Twitter Link Roundup #208 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | January 17th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above is a terrific anti-speeding ad from New Zealand.

smallbusinessblog

Four Important Small Business Insights: Marketing in 2014 – crowdspring.co/1d0lOBF

What can replace Facebook for small business? | by Becky McCray – crowdspring.co/1cXKpqQ

Small Business and Startups: Thinking About Business Plans (again) – crowdspring.co/1cdV3pS

Empower Your Small Business: 2014 marketing insights, biz plans, resolutions, content marketing – crowdspring.co/1fyj2Z1

The Importance of Transactional Emails for Small Business – crowdspring.co/L1YQ46

Should a Company Create a Separate Customer Service Twitter Handle? – crowdspring.co/1eJmGfD

5 Rules For Awesome Impromptu Web Analysis – crowdspring.co/1aiDVmr

startupsblog

2013. Hard Lessons Learned. | Ben Milne – crowdspring.co/1cXPaR9

Four Important Small Business Insights: Marketing in 2014 – crowdspring.co/1d0lOBF

15 Tech Trends That Will Define 2014, Selected By Frog | Co.Design – crowdspring.co/1dx4t4F

Small Business and Startups: Thinking About Business Plans (again) – crowdspring.co/1cdV3pS

Convert shortcomings into advantages without lying – crowdspring.co/1eJqbCJ

“Fundamental difference between entrepreneurs & con artists is con artists know fantasies they’re selling are lies” crowdspring.co/1d1Jv9v

Growth Hacking Is Bull – crowdspring.co/L1Z1wv

5 Rules For Awesome Impromptu Web Analysis – crowdspring.co/1aiDVmr

Keith Rabois on the Role of a COO, How to Hire and Why Transparency Matters – crowdspring.co/1col3yU

Should a Company Create a Separate Customer Service Twitter Handle? – crowdspring.co/1eJmGfD

Lessons From 4 Failed Start-ups – crowdspring.co/1conMZ9

“Looking historically at the trends in… 2014 and beyond, the tech market is vibrant and healthy.” crowdspring.co/L76cU1

socialmediablog

Seven best practice tips for online video in 2014 | Econsultancy – crowdspring.co/1cW7Fp3

5 Massive Advertising Campaign Wars Between Rival Brands – crowdspring.co/1dx93zY

Native advertising: 12 fascinating examples of good and bad practice | Econsultancy – crowdspring.co/1cW7VVb

Read the rest of this post »

Four Important Small Business Insights – Marketing in 2014 Ross | January 14th, 2014

ExactTarget-spend

A new 2014 State of Marketing Report from ExactTarget presents the results of a survey taken by approximately 2,000 marketing managers. The report contains four important insights for small businesses and startups:

1. Social remains an interesting but unproven channel. Forty-six percent of marketers claim that social is core to their business, but only 34 percent said their social marketing efforts were currently producing a return on their investment. This finding is consistent with results reported in other studies.

Exacttarget-roi

2. Email is, for many, the most important marketing channel. A large majority of marketers – 68 percent – say that email marketing is core to their business and is the best strategy to increase sales. This is not surprising. one-to-one marketing has proven to be effective for many. In fact, 57 percent of marketers plan to increase the number of emails they send in 2014. The top performing email campaigns include loyalty, birthday, welcome, abandoned cart, and browse retargeting.

3. Conversions are king. While many marketers look at engagement rates, lifetime customer value, social activity (likes, shares, retweets), the top success metric for most marketers remains conversions.

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: Thinking About Business Plans (again) Mike | January 13th, 2014

I am thinking about starting a new business and beginning to focus on planning, financing, marketing, launching and operating the thing. I have already done a fair amount of market research and determined that there is a demand for it, created a spreadsheet with financial projections that I am confident in, put together a bunch of notes on how I will market it, and given some serious consideration to the human capital needed to make it run. Now it’s time for me to set up some meetings with a few bankers and possible investors to get the funds in place so I can really get going.

