Archive for May, 2011

Using Google Places to promote your business

May 30th, 2011 Comments Off
Contributed by bookthekidsparty

The Google search engine and Google Maps are replacing the Yellow pages as the gold standard for finding businesses. In the fast changing world of the internet a Google Places listing is an essential piece of kit for a businesses online presence. Setting up a Places profile is the work of minutes – simply add basic business information such as opening hours, address, contact number- and then verify via text, phone or postcard. You can also add a few key words, upload an image or two and even attach a video to your listing. The majority of local business listings will stop at that and simply hope that they gain enough exposure to drive traffic to their website or calls to the work phone.

 

For something that is so easy to set up, few consider the optimization opportunities or take the time to really better their listings which is a shame when you consider that Google gives quite a lot of importance on their Places tool. Google Place search results appear automatically when Google determines that you are looking for a ‘business in a location’.

 

Consider the search for Play Centres in Manchester.

Figure 1 Google search listing for play centres in Manchester

A Places listing is made up of a number of factors, not just the information the web site owner inputs into the local business listing form. Google pulls data from sources such as Yellow Pages and reviews from third party providers such as qype and Foursquare, although it does give the majority weighting to the Places info provided by the page owner. So, an easy first step to making sure your Places listing is really pulling its weight and working to drive relevant traffic is to keep any other local business listings up to date.

Figure 2 Google Maps listing for Bouncy castles in Glasgow.

 

Google has recently introduced an ‘areas served’ option to its Places portfolio. This is a useful tool for party entertainers and inflatable operators and allows you to specify how far outside of your verified address you’re willing to travel and which areas in particular the service applies to.

 

The more information you provide in your listing, the more likely is it to rank higher. As with any kind of optimization implementation, the greater the data the search engine has to sift through, the better its understanding of how and when to rank you. If you’re guilty of completing only the required fields when setting up your listing, go back and complete all fields. Try and include at least one video and a selection of relevant images.

 

Of course, you can also ask your existing clients to help you win new business through the Places interface. The stars displayed with your Maps listing are based on average ratings from independent reviews – that means you need to get in to the habit of asking clients to review your service or product either directly on your listing review link or, through a respected and relevant site like netmums or local tourist sites.

 

Finally, don’t forget to refresh your Places page as often as is needed. If you have new photos taken log back in and add the best image. If your company logo changes, log back in and add the new logo. If you have a video from an event, log back in and upload. The more often you add information and content, the more likely your listing is to be seen within the first block of local business listings on Google.

 

For help on how to get set up on Google Places please see the following link. Set up guide for Google Places

Email Marketing and Data Protection Laws

May 30th, 2011 Comments Off
Contributed by bookthekidsparty

During recessionary times businesses are more determined than ever to encourage spending by marketing their goods and services directly to persons whose contact details were collected previously. The rules governing unsolicited marketing communications, however, are complicated and may result in criminal prosecution if breached. As such, direct marketing inevitably involves treading a high wire between maximising marketing potential and remaining compliant with applicable laws. We will summarise here the main points to consider when conducting an email campaign.

 

USA

The CAN-SPAM Act covers commercial email messages, the primary purpose of which is the advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service. The Act allows direct marketing email messages to be sent to anyone, without permission, until the recipient explicitly requests that they cease. You can also note that compliance with the CAN-SPAM laws are not enough to ensure that your emails will not be blocked by Internet Service Providers. Instead follow email best practices to ensure that your message is received and read by your customers.

 

UK/Ireland

Direct marketing by email messages (and text messages) are covered by the EU Opt-In Directive and local legislation. In general email messages may be sent only to customers who have given their prior consent.  However, the regulations provide for a limited exception to the prior consent requirement, known as the soft opt in. When the email address is obtained in the context of the sale of a product or service, the business may use the email for direct marketing of its own similar products or services provided that customers clearly and distinctly are given the opportunity to object, free of charge and in an easy manner, to such use of electronic contact details when they are collected and on the occasion of each message in case the customer has not initially refused such use.

 

Note. In Ireland if the customer fails to unsubscribe using the cost free means provided to them by the direct marketer, they will be deemed to have remained opted-in to the receipt of such electronic mail for a twelve month period from the date of issue to them of the most recent marketing electronic mail.

