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5 Reasons Greeting Cards Can Make Your Business Stand Out

Do you engage in greeting card marketing? If not, you might be missing a golden opportunity to foster long-term customer loyalty and land immediate sales. Here are five reasons to send greeting cards to market your business.

1. Send greeting cards to express gratitude

Know what customers appreciate? Companies that appreciate their business. Greeting cards can be an integral part of a comprehensive customer service commitment. Not only should your company’s representatives and support team be friendly and helpful, you should thank your customers for choosing your company instead of your competitors. Be sincere, and customers will remember you when it’s time to buy again.

2. Make a personal connection

If possible, include a handwritten note or a signature, at least, in your greeting card. If that’s not possible, employ a blue script. Even though customers obviously know the difference, a note that looks as though it was handwritten still has impact. Remember that customers buy from people, not companies, so making a personal connection can be a great way to reinforce the idea of a long-standing business relationship.

3. Greeting cards make customers feel special

Customers love companies that make them feel special and welcome. An unexpected greeting carddoes both of those things – and the more personalized your greeting cards, the greater impact they have. When your customers feel special, they’ll not only want to do business with you, they’ll also help you market your business by telling their friends and family members about you. And that kind of word-of-mouth marketing is priceless.

4. Land immediate sales

Though greeting cards should be sent for the sake of expressing gratitude, they can also drum up additional sales by promoting a special offer. Frame your offer as a gift, given only to your best customers. You might, for example, send a greeting cardthat thanks your customers, and then present a 25 percent discount coupon gift for choosing you. This is a powerful marketing strategy that will undoubtedly lead to follow-up sales you would have never otherwise received.

5. Greeting cards foster long-term loyalty

When you thank your customers, make personal connections and make customers feel special, they’ll not only want to do business with you – they’ll want to be a part of your company. This isn’t to say they’ll want to work for you; rather, it means your customers will begin to identify your brand as part of who they are. Your company will become not a purchasing decision, but a lifestyle choice, and one they’ll engage in enthusiastically. All of this builds to long-term loyalty that leads to happy customers and a lifetime of sales.

Do you send greeting cards to your customers?

Gmail gives email marketers a second chance

Amit Singhal, SVP of Google Search announced that Gmail  is testing a new feature in which Gmail.com users who go to Google to do a search, may see their own received emails displayed on the search results page. How would this work? Well Google will simply take the search query, use it to query the web as usual, but then also query your gmail inbox. If a marketer sent you an opt-in email newsletter on the topic of “social media marketing tools”, and you then go to Google to search something similar to “social media marketing tools”, you’ll see on the right side of the Google search results page are displayed some search results from your own gmail inbox, including that email newsletter.
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For marketers, this could be really cool in that even if your gmail subscriber didn’t do much of anything with your email newsletter, your subscriber might see your newsletter show up on their own search results page.
I can see how this could be useful to the user as well. In my own case, I often archive a lot of emails that I receive in gmail. For example, I might have archived an opt-in email from Groupon which had a discount to that hip, funky, new coffee house in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. I may not be ready to use it now, but if two weeks from now I do a Google search for just such a place, I might see that Groupon email pop up in my search results.

Reopening the opt-in email newsletter may also boost your email sending reputation by the simple fact that the recipient is engaging with it again. Engagement is a critical factor in your ability to get email marketing messages into the inbox.

Gmail shows you search results from your own email account

More information can be found on Google’s blog. If you’d like to try it out, Google is allowing some gmail users to opt-in to the trial period of this feature.

How Foursquare Helps Small Businesses Promote Conferences

Foursquare is a location-based social network that enables users to check in at venues.  Currently boasting over 20 million users  – a million of which are businesses – it’s the most up-and-coming and innovative social media site to exert its presence on the web.

Through its unique combination of engaging people with fun social media alongside viral messaging and enticing incentives, it’s the ideal tool for increasing business traffic, raising brand awareness, generating engagement, and marketing your company.

The concept is simple: users check in at venues via a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application.  They’re then rewarded points and, in some circumstances, badges to acknowledge certain activities and on-going interaction.

