Author: Neil Patel

How to Generate More Profits by Focusing on Your Pricing Strategy

You can tell a lot about a business by how it sets its prices.

Psychologically, consumers are programmed to behave a certain way when they see the price of a product or service. Your pricing strategy can control the entire perception of your brand.

It’s similar to the way different color schemes can impact sales on your website.

Whether you realize it or not, I’m sure you think the same way when you’re shopping.

If you see the same item listed for $5 at one store and $50 at another, which option would you say has higher quality? The more expensive one.

However, even though one store is selling products at a higher price point, it doesn’t mean their quality is superior to that of the products from the store with bargain prices.

It’s all about perception.

Don’t blindly price your items. You need to have a reason and a strategy behind your pricing decisions.

Just look at how popular car brands are perceived by consumers based on their prices:

Ironically, the majority of your business efforts will cost you money. But your prices will ultimately be the determining factor in whether or not you’ll make a sale.

I see this problem all the time in my consulting work.

Many business owners don’t have any rhyme or reason behind their pricing strategies. As a result, their sales numbers aren’t where they should be.

I’ll explain how you can generate higher profits by putting more focus on your pricing strategy.

Depending on your brand, some of these strategies will work for you better than others. Review this guide, and decide which ones you want to use in your business.

Avoid similar prices

When brands set their prices, they might be tempted to price certain items the same.

On the surface, this makes sense. If you’re selling the same shirt with different patterns, they should have the same price, right?

Believe it or not, research suggests that similarly priced items hurt conversions.

In an experiment, researchers studied behavior when customers were presented with two different packs of gum, both priced at $0.63.

In this case, 46% of people bought a pack of gum. That’s not a terrible conversion rate, but it could be better.

When the prices were changed, with one pack of gum priced at $0.62 and the other at $0.64, the conversions increased.

As a result, 77% of consumers purchased a pack of gum.

Setting different prices increases the chances of your customers making a purchase.

As you can see from the experiment, the differences in the prices don’t need to be drastic.

Even a slight adjustment can boost your conversions.

Take a look at the prices in your stores and on your website. If you notice that the majority of similar items have the same prices, make an adjustment and see if that helps you drive more sales.

Understand the psychology of anchoring

Some of you may have heard of anchoring, but you may not be sure how to use it.

Before you can implement an anchor pricing strategy, you need to understand how the mind works.

Focalism is a psychological term, more commonly referred to as anchoring or anchor pricing in the marketing world.

Anchoring impacts the way humans make decisions. We depend heavily on one piece of information, which is the metaphorical anchor. Once the anchor is set, our minds are trained to use that information when making a decision. That information biases our decision-making.

For example, think about what goes through your mind when you’re buying a car.

If it’s a used car, the first questions you might ask are:

How many miles does it have?

or

What year is it?

That’s the bias you use to determine the value even though it would be more reasonable to ask whether the engine and transmission have been properly maintained.

Now let’s get back to your pricing strategy.

How do you sell a watch for $1,500? Put it next to a watch that costs $8,000.

The consumer’s mind will use the more expensive watch to create an anchor bias, which makes the $1,500 watch seem like a great deal.

Take a look at this example from Best Buy:

These three TVs are very similar. Just look at the common features they have:

  • LED
  • 4K
  • 2160p
  • HDR
  • Smart TV

The only major difference is the size and brand. Plus, the sizes aren’t even that drastically different.

Seeing a $1,400 TV next to similar TVs for $700 and $380, the consumer will use the higher-priced product as an anchor.

For half the price, they can get a TV that’s just five inches smaller. This is still a great deal.

Budget-conscious consumers can buy the $380 model without thinking twice about it. They are getting a great value for the price.

We’ll discuss value and segmenting prices for different types of customers in greater detail shortly.

Offer incentives to spend more

Your prices can determine how much each customer spends per transaction. Obviously, you want to set these prices so that your customers spend as much money as possible.

You need to give the consumer a reason to spend more money. How can you accomplish this?

Let’s look at a great example from SAXX:

This page has four different products for sale. As you can see, it also uses the anchor pricing strategy.

Customers aren’t really getting a better deal per piece if they buy a 3-pack for $86 or a 2-pack for $57. It’s still about $28 per pair of underwear.

But if they buy the 2-pack that’s on sale, they’ll get each pair for $23. This is a better deal.

However, they’ll have to pay for shipping if they buy the sale package because it doesn’t meet the $50 threshold. So what does the customer do?

They consider buying two of the sale items.

This gives them a better value per piece, and they’ll meet the free shipping requirement.

Mack Weldon uses a similar strategy on its ecommerce site:

Orders over $50 will be shipped free, but the site offers more: 10% off orders over $100 and 20% off orders over $200.

This strategy gives the company’s customers a reason to keep adding more items to their shopping carts.

Research your competitors

Who are your biggest competitors? How do their prices compare to yours?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s a big problem. You can increase profits by analyzing your competition.

You have to decide how you want to position your prices compared to theirs.

Maybe you want to undercut their prices in an attempt to steal their customers. But as I discussed earlier, if your prices are lower, the value of your brand could be perceived differently.

On the flip side, if you set your prices too high, you could lose customers to your competitors.

This is always a tricky situation. There are lots of different factors at play when it comes to your pricing strategy in relation to your competitors.

I can’t tell you definitely what the right or wrong approach is. You may have to experiment with this one.

But at the very least, you need to be aware of your competitors and their prices.

Segment your prices

As I briefly discussed earlier, you should segment your prices so that they appeal to a wide range of customers.

This is slightly different from the previous tactic of altering your prices by just a few dollars or so.

With price segmentation, each pricing point is aimed at targeting a specific type of customer. Take a look at the Macro Plate pricing plans:

As a meal delivery service, the company needs to have something for everyone. That’s because not every customer will have the same diet.

It appeals to customers who want meals delivered five days a week as well as seven days a week.

How many meals do its customers get each day?

It depends on the plan they select. This ranges from two to five meals per day.

Furthermore, the site has meal plans designed for different diets:

  • traditional
  • high protein
  • paleo

The meals target customers based on what type of food they need and what they can afford.

There is a big difference between a customer on a traditional diet who wants two meals a day five days a week and a customer on a high protein diet who wants four meals a day seven days a week.

Trunk Club uses a similar strategy on its website as well:

Trunk Club is an online personal stylist. It sends you clothes on a regular basis.

But to make its service more appealing to the general population, the company needs to segment its prices based on the type of clothing people want to wear.

That’s why it has this questionnaire in place. Asking customers what they normally spend on different types of clothes helps them decide what to send them based on quality and price.

There is a big difference between the type of customer who spends $50 and a customer who spends more than $200 on shoes.

Offer big discounts

This is one of the oldest pricing strategies in the book. Set your prices high, then offer promotions, sales, and discounts.

Check out this example from the Lucky Brand homepage:

This promotion has discounts up to 75% off.

Buying a pair of jeans at the regular price will typically cost customers about $100. But if they can get that same pair for $25, the deal seems too good to pass up on.

They could potentially get four products for the price of one.

You need to be careful though when implementing this strategy. Running sales too often could hurt your conversion rates when you don’t have any products discounted.

If your customers get used to buying only when items are discounted, full price products may never get bought. That’s OK if this is part of your anchor pricing strategy, discussed above.

But if you want to drive conversions, it’s always a good idea to discount your prices.

Research shows that retailers with active discount codes are eight times more likely to drive sales.

Know your margins

Understanding your margins is especially important if you’re planning to offer discounts.

You need to make sure you’re still turning a profit. That profit needs to be enough to pay your bills, pay your employees, put money in your pocket, and invest back into your business.

As I said before, you can’t blindly set your prices.

You need to know your profit margins before and after you offer discounts, put items on sale, or run other promotions.

If your margins don’t make sense, you could be generating tons of sales but losing money at the same time.

You obviously need to avoid that.

Bundle packages

Another common pricing strategy is the bundling concept.

Basically, you set your prices so that it’s cheaper to buy items together than buying each one separately.

Look at how Domino’s does this on its website:

Its mix and match deal makes buying two or more items less expensive.

Dominos also has a combo for full meals, at a higher price point. This is an example of segmenting prices based on the needs of your customers, which I talked about above.

How can you apply this concept in your business?

It’s a great opportunity to improve your upselling and cross-selling strategy.

For example, let’s say your brand makes and sells musical instruments.

You sell guitars for $600 and guitar cases for $150. But if someone buys a guitar and case together, the total price gets discounted to $675.

Create a sense of luxury

Depending on your brand image, you may never want to offer a discount.

In this case, you would be trying to appeal to a certain type of customer. Some consumers don’t want to buy products on sale.

They believe higher prices translate to higher quality. These customers also want to buy from brands that convey prestige.

Some consumers with deep pockets look for brands with higher prices because they know not everyone can afford their products or services.

If this is the kind of pricing strategy you’re trying to implement, don’t worry about the customers looking for bargains. Instead, you’ll probably get fewer conversions, but your profits will be much higher.