Just kidding. crowdSPRING takes up way too much of my capacity and is still too much fun to even consider (for the moment) a new venture. But, I have been thinking a lot about what I would do differently and that would start with the business plan itself. When Ross and I launched cS we created a business plan that ran over 80 pages and a slide deck that included more than 40 slides. It worked well for us, both in process and outcome. The process of writing and re-writing the plan and the constant revisions to the Powerpoint helped us to strengthen the original idea and define for ourselves how we would operate the business. The outcome was also positive, and we were able to complete our funding in a relatively short amount of time and with a high conversion rate of potential investors.

So what would I do differently? Well to start, these 5 things:

1. Kill the 80-page plan. I want something that can be read in under 10 minutes, and supported with other materials which i will create. My business “plan” will be the equivalent of an executive summary: short, digestible, and very high level. It will contain around 10 paragraphs and be structured like an easy to read essay, with an introductory paragraph including my thesis of why this business will succeed, 3-5 supporting paragraphs (containing specifics on the the market, the revenue model, the existing and future competition and any barriers to entry, the financial projections, the marketing plan and operational objectives), and a summary re-stating the original business proposition.

2. Put the slide deck on my iPad. The people I will be pitching are busy bankers, investors, and potential teammates and I want to save the bulk of my allotted 30-40 minutes on answering their questions, defending my assumptions, and making my bid for their support. The 6 or 7 paragraphs included in the business plan document can serve as the outline for my slides, but they need to be as simple as possible. The visuals can not be cluttered and a no-bullet-point rule will be in effect. Slides are meant to backup the words the presenter is speaking rather than being read aloud to the audience. They should be designed for the small screen, on the assumption that there is no time or space for a projector and to make the entire experience intimate and personal. This is not to say that I may won’t find myself in a room of 6 or 12 people listening to the pitch with a projector attached, but the assumption is that mostly it will be one-to-one.

3. Start a blog. It is never to early to get your thoughts down on paper and establishing thought leadership in your new market will send a signal to potential stakeholders that you are serious and authoritative. The conversations you will be having can be comfortable places and if you can say to the person, “Hey, I wrote a post about that just a few weeks ago” and point them to your blog, your credibility will increase on the spot.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #207 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | January 10th, 2014

nikeadvertisement

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above is a very creative ad for Nike.

smallbusinessblog

New research casts doubts on the benefits of open offices. Here are 5 things you can do to avoid problems – crowdspring.co/1cDmk8z

New Years Resolutions For Small Businesses and Startups – crowdspring.co/1cC7HmZ

NSF study shows > 90% of US businesses view copyright, patent and trademark as “not important” – crowdspring.co/19TypXt

Small business and the Affordable Care Act: It’s Here! – crowdspring.co/1a00oBp

Stop Spending Time With Toxic People | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/19TACCk

“Silence is for the weak” | The Circle Blog – crowdspring.co/1iiz86r

startupsblog

Growth versus capital efficiency (good read for entrepreneurs) – crowdspring.co/1bLmEhW

New Years Resolutions For Small Businesses and Startups – crowdspring.co/1cC7HmZ

New research casts doubts on the benefits of open offices. Here are 5 things you can do to avoid problems – crowdspring.co/1cDmk8z

An awesome overview of the Chicago tech scene – crowdspring.co/1krnniz

Managing a Startup Isn’t Different – Don’t Re-invent Everything – crowdspring.co/JAZ4Od

True Leaders Focus On Leading, Not Job Titles – crowdspring.co/1lxBRLU

The Saddest SaaS Pricing Pages of the Year – crowdspring.co/1cN4ZGX

“Silence is for the weak” | The Circle Blog – crowdspring.co/1iiz86r

T-Mobile CEO: “This industry blows,” biggest carriers offer “horsesh**” | Ars Technica – crowdspring.co/1fejgUP

Stop Spending Time With Toxic People | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/19TACCk

Why 70-80% of VCs do harm | VentureLynx – crowdspring.co/1cQo8HS

Tech Angels Cross The $1Billion Mark In 2013 | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1fehao1

The Four Stages of Disruption | Re/code – crowdspring.co/1cN4HzJ

Amazon’s Current Employees Raise the Bar for New Hires – crowdspring.co/1fduDMI

The Dangerous Rise of “Entrepreneurship Porn” | Morra Aarons-Mele Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/JEtYpu