Foursquare is unparalleled in its scope for connecting people to places. This means it can pack a particularly herculean punch when it comes to promoting your next meeting or conference.

Drive Attendance

Foursquare has two badges that are rewarded to users who check in, and existing badges can also be used to increase awareness and drive attendance to a conference.

For example, if fifty people check in, a Swarm Badge is unlocked, if 250 all check in the same venue and time period, a Super Swam Badge is unlocked.  When promoting events where there’s the possibility of obtaining a badge, people will generally promote to all their peers which, in turn, encourages more people to check in to secure the badge award.

A Variety Of Venues

When you enter all the information about your conference on Foursquare (not forgetting the Twitter name of your event), you can create different venues if your conference is hosting a series of events. For example, you can create a venue for the opening night reception and another for the breakfast award ceremony, or whatever categories the venues fall in to.

Tips And Information In Real Time

The Shout and Ping functions let you send a message en masse to other users and friends.  It’s a great tool that allows you to make announcements, all of which can be received through mobile applications.  There’s also a function that enables you to post up instructions or tips on the actual venue’s page.

Gathering Demographic And Business Data

As manager, venue owner, or the agent promoting the event and conference venue, you’re able to claim the ownership, the result of which allows you to view and utilize the valuable and robust back-end analytic package that’s associated with each site.

For example, you can find out useful information such as who’s checked in and the frequency they’ve done so, their Twitter username (if it’s in the public domain), whether they’re male or female, along with any suggestions or comments they’ve made about the site.

VIP Treatment

You can always add ideas, hints and tips to your events. For example, you might want to say, ‘Get 4 friends on Twitter to mention #EVENTNAME and tag you and you will receive entry to our VIP reception.’ Everyone love some VIP pampering, so that’s guaranteed to generate a buzz.

Publicise! Publicise! Publicise!

There’s no such thing as too much publicity. Make sure your attendees know how to check into your events or conference on Foursquare when they arrive; this can be included when you confirm their registration, in follow-up emails, and on social networks they use, such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter.

And if you’re concerned they might not know how to use the service, you’ve got the fantastic option of creating a sort video, demonstrating how to use Foursquare, and posting a link for your attendees.  Again, it’s a great way of letting them know they receive prizes, upgrades, and VIP entry, or even becoming the ‘mayor’ of the event (the person who checks into the venue the most times).

Vital Feedback
When the conference is over, make sure you go back to your Foursquare page to see how many people checked in, if any hints or tips were left on the venue page, or if anyone took advantage of the check in promotion.

In a nutshell then, the key factors and feedback that could help shape and influence the social media marketing for your next meeting or conference – what worked, what didn’t, and possible ways you could improve next time.

When it comes to social media platforms there’s more out there than just Twitter and Facebook.  The constantly shifting and organic nature of social media necessitates every business has its finger on the communication and marketing pulse.  An undeniably instrumental tool that not only increases awareness of your meetings and conferences,  but also gives the attendees the power to market the event for you.

Has your business had any experience of using Foursquare, and what do you think of it? Share your thoughts and comments below.

WordPress Websites for Small Business

Let Thought Reach set up and host your WordPress website for you. Leave all the headaches to us. You should spend time running your small business, not messing around with all this website building hoo-ha.

“The Simple” – a WordPress Website Package for Small Business

Advice for Inventors with New Product Ideas

Few things are as gratifying as seeing an idea through to its fruition.  Envisioning an invention and then creating the actual working item is what inventors do.  Yet getting from the initial spark to the concrete invention takes work and a surprising amount of know-how.  From patents to prototypes, there are often many steps to realizing one’s early idea.  If you have a great idea for a new invention, the following tips can help you transform your idea into a reality.

Consult a Firm that Specializes in Intellectual Property

For inventors that may be new to the patent process, consulting a firm that specializes in helping inventors protect their ideas and reach prototype stage can be a helpful and safe option.  Not only can this type of business provide assistance with the often-complex patent process, they can provide inventors with the professional advice needed for every step of the way including the design phase and the prototype manufacturing process.  Their expertise is based on work with a myriad of inventors; moreover, they can be trusted as inventor consultants and provide the professional insights that many inventors need to reach their end goal.