Look at the Gucci website:

Does anything on this website stand out to you?

For starters, it’s very simple. Websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates.

But that’s not all. Unlike on the majority of ecommerce sites, on the Gucci site the prices are not listed upfront.

There’s an old saying, which I’m sure you’ve heard before:

If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

That’s the idea here. The customers the brand is targeting don’t care about the price. They’ll buy the products regardless.

To see the prices, you have to click on the items, like the $4,850 jacket above.

Focus on quality

There’s nothing wrong with having higher prices, but you need to be able to justify your reason for having them.

Just to be clear: I’m not referring to the luxury brands as in the example above. Those kinds of prices are in a league of their own.

But if you charge $100 for a t-shirt, you need to give your customers some kind of explanation for that price.

Why should they buy your shirt when they can buy it somewhere else for $5?

Here’s an example from the Lululemon website that focuses on quality:

The brand’s prices aren’t outrageously high, but a seemingly simple pullover costs $120.

This is more money than most people would spend on something like this, but the brand justifies the price by emphasizing the quality of its product.

To reduce irritation, the company removed seams from the sides, which is a common construction for similar pullovers.

The material is lightweight and made to stretch. It’s also made with a fabric that fights bacteria that causes odor.

This is the brand’s justification for charging these prices. By focusing on quality, it’s able to generate more profits.

Put emphasis on value

What type of value are you offering your customers?

You need to position your prices so that the customer feels they’re getting a deal. Some of the previous strategies use this concept, such as bundling products and offering discounts.

But there are other ways to do this as well.

You want to make your prices seem as affordable as possible. It’s all about how you deliver the information to your customers.

For example, look at the pricing options from Harry’s Razors:

It delivers shaving supplies to its customers every two months with its subscription service.

Look at its most expensive package: $16 per month sounds more appealing than $32 every two months, even though it’s the same thing.

It’s also better than listing it as $192 per year. After all, $16 sounds much more reasonable and affordable.

Plus, there is added value in the subscription. Customers are paying for the convenience of having products shipped to their doors on a regular basis instead of having to go to the store or to constantly re-order products online.

Conclusion

Your prices will directly impact your sales. Implementing the right pricing strategy will increase your profits.

Don’t set similar items at the same price. Apply the anchor pricing tactic.

Encourage your customers to spend more money with each transaction. Bundle packages together. Offer big discounts.

Segment your prices to appeal to a wider range of customers.

Research your competition. Know your profit margins.

If you want to appeal to a certain type of customer, create a luxury brand with high prices and never run a sale.

Prioritize quality and value.

No matter what type of business you have, I’m confident you’ll find an appropriate pricing strategy in this guide.

How will your brand generate higher profits with your updated pricing strategy?

How to Generate Recurring Sales by Implementing Subscriptions

Every business needs to come up with creative ways to drive sales.

Sure, you may be doing well today, but how are you planning on making money tomorrow? What about next month or next year?

Whether your company sells a physical product or offers a service, the subscription business model is something that you should consider using to generate recurring sales.

Historically, implementing a subscription business model has proven to be highly profitable.

In the last five years, this model has grown by more than 100%.

Businesses that know how to offer valuable subscriptions end up with extremely loyal customers, which is why it’s such an effective customer retention strategy.

Even ecommerce brands have been using subscriptions to drive sales.

That’s because the consumer market has accepted this model, causing it to grow in popularity over the last year.

Once you’re able to get customers to pay for a subscription, you’ll get recurring sales on a monthly or annual basis.

As a result, your company will be in a great position for sustainable growth over time.

But if you’ve never implemented a subscription model to your business, it might be a little bit intimidating for you. Where do you start?

Some of you may have already set up a subscription model for your business. But unfortunately, it’s not working out as well as you thought it would.

That’s why I created this guide.

Whether you’re new to the subscription concept or you want to make adjustments to your existing subscription model, I’ll explain what you need to do to be successful in this space.

Don’t charge for your basic package

Offer your most basic package for free.

Now for some of you, this may not be realistic. For example, if you’re offering clothing or accessories delivered on a monthly basis to your customers, you can’t just give that away for free each month.

But for those of you who are offering an intangible service, it’s a great way to get people interested if you have multiple packages.

  • games
  • mobile apps
  • streaming services

These are all great examples of how you can leverage a free package to eventually get your customers to pay for the service if you’re in these industries.

For those of you who have a mobile application, this strategy is a great way to improve the profitability of your small business mobile app.

Let’s look at the Pandora packages as an example.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this company, they offer a music streaming service.

As you can see from their website, they have three different listening packages. The basic package is free.

This introductory package gets people familiar with the service. If they had to pay from the beginning, they’d be less likely to try it out in the first place.

But if you offer something for free, there is no risk in people using it.

Now you’ll have a better chance of getting these free subscribers to upgrade their service for a fee.

Offer a free trial for your premium services

So you’ve offered your basic package for free. But customers still haven’t upgraded yet.

Why not?

Well, they don’t know what they’re missing.

If you offer them a free trial of a paid service, it will be harder for them to go back to the basic version. Let’s refer back to the Pandora example.

They offer a 30-day free trial for their $4.99 package. So for one month, customers on this trial will experience personalized content with no advertisements.

Once they go back to music that’s not personalized and are forced to listen to ads, they’ll be more inclined to pay the monthly fee for the enhanced experience.

Roughly 60% of all businesses are able to convert free trial users to customers.

Those conversion rates are outstanding.

For those of you who are offering physical products, such as a box of items mailed to customers on a monthly basis, you can use this strategy as well.

Even though you may not be able to do this long-term, you can still offer a month or two of your package for free.

Here’s something else to consider. The more expensive your subscription is, the longer you should offer the free trial for.

Again, we’ll continue to use Pandora as an example.

They offer a 60-day free trial for customers who want to try out their most expensive package at $9.99 per month.

It’s worth giving away two months for free if they’re able to generate $120 per year from each subscriber.

Set up different membership plans

Profitable subscription models have different plans. There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, not everyone can afford your most expensive membership, but you don’t necessarily want to exclude those people from being paying customers.

Second, you want to offer plans based on the needs of different customers.

People don’t want to pay for a feature or benefit that they won’t use. But if someone knows that they need something, they’ll gladly pay an additional fee.

Let’s look at the Netflix membership plans as an example.

All of their plans offer the first month for free and the ability to cancel anytime. Their customers can watch from their laptops, tablets, phones, and TVs.

But the basic membership doesn’t offer HD video and only lets you watch on one screen at a time.

So for someone who doesn’t have an HD television and doesn’t plan on sharing the account with anyone else, this is a suitable option.

But if you’ve got a family that’s going to be sharing the account and streaming simultaneously from multiple HD devices, this won’t be enough for you.

Those customers will need to subscribe to the most expensive option.

Allowing customers to select their plan gives them a personalized experience. Plus, we already know that personalizing your website boosts conversions.

So analyze your features and come up with a few different membership plans that target the needs of various customers.

Give discounts to customers who pay in advance

Obviously, you want your customers to be a subscriber for as long as possible. That’s how you make money with recurring sales.

But with that said, you don’t want to force your customers into a long-term contract.

This strategy can make people hesitate to sign up. Consumers like having the option to cancel at any time without having to pay a penalty.

That’s why monthly subscription plans are so common.

The problem with monthly subscriptions is that if a customer cancels after a couple of months, you didn’t really have a chance to generate high profits from them.

Who knows. Maybe in that short period of time they didn’t have a chance to fully experience everything that your subscription plan has to offer.

If you want people to commit for longer periods of time, you can offer discounts if they pay in advance. Take a look at this example from Constant Contact.

As you can see, they offer a 10% discount and 15% discount for subscribers who pay for six months and 12 months in advance, respectively.

Even though you’re making less off each customer per month, you’re locking them in for a longer term.

This is a much more effective strategy than forcing your customers to commit to a year contract that charges them on a monthly basis.

Giving them the option benefits both of you. They’ll get a discounted rate, and you’re guaranteed to make money.

Plus, it adds more of a personal touch, which we previously talked about and we’ll continue discussing in greater detail throughout this guide.

Provide added benefits to your customers

Depending on your business, offering subscriptions exclusively may not be in your best interest.

You can still have other business models that you use in addition to your subscription model.

So for those of you who fall into that category, you need to make sure that the subscription memberships come with benefits that justify the cost to your customers.

Otherwise, they won’t have any incentive to join.

A perfect example of what I’m talking about is the Amazon Prime membership.

You don’t need to pay a monthly or annual fee to buy something on Amazon. Anyone can use this ecommerce platform.

But for customers who shop frequently and want their items delivered as fast as possible, they may be more inclined to pay for the Amazon Prime subscription.

This membership offers two-day free shipping for subscribers.

In addition to the shipping benefits, Amazon Prime members also get access to music and video streaming services.

As I explained earlier, they have packages designed for everyone.

For customers who just want the video streaming service, they can pay $8.99 per month.

