overlook a new media direction having an incredible impact on businesses that know how to work it. Social Media is here – to stay. Need a Social Media consultant? Wizbee.com can make recommendations from among member businesses.

Here’s the deal – special pricing is what shoppers want most

November 12, 2009

Lately, in both our newsletter and here at the Wizbee Word, we’ve covered consumer trends such as the resurgence in popularity of coupons and the re-emergence of more traditional holiday themes as a fall-out of tough economic times. So it should come as no surprise that what consumers value most from their online interaction with brands is getting a great deal.

A 2009 report from major digital ad agency Razorfish examining consumers’ digital habits and attitudes suggests that while marketers may use social networks in particular – like Facebook and Twitter – to engage customers in conversation, what customers really want is a special offer. As reported in MediaPost, Garrick Schmitt, Razorfish group vice president of experience planning and editor of the study, says, “What we’re finding is that with Facebook and Twitter, marketers are assuming some deeper dialogue, but what’s really going on is – people want deals.”

Smart brands have made the connection and have amassed huge followings by giving consumers what they want. For example, Starbucks, with nearly five million Facebook fans, offers coupons for free pastries and ice cream. On Twitter, Whole Foods boasts more than 1.5 million followers who are treated to posts about weekly specials and shopping tips.

Wizbee.com businesses would do well to use social media to present deals to potential customers. Open a Twitter account (they’re free) and start promoting special offers. Create a free Facebook fan page and tell consumers to mention it in order to get a special discount when making a purchase. Perhaps the easiest way to begin pushing discounts online is through your Wizbee.com listing. You can create numerous “deals” and even printable coupons for customers to redeem at your business. And, in the near future, Wizbee.com will make it even easier for shoppers to find your deals – a “Deals” button on Wizbee’s home page will direct visitors to one onsite location where all Wizbee.com deals from throughout the site will appear.

Whether you choose to create special offers through your social media programs or simply through your Wizbee.com listing, don’t ignore what customers really want in an online relationship with your brand – a deal. If you need help with social media, contact us and we can recommend some partners who offer special deals just for fellow Wizbee.com businesses.

Online Video Captures Customers’ Attention

November 4, 2009

While there has been a lot of talk about social media – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like – online video continues to capture the attention of net surfers at an astounding rate. In fact, in a post quoting Comscore, a digital marketing intelligence aggregator, Reelseo.com reported that 84 percent of Americans online viewed video. And they averaged about 10 hours a month doing it.

A majority of the 26 billion views in Comscore’s September analysis went to YouTube. With content categories ranging from “Autos & Vehicles” to “Nonprofits & Activism”, YouTube visitors have a plethora of subjects to peruse. And, according to Reelseo’s report, the average run time for an online video is 3.8 minutes, something video blogger Jeremy Scott calls an “eternity” on the web.

Big brands are taking notice. The New York Times reports that a recent redesign of CNN.com “will often include a video player front and center, reflecting the growing popularity of online video.” The article quotes K. C. Estenson, the general manager of CNN.com as saying “it is a revolution for us.”

Search giant Yahoo.com recently revamped it’s website programming to include more video as well. A recent Variety report quoted Yahoo VP of Media Jimmy Pitaro saying “video is driving a lot of engagement at our site and across the Internet.”   The article goes on to say that media companies of all shapes and sizes are “ramping up their online video in a bid to attract, and hold onto, visitors.”

What can you do to take advantage of this growing trend toward web video viewing? If you have developed a sales video, be sure it’s featured on your website. You can also upload it to YouTube under the appropriate category and look for it to drive traffic back to your website. As a Wizbee.com business, you have the opportunity to upload video to your listing – use it. Its just another way we stay ahead of the trends that help you do better business.

If you need help producing a video, there are software packages that allow you to shoot video, then upload and edit it on your computer. Or contact us at info@wizbee.com and we can recommend some local professionals to make it happen for you.

Online Reviews and Coupons Push Shoppers’ Buttons

October 13, 2009

It’s new meets old as online shoppers use a new medium and an old savings tactic to make the most informed, value-conscious choices in today’s soft economy. In a November 2008 study conducted by the Nielson company as reported by Marketwire, “78 percent of adult online consumers made a purchase over the Web in the previous six months.” Clearly consumers are not only surfing the ‘net they’re buying as well. And two of the most popular motivators are online reviews and downloadable coupons.

Brandweek in a September 2009 article quoted a report from its e-tailing group along with social media consultancy Ripple6 that “finds that shoppers buying products on the Internet are influenced both by online social networking sites and face-to-face conversations with friends. But when it comes to whose opinions influence the shoppers, strangers have as much if not more impact than friends.” Which means that potential customers consider a review of your product or service by anyone who has experience with it valuable. The survey analysts concluded that what consumers really want is a trusted online community within which they can gather purchasing information.

Additionally, coupons – that staple of savings in decades past – are making a comeback in a big way. In a May 2009 statement from parent company Cox Target Media, while “direct mail spending may fall to fourth place behind the Internet, broadcast TV and newspapers…Valpak® sales have remained steady compared to 2008 – and that’s a tremendous accomplishment in this economy.” Valpak mails locally targeted coupon packets.

Search engine behemoth Yahoo! has also recently entered the coupon business. In a separate article Brandweek reports “according to (Yahoo!) company research, searches for the term “printable coupons” are up 50 percent this year compared to the same time in 2008 and up 135 percent compared to 2007.”

All of which is excellent news for Wizbee.com businesses. Launched in August, 2009, Wizbee.com was the very first directory service offering both reviews and downloadable coupons on our locally focused website. And, unlike massive sites that require fairly advanced search skills to find both coupons and reviews for your city (if your city is featured), Wizbee.com is extremely user friendly and more locally focused.

So Wizbee.com businesses, pat yourselves on the back for being on the forefront of a new trend in sales and marketing. And Wizbee.com shoppers, congratulations on making a very smart decision in how you shop – your online peers would highly approve.