Growing Your Small Business in the Age of Digital Marketing

                                                                                

Growing your small business in the age of digital marketing is right at the end of your fingertips.  Social media and digital products have revolutionized advertising and that’s a good thing for the small business owner whose ad dollars are limited. 

            The key is making sure your business is social.  That means interacting regularly with your customer base and introducing your brand to potential clients, through specific channels that targets your audience. 

Certainly, it’s all about the number of connections made, more importantly, when it comes to growing your business, it’s better to narrow the field of social media platforms.  Having 5,000 connections has its benefits, but aim to choose a platform or two, perhaps even three, that rightly suits your services or what you’re selling. 

Digital marketing is an essential tool in developing customer relationships and is a way to maintain existing relationships.  Consider an email marketing campaign by creating an account with one of the many popular email services (i.e. Vertical Response or Constant Contact).  Using a professional email service allows you to communicate directly to your client base while also being able to personalize your message.  

A creative approach that makes your marketing campaign stand out is the way to go.  For example, a motivational speaker can create a clever tagline like, “Life is like photography we develop from the negatives,” and a great tag line is something that will stand out to potential clients and give your customers something to remember you by. 

The point is in today’s economy small businesses must participate in digital marketing.  Using the various digital platforms, including email services, social media and websites, all add up to help you keep returning customers and find new customers.   

Keep in mind, connecting to the right social media is important. Perhaps your business is photography, then Instagram, where you can share compelling images tag others and attract followers, may be the appropriate social media platform for you, along with a savvy photo gallery website.  Couple that with an email marketing campaign specific to new referrals about various packages you offer to clients, will help you reap the rewards from having developed a social media platform that works for you. 

            A recent report by Brittany Farb published in CRM Magazine said, “Digital strategies like social media will influence at least 80 percent of consumers discretionary spending by 2015,” based on data.  Being linked in and globally connected is paying off. 

            Also, the practicality of marketing in the digital age renders instant results.  You can gauge and track the activity of one marketing campaign from another to see how many customers opened your announcement and how many clicked onto a link you provided.  Other social media platforms will provide you with certain demographics that give you useful insight to help identify the concentrated areas of your customer base.   You now have a measureable idea of what’s trending in targeted areas.  Instant information gives you an edge to creating campaigns that work and drive potential clients to your Facebook page, blog or website.   

            I conclude with a question:  Are you one of those business owners perplexed by social media?  My advice would be to hire an intern and keep it moving!

 

 

Fire Hazard Fears Prompt Recall of USB Car Charger Adapters

Some popular mini USB car charger power adapters, universal USB power adapters and 8-pin USB data sync charging cables are being recalled due to a hazard of fire from their use, according to The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A company called Popkiller sold the recalled devices – mostly in stores in Southern California. The items were made by Shenzhen Qiwei Electronic Co., Ltd., Guangdong, China, and have some unique identifying characteristics:

According to the company, the car charger has model number HHT-001 located on the flat side of the charger below the USB port. The charger measures two inches tall and one inch in diameter at its widest point.

The Universal USB Power adapter has model number A1265 printed directly above the plug blades on the grey surface. The adapter measures 1.5 inches at its longest point and one inch wide.

There is no model number printed on the 8-pin USB charging cables.

All of the recalled products are sold separately and come in the colors red, orange, green, blue, purple and pink.

The recall involves around 2,500 units. Concerned consumers can call Popkiller toll-free at (888) 345-0724 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

People can also reach the company online at http://www.popkiller.us. Click on “About Us” located at the bottom of the home page, then click “Important Recall Notice” for more information.

 

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Link:

http://www.cpsc.gov

Online Buying vs. “Touch and Feel” Retailing

A new survey finds that Americans are fine with buying online, but still value the in-person shopping experience.

Polling firm Harris said it surveyed 2,241 adults last month, in an effort to gauge how the growth of online retailing is changing the way Americans view the shopping experience.

According to Harris, most Americans are taking advantage of online buying convenience — with majorities saying they’ve bought clothing (69%), digital content (59%), and accessories (54%) online.

Online shopping enthusiasm increases as the age of those polled decreases, with Millennials being the most likely to have made purchases online in most of the product categories Harris tested.

However, traditional shopping is far from dead: a whopping 78% of Americans polled by Harris still prefer to buy their food in person, while large majorities prefer to buy such things as over-the-counter-medications (67%), clothing (65%), prescription medications (58%), cosmetics (57%), specialty food and household electronics (55%) the “old fashioned” way.

While Harris found that the personal electronics category showed strong online shopping preference, more Americans still said they prefer to buy these items in person (43%) vs. online (22%).

The online environment is certainly a great place to research products — and offers a convenient way to buy them — but many people still want to handle the goods before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

 

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Link:

http://www.harrisinteractive.coM

 

Some Investors Pulling Out of U.S. Equity Mutual Funds

New data shows that investors withdrew $8.3 billion from U.S. equity mutual funds in June, making it the second consecutive month in which outflows outpaced inflows to these funds.