Check Out the Market

Once the patent process is rolling along, inventors may wish to spend some time researching the market.  It’s important to understand the costs of manufacturing your invention so that you can attach a final cost to the item when it reaches product stage.  Consider the type of consumer the invention is geared for.  Is this a demographic that will readily pay your asking price?  Understanding the marketability of your item requires data analysis.  Your consulting firm may also have advice on this front for engaging professionals who know how to approach market research.

Make a Prototype

A working example of the invention is desirable for inventors who want to get their idea into production with a manufacturer.  The prototype is an important selling tool that can attract the required investment that may be needed to foster a new product launch.  For many inventors, this is an important finale–the moment when their dream becomes reality.  By working with a consultant, inventors can safeguard their idea with patent protections while continuing with their design process.  With expert guidance, an invention can be transformed into a viable product.  Therefore, the most helpful advice for an inventor is to seek professional guidance to streamline their entire product production experience.

Starting a Customer Loyalty Program for Your Small Business

You’ve heard it said a million times – it’s much cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. That’s great and it’s one of those things people like to spout off at business meetings, but what are you actually doing to keep your customers loyal? What are you doing to get them to spend more money?

Hopefully, you’re already covering the basics, like providing great service and a memorable customer experience, delivering products and services that exceed expectations, and focusing on building relationships with customers. These things are all important, but here’s the truth – they might not be enough.

The fact is that you have more competition than ever before. Yes, you have your competitors to worry about, but you also have businesses outside your niche to worry about. Your customers have more entities vying for their money, and if you want them to keep spending their money on your products and services, you need to give them an extra incentive to do so.

That’s where customer rewards cards come into play.

For decades, customer loyalty programs have been used by businesses of all sizes to reward customers and to keep them coming back. Ever gotten a punch card at a sandwich shop? For every certain number of sandwiches you buy, the shop gives you a free sandwich. It’s a pretty simple concept, and it works.

Airlines use customer rewards cards too. For each flight you book, you accrue a certain number of miles or points on your card. As those points tally up, you can spend them on future flights. (Factoid: American Airlines created the very first frequent flyer program back in the early 1980s.)

Nowadays, businesses of all sizes and in just about every industry are using customer rewards program to improve customer loyalty and to make more sales. From Best Buy to Amazon to the frozen yogurt shop down the street, companies are finding success with these rewards programs.

In fact, companies now spend over $2 billion each year on loyalty programs. Furthermore, the average consumer is a member of about 18 different customer rewards programs.

Starting a Customer Loyalty Program for Your Small Business

When you see the benefits of offering a customer rewards card—such as improving customer retention, increasing sales, and even attracting new customers—it seems like a no-brainer to do this for your small business. And the truth is that your business probably does stand to gain a lot by launching a customer loyalty program. However, it’s important to realize that printing up some customer rewards cards and starting a loyalty program isn’t a guarantee of success on its own.

The fact is that a lot of customer loyalty programs fail. Businesses fail to communicate on a regular basis with rewards members; they make it hard for customers to understand the program or to claim their rewards; the rewards they offer aren’t enticing enough to keep customers coming back; they offer too big of rewards that cut into their profits; they have no strategy or goals for their program…the list of reasons for failure could go on and on.

So, how can you make sure your small business gets the most out of a rewards card program?

  • Set goals—What exactly do you want to get from your loyalty program? Be specific. For example, you might want to increase sales by 10%. Or you might want to improve customer retention by 25%. Setting clear goals will help you track the performance of your program so you can know if it’s working or not.
  • Devote the time to make your loyalty program work—You can’t just throw together a customer loyalty program and then forget about it. You need to spend time researching your customers, exploring different options for your loyalty program, and testing out different variations of the loyalty program. All of these things take time.
  • Communicate with members—Don’t just hand your customers a rewards card and disappear. One recent study found that 85% of loyalty program members hadn’t heard a single word from the companies since signing up for their programs. You must stay in contact with your customers. Educate them about your rewards program. Send them special offers. Ask for their feedback. It’s all about building relationships!
  • Make your loyalty program unique—With so many businesses offering customer rewards programs these days, you really need to focus on finding ways to make your program unique. Find a way to make your loyalty program memorable so customers will have a reason to go out of their way to do business with you. It must offer advantages over your competition.
  • Promote the program—Make sure your customers actually know about your program, and better yet, don’t let them forget about it. For example, one easy way to promote your customer loyalty program is to give your customers actual plastic customer rewards cards to keep in their wallet or on their keychain. This legitimizes your program and it helps your business earn mindshare with your customers. Buying an ID card printer system to print your own high quality customer rewards cards could be a smart investment for your company.