To get all of the membership benefits, including video streaming, two-day shipping, music streaming, photo storage, unlimited reading, and free same-day delivery for certain items, it costs $12.99 per month.

That totals just under $156 for the year, assuming that they keep the membership without canceling.

But if a customer wants to save money and knows that they’ll use the service for an entire year, they can pay $119 annually and save roughly 25% on their membership.

Amazon also offers a free trial for prospective members to try out their Prime service for 30 days at no cost.

Do you see how they incorporated most of the strategies that we talked about so far?

It’s always a good idea to follow the lead of successful companies and apply their concepts to your own business.

Set your subscriptions to renew automatically

Let’s say you get someone to sign up for one of your subscriptions. That’s great news!

You’ve got their credit card information, and you’re ready to start processing their account.

But you want to make sure that you set these memberships up to renew automatically.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying that you should do this to be deceiving or trick your customers. Just include this in the terms that they agree to when they’re signing up.

You don’t want to annoy them each month asking them for their credit card information again. So get their permission from the beginning to bill their card each month.

This is a great way to get recurring sales.

If you give the customer the option to opt-out each month, they may decide to cancel.

But if their card just gets charged without any contact or notification, they may just keep the service whether they’re using it or not.

For example, how many of you have a gym membership or have had a gym membership in the past? You get charged each month whether you’re there every day or never show up.

You don’t cancel it because it’s more of a pain to go through that process and then sign up again when you want to go.

So your customers will treat this membership the same way. Sure, you obviously want your customers to take advantage of the products and services that you’re offering.

But if they’re paying for it, either way, does it really matter if they do? Not really.

Allow your customers to customize their subscriptions

We’ve talked about personalization quite a bit in this guide.

You can take this concept to the next level by allowing your customers to fully customize their subscriptions. Take a look at this example from Sirius XM Radio.

They have membership options that allow customers to pick and choose which stations they want on their account.

You can find ways to apply this same concept to your business as well.

For example, let’s say that your brand sales beard grooming and shaving products for men.

You sell products directly from your website, and you also have subscription options to deliver a box of products on a monthly basis. Allow your membership subscribers to customize each order.

Some customers may want more razors, while others want more shaving cream and after shave lotion.

The membership prices will vary based on the type of products and quantity of items that the customer wants to be delivered each month.

Conclusion

The subscription business model is extremely profitable, and it’s growing in popularity.

Whether you’re adding subscriptions to your business for the first time or you’re making changes to your existing model, there are certain tips and tricks that will improve your chances of being successful.

Offer your basic package at no charge. Then, let customers try out the premium options with a free trial.

Create different membership plans to target a wider range of prospective customers.

Your standard memberships should be charged on a monthly basis and renew automatically. Encourage customers to pay in advance by offering discounted rates for an annual plan.

Provide added benefits to make sure that your subscriptions are worth the cost.

Focus on personalization and customization that entice consumers to sign up for your subscription service.

If you follow the advice that I’ve outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to achieve sustainable growth in the form of recurring sales through subscriptions.

How is your brand using the subscription business model to generate recurring sales?

How to Increase Sales by Personalizing the Customer Experience

Successful brands put the customer first.

They monitor their customers’ behaviors and leverage their needs to enhance the buying process. You can also boost your revenue by optimizing the customer experience.

If you want to take this concept one step further, you need to focus on one important element that will increase sales.

Personalization.

Personalizing the customer experience is a winning strategy. In fact, 96% of marketers agree that their efforts to personalize their customers’ experience advance their relationships with customers.

Furthermore, 88% of marketers say they’ve seen a measurable improvement in their businesses after implementing customer personalization tactics.

But only 33% of businesses feel confident they have the tools to properly personalize the customer experience.

That’s what inspired me to write this guide.

Some of you may already know you need to create a more personalized experience for your customers, but you just don’t know what to do. Or maybe you’re trying to improve your existing efforts.

Regardless of your situation, I’ll explain what you need to do.

These are the best ways to increase sales by accommodating the needs of your customers and personalizing their experience.

Encourage your customers to create profiles

One of the first things you need to do is allow your customers to create profiles on your platform. Those profiles will help you implement other strategies as we continue through this guide.

Once the accounts are created, you’ll be able to monitor the behaviors of your customers based on their profiles.

Your customers are perfectly comfortable with you tracking their habits as long as it’s improving their experience.

As you can see from these numbers, customers want you to:

  • make it easier for them to shop
  • give them relevant offers
  • provide them with a more personalized experience
  • improve their experience on multiple channels

Not only are your customers comfortable with you monitoring their behaviors through their profiles, but they actually expect it. In fact, more than half of consumers say they expect brands to anticipate their needs so they can receive relevant suggestions.

You’ll eventually be able to recommend products based on shopping and browsing behavior, but we’ll discuss that in greater detail later.

The best way to encourage your customers to create accounts is by making it as easy as possible for them.

They don’t want to take tons of unnecessary steps to set up their accounts. Make sure you limit your form fields needed for the account creation.

Think about what information you need from the customer that will help you personalize their experience.

Basically, anything they’d provide you with during an optimized checkout process is enough to create a profile.

Add a simple checkbox to the checkout that says something like “create a customer profile” to accomplish this.

Both you and your customers will benefit from this option. The personalized content on their profiles will improve their experience and ultimately drive more sales.

Segment your email subscribers

Collecting email addresses needs to be a priority for your business. But if you want to personalize the customer experience, you need to make sure you’re delivering relevant content to their inboxes.

The best way to do this is by segmenting your email lists:

Although everyone who signs up to receive emails from your company might be interested in your brand, it doesn’t mean they have the same wants and needs.

You need to learn how to write marketing emails that don’t get marked as spam.

Grouping your subscribers into separate lists will ensure they don’t receive irrelevant information.

Let’s take customer profiles as an example. If a customer creates a profile during the checkout process, you’ll know their address because they need to provide you with shipping and billing information.

Your customers in Texas shouldn’t be getting the same emails as your customers in New Hampshire if your company is advertising a winter sale.

Those subscribers in Texas don’t care about discounted winter hats and ski pants.

That’s why segmented email campaigns can result in a 760% revenue increase.

Marketers say 58% of their revenue comes from emails that are properly segmented and targeted.

Recent studies show the differences between segmented emails compared to non-segmented campaigns.

Segmented emails have:

  • 14.3% more opens
  • 101% more clicks
  • 4.7% fewer bounces
  • 9.4% fewer unsubscribes

Higher opens and clicks paired with fewer bounces and unsubscribes put your company in a great position to increase sales.

Store information for faster checkouts

Again, customer profiles are important here.

Make sure you ask for the information required to complete a purchase only once. After that, you can store the information to expedite the purchasing process in the future.

Each step a customer has to take to buy something decreases the chances they’ll complete this action.

Having to enter their name, address, and credit card information into your platform every time is tedious. The whole reason why they created a profile was to improve their experience.

Take a look at how Delta uses this strategy:

By saving credit card information in their customer profiles, people can book a flight fast and easily. They don’t even need to have their cards on them.

Every ecommerce company needs to incorporate this strategy.

Customers will be able to add items to their carts and complete transactions with just a few clicks. This will help you improve your conversion rates and drive more sales.

Implement geotargeting practices

As I explained earlier, you can use the customer’s location to personalize their experience.

In addition to segmenting your email lists by location, you can also tailor the content on your website based on the country your customers are browsing from.

Take a look at this example from the SAXX website:

Their customers are primarily located in the United States and Canada.

While the two countries may be similar, the company still wants to offer tailored customer experience based on the location of their customers.

For example, Canadian customers will want to see measurements of clothing in centimeters since they use the metric system. And people browsing in the United States will see “color,” while the Canadians will see “colour.”

Yes, any English-speaking person can understand American English, but not having the site customized to the customer location can still hurt the company’s sales.

By allowing its website visitors to choose their country, SAXX ensures they’ll be shown the right content.

Those of you who have an international brand need to take this process one step further. Look at the options on the Nike website:

Your website isn’t the only platform that can be personalized based on location.

You can use your mobile app to pinpoint the exact location of your customers as opposed to broader locations, e.g., the state or country.

When someone downloads your app, ask them to agree to share their location with you so you can track it. Then, you can send them notifications using geofencing technology.

With geofencing, you can set up an area around one of your store locations. When an app user enters the location, they’ll get a notification that encourages them to make a purchase.

For example, let’s say you own a restaurant chain.

Someone with your mobile app walks within a block of one of your locations during lunch time. You can send them a discount off their lunch purchase that day.

Create a customer loyalty program

When you’re implementing customer personalization tactics, you shouldn’t aim to generate a one-time sale.

You want these efforts to lead to customer retention, resulting in recurring purchases. That’s why you should come up with an effective customer loyalty program.

Studies show 82% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands offering loyalty programs.

Plus, loyal customers spend more money. Just look at these numbers:

Customers who have purchased from your brand multiple times add items to their carts at a higher rate, have higher conversion rates, and generate more revenue per shopping session.

