Signpost Local Marketing Blog

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4 Marketing Automation Myths

Have you ever heard that marketing automation is hard to manage or that it could harm your business? The truth is, marketing automation can actually be a tremendous benefit for your business—if you use it the right way.

Marketing automation is a practice that helps companies nurture leads into becoming customers with valuable, personalized content. Automation an integral part of digital marketing, but you must set it up properly and continually assess your strategy to make it successful. To start you off on the right track, we’ll debunk four of the biggest myths about marketing automation.

1. Marketing automation is lazy.

This myth is based in the perception that automation is an easy, hands-off tactic. The truth, however, is that effective marketing automation requires ongoing analysis and savvy management. You need to remain conscious of what messages you’re sending to which people through which platforms as well as the responses you’re receiving in order to ensure your communications are helpful and contributing to a positive brand image.

2. Marketing automation is only for email.

While marketing automation is most commonly associated with email marketing, it can be a valuable tactic to incorporate with landing pages, social media, and other types of communication. By automating responses to particular user actions, you can deliver helpful, targeted information in a timely manner to better nurture relationships with your potential customers.

3. With marketing automation, you can “set it and forget it.”

Many business owners eschew automation because they believe marketers overuse the practice and end up ignoring engaged leads. Certainly, it’s important to ensure that any marketer who sets up automation for you be fully engaged with the process. The goal of an effective automation strategy should be to open up communication with leads and encourage them to reach out to you as a supplement to, not a replacement for, your sales strategy.

4. Marketing automation is basically spam.

If you’re sending spam, you’re not doing marketing automation right. While there certainly are companies that use marketing automation in a way that fills their contacts’ inbox without providing any real value, this is not effective marketing. When you provide valuable information that’s relevant to the contacts who receive it, you build relationships rather than undermining them with annoying solicitations.

Done right, marketing automation is a powerful way to engage more potential customers with your business. It can show that your company is ready and willing to provide information that will help them make important decisions, demonstrate your expertise, and build trust with your audience.


laurastroup_bluefrogdm

Laura Stroup is an inbound marketing strategist at Blue Frog, a Des Moines, Iowa-based digital marketing company that specializes in designing customized inbound marketing strategies for companies of various industries and sizes. Laura is passionate about developing strategies that help her clients generate more leads and get a great return on their online marketing investment.

3 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Business Credit Card

For most business owners, the words “business credit card” brings two images to mind: deceptive, restrictive contracts that lead to stacks of bills, ruined credit scores, and financial insolvencyor thoughts of frequent flyer miles, bonus points, and cash back.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to make the latter, and not the former, your reality. But the truth is that credit card contracts tend to be confusing, unclear, and downright deceptive in their wording.

Before you make any commitments, consider the following when shopping for the perfect credit card for your business.

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Microloans: Here’s How They Work

When you’re running a business, sometimes you just need a bit of extra capital to keep things going. Maybe you have to repair an important piece of equipment, order extra inventory, or make up for a slow month—but in these scenarios, a $500,000 loan won’t solve your problem.

Your answer? Microloans.

Here’s a breakdown of what microloans are, what you can use them for, and where you can find them for your small business.

What is a microloan?

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Are Your Leads And Customers Forgetting About You?

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Laura Stroup, Inbound Marketing Strategist at Blue Frog


If you have a website or do any kind of online marketing, you know how valuable online lead generation is. After all, the main goal of most business websites is to generate leads! Your online marketing efforts can (and should) go beyond simple lead generation, however. What you really want is more business, so why not use your business website to nurture your leads into becoming customers?

What is lead nurturing? It’s the process of developing relationships with prospects Keep your business top of mindthroughout the buyer’s journey. It means serving your potential buyers’ needs by giving them resources that will aid their research as they consider their purchase decision. By becoming an ally in your leads’ search for the information they need to make a confident decision, you build trust while keeping your brand top of mind with them.

If you stop at lead collection and don’t bother to nurture those new relationships, you can easily be forgotten as their search for information continues. Here are three tips for keeping your leads interested and building your relationships with them until they’re ready to buy.