“Chicago is now ranked as one of the top ten cities in the world for starting a company” | The Economist – crowdspring.co/19TzjmX

Tech Is Hiring More Women Than Men | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/Kdalon

Five mobile predictions for 2014 | Econsultancy – crowdspring.co/KxuSor

Profiting From A Collaborative Economy | Forbes – crowdspring.co/1a1Q9wj

Why Startups Hire Their Own Lawyers | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1dJTHrm

To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home | Harvard Business Review – crowdspring.co/19TzMWd

The Intersection of Intelligence and Arrogance | Management Psychology Group – crowdspring.co/KdbagV

NSF study shows > 90% of US businesses view copyright, patent and trademark as “not important” – crowdspring.co/19TypXt

Small business and the Affordable Care Act: It’s Here! – crowdspring.co/1a00oBp

socialmediablog

Six Things Every CMO Should Be Watching This Year | Forbes by David Armano – crowdspring.co/1fdtXHk

Before and After: 11 Taglines That Brands Wisely Revamped – crowdspring.co/1dJQYyh

Read the rest of this post »

Small business and the Affordable Care Act: It’s Here! Mike | January 6th, 2014

About six months ago, I wrote in a post here reasons why Obamacare could prove helpful to small businesses and startups. This past summer the Supreme Court determined that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (dba Obamacare) was indeed constitutional and could proceed to implementation. And, despite the god-awful rollout of the Healthcare.gov website, last week saw the (almost) full start of the new rules, regulations, and coverage kick in. Millions of people around the country have signed up and are now covered by new insurance policies as dictated by the law. If all goes well, we will be a stronger country, in terms of both our economic and physical well-being.

The ACA requires businesses with more than 50 full-time employees (or the equivalent) to provide health coverage deemed ‘affordable.’ To be considered affordable, the plan offered must cover at least 60% of an employee’s health care costs and they can not be made to pay over 9.5% of their full family income for it. But for smaller businesses there is no such requirement and most of these small companies already  qualified for a tax credit of up to 35% of the costs. This year that credit increases to 50% of the costs if the small business offers insurance through its state’s health insurance exchange.

For small businesses, especially micro-sized businesses with fewer than 10 employees, while the ACA does not carry meaningful legal impacts or obligations,  it will go a long way in helping business owners pay for their own insurance and will be a huge boon to smaller businesses that are committed to providing health benefits to their workers. Although they are not required to do so, many small business owners have historically furnished their employees with insurance coverage and the new marketplaces (once fully operational) should serve to reduce costs and make the process more convenient.

Photo: Obama healthcare signature, Wikimedia

New Years Resolutions For Small Businesses and Startups Mike | December 30th, 2013

I love New Years Day. It is a day to look back on the year just past and then quick pivot to anticipate the year to come. It is about summing up and also about new beginnings; it is a time for reflection as well as planning. This makes New Years day a dynamic and exciting time and explains why so many people use it to set goals for themselves and make those resolutions we all love. I am not talking about resolving to lose weight or be a better Dad. I am talking about applying some rigor and discipline in how you approach your business; having a sincere resolve to do better can actually make you do better. Focusing on what you can do can help in the practical execution of your decisions. With this in mind, here are a few things I will be doing in 2014. Care to share your own business-related resolutions? Leave a comment below!

1. Spend more time in contemplationWhat did you do well in 2013? Where is there room for improvement? Resolve to take a a half-day every quarter in 2014 to consider how you performed as a manager, an entrepreneur, a boss, a partner, a vendor, or a consumer and consider what changes you can make to do better. As managers of small businesses or founders of startups, we tend to get so busy, so wrapped up in the task of the moment that we leave little time to contemplate our actions and reflect on our decisions.

2. Play with the teamGood managers pay attention to the personal lives of their team and one way to do so is to spend some social time together. Plan for one-on-one lunches, small outings, after-work drinks, or even an occasional movie or sporting event together. Bonding with  key employees can help you to better understand their motivations, better influence their actions and work ethic, and open lines of communication that didn’t exist before.