With careful planning, a customer loyalty program could yield some powerful results for your small business.

Emerging Social Media Factors that Will Affect the Business of Insurance

Technology is progressing at a mind-boggling rate. We all know this, we see it all around us, in every field imaginable technological innovations have caused life to become simpler and yet more complicated (a pretty paradox, I know) than ever before, and this isn’t more apparent in any field as it is in communication technologies. PCs, Laptops, tablets, Smartphones, multi-core processors and RAM chips so tiny and yet so powerful that you can carry a phone around in your pocket which packs a harder punch than your average PC from 6-7 years ago. Don’t even get me started on 3G, 4G, and even veiled references to a 5G! Wi-Fi, Satellite broadband, cable broadband, and Edge, it’s all super-fast, uber-cool and hard to understand if you’re from an older generation.

That age disparity is further compounded at the mention of social media. Facebook (FB), YouTube, and Twitter are pretty much mainstream, and LinkedIn is becoming increasingly popular in professional circles, with the age spectrum of users very wide as well. Move on from the conventional forms of social media and into the more niche ones like Instagram, Tumblr, FourSquare, Yelp, Google+, Flickr, and the even less mainstream world of memes and DeviantArt however, and most people will be lost, unless they grow up with a PC and got their first mobile phone in their early teens. See what I mean when I say simpler yet more complicated?

So what does this have to do with insurance? Quite a lot as you’ll soon see …

Insurance, social media and the consumer

While FB can be used to tell your friends how great your holidays were, it can also be used to tell your friends how bad the customer service at a big financial and insurance MNC was. Social media has taken the concept of word-of-mouth, and blown it completely out of proportion. While this poses great risks for business big and small, it is also being seen as a great opportunity to connect on a deeper and more substantial level with potential and existing consumers, and maximizing customer satisfaction, which in turn maximizes profits.

Talking about insurance specifically, on the flip side, for the customers’ social media have strengthened their hand to no end.

  • Access to information. With the advent of the internet and mobile access to it, customers can now reach out and pull up information on various policies, compare prices and even look at a company’s financial capability before they make a decision regarding which company and policy to invest in.
  • Collective bargaining. Business owners big and small and pool together through social media and buy insurance as a collective so that they can protect themselves with a multilayered policy that covers more risks and is relatively cheaper as it’s purchased as a group.
  • Reviews and opinion. If a customer has enjoyed a really good experience or faced a particularly bad one regarding an insurance policy or filing a claim or anything else related to it, there’s a high probability of it finding its way on the internet. Websites and forums dedicated to product review, blogs, and your average tweet or Facebook status could all be used to praise or criticize a company, so the impact of a firm action is squarer in the public eye than even before, which means there’s lesser room to maneuver in terms of transgressions.
  • Accessibility to resources. Consumers are demanding complete transparency and accessibility to information regarding their policies and the finer details that surround them at the tip of their fingers. Data assimilation and access via the internet has become a big thing with apps, web pages and massive servers dedicated to facilitating this increased accessibility to policy related information for all the holders of an insurance policy.

Insurance, social media and the insurer

The insurer has had a lot of adapting to do to keep up with the times and master the social media so as to extract the most potential for revenue generation out of it. This has been further hampered by the stringent rules that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is an organization that has been formed by members of the insurance industry and is self-regulatory in nature, has set up a very complicated rule structure surrounding the use of social media. In fact, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of The Hartford, John Glooch, has on multiple occasions stated his reticence from using social media such as Facebook and his downright aversion to it because of these very rules to media sources, in this case, the Wall Street Journal.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, if applied astutely, social media has the potential of becoming one of the sharpest tools under the insurer’s belt for outreach and communication.