You can set up your loyalty program in a few different ways.

The most basic option would be to give your customers a reward after a predetermined number of visits or purchases. You’ve seen these before.

You may go to a local food truck outside of your office for lunch. They probably have some kind of a punch card that rewards you with a free sandwich on your tenth visit or some other reward scheme.

But the best customer loyalty programs reward their highest spending customers.

Set rewards based on spending tiers. This will give your customers an incentive to spend even more money.

Allowing them to track their progress on their customer profiles or from the mobile app will improve their personalized shopping experience.

Listen to customer feedback

According to research, 68% of consumers abandon a business because they don’t feel the brand cares about them.

That’s why you should use surveys and interviews to generate more money for your business. This will show your customers you value their opinions.

However, just asking your customers to provide feedback isn’t enough.

You actually need to make changes based on those suggestions.

But first, you need to analyze the results of the feedback. Don’t just implement changes for the sake of it—that won’t deliver a return on your investment.

But if you notice that a large percentage of your customers are providing similar feedback and suggestions to improve your process, you should take that very seriously.

Implementing these changes will make your customers realize they are part of your process and create a bond with your brand.

Recommend relevant products

I briefly mentioned this earlier, but I wanted to discuss it again in greater detail.

You already know you need to use the information provided in the customer profiles to personalize content for them. But there are certain pieces of extremely valuable information that you can’t get via a form field: what the customers are looking for and what they are buying.

But you can find out that information through the browsing and purchase histories of your customers. That information will allow you to suggest relevant products to them.

If you do, consumers will be more likely to buy from your brand, whether you operate online or in person:

Recommending products to your customers also narrows their options.

Roughly 40% of consumers left a website to buy from a competitor instead because they felt overwhelmed by too many options. Don’t let this happen to you.

If one of your customers recently purchased a surfboard and a wetsuit, it’s safe to say they’ll be spending time at the beach and in the water. So you could suggest something like a paddleboard and sunscreen because it’s relevant to their purchase history.

Let your customers be part of the personalization process

Combine your personalization strategy with an interactive process.

If a customer doesn’t have a profile, you can still get more information from them to personalize the content they see.

For example, Warby Parker has a feature on its website I love. Obviously, glasses aren’t a one-size-fits-all product.

But with so many options, it can be overwhelming for consumers to find exactly what they’re looking for. To help narrow the results, the brand asks their customers some questions.

First, it asks if you’re browsing for men’s or women’s styles. Then, the questionnaire asks the type of fit you’re looking for.

As you can see, the cartoon faces are all of men because that’s what I selected in the first step. It’s another subtle personalized touch.

Next, they want to know your color preferences for glasses.

After that, you need to provide them with the shapes of frames you prefer the most.

The questions get even more detailed.

Warby Parker asks when you had your last eye exam. It also wants to know if you’re interested in eyeglasses, sunglasses, or both.

This relates to my last point about narrowing down the results. You don’t want to overwhelm your customers.

Now the product results will be based on the preferences chosen by the customer.

Write content from the first person perspective

Try to establish a personal relationship with your customers.

In theory, this is much easier for small business owners who actually see their customers on a regular basis.

But even if you’re an ecommerce shop or a global brand, there are still ways for you to create this type of relationship based on how you communicate with your customers.

By writing content from the first person perspective, just like I do when I blog, you will make your customers feel more comfortable. Write as if you’re talking to a friend.

You don’t need to be formal all the time.

Don’t get me wrong: you should still write using proper grammar and avoiding slang terms. Just write as if you’re having a casual conversation.

Do this with your emails, blogs, and content on your website.

Sign emails using your name. Your emails should be coming from yourname@yourcompany.com.

Don’t send marketing emails from non-personalized addresses, like support@company123.com.

Craft personalized email subject lines and content

Let’s continue talking about your email marketing strategy.

In addition to segmenting your lists and writing content from the first person perspective, you need to learn how to craft subject lines that generate results.

After all, if nobody opens your emails, they’re useless.

Research shows that personalized subject lines have tons of benefits:

Your messages will get opened at higher rates and have more clicks.

As you can see from the graph, these clicks ultimately lead to improved customer satisfaction and higher sales as well.

Conclusion

Your customers want and expect a personalized shopping experience. It’s your job to deliver this to them.

Start by encouraging customers to create profiles on your website. When you add subscribers to your email list, segment them based on the information they provided you with.

Let customers store information in their accounts, expediting the checkout process.

Use geotargeting to show website visitors and app users personalized content based on their locations.

Implement a customer loyalty program. Listen to the feedback your customers give you.

Monitor their browsing and purchase histories to recommend relevant product suggestions.

Create an interactive personalization process to help your customers narrow product results.

Learn how to write content and email subject lines with a personal message.

Once you implement these personalization strategies, you’ll enhance the customer experience and ultimately drive more sales.

What strategies is your business using to personalize the customer experience?

11 Ways to Make a Living on Social Media Without Selling a Single Product

Do you have lots of social media followers? Want to learn how to turn those followers into dollars?

Right now, there are people making a living on social media without selling anything.

We’ve all seen those profiles of seemingly regular people with tons of followers.

It always seems as if they’re traveling or doing something fun. But what exactly do they do to fund this fairytale lifestyle?

They are social influencers.

Experts predict that in the next two years, global influencer marketing will be a $5-10 billion dollar industry.

In 2017, 86% of marketers relied on influencer marketing campaigns at some point during the year.

And 39% of marketers say they have increased their influencer marketing budgets for 2018.

All of this is promising news if you’re interested in making a living on social media as an influencer. Even if you don’t have lots of followers right now, this guide will show you what you need to do to make yourself more appealing to marketers and brands.

In the past, I’ve explained how to use micro influencers to increase your product credibility.

But now I wanted to write an informative guide aimed to help influencers make more money.

With influencer marketing making my list of the top marketing trends to look for in 2018, there is plenty of money to be made in this space if you position yourself accordingly.

These are the top 11 ways to make a living on social media without selling any products.

1. Pick a platform

The first thing you need to do is decide which platform you’re going to prioritize the most.

Ultimately, you’ll want to have profiles set up on as many social networks as possible, but one needs to be your bread and butter.

Research shows that nearly all social influencers work on Instagram.

In 2018, more than 82% of social influencers said that Instagram is their number one platform. Just over 12% responded with YouTube, and less than 2% said Facebook.

That’s probably because 76% of influencers say that Instagram has the best tools compared to other social platforms.

Based on these numbers, I highly recommend picking Instagram as your top priority.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. If other influencers are having so much success on Instagram, you should be able to follow in their footsteps.

Your other social profiles should be used to enhance the image of your personal brand and ultimately expand your reach.

But you can use Facebook and Twitter to try to get more followers on Instagram.

2. Join a network for influencers

Another way to make money on social media is by joining networks made for influencers.

These platforms are used to connect brands with people based on their followers and specialties.

Brandwatch is a great place to start.

Let’s say you share lots of content related to yoga and holistic health on your social media profiles.

Your followers are obviously interested in this content as well, which is why they are following you in the first place.

If you join one of these networks, it will be easier for brands to find you if they have a product or service related to your content.

If a brand wants to work with an influencer to sell their newest yoga mat and yoga clothing, it’ll get matched with you through these networks.

You can handle all communication with the brands through these platforms as well.

This can help you stay organized as opposed to using direct messaging through social media. Once you get lots of followers, it’s tough to keep up with all of the messages in your inbox.

I recently wrote about my favorite platforms for effectively managing social influencers.

The post was intended for brands, but it’s helpful for influencers to read through it as well. Go through the list to see which platforms fit your wants and needs the most.

3. Boost your engagement rates

The reason why brands want to work with social influencers is they historically have extremely high engagement rates.

In fact, brands named engagement as the top metric for measuring the success of influencer marketing campaigns.

If you want to make yourself more appealing, you can show brands how high your engagement rates are with your followers.

Start by learning how to write captions that drive engagement.

You want your followers to like, comment, tag, view, and share your content.

Respond to your followers.

I know, this can be tricky, especially for those of you who have tens of thousands of followers. But the key is getting into a habit of making time to respond.

At the very least, like their comment if you can’t respond to it.

Remember, we’re treating this as your job. If you want to make a living on social media, you need to dedicate a certain amount of time each day toward making yourself a more valuable influencer.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Engaging with your followers will help them feel a personal connection with you. When you recommend a brand to them, they will be more likely to act on your recommendation, making your marketing campaigns more successful.

4. Give away free stuff

Everyone wants to get something free.

To increase engagement with your followers, hosting a giveaway is one of your top options.

Once you start negotiating with brands and deciding what kind of content you should be posting, you can suggest a giveaway.

Ultimately, the decision is theirs. They will be the ones paying you for sponsored content.

But you don’t have to commit to anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you think the content they want you to post doesn’t add value to your followers, you can respectfully turn down the offer.

After all, you don’t want to lose credibility by posting everything and anything someone presents to you.