3. Avoid the tar pit effectSome projects or efforts undertaken end up draining more capacity than is worthwhile and it is critical that you learn to identify these as they occur. When a project is eating up your time and energy, look hard at the returns you expect from it and be ready to pull the plug if you determine the ratio is not beneficial. Often we find ourselves falling prey to the “sunk cost” effect and continue working on a project simply because we already have time and effort invested. Determine whether to move forward based on the effort yet required and whether it is worthwhile from this point forward.
Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #206 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | December 27th, 2013

stickman

The last roundup for 2013! Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above is one of 46 interesting optical illusions. More optical illusions in the Design section below.

smallbusinessblog

Taking Breaks–You’re Doing It Wrong | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/18DVSuQ

Outsourcing (some of) your creative tasks | The CentUp Blog by Len Kendall – crowdspring.co/1hdjfOi

Breaking the Ice: Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Jay Leno – crowdspring.co/1jcad8J

How To Stay Focused In An Open Office | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1hilYpF

Good tips on firing people who don’t fit – crowdspring.co/1fFt0n7

How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Avoid Wasting Time – crowdspring.co/18DA191

startupsblog

Breaking the Ice: Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Jay Leno – crowdspring.co/1jcad8J

Taking Breaks–You’re Doing It Wrong | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/18DVSuQ

The futility of ‘Fungineering’ | by Stowe Boyd – crowdspring.co/1hdi94V

How To Stay Focused In An Open Office | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1hilYpF

Marketing Advice for Startups: 9 Tips for Bootstrappers | 1871 – crowdspring.co/1cmRQbO

How To Find A Company You’ll Love Working For | by Dharmesh Shah – crowdspring.co/1himyUv

Online courses (MOOCs) are mostly a flop so far – crowdspring.co/1jaysnI

At scale, co-location begins to make sense over 100% cloud (good examples) – crowdspring.co/JuxORp

Good tips for entrepreneurs on firing people who don’t fit – crowdspring.co/1fFt0n7

The Last Re-Org You’ll Ever Do – crowdspring.co/1bXthC9

How One SaaS Startup Reduced Churn 71% Using Red Flag Metrics – crowdspring.co/JbgG2P

Managing a Growing Startup? 4 Ways to Keep Your Criticism Constructive | by Matthew Toren – crowdspring.co/1hdkU6h

Why Would-Be Entrepreneurs Need a Reality Check – crowdspring.co/1jaAfZS

How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Avoid Wasting Time – crowdspring.co/18DA191

Outsourcing (some of) your creative tasks | The CentUp Blog by Len Kendall – crowdspring.co/1hdjfOi

10 Things Extraordinary People Say Every Day – crowdspring.co/1fjNtO8

The Typical Billion Dollar Startup Acquisition – crowdspring.co/1bXwwt5

The science of self-control: 6 ways to improve your willpower – crowdspring.co/1fjNSQG

socialmediablog

What Can We Expect From The Next Decade Of Marketing? | Forbes – crowdspring.co/1jaztvO

Increasing pressure on ad agencies. Clients bringing more work inhouse – crowdspring.co/1hdiTqL

Google To Sell Viewable Ad Impressions | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/1jaAzrw

Gmail blows up e-mail marketing by caching all images on Google servers | Ars Technica – crowdspring.co/1hdkj4D

designblog

Top 30 Best Serif Fonts | Vector Diary – crowdspring.co/1gkKZCZ

6 Unconventional Tools For Quicker Creativity | Fast Company – crowdspring.co/1bXxEgp

Working with Type in Photoshop | Abduzeedo Design Inspiration – crowdspring.co/1gkL2i1

Read the rest of this post »

Breaking the Ice: Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Jay Leno Mike | December 16th, 2013

This is the season of holiday parties, get-togethers, casual drinks with colleagues, and networking events galore. It is highly likely, nay inevitable, that you will find yourself at some event, chatting with somebody who you may not know well or may not even know at all. This is where your networking prowess should kick in, right? Where your charm, your business acumen, and your conversational skills should shine, right?