  • Engaging current and potential consumers. For the talk of The Hartford being social media averse, they do have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. They use contests, Q & A’s, videos and a products and services page on LinkedIn to provide the web with a flurry of interaction based information avenues, and they have even tied up with a charitable cause on the Facebook page which is an innovative Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) friendly method of attracting attention.
  • Marketing. Obviously, with the popularity of social media, using it for advertising and marketing is the most logical consequence for insurers. Innovation is the watchword in this situation, as Farmers Insurance so clearly demonstrated with their advertising campaign that caused a bit of a stir. A farmers blip was available for free to players of the Facebook based game ‘FarmVille’ and players who put up the blip on their farm received crop ‘protection’ up until a certain date.
  • Fraud Prevention. Social media can be used to assess and verify details pertaining to one’s identity and personal information to verify that people aren’t trying to hoodwink the company by providing false information. Insurance fraud is a global problem and the many avenues of social media mean there is an additional layer of identity checks that can be carried out. People who commit fraud on their insurance application forms often unwittingly give themselves away. For instance, a recipient of disability benefits may tweet about successfully running a marathon!
  • Market Research. By asking for consumers to review products, participate in surveys, conducting polls and other such methods via social media, companies are successfully gauging customer opinion and altering their products to suit the result of these ministrations.
  • Operational cost reduction. A social media driven market means insurers need not actively chase after individual customers so that insurance can be sold to them, customers instead approach insurers online to buy insurance policies. This means the middle man or agent is eliminated, making the whole process more streamlined, efficient and budget friendly.

While social media should tread carefully so as not to invite the ire of the aforementioned FINRA, the potential for increased customer satisfaction, better avenues for communication, and product exposure means social media is worth the hassle of involving legal and technical professionals so as to stay within the lines in terms of FINRA mandates. The possibilities for profit maximization are too wide and bountiful for insurers to ignore this platform for any length of time

Effect of Ergonomics on Employee Productivity [Infographic]

This infographic  presents information about what ergonomics is all about and why is it important for small businesses to understand its impact on employee productivity.

  •     Definition of Ergonomics
  •     Research as to how changing office layout impacts small business productivity
  •     Common Ergonomics issues faced by employees
  •     Ergonomics Solution
  •     Real case studies

5 Common Myths About Small Business Insurance

Being your own boss comes with a lot of perks: you get to work on something that you’re passionate about and you get to do it on your own terms. The downside is that you’re also the one losing sleep over the risks that come with owning a business. One way to mitigate risk is with insurance; however, many small business owners – especially those that work from home – neglect this important safeguard. Are you falling victim to one of these common myths about small business insurance?

Myth #1: My business is so small, I don’t need insurance.

Almost 50 percent of business owners don’t have business insurance, either because they are afraid it’s too expensive, or they don’t understand it. Regardless of the size of your business, it is your livelihood and it is worth protecting. And the smaller your business is, the bigger an impact one incident could have on its viability.

Myth #2: My home insurance covers my home-based business.

Your home insurance policy provides you coverage for your home as a residence, not as a place of business. Not only does your home insurance not cover your home-based business, but if you haven’t disclosed that you’re running a business out of your home, it could void your policy. So if you haven’t already, your first order of business is to alert your current insurance provider that you’re running a business out of your home. Some won’t provide coverage for home-based businesses, so you might need to find a new company.

Myth #3: I don’t need to let my car insurance provider know that I own a small business.

First, it’s important to know that your car insurance only covers your car; it doesn’t cover any business-related inventory, materials or tools that could be stolen or damaged in an accident. In addition, using your personal car for business use could void your policy. And although you may have advised your insurance company that you do occasionally use your vehicle for business, you’ll want to be clear about what that means.

Take this story for example: A woman disclosed to her insurance company that she was using her car for some business; however, she didn’t realize that her insurance wouldn’t cover her if she was using it for deliveries. When she submitted her claim, it was denied because her car was wrecked while delivering her product to a customer. If you’re not sure how your small business impacts your car insurance coverage, call your provider to find out the details.