Otherwise, you could see a drop in engagement from your followers.

Take a look at this post from Instagram personality Jen Selter:

Jen has more than 12 million followers on Instagram.

How do you keep 12 million people entertained? Don’t spam them.

Yes, it’s clear that this post is promoting a brand. But she’s doing it in a way that adds value to her followers by giving them a chance to win something free.

This post has all the elements required to run a profitable giveaway.

If you are still trying to grow your following, giving something away could be the best way to do that, even if you aren’t getting paid by any brands yet.

It may be worth spending $100 out of your own pocket on a gift card, for example, to give away to your followers.

Then you can show brands how good your engagement rates were for that campaign as you move forward with your career as an influencer.

5. Use multiple hashtags

If you’re trying to make money on social media, you can’t be afraid to use hashtags.

But don’t use only one per post.

Research shows that using multiple hashtags leads to higher engagement rates.

The magic number here is seven.

Posts with seven hashtags have the highest engagement rates.

But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Using more than eight hashtags on one single post can seem spammy.

Use a variety of hashtags.

Some should be broad and intended to reach the highest number of people. For example, #tbt or “throwback Thursday” is a popular hashtag used on social media.

So your post would be exposed to the masses.

However, you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.

Create some unique and more specific hashtags appropriate for each campaign. If you look at the giveaway example again, you’ll see that Jen used #JenSelterGIVEAWAY in per post to stand out.

6. Partner with a mobile app

All too often I see social influencers partner with the same types of brands. They’re promoting clothing, fitness apparel, accessories, and food.

While there is nothing wrong with this strategy, it may not be sustainable for long-term growth.

Those brands will end up using other influencers in the future once they feel they’ve gotten the most out of you and if your cost per post rate gets too high.

Think outside the box and try to partner with unique brands, such as mobile applications.

Here’s a great example of this strategy used by social influencer Eric Rubens:

Eric has more than 380k followers on Instagram.

If you look at his bio, he promotes a few different things related to his personal brand image. You can see his YouTube name and link to his website.

But look at what I highlighted. It’s his partnership with Explorest, a new mobile application.

The idea behind this app is very unique.

It shows users exact directions to places where they can take cool photographs.

This idea also fits within Eric’s personal image. If you look through his profile, he takes amazing photographs of places all over the world. So his followers are obviously interested in this type of content.

That’s why he was able to successfully partner with a mobile app such as Explorest.

7. Find your niche

It’s tempting for new influencers to take jobs from any brand that offers them money. But you need to understand how these posts can impact your future.

You don’t want to partner with any brand that goes against your core values and beliefs.

Furthermore, you need to analyze how this content will affect your followers and how you’re perceived by other brands moving forward.

Let’s look at an example to show you what I’m talking about. Here is James Tollefson’s Instagram biography:

James has just over 23k followers, which is a great number for micro influencers.

While his biography doesn’t promote anything specifically, like in the previous example, it tells you more about his life and who he is.

He’s a software engineer, living in San Diego, who is a fitness enthusiast.

Now, just saying you’re a fitness enthusiast and being a fitness enthusiast are two different things. Let’s take a look at his pictures to see if they fit the description:

As you can see, the content definitely fits the biography.

James shares content related to his fitness journey, and he promotes products that fit that niche.

If you join a community that connects brands and influencers, you want to make sure your content fits your speciality.

Don’t say you’re a foodie in your biography and then never share content related to food or work with brands in that industry. It doesn’t make sense, and it won’t make you any money.

8. Know your worth

According to research, 80% of influencers say sponsored content is their primary source of income.

This ranked higher than advertisements and affiliate links. Only 33% of influencers actually sign a contract with sponsors.

You’ve got to make sure you protect yourself and get paid for your work.

Don’t just post content for brands who offer to send you free products. That’s not enough if you’re trying to make a living.

As you can see from the graph below, marketers are planning to increase their marketing budgets for influencers:

Only 5% of marketers say they’re going to decrease their influencer marketing budgets.

The money is out there. It’s just a matter of finding it. Don’t settle.

How much is a post worth? The numbers will vary based on the number of followers you have and your engagement rates.

On average, 66% of businesses pay less than $250 per post.

And 27% pay between $250 and $1,000.

Just 4% pay up to $3,000 per post.

Unless you’re a celebrity, you probably won’t see $3,000 for one post. But with that said, it’s not unreasonable to aim for that $250-1,000 window.

Let’s say in a week you share two sponsored posts from two different brands. One pays you $750, and the other pays $250.

If you can continue getting rates like that steadily throughout the year, you’ll make more than $50k annually.

9. Post high-quality photos

Look back at all the examples I showed you so far. What do all of them have in common?

High-quality content.

If you want to become a social influencer, you need to make sure you’re sharing only quality photos.

Buy a professional camera if you have to. Or at least get yourself a new smartphone that takes better pictures.

Invest in yourself.

As you saw in the example of partnering with a mobile app, taking high-quality photos can lead to big opportunities for you.

Just look at Albert Hongbo Yang’s Instagram profile:

These images are breathtaking.

Albert has over 24k followers who are interested in his photos, which is a huge leveraging point when it comes to working with brands.

Even if you don’t want to sell products on Instagram, if your photos are good enough, you can make money as a photographer.

Post pictures that draw attention and make you seem more legitimate.

Refer to my guide how to take and edit photos without hiring a professional to help you with this.

10. Fully disclose your relationships with brands

Part of being a social influencer means you need to fully disclose your relationships with brands.

First of all, you don’t want to mislead any of your followers or cause them to distrust you. That’s not right.

But more importantly, it’s a requirement by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC says that these disclosures must be clear and obvious. It doesn’t want you to use anything ambiguous, like #thanks or #collab, which could be misinterpreted.

You also can’t rely on a disclosure that will only be seen if people “click more” or view the content on a separate landing page.

To show you how to properly disclosure your relationships, look at this post from Anastasia Ashley:

Anastasia is promoting La Roche-Posay skincare products.

As you can see, she clearly tagged them in her caption and used the hashtag #sponsored to disclose her relationship with the brand.

There is definitely nothing ambiguous about that. She’s complying with FTC regulations.

11. Promote your services

OK, so you want to make a living on social media without selling any products. But you can still sell your services.

Earlier I explained how you could make a living by taking high-quality photos and then leverage your photography skills to make money.

That’s just one way to do it, but there are plenty of others.

For example, let’s take a look at Rob Atkin’s Instagram profile.

Rob is promoting his personal website in the biography.

Clearly, he’s a personal trainer. But the way he positions his services is much more creative than just saying “personal trainer.”

Instead, he uses creative phrases such as “I help busy people get abs” and “fitness specialist” to promote his services.

As you can see from his posts, his content fits into that niche, which is extremely important, as I mentioned earlier.

So if you want to make money on social media without selling any products, consider using your distribution channels to promote your services instead.

Conclusion

There is tons of money to be made on social media right now.

People are making a living without selling a single product.

Those of you who have a large social following can use your profiles to get paid by brands.

Even if you don’t have lots of followers right now, you can increase your following and engagement metrics to make yourself more appealing to prospective clients.

If you follow the tips and advice I’ve outlined in this guide, you can turn your social media profile into a money-making machine.

How are you leveraging your social media followers to make money as a social influencer?

How to Promote Your Local Business with These 15 Marketing Strategies

To survive, local businesses need to learn how to adapt to the modern way of marketing.

If you are seeing a plateau or decline in sales, it’s time for you to mix up your marketing strategy.

Even if your small business is profitable right now, you need to stay ahead of your competition to remain successful in the future.

Analyze the latest marketing trends. Recognize the consumer buying behavior. Learn how to get more money from your existing customers.

Unfortunately, only 33% of small businesses reach the 10-year mark. The rest fail.

I don’t want you to become the sad statistic. This was my inspiration for writing this guide.

If your company is new, you need to do everything possible to stay strong for years to come.

Local businesses that have been around for decades may be ready for a marketing facelift. Your strategies that worked 20 years ago probably won’t be as successful in 2018 and beyond.

I narrowed down the top 15 marketing tactics for local business owners. Use this guide as a reference for your future marketing campaigns.

1. Set up your free listing with Google

How are new customers finding you?

If you’re old-school, you may be relying on word of mouth, radio promotions, print ads, and direct mailing. But last year, 97% of consumers searched the Internet for a local business.

Furthermore, positive online reviews make 73% of consumers trust local businesses.

That’s why you need to make sure your local business is listed on Google.

When people use the Internet to search for something, they start with Google.

Setting up your free Google listing makes it easy for consumers to find you when they search for terms related to your business.

Your listing will have all your information:

  • address
  • phone number
  • hours
  • directions
  • link to website

You’ll be able to add photos to give people a better understanding of the way you operate.

Customers will also be able to add photos. They’ll write reviews about your local business for other people to see, which will have a major impact on your successful.

You need to learn how to get your customers to recommend your brand to others.

Your star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to determine whether they’ll buy from your local business.

