How to Use Content Marketing to Increase Sales

May 28, 2019 by Comerica Bank

Content marketing is the process of creating and sharing written and visual content with the aim of gaining new customers.

The ultimate goal of your content marketing strategy should be to increase sales. How your business goes about this is a personal decision, but there are a few methods you can follow to enhance your chances of creating successful content.

Create content that leads to sales

Content remains king – especially when it comes to getting potential customers to your website and interested in something you sell. It’s important to always have an end goal for what each piece of content you create is trying to achieve. For most pieces, you’ll want them to ultimately evoke sales.

To generate content that aligns with your business’s objectives and what your customers want,  you need to determine what content types appeal to your target market. For example, if you own a top-of-the-line hotel, professional images and flawless video will most likely appeal to your target market.

Each item of content you develop should lead to a product or service. For instance, you could produce content that:

  • Tells your business story, so your prospects can relate to your business.
  • Solves customer pain points by targeting consumers who are at certain life stages, or if you’re selling B2B, at various stages of the business cycle.
  • Demonstrates the benefits and features of your goods or services.

Engaging content can draw direct purchase decisions and generate high conversion rates. It can even outdo your best salesperson. The challenge is to create interesting and entertaining content that’s valuable to consumers.

Consider the following steps to achieve your content goals:

Outline a specific topic

Determine what topic (or theme) your content will have. The important part is to first settle on a subject. For example, if you have an art and graphic supplies store, you might think about developing a blog that features great works of art made of products you sell in your store.

After your business begins growing, you could even consider creating some case studies of well-known artists who utilize your goods.

If you plan on writing an e-newsletter to your customers and future prospects, it’s a wise idea to design a monthly schedule outlining the general topic for each month.

Make your content a lead magnet

How people buy has changed – consumers have become wiser about filtering out advertising and using tools to block web adverts. They search the web for items of interest and when they find what they want, they look for a way of making contact that could lead to a purchase.

Sales leads will now have a tendency to come through your business’s website, social media platform or blog. Aim to maximize the number of targeted leads your business can get via your content marketing in these channels.

You can try synchronizing your content messages by using automation tools to enhance your digital presence.

An effective content marketing automation package will give your small business an avenue to motivate, capture and nurture leads online. You can set up a schedule of when and where certain content will be posted to your website, blog and social media platforms.

Decide which medium to utilize

The variety of online content continues to grow, giving your business a number of mediums to try and connect with your target consumers. They include:

  • Infographics, which are visual representations of data and information.
  • Videos and images.
  • Guides and articles.
  • Case studies of some of your highly appreciative customers.
  • White papers and eBooks, which are informative documents that highlight the usefulness of your products or services.
  • Interactive content like training videos, quizzes, or participation videos.

Make your content easy to find

There’s no point creating great content if no one sees it. After all, there’s no return on investment in content that your target market isn’t reading.

By making your content as accessible as possible and building a reputation for worthwhile content, you’ll start to develop a standing of being a thought leader in your field.

Decide on the strategy you’ll adopt for putting your newly released content in the hands of your target customers. For example, place it on your home or landing page, your main social media platform and offer links to it through your e-newsletter.

Amplify your content

Advertising your content will help make it easier to find for prospective customers. Your options include advertising through:

  • Search engines. Most people don’t go beyond the first page of a search result, so paying for a Google ad could significantly increase the number of people viewing your content.
  • E-newsletters. As mentioned above, this can be used as bait to hook in your catch of new sales leads.
  • Social media. Whenever you release new content it should also be featured on your social media platforms.
  • Print media. Don’t forget print media still has its place, particularly for target markets with older people.
  • Other websites, such as strategic partners so you’re linking to each other’s sites.

Create awareness

Reach potential customers at the very top of your sales funnel before they’ve even made a decision on what they need.

The key is to use the right content with the right voice to reach out to your target market and begin growing your online traffic. Educate your prospective customers so you build trust and long-term relationships. Then, reinforce your brand and retain customers by using content marketing post-sale.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such. 

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How to Compete Against Larger Businesses

April 3, 2019 by Comerica Bank

Create a unique point of difference

To compete, you’ll need to have a key competitive advantage or unique point of difference. A competitive advantage is a superior attribute that keeps bringing your customers back for repeat purchases.

Some attributes your small business could have over its bigger competitors include:

  • The ability to make instant decisions as an owner-operator.
  • Greater flexibility by adapting quickly to customer needs. For example, by changing products rapidly without needing to change the entire organization.
  • An ideal location where foot traffic is consistently heavy.
  • A pro-environmental stance that distinguishes how customers view your business in contrast to the competition.