  1. Keep Communication Open
    When you collect a lead on your website—or complete business with an existing customer—continue to communicate with them. Not everyone who contacts you for a quote, for example, will be ready to buy right then and there. Many will get quotes from other companies to compare before purchasing, so staying in touch and providing helpful information will help your chances of winning out in the end—perhaps even if you don’t quote the lowest price.Even after you do business with someone, staying in touch by providing helpful information, resources, and tips, can help to encourage repeat and referral business. Automated emails allow you to easily stay in touch with your leads and customers, which brings us to #2.
  2. Create Automated Emails
    We just discussed how it’s vital to keep communication open with your leads and customers, but how do you do that without a huge time investment? Automated emails.Automated emails can be set up one time and then once they’re activated, you don’t have to worry about them! Simply create a series of emails that each offer additional pieces of valuable information, coupons, or discounts, and space them out so your contacts consistently hear from you.
  3. Multiple touches
    Once you’ve created your series of emails, how frequently should they go out? You don’t want to email leads too frequently, or you could annoy them and cause them to unsubscribe, nor do you want to continually send emails to leads who have never engaged with them in any way.To get the timing right, consider the length of your sales cycle. If you have a quick sales cycle where a lead contacts you for emergency service and your team meets with them immediately, you don’t need to space out a series of emails over the course of a few months. Perhaps you send a few weekly follow-up emails with preventive information, and then that’s it. But say you have a lengthy sales cycle, where a lead contacts you for information, and then they have to discuss your product or service with other people in their company as well as consider other vendors before purchasing. In this case, you may want to space out your emails by a few weeks—or even months.

The process of setting up automated emails and getting the frequency just right to avoid annoying or being forgotten by your leads can seem daunting. There’s help out there to make it easier, however. Signpost provides email templates that allow you to simply plug in your content, and once the email is activated, it sends it at the right time based on valuable customer data that its CRM collects.

Give Signpost a try to streamline your lead nurturing process and start generating more repeat and referral business!


laurastroup_bluefrogdm

Laura Stroup is an inbound marketing strategist at Blue Frog, a Des Moines, Iowa-based digital marketing company that specializes in designing customized inbound marketing strategies for companies of various industries and sizes. Laura is passionate about developing strategies that help her clients generate more leads and get a great return on their online marketing investment.

Healthy Studios Are Built With Memberships and Loyalty, Not Deals

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Andrew Wicklander, the Founder of Tula Software.


I regularly look at the reports in my wife Maile’s studio, and these enable me to visualize something we talk about a lot: That the path to a healthy studio not through deals, but that it is by building a solid member base and loyal customers.

Of course, it’s not just the revenue from the members that matters. Certainly that’s important, but it’s not just about the money. It’s that when you’re able to build a successful membership base, this is also a signal that what you’ve built is important and valuable and worth paying for.

What’s fascinating though is the degree to which the idea of memberships matters. In this chart below, I’m zooming in on a handful of the most popular passes at Tula Yoga Studio in December of 2015.

Fitness Marketing

You can see most of the revenue was generated from the sales of ten packs, followed by a number of singles and introductory 3 pack offers. Lower down we see the sale of ten memberships, generating about $1,000 in revenue.

So if you’re looking solely at December, you might reasonably think that these 3 pack intro offers could potentially be even more important than memberships.

But that’s not the whole story.

When we look out at the whole year, we can see that the memberships generated almost the same amount of revenue as the ten packs and far more revenue than the singles and the introductory 3 pack.

yoga studio more revenue

Are the introductory offers important? Absolutely. Are they anywhere nearly as important as monthly memberships? Not even close.

What’s so striking though is not just the revenue difference. It’s the number of times a purchase decision was made in order to generate that revenue. Because of the nature of the memberships, there’s a compounding effect. The first month, you sell 10 memberships. But then when you sell 10 more the next month, you have 20 memberships going. Of course some people will cancel, others will join up, etc. So you might sell 170 membership passes all year and have 120 active members at any given time for example.

But if you’re always only looking at your monthly numbers, you’ll never get the whole story of how important memberships are.

Another way of thinking about this is that one membership purchase, has many payments, but there’s still only one purchase decision being made here. So the reality is that 183 purchase decisions generated far more revenue than over 1,500 purchase decisions of single classes.