In fact, 94% of customers will use businesses with a 4-star rating.

2. Start blogging

As you’ve just seen, consumers use the Internet to find local businesses.

That means you need to understand the basic principles of SEO if you want to increase your chances of getting ranked as a top result.

Roughly 47% of clicks go to the top three positions of Google search results.

Blogging will help you tremendously with your SEO strategy. Just look at these numbers:

More website traffic, more followers, and more leads will ultimately translate to increased profits.

Publishing new blog posts means your website will be updated more frequently with fresh content, which will increase your chances of getting a higher search ranking.

Plus, your posts are a great place to add keywords prospective customers may be searching for when browsing online.

Once you’re able to establish a steady group of readers for your blog, they’ll visit your website on a regular basis. The more they visit your site, the greater the chances you’ll have of getting them to convert.

3. Join a local group

Local businesses need to remain active in their communities. Joining a local group is a great way to stay connected with residents and other business owners.

I suggest joining your local Chamber of Commerce. There will be a small annual fee, but it’s worth it.

Attending these meetings and events will expose your brand to other businesses.

Will your competitors be part of these groups? It’s possible. But that’s even more of a reason for you to be there.

Let’s say you own a local t-shirt company.

Another local business may be hosting an event in town and need custom shirts made. Rather than ordering the shirts online, they’ll be more inclined to use your services if you both belong to the same local group.

That’s the whole idea behind joining. The businesses look out for one another and always try to support local brands.

4. Give back to the community

Being part of a local community also means you need to give back.

If you’re charitable, don’t be shy about your involvement. Consumers want to hear about how your local business supports charitable causes.

Research shows 91% of customers say they are willing to switch brands if it means supporting one associated with a charitable cause.

And 85% of consumers will have a more positive image of your local business if you support a charity they care about.

You can even ask your community and customers which charities you should support. Studies show 39% of people want to help decide on the charities a business supports by a voting system.

It’s a safe bet to associate with local charities.

This will definitely help you and your business become closer to your community.

You can approach this in many ways.

For starters, you can make an annual contribution to a charity.

You can also run special promotions with a certain percentage of sales on a particular day or week goes to a cause.

Giving back to your community doesn’t always mean donating to a charity.

For example, let’s say you own a local restaurant. You can provide food for a public high school graduation event. These types of parties run by the school are intended to keep students safe and sober on the night of their graduation.

5. Run contests

Contests are a great way to get people excited about your local business.

The best way to run these contests is through online platforms. Leverage your social media profiles for this strategy.

Run contests that encourage user-generated content. For example, ask your followers to post pictures related to your business. Then pick a winner based on who gets the most likes on their photo.

The whole idea behind these contests is to grow your social media following.

If people see their friends and family posting about your local business on their social profiles, it will increase your exposure and increase the chances of them following you as well.

Now you’ll be able to post promotional content aimed at your new followers that converts them into customers.

6. Verify your information on Yelp

In addition to your Google listing, your local business will also have profiles set up on other platforms, whether you signed up or not.

For example, you may have a Yelp profile because customers rated and reviewed your business.

It’s important that you make sure all your information such as your store hours, phone number, address, and website is accurate on these platforms.

More than 90% of consumers make a purchase after viewing a business on Yelp.

If a customer tries to contact you and the phone number is wrong, or if they show up to your store thinking you’re open and you’re actually closed, it’s going to hurt you.

It’s in your best interest to claim your business on Yelp so that you can control the information in your listing.

7. Implement a customer loyalty program

If you’re looking for a fast way to increase sales, you need to learn how to create a customer loyalty program.

The best part about this marketing tactic is you can make more money without having to acquire new customers. Your focus will be on getting your existing customers to spend more money.

The goal of your loyalty program should focus on two things:

  • increasing purchase frequency
  • increasing average purchase amount

By accomplishing these two things, you’ll be able to drive growth through sales.

More than 82% of consumers are more likely to shop at stores with customer loyalty programs.

Your loyalty program could be something as simple as a punch card. On the 10th visit, the customer gets a free reward or something like that.

Or you can set up a system that’s a little bit more in-depth. Reward your highest spending customers by implementing a loyalty program based on different spending tiers.

The best way to track this type of program is with a customer profile or mobile app, but we’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly.

8. Offer discounts

Consumers are price-sensitive.

As a local business, you need to recognize this and adjust your pricing accordingly.

Some of you may be hesitant to offer discounts because you feel like it lowers the value of your brand. Plus, your current prices may not yield profits if you offer discounts.

If that’s the case, you should consider raising your base prices. Then offer discounts on those new prices.

Psychologically, this is more appealing to your customers. They want to feel they’re getting a deal.

If your local business has an ecommerce store, an active discount code will increase your chances of getting more sales.

Whether you’re selling online, in-store, or both, it’s important your business offers coupons and discounts to your customers.

9. Increase your social media presence

We briefly discussed social media earlier when we talked about running contests to promote your local business.

You need to establish an active presence on as many social media platforms as possible.

Sure, you might be on Facebook. But that’s not enough. Last year, more than half of small businesses increased their social media investment for platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

If you have a local B2B company, you also need to prioritize networks such as LinkedIn.

Just 43% of small businesses share content and engage with their followers on a daily basis. That number should be much higher.

I know what you’re thinking. Running a small business is tough.

You’re already putting in long days, and you just don’t have enough time to focus on your social media strategy.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Check out my favorite time-saving social media marketing tools to help you automate the process.

10. Partner with a local influencer

To take your social media marketing strategy to the next level, you should consider working with local influencers.

These are people in the community who have a large social following.

You can pay them to promote your local business on their distribution channels to increase your reach.

The best part about this strategy is it’s relatively inexpensive. Each post will likely only cost you a couple hundred bucks at most, and you can even pay them less if you offer them some free stuff as well.

Influencers have extremely high engagement rates with their followers, and their audiences trust their recommendations.

11. Set up a customer referral program

Implementing a customer referral program is one of my favorite ways to acquire new customers without doing any work.

The idea behind this strategy is to get your current customers to do all the heavy lifting.

It’s a strategy that focuses on both customer retention and customer acquisition, which are the top two most significant retail drivers.

For your referral program to be successful, you need to offer an incentive to both parties.

Reward your existing customers for each referral. This gives them the motivation to get out there and refer your local business to as many people as possible.

As for the new customer, they’ll need some type of incentive as well to get them in the door.

If they’re satisfied with their purchase, they’ll start referring new customers as well.

This can turn into a highly profitable cycle for your business. That’s because 86% of consumers say their close friends influence their decisions to make a purchase.

Simply put, referrals work.

12. Add subscribers to your email list

Don’t underestimate email marketing.

While it may not be the newest or sexiest marketing tactic, it’s one of the most effective strategies out there.

According to research, 81% of small business owners say email marketing drives customer acquisition. And 80% of them say they were successful in using email marketing to retain customers.

This strategy is extremely profitable. For every $1 spent on email marketing, your local business can expect to see a $44 return.

In fact, 77% of your email ROI will come from campaigns that are targeted, segmented, and triggered.

But your email strategy won’t be effective if you don’t have subscribers.

Focus your efforts on getting more customers to join your list, and the rest will take care of itself if you stay on top of your campaigns.

13. Launch a mobile app

It doesn’t matter what type of business you have or what industry you’re in, I can promise you your customers are using mobile devices.

If you have the funds available, you need to consider launching a mobile app for your local business.

That’s because the majority of mobile time is spent using apps.

Studies indicate 63% of consumers prefer an app compared to a mobile site because it’s more convenient.

And 57% of users like apps because they are faster than mobile sites.

You may not think an app is necessary for your local business right now, but it will be in the future. Even if you’re not ready to start this process today, you need to plan to do it soon.

Once your app launches, it will help you personalize the customer experience.

You can use your app to facilitate your customer loyalty programs and customer referral programs, which I talked about earlier.

If you already have a live app or you’re in the process of building one, refer to my guide on how to improve the profitability of your small business mobile app.

14. Set up Google Alerts

Google Alerts will help you monitor what’s being said about your business online.

Reports will be emailed to you anytime your local business or other keywords are published on the Internet.

This will help you stay on top of the latest news, whether it’s positive or negative.

For example, let’s say some blogger writes an unfavorable post about your brand online.

You’ll be able to see it and act accordingly right away as opposed to finding out about the post weeks later.

Or, on the flip side, if a local news publication writes a positive article about your business, you can share that content on your website and your social media channels.

15. Improve your customer service

Your local business needs to provide excellent customer service:

How does good customer service help your business?

Well, as I previously discussed, prospective customers will use a number of different tools and platforms to research your business.

They’ll read reviews online, check social media, and take advice from their friends and family.

If you’re able to provide high-quality customer service, it will be evident in the way you’re perceived online. As a result, your current customers will keep coming back, and you’ll get new customers walking through your doors as well.

Conclusion

As a local business, you can’t afford to fall behind your competition.

Take a look at your current marketing campaigns, and ask yourself whether they’re generating the results you’re looking for.