 

Best practice for email marketing

  • Have the recipient’s details been collected in compliance of the Soft Opt-In if required?
  • Does the message have:
  1. A clear and accurate sender identity?
  2. An accurate subject line?
  3. Clear and easy opt-out instructions?
  4. A physical postal address and company details?
  5. A valid return address?
  • Test that the method of unsubscribing works.
  • Check the test messages carefully before sending.
  • Process the replies and any subscriber requests promptly.
  • Test deliverability. Use a spam checker. Scan email message to make sure that it is not identified as spam by common spam filtering applications such as SpamAssassinTM.
  • Test readability. Check the HTML message design and readability. It must work with blocked images. (i.e.  Your images may not appear so ensure that your email text is not part of any image.) Keep the subject line short and clear.
  • Provide wanted, expected, relevant and interesting messages to each recipient.
  • Provide clear instruction on how the customer can automatically unsubscribe. If they do unsubscribe send a well thought-out farewell message. This works as a successful confirmation, gives an opportunity to ask for feedback and thank the customer.

 

You may also consider using a company that will design, send and track the emails you send. They will also ensure that opt outs of the email campaign are managed.  Just search for email marketing service providers in your search engine for a list of service providers.

 

Further reading:

The following link gives a good summary of the legislation covering email campaigns for the USA and the EU:

www.lsoft.com/resources/optinlaws.asp

Email marketing best practice guide:

www.lsoft.com/resources/wp-EmailMarketingBestPractices.pdf

Guide to the Data Protection Act from the Information Commissioner’s Office UK:

www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/electronic_mail.aspx

Guide to Direct Marketing from the Data Protection Commissioner Ireland:

www.dataprotection.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=905&ad=1

Setting the price of your product or service

May 30th, 2011 Comments Off
Contributed by bookthekidsparty

Selling a product or service at the right price is one of the fundamental decisions every business has to make. Most businesses establish a selling price by determining:

 

1. The cost of the product or service, including business operating costs.

2. The profit margin needed to survive.

3. The competitive price that the market will bear.

 

Your goal should be to achieve the highest possible profit margin while maintaining the highest possible sales level.

 

Begin figuring your selling price by establishing a true cost of sales. This includes rent, insurance, wages, raw goods, production costs, marketing, utilities and every other expense you incur to get a product or service into the market. Next, add a reasonable profit margin that allows you to put food on the table, invest some cash back into the business, and save something for retirement. Finally, investigate the market. What are customers paying for comparable products and services?

 

Don’t simply depend on your competitors to set the market price of goods and services. You may be adding value to your product by offering free deliveries. Or you may operate a service business that stays on call 24 hours a day for customers. Those extras allow you to charge a higher price. On the other hand, you may enjoy low overhead expenses that allow you to charge slightly less than the competition. Set your prices accordingly, but don’t be afraid to adjust them to your business’s need and market changes.

 

Gene Fairbrother

ShopTalk 800® Business Consultant

National Association for the Self-Employed

Dallas

www.businessweek.com/smallbiz

April 11 Newsletter

May 27th, 2011 Comments Off
Contributed by bookthekidsparty







Click to view this email in a browser                                                      Issue 4, April 2011

THE PARTY MANAGEMENT BULLETIN

Marketing and technical tips to make life easier for party and rental businesses  

In this issue :

  • Tech Tip: How to monitor what is being said about your business online.
  • Marketing: Loyalty stamp cards: are they right for my business.
  • Food for thought: Customer service isn't dead.

If you like this newsletter, please use the link below to forward to your collegues or friends. 

 

How to monitor what is being said about your business online.
by Susan Compelli 
Here's an essential tip for businesses that aren't sure how to start monitoring their presence online. Google has a free service called Google Alerts which will send you an email summarizing what is said about you over the internet.
You can set up as many different alerts as you want.  For each alert, you enter search terms (such as the name of your company, the name of a competitor or industry keywords), an email address and specify when you want to be notified …read the full article here

Loyalty Stamp Cards, are they right for my business?
by Susan Compelli 
You probably have several of these in your wallet from your local coffee shop but they can be useful in the leisure business also.  They are low cost method of rewarding your regular customers and encouraging repeat business. In today’s competitive world, with so many options and personal service diminishing, every effort must be made to re-engage and encourage loyalty…read the full article here

Customer Service isn't dead

As the Internet becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, customer service should be top-of-mind in every transaction. Brick and mortar stores continue to thrive exactly because they offer personal customer service. Just because humans are interacting more than ever from behind their computers does not mean that companies should give up the intimacy of live customer support representatives…read the full article here.

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