The funds — which allow investors to buy into a “basket” of stocks picked and traded by a fund manager – are traditionally a popular option for people to invest retirement savings.

However, investment research Morningstar found that the withdrawals during June represented U.S. equity funds’ largest outflow in 18 months.

Morningstar said that inflows to international-equity funds and taxable-bond funds more than offset the outflows for U.S. equity funds. Overall, inflows to long-term mutual funds reached $24.0 billion during the month.

Mutual fund assets reached $11.7 trillion in June, which Morningstar said represents an increase of more than 40% since their peak before the financial crisis.

Clearly, this form of investing is still quite popular.

 

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Link:

http://www.morningstar.com

 

Small Business Owners Perk Up

The majority of America’s small business owners say they expect their businesses to grow in the next year, according to the results of a new survey.

CAN Capital said that 61% of the small business owners surveyed for its Small Business Health Index professed clear optimism that business will improve over the next 12 months.

Almost a third (31%) of the business owners surveyed said that plan to expand and/or try new forms of advertising/marketing activities, while 26% plan to purchase equipment and/or make inventory investments over the next year. 

Could this optimism fuel an increase in hiring as well? If the strong June jobs report from BLS is any indication, it already is.

We’ll have to see the upcoming reports for July and August to establish a true acceleration of growth in hiring, but so far there is reason for everyone to be a bit more cheery these days.

 

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Credit Defaults are at 10-Year Low

Americans are paying their bills, and consumer credit defaults are way down, according to some new data.

S&P Dow Jones Indices and credit bureau Experian said that the national composite rate of consumer credit defaults for June was just 1.02%. This is the lowest rate recorded in ten years.

This tells us that Americans are paying on their various forms of consumer debt at the best rate since the recession.

The companies did point out that auto and bank card defaults were up slightly, while mortgage defaults were down. This tracks with recent data showing that Americans are taking on more credit card and auto loan debt, but are feeling better about mortgages given the recent recovery in home prices.

Bank card debt saw a ten-year low in March 2014, but has risen slightly since then, to 3.02% in June. First mortgage defaults, however, fell to a rate of just 0.89% in June.

Dallas was the only major city to experience an increase in default rates during June, while Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York fell to their lowest overall default rates since the last recession began.

Overall, this is good news for the economy as it signals an increase in Americans’ ability to pay on debt — even as they take on more of it. Given the strong jobs report posted in June, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see only modest increases in consumer debt defaults in the months ahead.

 

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Link:

http://www.spdji.com

 

 

Social Media Still Lags as a Customer Service Tool

A new survey finds that people still like pick up the phone and talk to a live human when they have a customer service issue, despite the growing use of social media technology.

Customer service software firm NICE Systems said it surveyed 1,206 consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 to gauge their satisfaction with various customer service channels.

What they found was that people across age groups overwhelmingly prefer the more traditional ways of resolving problems with companies and organizations.

For instance, 88% of NICE’s respondents said they preferred to speak with a live customer service rep over the phone. While 83% used website self-service, they still liked having the option of turning to a live human as a next choice.

The company found that social media, live chat, and Smartphone app use has doubled since 2011.  In fact, 73% of survey respondents said they have used multiple contact methods in the past six months to resolve a customer service issue.

However, social media still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of effectiveness: while social media channels were used to successfully solve a problem 29% or the time, traditional phone contact has a 69% success rate.

But what about today’s tech-savvy Millennials? Surprisingly, the 18-35 age group still prefers speak with a live rep via phone or use website self-service when resolving customer service issues.

These results aren’t that surprising, given the current state of social media use by companies. While FAQs and other “self service” online methods can lead to a speedy resolution to a problem, many other social media tools used by companies are a bit gimmicky. (For instance, “live chat” that turns out to be nothing more than you talking to a computer.)

Until companies fully integrate their social media channels within their customer service function – and offer immediate response by empowered humans – people will still “cut to the chase” by calling toll-free customer service numbers when self-service fails.

 

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Link:

http://www.nice.com

Is There a New Real Estate Bubble?

A recent survey of mortgage lenders found fears that a new real estate bubble may be inflating in various U.S. real estate markets. Given the untold economic destruction the last bubble caused, is it possible that we could be so careless again?

Predictive analytics firm FICO (producer of the famous FICO Score), said it had North American bank risk managers interviewed by the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association, and got some disturbing feedback.

In the survey, 56% of respondents expressed concern that “an unsustainable real estate bubble is inflating,” FICO said. These professionals were directly involved in mortgage lending.