Well the truth is that many entrepreneurs and small business people are simply not that comfortable in social contexts and have no appreciation for the value that can be extracted at a holiday party or business networking event. The simple fact is the value of those events lie in the people there: the other entrepreneurs, business-folk, financiers, professors, and, most importantly, potential customers or partners. To fully leverage the human capital arrayed in front of you when you walk into one of these events, you need to be willing to socialize. This means, yes, talking to people and this is where Jay Leno comes in. Mr. Leno is a master at interviewing people, putting them at ease, and helping them to sell whatever it is they came on his show to pitch. Whether their latest movie or book or product, Jay finds a way to make them look good and make their pitch shine. How does he do it and how can you extract value from social and networking events? Here’s five things Jay does when his guests settle into his sofa:

1. Start with a joke.
How does Jay make his guests feel comfortable? He starts with a joke or a snarky comment or a clever aside. This serves to set the tone for the conversation to come and to lighten the atmosphere; by keeping the stakes low in this way, Jay can make the conversation that follows lighter and less risky for the guest. By keeping it light with your conversation partner at your next networking event, you message that you are not a mercenary looking for their business, nor are you a threat to them personally or professionally. Keep it light and you’ll enjoy the conversation more, too.

2. Interview actively.
When breaking the ice, especially with a new acquaintance, it is critical that you show interest in them. How? Be active, ask questions, listen to what they say and respond. When Jay interviews a guest he already knows about them and he can guide the conversation using questions. When you meet someone at an event you’ll need to use the first few minutes to gather some basic info: who are they, what is their connection here, and what do they do in life. Build on this by asking about their personal as well as professional  life history and you can quickly construct a basic outline of the person. Remember, some people need to warm up a bit so start off slowly and let your interview ladder upwards from there.

3. Get down to business.
As you move from “interview” to “conversation” you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the person you’re chatting with and start to understand how they might be valuable to you or your business. If you perceive an opportunity, or the potential for working together in any manner, be sure to articulate to them what that might be and make clear you want to follow up. When Jay interviews his guests he is building a relationship, and this is your goal, too. Start then and there to lay the foundation for a lasting connection with the person you are chatting with.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #205 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | December 13th, 2013

19932003

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above puts into perspective how much power we have in our pockets with a smart phone. It compares a 2013 smart phone (an iPhone) to what you had to carry just 10 years earlier (in 2003) to have some of the same tools (camera, video, music, etc.).

smallbusinessblog

Empower Your Small Business: how to prepare for new year, learning, giving thanks – crowdspring.co/19f33u7

Small Business and Startups: Give Thanks (and Coupons) | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1gjvtHz

Why I Don’t Stress Over Competition Anymore | by @alexmturnbullcrowdspring.co/1iGqzpD

“Consumers are embarrassed by their predilections. Eliminate embarrassment, increase sales.” – crowdspring.co/18mtZJQ

startupsblog

Entrepreneurship is hard – crowdspring.co/1gJLwvJ

Small Business and Startups: Give Thanks (and Coupons) | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1gjvtHz

How to Win as a First-Time Founder – crowdspring.co/1iGhXzt

Good business advice from @jasonfried during his @TechCocktail talk – crowdspring.co/1gJN0Wz

Why I Don’t Stress Over Competition Anymore | by @alexmturnbullcrowdspring.co/1iGqzpD

Introducing Crowd Companies: A Brand Council for the Collaborative Economy | @jowyang‘s new venture – crowdspring.co/1gWWKgi

Uber Might Be More Valuable Than Facebook – crowdspring.co/1dmYBZs

“Consumers are embarrassed by their predilections. Eliminate embarrassment, increase sales.” – crowdspring.co/18mtZJQ

socialmediablog

Facebook Brand Pages Suffer 44% Decline in Reach Since December 1 – crowdspring.co/1gmLRHe

The Top 5 Brand Twitter Fails of 2013 | Digiday by @sweissmancrowdspring.co/19g0x6F

Facebook Admits Organic Reach of Brand Posts Is Dipping | Digital – Advertising Age – crowdspring.co/1gJLZ0O

The Future of Marketing Is Not About Marketing, It’s About You! | by @briansoliscrowdspring.co/1iGjNjZ

Video on Demand Pushes TV Viewing Up | AllThingsD crowdspring.co/1gJS7Gt

Gmail image changes: everything email marketers need to know | Econsultancy – crowdspring.co/1f2AKPM

Interesting perpective on the reason for Microsoft’s attack ads – crowdspring.co/1dmXbxX