Consult your customers

You’ll certainly have a few regulars who buy from your business often. Talk to them and ask them why they choose your business? Remember, it’s their perspective that’s important. They may be shopping with you for reasons you didn’t even consider.

Position away from your competitors

It’s important that you know who your competitors are and what they offer if you want your business to be able to compete with them, and position itself differently in the eyes of consumers. Information is power, so aim to:

  • Gather data on their products, services, prices and terms of payment.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis to find out their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats.
  • Undergo their shopping experience to gain a firsthand idea of what their customers feel like when purchasing from them.

For example, if you run a small takeout pizza business, try ordering online (and over the phone) from the big players like Pizza Hut and Domino’s. Take notes on the ease of their websites and manner of their phone staff. Pick up your pizzas and deliberately arrive early to get a feel for their customer service and in-store environment.

Adopt technology earlier

If your business can take advantage of the rapid advances in online and mobile technology faster than your larger competitors, you’ll have a better chance of competing. Taking the core of your business virtual could be an option if you’re a web-based organization.

As a small business, you won’t be worried about who owns certain IP — like third-party apps, for example — whereas a larger corporation is more likely to want to develop a personalized app themselves.

In recent times, cloud-based systems for accounts, project management and storage have changed the game. What technology is on the horizon that your business could adopt early to give it a competitive advantage against larger companies in your industry?

Employ smarter tactics

You probably won’t be able to rival the financial power and access to resources of your larger competitors, so aim to be smarter by enticing customers to stick with your business for life.

A few tactics you could utilize to achieve this include:

  • Promoting your products or services on the internet is one of the most cost-effective ways you can find. After all, you’ll be competing against big business advertising budgets so you’ll need to be more resourceful.
  • Stocking diverse goods or offering add-on services. For example, if you owned a small convenience store, how will you compete against the giant supermarket chains? Perhaps by stocking a more niche selection of products that are harder to find in the big chains.
  • Building up direct email correspondence with loyal, repeat customers. Personal communication could be a key factor here, so come up with an email strategy to keep contact with your customers and to offer special deals.

Build a strong reputation

If you’re selling B2B, aim to build a close rapport with the owners of other businesses. You could do this by ensuring you’re present at important industry events. As an owner-operator you should be able to find the time to attend such events, whereas the CEO of a larger business probably can’t.

If you are a B2C company, customers will become more and more familiar with your business and its offerings if you can develop a presence at as many major events around town as possible.

Whether that involves offering trials or samples, selling your products or services, sponsorship, or speaking engagements, it can become a simple numbers game for making your business seem bigger than it is.

If you need to travel to look larger than you are, be prepared to do so. Meeting business partners in person helps to build trust, and your reputation.

Set up an advisory group

Think about enlisting a small board of a few people (perhaps a mentor and a business partner) to keep you focused on long-term planning and to advise you on the big decisions.

You could consider meeting quarterly to discuss your larger competitors, anything new they’re doing or offering, and how you plan to continue being competitive against them.

Next steps

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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How to Get Honest Feedback From Your Customers

March 8, 2019 by Comerica Bank

Focus on building healthy relationships

There’s no big secret to it – the better the relationship you have with your customers, the more likely they are to stay loyal to you. One of the most effective ways of building and maintaining good relationships is to obtain useful, honest feedback from your customers.

To achieve this, you need to begin a series of small actions that create a connection with each of your customers and help build relationships over time. This is key to getting truthful feedback when you need it. The feedback may not always be what you want to hear, but it needs to be an ongoing part of your business if you want it to improve and grow.

Your customers deserve the personal touch when it comes to communication. They expect your business to make an effort replying to their requests or questions. Doing so will improve your chances of gaining useful, authentic feedback.

Put yourself in their shoes

The first step is to make yourself view your business as you would if you were one of its customers. In the end, all business owners are customers of other businesses themselves, and if you think about some of those businesses and the experience you have with them, you’ll be able to view your own business objectively.

Go through the steps your customer would take to visit your store or website, select an item, and navigate through the purchase process. If you get frustrated at a certain point, your customers probably will too.

It’s a good idea to get your employees to go through the process as well. Not only do they have the best interests of your business at heart, but it’s a good opportunity for them to make suggestions to you as they may have ideas of their own for improvement that are worth listening to.