The other benefit is that memberships are the exact way people can usually get the best deal on yoga. So the way you talk about memberships matters too. When people ask if you have any discounts, say “yes!, we have an unlimited pass for $99/$108/$125—whatever your case may be, so if you come 3-4 times per week you get your yoga for $6 or $7 dollars per class.”

The flip side of this is, of course, to wonder how much value discounted classes are really brining you? What matters is the degree to which people who buy your introductory passes end up becoming regulars at your studio, not the number of deals you sell.

Something to think about as you gear up and set your sails for the year ahead, and hopefully these charts remind you to zoom out now and then to see what’s helping your studio the most.


CRMs for Yoga Studios

Andrew Wicklander is the creator of Tula Software, a hosted web application that yoga studios around the world use to run their businesses.  Andrew regularly gives talks around the country about how lessons from yoga can be directly applied to business, and how yogis already possess all the wisdom required to succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures.

How to Reach Your Local Business’s Goals With the Right Financial Reports

Pop quiz! Do you know if your business is on track to hit its financial goals for the year?

Sorry to put you on the spot like that and don’t let it make you sweat. Truth be told, an estimated 90 percent of small businesses are unable to produce dependable financial statements when prompted. And it’s probably safe to assume that even if they could access accurate finances, most small teams wouldn’t know how to turn those numbers into business insights to put into action.

We usually think of entrepreneurs and business owners as the most confident folks in the room. So, it’s worth noting when something makes them squirm the way accounting financial reporting for local businessesand taxes do. Even though we all know that hiding from scary financial issues does nothing to actually make them go away, so many fearless business leaders are quick to bury their heads in the sand before addressing topics like month ends and EBITDA margins.

However, this can be a major differentiator when it comes to running a successful company. Taking a deeper look at some of the most of the notable businessmen and women we see in the spotlight, you’ll see that they got where they are today by facing the intimidating financial world and becoming one with their numbers. With that in mind, you’re probably wondering what exactly they did to get under the proverbial accounting hood? What were their first steps? Let’s start by looking at the reports you’ll need to make the right managerial decisions for your business’s goals. Once you have that as a foundation, we’ll dive into which financial reports matter to each audience of interest (such as investors, creditors and lenders, and tax authorities) and how to make the right impression from the beginning.

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An Interest-Free Loan? These Business Credit Cards Can Make It Happen

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Meredith Wood, the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera


Interest-Free LoansMost of us take out loans several times a day: to pay for lunch, a coffee, groceries, or gas.

You might not think of them this way, but credit cards are really just lines of credit. And when it comes to managing your small business’s finances, business credit cards do more than just help you afford business purchases on credit and keep your personal and business finances independent. They offer cash back, miles, rewards, and bonuses.

And, if you’re lucky, your business credit card will come with 0% introductory APR.

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Using Online Scheduling to Keep Your Business Organized

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Robert Ravensbergen, Content Marketer and Digital Communications Specialist at Agendize.


Everyday there’s some newfangled software that purports to make it “easy”, “efficient” or even “fun” to manage and grow your business. Ultimately most of these implementations take time, energy, and don’t often show you the quick returns yours small-but-fast-moving business needs to make a name for itself.

However, Online Scheduling’s track record has proven to be wildly different from that grow your business using online schedulingunfortunate norm. Not only does 24/7 Online Booking often mean as much as 40% more appointments for businesses, but it also leads to as much as 75% time save on managing appointments, an 80% reduction in no-shows, and the elimination of double-bookings. With Online Scheduling, a few simple features make keeping your business organized easy – this on top of giving your clients a natural and intuitive way to book appointments in seconds.

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Using Data To Unlock Your Business’s Growth

In our guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from John Keene, the founder of acuere software, the creators of serviceminder.io


When you head to the Walmarts to make a major purchase, you’ve researched the brands, the features, the costs and so you know you’re getting a good deal.

Why don’t you put that much research into running your business?