It might be time to switch up your marketing strategy.

If you’re looking for new ways to promote your local business, use this guide as a reference.

I’m not expecting you to implement all these strategies overnight. But go through the list, and prioritize some of these tactics based on the needs of your business.

What types of marketing strategies are you using to promote your local business?

How to Run Contests That Encourage User-Generated Content

Are you looking for a new way to spice up your marketing strategy?

Your current promotions may be effective for now, but you need to mix things up. After a while, using the same marketing tactics over and over again gets stale.

Promotional contests are one of my favorite ways to keep an audience engaged.

This is a great opportunity for you to increase brand awareness and even build hype for a new product launch.

The best promotions give something away to participants.

There are a few different types of such promotions.

Contests require some type of skill. People who enter a contest will need to put forth some type of effort in order to win. The winner of a contest gets selected by judges or through a voting system.

This differs from a lottery or sweepstakes.

Sweepstakes do not require any skill whatsoever.

The winners of sweepstakes get drawn randomly, based on luck. For example, you could randomly select one of your Instagram followers as a winner just because they follow your brand’s account.

A lottery requires a participant to purchase something to be entered into a draw.

Today, I won’t focus on sweepstakes or lotteries.

Contests are a better alternative because if you set them up properly, they will encourage user-generated content (UGC).

User-generated content increases the chances that your audience will engage with your advertisements:

As you can see from these numbers, encouraging users to share images will be beneficial as well. It’s only natural to use this information to your advantage when you’re setting up a contest.

If you have never run a contest before, you may not know where to start. That was my inspiration for writing this guide.

I’ll explain how you can run a profitable contest that encourages user-generated content.

As a result, you’ll be able to generate more leads and ultimately increase your profits. Here’s what you need to do.

Pick a prize

The first step in running a contest is determining what the winner will get.

This may sound simple, but it still requires some thought on your end. The more valuable the product, the more likely people will participate.

For example, if you’re giving away a t-shirt, it won’t get anyone very excited. But if the contest winner receives something like a new camera, drone, or pair of sneakers, it’s much more enticing.

I’m not saying you need to give away the most expensive product your company sells, but make sure your prize is worth the time and effort required for people to enter.

This will help you get greater participation. Just look at how the value of your prize impacts the engagement rates:

Your prize also needs to be appropriate. For example, let’s say you have a business that primarily targets teenagers. You probably shouldn’t be running a contest for a free trip to Las Vegas.

It’s not appropriate for your audience, and it doesn’t speak to them. Instead, giving away one of your newest products is a much more reasonable prize idea to consider.

Make sure your prize is related to your marketing goals.

Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish and promote with each contest: a product, service, or event. The prize should align with these goals as opposed to being a random giveaway item.

Establish the rules

Your contest needs to have clearly established rules.

Explain how people can enter to win. Come up with a deadline for entries.

Narrow down the eligibility of your contest, based on things such as age or location. For example, depending on the prize and your brand, you may be offering the prize only to residents of the United States who are at least 21 years old.

Let people know that purchases aren’t required to enter and that making a purchase does not increase the chances of winning the contest.

The criteria participants are being judged on need to be clear as well. Here are some examples to consider:

  • best photo based on judges’ discussion
  • photo with the most likes
  • comment with the most likes
  • highest number of retweets
  • most number of shares

I like it when brands use criteria such as likes or shares to determine the winner as opposed to relying on a judge’s decision. That way it’s clear to everyone who won, and people won’t think you’re playing favorites. But I’ll leave that for you to decide.

You also need to share the odds of winning, privacy laws for revealing the identity of the contest winner, and the date and time the winner will be announced.

All of this needs to be clear so that it’s fair and everyone understands the rules. Otherwise, there could be some confusion.

For example, let’s say you run a contest in which the winner is determined by the comment with the highest number of likes. But you forget to set a deadline.

You pick a winner, but a few weeks later someone else gets more likes on a new comment. How will you handle that?

You won’t take a prize away from someone who already won. But you won’t want to tell the other person it’s too late because it could hurt your relationship with them.

You may be forced to give away multiple items. This confusion will be avoided if the rules are clearly established.

Select a platform

How will you run the contest?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Email
  • Website

All these options may seem viable, but remember, you’re trying to encourage user-generated content. That’s why you need to choose platforms where participants can see submissions from other participants.

Social media works best for this purpose. Running a contest on social media will help your account grow faster.

Platforms such as email and Snapchat wouldn’t be helpful for this type of contest.

You can still use your website to run a contest based on UGC. Just use the forums section or a dedicated landing page for user submissions.

Running the same contest on multiple platforms and selecting a winner from each one is also an option. Or you could run the contest on just one platform but promote it on all your distribution channels.

For example, if you’re running a Facebook contest, you can use Instagram, Twitter, your website, and email list to promote it.

You want to pick the platform that will generate the best response. If you have 1,000 Twitter followers and 20k Instagram followers, it obviously makes more sense to run your contest on Instagram.

Create a unique hashtag for the contest

Use hashtags as a promotional tool. It’s a great way for people to enter your contest.

For example, let’s say you’re running a contest on social media with user photos. You are encouraging participants to upload images to their personal profiles.

But how will you find them to judge them? By having the participants add a hashtag to the caption.

This strategy has many benefits. For starters, it will keep you organized so that you can run a fair and legitimate contest. It will be clear to everyone who enters.

But it also puts all those pictures in one place.

Now people who enter will see the photos submitted by other people who don’t follow your brand or follow people who submitted the photo.

This helps increase brand awareness and grow your social media following.

If you’re struggling to think of a good hashtag, you can use an online tool such as All Hashtag to help you generate one:

Be creative, but keep it simple.

Think about the readability of your hashtag. You can capitalize the first letter of each word to make it easier for people to read and understand.

Run contests encouraging likes, comments, and shares

This addresses the user-generated content aspect of contests—your ultimate goal.

If you run a contest on Instagram and tell your followers to enter by sending you a direct message, this action will not create UGC. But encouraging people to like, comment, and share will definitely do the trick.

You want them to complete these actions on your posts as well as their own.

Run photo contests or best comment contests. Reward people for getting the most likes or shares on their posts.

These are all great ways to encourage user-generated content.

As you can see from these numbers, user-generated content will ultimately help you boost ecommerce sales on your website.

The numbers above show that UGC increases the chances of online shoppers making a purchase. That’s because your promotion stays on their minds.

They may not visit your website every day, but they’re active on social media.

The contest serves as a reminder of your brand. Even if people aren’t participating, they’ll still see it.

Promote your contest

You’ve launched your contest, posted the rules, and set a deadline. That’s great.

Now what?

Don’t just set it and forget it. Continue posting updates and reminders about the contest. Leverage all your distribution channels for this.

  • Create a video promotion.
  • Blog about it.
  • Send an email to your subscribers.
  • After someone makes a purchase on your website, direct them to a landing page promoting the contest.
  • Use a live video promotion to build hype for your contest.
  • Post daily reminders on your Instagram story.

Your followers may not have seen your original post from last week. But your story can serve as a countdown and constant reminder that you’re running the contest.

All this will help you get the highest number of participants and ultimately the most user-generated content.

Leverage relationships with social influencers

Influencers can help you promote your contests through their profiles.

Now your contest will be shown to a new audience, who may not know you or follow your brand on social media.

Have influencers promote contests the same way you did. Tell them to share the rules, set a deadline, and promote the hashtag.

The idea behind this strategy is to create social proof:

People are more likely to trust and follow recommendations from real people whom they follow on social media.

You can approach this strategy in a couple of ways:

  1. You could have influencers direct their followers to your page. They’ll use the same hashtag, entry rules, and deadline you’ve established.
  2. You could let the influencers run their own contests. Create a new hashtag, deadline, and prize for them to give away.

Now more people can participate even if they don’t want to follow your brand.

Running multiple contests increases the number of participants and the amount of user-generated content created for your company.

Pick a winner

When someone wins the contest, you need to take the time to announce it. Make this seem like a big deal.

Share the winning entry so everyone can see it. Tag the winner’s social media profile.

Just make sure to clearly describe all these aspects of your contest in your original rules. You don’t want to violate someone’s right to privacy without their permission.

Announcing the winner will have many benefits.

First of all, the winner will feel great, enjoying the praise. As a result, they will become a loyal customer and will be more likely to buy from you in the future.

They may even share a “thank you” post that will be seen by their followers.

Announcing the winner also shows people your contest is legitimate. Take a look at this Mint blog post, announcing a contest winner:

As you can see, Mint tagged the user profile and shared a screenshot of the winner’s post.

Now people know the contest was real and a real person won. Anyone can verify this by clicking the profile and referring to the entry.

This also gives more people an incentive to enter contests run by your company in the future. They’ll want to get the same praise and recognition for their efforts as this winner did.

Run contests on a regular basis

If you run lots of contests, you’ll generate tons of UGC.

Switch things up. Try running contests on different platforms to see which ones work the best.