Asking the right questions

There are various ways you can elicit feedback from your customers. You might conduct in-store or online questionnaires, use email surveys, place suggestion boxes in your store or on your website, or make use of your social media platforms. Whatever methods you use, the key to getting honest, useful feedback lies in the questions you ask and how you ask them.

Coming up with questions

Your aim is to ask smart, relevant and open-ended questions. After all, you want their opinions rather than pigeonholed responses. Seek feedback about one or two critical issues without asking for an hour or more of their time. It’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Be clear and precise. For example, “How often do you buy our product?” is vague and will result in worthless information because customers will interpret ‘often’ in different ways. A better way to ask this question would be “In a typical month, how often would you buy from our company?”
  • Use clear, normal language. Nothing puts people off about a survey faster than having to untangle long, complicated questions. So phrase your questions as if you were actually talking to your customers face to face.
  • Avoid words that indicate bias. Rather than asking “What did you dislike about the service you received?”, you’re better to phrase it “Please comment on the service you received.” That way you’re avoiding the word ‘dislike’ as this will automatically make the customer think there’s something wrong.
  • Give them a chance to make suggestions. Your questions should encourage customers to suggest ways you can improve your service.

Keep the questionnaire as brief as possible, one page if you can manage it. People will be more cooperative if the form is brief and relevant. There is no point in getting information that you won’t use.

Collecting feedback

Try out different methods of collecting feedback to see what works best for your business. Once you’ve got the number of responses you need, it’s time to review and take action. Even if the feedback’s more negative than you’d hoped, you still have to take them at face value and act on them. If the responses are negative, try to see the whole exercise as an opportunity to make positive improvements to your customer experience.

It’s also vital to report the findings to your customers. If you have a retail outlet, pin up a copy of the result and explain your next steps based on the survey.

An alternative is to mail a copy of the results to all clients (a good excuse to contact them). The important point is that you are harnessing a powerful force if your customers think they can.

Summary

The main thing you’re looking to avoid is assuming that you already know what your customers think. It’s always possible that plenty of the feedback you’re receiving from people in person isn’t honest. Whether your customers are busy, distracted or simply embarrassed to say what they really think, you’re probably not getting the answers you really need.

Remember: It’s important that you make your customers feel that their feedback is valued, important, and will be acted upon.

Next steps


This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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Growing Your Business with LinkedIn®

February 15, 2019 by Comerica Bank

LinkedIn® is the world’s largest professional network. It also serves as a great platform to grow your business, as it can help connect you with other professionals.

It’s a highly valuable business network that can help you grow your network of contacts, generate new leads and accelerate your go-to-market opportunities.

How to develop your LinkedIn® profile

By building a presence on LinkedIn®, you can drive engagement to your business. It could be your next step towards continued growth. Follow these steps to develop your profile:

  • Create your page. Known as a LinkedIn® Company Page, it will give you the opportunity to tell your business’s story, drive word-of-mouth and share career opportunities.
  • Entice followers. Engage with potential customers and spread the word about what your business does. Connect with your employees and network contacts so they can ‘like’, comment and share your business updates. Link to your other marketing channels like your emails, newsletter and blog.
  • Share useful content that’s fresh and interesting, such as industry articles and thought leadership items. Provide regular updates about your business and its goods or services.
  • Track your business’s analytics, such as how engaging your posts are, how quickly your followers are growing and any relevant trends.

Complete your profile

Before you can reap the benefits of LinkedIn®, it’s vital you progress through all the steps of completing your profile.

Fill in your company’s details (an overview and description of your business) and upload a logo and banner image. This will help bring your business to life on LinkedIn®, as your logo will be visible in search and it will also appear on your employees’ profiles.

Get started creating your company page by watching this short LinkedIn® video.

Begin posting updates about your business

Schedule a content plan along with product or service updates that will be useful to your potential customers. When posting, keep the following points in mind:

  • Think about your business’s page as more of a forum than an advertising platform.
  • Focus on discussing your industry and creating thought leadership content.
  • Post helpful advice and resources that can offer practical value to your customers.
  • Engage with your followers and aim to help solve their problems. This may encourage them to share your content.

Promote your page to gain more potential customers

Encourage your staff members to add your business to their personal profiles, and to post content or updates regularly. If potential followers notice that professionals with related skills and experience follow your company page, you might enhance your business’s credibility.

Think about adding a link to your email signature to promote your page through blogs and newsletters. Add a ‘follow’ button to your company page to make it easy for people to track your business.