Myth #4: I don’t need liability insurance for my home-based business.

Even if you’re running a business from your home, you likely need liability insurance. Liability coverage will protect  from the following:

  • If someone is visiting your home for business purposes (like a courier), slips and falls
  • If you are successfully sued because of problems with your product or service
  • If you cause damage to a client’s property when you’re working off-site

Myth #5: I don’t need to worry about a cyber-attack on my business.

Think your business is too small to be targeted in a cyber attack? The scary truth is that small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly targeted by cyber attacks, and small teams and budgets mean they are often less prepared. The data is sobering: 43 percent of cyber-attacks are on small to medium sized businesses; small businesses pay more than triple the cost for cyber-fraud than larger businesses; and almost 60 percent of small businesses go out of business within six months of a cyber-attack. In addition to boosting your cyber-security, cyber insurance coverage could protect your business in the event of a breach.

If you believed any of these myths, it might be time to rethink the insurance – or lack of insurance – you have for your small business. Protecting your livelihood will give you peace of mind, and let you focus on the hard work of running your own business.

Five Benefits of Outsourcing Your Hosted Email

Outsourcing certain areas of a business is an intelligent strategy utilized in many industries.

It is common for businesses to outsource their sales staff, their web design, their marketing and PR, or their cleaners. However, it can also be beneficial to outsource non-human aspects of a business like email hosting as well. Here are five of the main reasons why businesses leave their email hosting to the experts.

Cost savings

Depending on the size of your company, it can often work out cheaper leaving your email in the hands of a hosted exchange provider. Outsourcing your email means you don’t have to splash out on a server of your own. You don’t have to worry about maintenance, storage or paying for upgrades. In fact, a 2009 study by Rich Cannon indicated that the average business email user would spend more than 20 times less on email by outsourcing their hosting compared to hosting it themselves.

Scalability

One of the reasons that businesses can save so much cash by outsourcing their email hosting is because most hosts will provide a fully scalable service. Many providers charge on a per inbox per month basis, so a scalable service is likely to be ideal for start-ups with speedy plans for growth. It would also be perfect for seasonal businesses or those who employ lots of temporary staff.

Related:  Why can’t I do email marketing with Outlook?

Reliability

The frustration of having to maintain their own email servers is reason enough for any business to outsource their email hosting.

Most hosted exchange providers have the expertise to run their email hosting service a lot better than the average company. Many will publish details of their server’s uptime and there are some who manage to keep servers online more than 99.9 per cent of the time. The majority will boast of ISO27001 certification, which proves they meet worldwide standards for information security as well. This can be comforting for potential clients, giving them the peace of mind of knowing they can rely on their email host.

Upgrades

Upgrading servers to the latest models can potentially be the greatest email-related expense that companies face, especially at the speed which digital technology is currently moving at.

Hosted exchange providers certainly need to keep their technology updated in order to avoid being outdone by competitors, which means that their clients have the benefit of constantly using the top-of-the-range hardware at no extra cost to themselves.

Related:  Email Marketers Guide to 35% Higher Read Rates and 50% Lower Spam Rates

Mergers

For businesses looking at getting involved in mergers or acquisitions, hosted email makes perfect sense. IT systems are usually way down the list in importance when considering a merger and often the migration of these can cause a real headache some way down the line. Merging two email systems is a complicated process for those without the expertise in doing so and there are plenty of things that can go wrong.

Running them concurrently is simpler but would probably force the business to pay some licence fees twice. It’s certainly a lot simpler and cost-effective migrating the email of an acquired business to a hosted exchange.

Hosted email is likely to beneficial for most companies in some shape or form, but it’s important to remember that not all hosted exchange providers are born equal. Make sure to do your due diligence and sign a contract with an experienced provider you can rely on.

Disclosure: Thought Reach sells email marketing software

Cobweb is Europe’s leading provider of Hosted Microsoft Exchange services, supplying secure and uninterrupted access to applications, email and the internet for more than 5,000 business customers. Find us at www.cobweb.com