Collecting the Data

Small businesses can generate a lot of useful data through the course of just turning the crank. Sales figures, cost information and miscellaneous expenses. You’re probably already tracking all of that in QuickBooks or something similar so that, if nothing else, Is your Digital Marketing working?you can balance your checkbook and pay taxes. You can also categorize some of the data automatically using your chart of accounts. It’s important to use your chart of accounts so that you can break down different kinds of sales for comparative purposes. But don’t make too many accounts… any income accounts should see activity every month. If it doesn’t, roll that account up into something more general.

Financial data almost happens by accident because there’s not much friction – but there’s a lot more data available to collect in a typical service business.

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Rejected for a Small Business Loan? Here’s What to Do Next

In our new guest post series, we’ll be bringing you advice and tips from industry experts on the other, sometimes non-marketing-related issues affecting local business owners. Today’s post comes from Meredith Wood, the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera


 

Okay, your loan request was denied; you’re probably feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed and you may even feel like throwing in the towel. But if you do that, you wouldn’t be the resilient entrepreneur that got you to where you are today; the one who doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

getting a small business loanAll hope is not lost. If you were rejected for a small business loan, the first thing you’ll want to do is consider the reason for rejection. Is your credit score up to par? Does your business plan need work? Does your company have enough cash flow?

Whatever the reason, the reality of the situation is that you need money for your business and your first attempt at getting it didn’t go as planned. So let’s talk about what you should do next.

Continue Reading: Verify The Cause

Verify The Cause

You may have a sneaking suspicion as to why your loan application was denied. But, you’ll never be certain if you don’t ask. Reach out to the lender and see if they can give you as much insight as possible as to why your application wasn’t approved. The more specific, the better. Once you get this information, you’ll know exactly where you need to turn your attention to improve your chances of securing a future loan.

There’s all sorts of reasons your application can get denied. Below are a few of the most popular, and what your business can do to improve them.

Credit Score
If the problem lies with your credit score, improving it could help turn your application rejection into an application acceptation. Improving your score won’t be an overnight fix, but there are a few ways to give it a quick boost.

First, you’ll want to know what your credit score is, so pull your report from the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Remember to pull your credit report every six months or so to check for any errors.

Errors are more common on a credit report than we’d like to believe, but it could be the reason you have a low score. If you can detect and remove any errors, you’ll be able to give your score a significant boost.

Paying down any current balances and raising your credit limit will also help. Most importantly, however, be sure to pay your bills on time!

Cash Flow
Lenders care about your business’s cash flow because it shows them whether or not you’ll be able to cover your current expenses alongside your loan payments. To play it safe, they’ll want to see a little buffer too. Most lenders will figure out if your business can handle the expected loan payments by using something called Debt Service Coverage Ratio. This equation essentially tells lenders how much cash you have to service debt. To calculate, you need to figure:

Annual Net Operating Income + Depreciation & Other Non-Cash Charges /Interest + Current Maturities of Long-Term Debt

If your debt service doesn’t exceed 1, that means you’ll have more debt than cash flow. So, anything over 1 is where you want to be, and the further over 1 the better! If you need to get your DSCR up, you’ll need to get more cash coming into your business, or ask for a lower loan amount.

Age of Your Business
If your company is just starting out, lenders may be leery offering you a loan because they’re unable to see any proven success. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about that fact except wait. After two years in business, more loan options should open up. In the meantime, focus on improving your credit score and cash flow, to make sure your application is as strong as possible when that time comes!

Just Because You Got One No, Doesn’t Mean They’re All No

The other thing to keep in mind is that just because one lender says no doesn’t mean they all will. For example, there are dozens of different types of loan products you can find that are meant to service different type of borrowers. Some lenders accept lower credit scores, others might use equipment or invoices to collateralize the loans. Either way, you have options so be sure to shop them. You can also consider getting a business credit card or more wisely utilizing the cards you have now.

Just because you were rejected for a loan the first time around does not mean you won’t be able to get one. Focus on opening up your options and improving your application, and you’ll be headed in the right direction. The most important thing to remember, however, is to never give up.


 

Meredith Wood is the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith manages financing columns on Inc, Entrepreneur, HuffPo and more, and her advice can be seen on Yahoo!, Daily Worth, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, Intuit, the SBA and many more.

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