“Consumers are embarrassed by their predilections. Eliminate embarrassment, increase sales.” – crowdspring.co/18mtZJQ

Attack Of The Billionaire Hypocrites | by @adcontrariancrowdspring.co/1dn07uB

designblog

105 Amazing Gifts for Web Designers Handpicked From All Over The Web – crowdspring.co/1gkGNmw

15 Useful Free Icon Fonts for Designers – crowdspring.co/1gkIrER

Do you like the new World Cup soccer ball design? pic.twitter.com/b6cpUYpR5z

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: Give Thanks (and Coupons) Mike | December 9th, 2013

Holidays are upon us, folks and it’s time to give thanks. every business large and small owes a debt to those who have helped over the year and there is no better time to gift than now: your investors and lenders deserve a note, a bottle of wine or other small token to show your appreciation  for their trust, their support, and (hopefully) their advice.

Your employees deserve thanks for their hard work, their productivity, their energy, and their all around contribution to your success. Typically this form of thanks might include a year-end bonus, a holiday bash, and some little swag, maybe a company tee shirt, pin, or jacket. Hey, even a company-branded Gulfstream may be appropriate for some od you out there!

Finally your customers. Ah yes, them. Without this group of people, your business would have no business being in business. How to thank them? Lots of ways great and small and the ideas are endless: for companies with a relatively smaller customer base, you might shoot them a card, send them a small gift, or even invite them down to your company party. For larger companies an email is probably in order, but a little gifty can be nice, too.

One solution that many companies turn to when thanking their customers for their all-important support? Discounts, baby! Airlines offer additional miles to frequent travelers; hotels send out lists of marked down rooms at posh resorts; restaurants will often sell discounted gift cards; car companies inundate us with end-of year offers typically accompanied by shiny bright, ribbon-festooned models.

What you do for your customers is up to you, but consider using coupons and price reductions as a dual-purpose strategy. First, what better way to say thank you then to reduce or even exclude your margin on something that they would purchase anyway? Secondly, why not find ways to increase sales, cement loyalty, and spread-word-of-mouth at the same time? Couponing is a great way to do this, because it is in your control, allows you to gather valuable data, can increase traffic to your store or website, and helps to develop the all-important relationships that businesses and their customers desperately need.

Here are a few ways you can use coupon discounts to reach your customers and deliver that valuable “Thank You!”

1. Via email.

Mailchimp, Constant Contact, JangoMail and the like make it easy to create and manage email  campaigns and special Thank You’s can be sent using any of these or other services. Import your list, modify one of their templates (or create your own design), input your content, and away it goes, delivered to your customer’s virtual doorstep through the internet tubes. An added advantage of using email campaigns to say thanks is the data you’ll receive in return. These services allow you to look at customer behavior that can help when you send your next mailing: you’ll easily view how many of the recipients opened that email, hw many of them clicked through y=to your site, and how many of them actually took you up on the offer. You can easily add tags such that data can be tracked using Google Analytics; you can A/B split your mailing to test different subject lines or different customer segments to gauge  performance; and you can better understand your customers and what maked them tick.

2. Via the Post Office.

For companies dependent on local customers (talking to you Mom & Pop retail store) the US Post Office offers a fantastic product that allows you to target customers (existing or potential) via their zip codes, their streets, or their addresses at a very low cost. For as little as 15¢ via the USPS Every Door Direct Mail service, you can send them a postcard segmented by age, household income, or household size. Your mailing can be tracked as it passes along it’s route and you’ll know exactly who received your coupon, when they received it and (if you plan your design and coding well) who redeemed your coupon and who did not. Naughty or nice, you’ll gain a better understanding of which content and what demographics are working for you to increase response rates on your next mailing.

3. On your site.

With a few simple lines of code, your dev team can generate pop-up or banner offers on your site that will deliver your gift to visitors when they arrive. This strategy can be as simple or sophisticated as you like. Returning customers can receive one offer while new visitors can be offered something different. Browser cookies and retargeting strategies work well to help understand who the visitor is, if they’ve bought from you before, even the frequency of their interactions and this can help you to segment visitors further allowing you to deliver the most special Thank You to the most special customer.

Read the rest of this post »