LinkedIn® strategies

Try some successful LinkedIn® promotional strategies, such as:

  • Utilizing visual content. LinkedIn® isn’t a very visual network, so it’s important to try to make your business stand out where possible. Your company logo and profile image are two avenues for achieving this.
  • Writing expert content. Use keywords that highlight the uniqueness and experience of your business, with the aim of portraying you and your staff as experts in your industry.
  • Interacting. LinkedIn® is a social network and to successfully grow your business, you’ll have to engage with people. Browse the profiles of your connections and see who they’re linked to. You might just come across some valuable leads.

Design showcase pages for your goods or services

Showcase pages can tailor messages to different segments of your audience while highlighting certain brands or product lines. Your followers will be able to see this content in their news feeds if they’re interested in it, meaning it’s more focused and relevant to them.

Find out how to add showcase pages to your company page.

Harness the power of LinkedIn® Groups

For a small business owner, LinkedIn® Groups represents a powerful strategy to build your business network by communicating regularly with colleagues, industry leaders, suppliers, and prospects.

You can use LinkedIn® Groups to share content, ask questions and find answers, view job opportunities and make contacts. Learn more about how LinkedIn® Groups can help grow your business.

Consider paid LinkedIn® services

It could be useful to look into the costs and benefits of upgrading to LinkedIn®’s premium services.

For example, InMail messages can be sent to anyone on LinkedIn® without needing their contact information. It’s a professional outreach service that can put your business’s LinkedIn® profile in front of potential customers.

 

LinkedIn® is a registered trademark of the LinkedIn Corporation.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.  

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Market your Point of Difference

February 8, 2019 by Comerica Bank

One reason why people will choose your product or service over a competitor’s is the perceived, real or otherwise, difference to similar ones in the marketplace. You’ll need to find a competitive advantage over your rivals to make your business comparatively more appealing in the marketplace.

Doing business with you should be more attractive and compelling than with your competitors. A brand positioning strategy can help your business focus on the key ingredients that will set it apart from the crowd. It should be simple and needs to easily connect with potential customers.

Consider your options

Your primary marketing goal should be to create a unique point of difference. It will make your business stand out from your competitors and convince consumers to choose your product or service.

Your point of difference, also known as a unique selling point, needs to be the key benefit that you want your target market to associate with your product or service.

Your customers should have a favorable perception of your business so identifying a point of difference can be vital to achieving that outcome. Some areas of difference you might consider include:

  • Customer service.
  • Convenience.
  • Specific benefits of your product or service.
  • Your business story.
  • Variety.
  • Price.

Consult your customers

If you already have customers, survey them to find out what they’re really wanting from you and your competitors. Consumer knowledge is crucial to finding your unique point of difference.

You may find out that the reason why you thought your customers choose your business wasn’t actually the reason why they keep coming back. They may be motivated by something you hadn’t even considered, making this research critical.

Sometimes, customers will be more loyal to a brand that they can relate to. Consumers who show a positive response to a business story they correlate with will sometimes become emotionally connected.

Make your business look unique

The simplest way you can make your business more unique and transparent is by telling your story. Tell potential customers how your business started, your role and what you put into your product or service for them.

Start by listing the steps you take from product or service initiation through to end delivery to your customers.

You can then use this list to form the basis of your business’s story, which can ultimately build your entire marketing strategy.

Differentiate from the competition

You might start out with exactly the same product or service commonly available in the marketplace, but add features that differentiate it from the pack.

It’s difficult to stand apart from the competition in a global marketplace. You’ll need to talk about the special features of your product or service to gain interest from potential buyers.

Determine your key strengths and weaknesses against your competition. Examine your three main competitors and take a close look at what your personal business brings to the table in comparison to them.

Focus on your market

An effective technique for a small business that’s struggling to compete against larger operations is to serve a specific market better than the rest. One example could be a small hardware store that can’t compete on price. To build a competitive edge, it focuses on a wider range of certain tools and equipment, while training its staff to be more knowledgeable about the hardware it sells.

In this example, the business develops expertise in the products it sells, which becomes its competitive advantage.

Contemplate cost leadership

By closely monitoring the costs of your business, you can aim to become a cost leader in your market. You want your business to operate at its highest possible level of efficiency so you can compete on price and use it as a competitive advantage in your industry.

This strategy can be risky, as you’ll push down the price and potentially start a price war with your competitors. Whoever has the most resources to sustain smaller margins will eventually come out on top.

After you determine your unique point of difference, focus on developing a marketing strategy that will show off your competitive advantage.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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