But what is a real estate bubble, and how do we know when one is dangerously inflating? Historically, the prices of homes are directly related to the wages made by the people expected to buy them. One classic formula used by economists who track these things is “3-to-4-times-income” – meaning that the median price of a home in a given market should be around three to four times the median annual family income in that market area.

So, when the median family income is $50,000 in an area, and the median price for a home is between $150,000 and $200,000, no one is alarmed. However, when it gets much higher than 4X, economists start to get concerned.

Mortgage professionals usually get more specific, using a measure comparing disposable income to loan payments required. These pros look at the total amount of debt someone has taken on – including the mortgage being applied for – then look at the income that family has available to service this debt.

If someone has racked up a lot of auto and credit card debt, it would count against their total, and make it less likely they would be approved for a mortgage.

This more precise gauge of housing affordability would also take into account fluctuations in interest rates – which can seriously impact the monthly payment on a given mortgage.

In any case, there are “red lights” that signal when a market has become expensive by historical standards, or when consumers are spending more of their income paying off debt than is considered prudent.

Apparently, there are a lot of mortgage pros who feel we’ve now reached this danger zone.

According to FICO, 59% of bankers surveyed cited “high debt-to-income ratio” as their top concern when approving loans. Coming in second and third were “multiple recent applications for credit” (13%) and “low FICO Score” (10%).

Andrew Jennings, FICO’s chief analytics officer, called attention to the strange situation present in the U.S. in which home prices are soaring in major cities – and homeowner equity is at its highest level since late 2007 — while six million homeowners remain “underwater” on their mortgages (or owning more than their homes are worth). 

“That doesn’t feel like a healthy, sustainable growth situation. No wonder many lenders in both Canada and the U.S. are concerned about the risk in residential mortgages,” Jennings said, describing the home loan environment as “bifurcated.”

While this survey sounds some alarms, we’ll still have to see some compelling new data on the current relationship between home prices and incomes before getting too freaked out.

There are certainly signs that some markets, (particularly in California), have become distinctly bubbly again, but it would be a surprise if the data revealed this to be a national phenomenon.

Still, the possibility that new real estate bubbles may be inflating should send shivers up the spine of every American. These mortgage professionals are on the front lines of real estate lending, so their concerns should be taken very seriously indeed.

 

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Link:

http://www.fico.com

Coin Changers for Credit Unions

A company that makes self-service coin counters is touting their machines as a great perk for credit union members. Could they be on to something?

According to cash handling specialist Cummins Allison, self-service coin counters are in synch with traditional the credit union mission of providing personalized financial services to members.

Offering a self-service coin option in a branch lobby, the company explains, saves members from having to count and wrap their coins. Members just dump their loose change into the machine, and get a coin redemption receipt.

Cummins Allison is currently promoting their machines to Canadian CUs, but there’s no reason why U.S. CUs can’t take part.

But is this really the sort of thing that members would embrace? After all, the CU would have to pay for the installation and servicing of the machines. Nothing is free, and CU money is the money of all members.

Many Americans are familiar with the coin counters found in supermarkets in the U.S. These machines are indeed convenient, but users do pay a small fee for using them. Presumably, that would be an option for CUs as well – allowing CUs to offer the convenience of the machines without spending member resources excessively.

So, maybe Cummins Allison is onto something, and their promotion will result in CUs becoming a new source of easy change redemption for members and potential members alike. Change is sometimes a good thing.

 

Link:

www.cumminsallison.ca.

America’s Growing Love of Soccer is Real, and Lucrative

The U.S. national soccer team entered this year’s World Cup as underdogs, and went on to exceed all expectations. While they fell to the Belgian’s in the “round of 16” this team made soccer fans of millions of Americans. Was all this hype genuine, or just fodder for a news cycle or two?

According to some new figures published by e-commerce specialist SLI Systems, a spike in soccer-related online retail activity among American consumers shows that the hype was very much a real phenomenon.

SLI said that its study of consumer search behavior between March 2 and July 9, 2014 showed a 280% increase in soccer-related online shopping in the U.S.

The firm said that June 16th — the day U.S. played Ghana — was the peak day for soccer-related shopping in the U.S. The most popular soccer-related search terms were “soccer,” “USA soccer,” “FIFA” and “Nike soccer.”

And while the U.S. often gets accused of only caring about U.S. teams in international competitions like the Olympics and World Cup, this year’s soccer searches showed that Americans had a healthy interest in international teams as well.

SLI’s data showed that the top non-U.S. teams searched by U.S. consumers were Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands. Considering that the only team on that list that the U.S. team played was Germany, it is evidence that perhaps Americans are embracing the international aspects of the sport.

This is a good thing, since the U.S. team’s gritty determination and team-centric work ethic created U.S.A. fans around the world during World Cup 2014. Hopefully, this growing interest among Americans will help the U.S. to become a true leader among soccer-playing nations. Just don’t ask us to start calling the sport “football.”

 

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Link:

www.sli-systems.com