Change your prizes.

After running several contests, you’ll be able to tell which ones had the highest participation.

I’d say it’s in your best interest to leverage your social media accounts for contests.

It’s a great place to encourage user-generated content, and it promotes brand loyalty: 53% of people who follow brands on social media are more loyal to those companies. Those are the types of people whom you want to target.

Once you figure out which contests were the most successful, you can continue running those.

Conclusion

Contests are a great way to build brand awareness.

But running contests that encourage user-generated content is even more effective because they can ultimately drive sales for your business.

Select a prize with a high value and relevance to your target audience. Otherwise, people won’t have an incentive to participate.

Explain the rules so everyone is on the same page. This will help you avoid confusion down the road.

Decide which platform you want to run the contest on. You could even run a contest on multiple platforms.

But no matter what you decide, you’ll need to promote it on all your distribution channels. Use social influencers to help spread the word as well.

Come up with a unique hashtag for each contest. Run contests that encourage likes, shares, and comments.

Make it seem like a big deal when you announce the winner.

Continue to run more contests in the future to get the most user-generated content for your brand.

What platforms does your brand use to run contests that encourage user-generated content?

The Top 10 Principles That Boost Your Website Loading Time

How fast does it take for your website to load?

You may not think about this question very often, but it’s arguably the most important aspect of your site.

That’s because 47% of people expect pages to load in just two seconds or less. Failure to meet this benchmark will crush your conversions.

In fact, 40% of website visitors will abandon pages if they take more than three seconds to load.

If you see high bounce and low conversion rates on your website, page load speed could be the issue. It’s also worth noting that websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates.

Simply put, the longer it takes for your website to load, the higher your page abandonment rates will be:

Here’s something else you need to consider. People are impatient—80% of people who abandon your website due to slow loading times will not return.

That’s right.

Consumers are used to getting instant results.

If you can’t deliver what they’re looking for, they’ll visit a competitor’s site that loads faster and never look back. Just a one-second delay could be costing you big bucks.

Improving your page loading time will optimize the customer experience and ultimately help you increase revenue.

In addition to optimizing the design principles of your website, you also need to understand the elements impacting the loading time and correct any mistakes you’re making.

But where do you start?

I’ve identified the top principles that increase the speed of your website and boost the loading time. Go through this list, and implement these methods on your site.

1. Reduce HTTP requests

If you are not familiar with technical terms, don’t worry—I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible. HTTP is short for hypertext transfer protocol.

These requests and responses transfer data from one point of a network to another.

When you type in a website address, you are telling your browser to establish a TCP connection that responds to the URL. Your computer, or whatever device you’re using, will send an HTTP request to the server to open the page.

According to a study by Yahoo, downloading different parts of a web page is 80% of the loading time.

Long loading times will increase your bounce rates:

If you have lots of elements on the page, such as scripts, images, and stylesheets, there will be an HTTP request for each one.

To reduce these requests, review your developer tools for the site. This will tell you how long each element takes to load and will show you the total number of requests on each page.

Eliminate any unnecessary files.

You can also combine some files together, but we’ll discuss that concept in greater detail shortly.

2. Improve the TTFB

TTFB stands for time to first byte.

Basically, this is the length of time a web browser needs to wait until the first byte of data is received from the server. According to Google, your TTFB should be less than 200ms for optimal performance.

Here are some potential reasons why your server may not be responding fast:

  • slow routing
  • memory starvation
  • frameworks
  • slow database queries
  • slow application logic
  • resource CPU starvation

Once you’re able to identify why the response time is so high, you can improve your TTFB.

Research shows that the median TTFB for running a website on Pantheon is three times faster than running it on alternatives:

You may want to consider this information if you want to improve your time to first byte.

This will help speed up the DNS lookup, server processing, and response times.

3. Reduce the response time of your server

Your page loading speed is directly related to your DNS lookup time.

DNS stands for domain name system. It’s a server with a database of IP addresses and names of hosts.

When someone types a website URL into a web browser, the DNS server converts that IP address to show the location of it on the Internet.

IP addresses are long strings of numbers. This eliminates the need for users to memorize these various number combinations.

But if this step takes too long, you may want to consider switching to a DNS provider with a faster service.

A slow DNS increases the amount of time web browsers take to locate your site. By speeding up this process, you will speed up your overall page loading time.

4. Enable caching

When someone visits a website, the elements on each page they visit are temporarily stored on a hard drive, which is called a cache.

When they visit the same website again, the browser can load the page, using the stored data, without sending another HTTP request back to the server.

This relates to my discussion about minimizing HTTP requests. It’s a great option, especially for those of you who are using visual elements to improve your website.

Enabling caching will speed up the loading time for your repeat website visitors.

It’s important because you want to accommodate users who browse your site frequently.

5. Minify and combine your files

As you’ve just seen, each file on your site increases the loading time.

That’s because they require additional HTTP requests. This holds true for all HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files.

But you can reduce the sizes of these files without having to eliminate them, which I talked about earlier.

I recommend trying the WordPress Rocket plugin or a similar program:

As you can see, this plugin makes it easy for you to minify and combine these files with just a few clicks.

But what does this do to your pages?

Basically, minification simplifies the files. It will remove unnecessary characters, such as white space, new lines, formatting, and comments. Minifying your files eliminates anything that isn’t needed for the code to function.

Combining files is as simple and straightforward as it sounds.

For example, let’s say a page on your site has six JavaScript files and eight CSS files. By combining similar files, you could have just two HTTP requests as opposed to 14.

But if you use HTTP/2, the combining process won’t have as much of an impact on your loading time because several requests can happen simultaneously.

6. Implement asynchronous loading

After your JavaScript and CSS files have been combined and minified, you can optimize the way they get loaded on your pages.

There are two options for loading CSS and JavaScript files:

  • synchronously
  • asynchronously

Loading scripts synchronously means they are loading one at a time. The order is determined by where they appear on the page.

Asynchronous loading will load some scripts at the same time. Implementing this loading strategy will speed up your website.

Synchronous loading can slow down your page loading speed: if just one file has an issue or takes a long time to load, nothing else will start until that is complete.

7. Select the best hosting option

When it comes to hosting a website, most people make the mistake of choosing the cheapest option.

Sure, this may be a viable option for now, but it’s not a long-term solution.

As your website traffic grows, you’ll need to upgrade your hosting. There are three ways for you to host your website:

  • VPS hosting
  • shared hosting
  • dedicated server

For the most part, shared hosting will be the least expensive choice. That’s because you’ll be sharing things like RAM and disk space with other websites also hosted on that server.

If you decide to use VPS hosting, you’ll be sharing server space with other websites, but you’ll have certain portions for your own resources.

Here’s the difference between shared hosting and VPS hosting:

VPS hosting will be more expensive, but it’s beneficial if you have more website traffic. This will also make it easier for you to deliver more resource-intensive content.

A dedicated server will give you the most space.

That’s because there is a direct line from the server resources to your website. But this type of hosting requires more work on your end.

The setup is a bit more technical, and you’ll need a knowledgeable person to configure everything for you.

Although a dedicated server is the most expensive option, it will give you the most control over your site. Consider updating your server hosting if you have lots of traffic causing slow loading times.

8. Eliminate unnecessary redirects

There are a few different reasons for redirects on your website.

For example, if you’re tracking clicks or connecting different parts of a website together, it will require the browser to redirect from one URL to another.

But this increases latency and adds an extra HTTP request. Obviously, you want to avoid that.

Don’t set up more than one redirect for the same resource. If you must have a redirect, it should go straight from the start point to the target page.

Your URL references should always be updated whenever a resource changes its location. Don’t reference URLs that redirect to other URLs on your pages.

If you have extra domains that result in redirects but don’t serve a purpose, get rid of them altogether.

9. Install Google PageSpeed

Google PageSpeed has lots of benefits for your loading time.

It changes the resources on the web page to improve the bandwidth usage and latency.

After you install Google PageSpeed on your server, it will automatically use all the best practices for web performance. You won’t have to change the content.

The installation of this software alone can help you speed up your page loading time.

10. Compress your files and images

If you have small files, your pages will load faster.

The easiest way to improve your load time is by using Gzip to compress your files.

To see whether you have Gzip enabled, use the Check Gzip Compression tool:

This will give you a report showing the total size of compressed files compared to your uncompressed data.

In addition to compressing your files, you should also compress your images. To those of you using WordPress, I recommend something like the Smush Image Compression plugin.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter what type of business you have or what industry you’re in, if you have a website, you need to prioritize the page loading time.

Slow pages will cause users to abandon your site. The majority of those users won’t return.

This is obviously a conversion killer.

To prevent this from happening, you need to understand the different factors impacting your website loading time.

Use this guide as a reference. Don’t feel overwhelmed.

If you need to make lots of changes, you don’t need to implement everything at once. But I’d say you should get started on this sooner rather than later.

Following the tips on this list will help your website load faster.

What elements of your website need to be changed to boost the page loading time?