25 Pieces of Marketing Advice Small Businesses Can Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating in the US!

With the holiday here and Small Business Saturday less than 48 hours away, we thought we would take the time to reflect on what has been an incredible six months of our Ask an Expert series.

The series, which started as a way to get quick answers to our customers most pressing marketing questions, has evolved into a weekly series featuring live video interviews around questions we receive from small businesses and nonprofits via social media, our blog, and in our weekly webinar Q&As.

We’re thankful for everyone who has watched the videos, sent their questions, and shared their feedback. We’re looking forward to sharing even more answers to your burning questions in December and throughout the New Year.

Here are 25 pieces of marketing advice small business can be thankful for:

Email Marketing Basics

1. What should an effective newsletter do for a business or organization?

“Ideally a newsletter will have the ability to build a relationship, loyalty, and retention. To put it another way, a newsletter really shouldn’t be about selling—that’s the wrong mindset for a newsletter. What it should be is really more educational and informational and give people content that they’re really going to find valuable when they are opening up and reading your email.”

-Justin Tryon, Education Development Specialist

2. What are the most common areas of email marketing people should work to improve?

“The end goal for email marketing is generally to make more money for your business. Whether that’s through donations, getting more volunteers, or just selling more products and services. That’s the end goal. But when we get into the mechanics of it, there are three things we look at in terms of what we want to improve: building your listimproving your open rates, and improving your click-throughs or actions people take. Without any of that, you never get to that end goal.”

-Dave Charest, Content Manager

3. What is your best advice for businesses trying to figure out the right timing for their email marketing?

“First off, just don’t be afraid to try something new. If a business sees that midnight is the best time to send an email, they might not be inclined to do it because it may seem strange to them. Or if they’ve been sending emails for years now and they’ve been sending them every month at noontime and that’s what’s worked … well that’s great, but if you start to look at those open rates and click through rates and start to see those numbers go down, then you should try something new.”

-Ryan Pinkham, Junior Content Developer

Social media marketing

4. How can video help your Facebook marketing?

“I think there are a couple of things you can do. You hear people talking about “creating viral videos,” but it’s hard to know what’s going to go viral. What you can do is post things that are short, interesting, and funny. If you’re passionate about a certain topic and other people are passionate about it, they are going to share the video and that’s going to help you get to the next level.”

-Josh Mendelsohn, Head of Marketing, SinglePlatform

5. What would you say are the biggest benefits of running a Facebook ad?

“Facebook advertising offers a number of benefits. But the greatest has to be the ability for advertisers to target very specific audiences. Being able to target specific groups will give your business more exposure to the people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services.”

-Ashley Silva, Digital Planning Manager

6. How exactly do you run a Facebook chat?

“First of all: you want to promote your chat A LOT. No one’s going to come if they don’t know when your chat is going to be. So put it on Twitter, put it in your email newsletter, and talk about it on Facebook before the actual chat. On the day of the chat, post a photo to your Page—the chat will take place right in the comments section.  I use PicMonkey to create the photo, which is the picture editor that comes with our Email Marketing product.”

-Danielle Cormier, Social Media Specialist

7. Is there really a best time to post on Facebook?

“On Facebook, think about the type of content you share and when you share it. Say you share a lot of pictures or a lot of news articles—why not one week share a lot of those pictures in the morning and a those news articles in the afternoon? The next week—switch it and do the articles in the morning and the pictures in the afternoon. Then all you’ll need to do is look at your Facebook Insights, which will actually give you a graph of when posts are getting the most response and when they’re getting the most reach. You can also keep track of things like: shares, likes, and comments.”

-Ryan Pinkham, Junior Content Developer

8. What advice would you give to a business trying to manage their time on social media?

“There are so many different platforms and each one can suck up a lot of time. I would say: start with one and do it really well. Most often that’s probably Facebook— for particular businesses that might mean Twitter. I would start with either one of those and do it well. And spend 90% of that time on building that social media network and community. Use the other 10% as your experimentation time. You might want to try checking out Pinterest or some of the other platforms. Maybe you have a great Facebook presence but you haven’t really dabbled in Twitter yet. Try it—use some of that time to try it out.”

-Erica Ayotte, Social Media Manager

9. What is your best advice for a nonprofit getting started in social media?

“I think it’s easy to want to push a lot of content out there, but I think it’s important to keep in mind   the goal of social media is to interact and be social. So making sure you’re not just pushing content out there, but you’re really welcoming their photos or comments, which can be great content to have in any of your other marketing materials.”

-Caroline Shahar, Product Marketing Manager

10. What can a small business do when they receive negative feedback on social media?

“The first thing you want to remember is that social media is called social media for a reason. So, you want to make sure you’re connecting with your customers—whether it is positive or negative. There’s always going to be some sort of negative feedback out there. You want to make sure to answer your customers, connect with them, and show your entire audience on social media that you really care about what they have to say. Make sure your response is precise and that you’re showing customers that you really want to solve their problem.”

-Kristen Curtiss, Social Media Specialist

11. How can you make sure you are sharing content that will drive engagement with your Twitter followers?

“You can keep track of your engagement by measuring how many people are mentioning you or responding to your tweets. If they are engaging back, that means they are listening, hearing what you’re saying, and want to respond to your information. Also by measuring your retweets, it’s the best way to show your fans are interested in your content.”

-Danielle Cormier, Social Media Specialist

12.  How can a small business make sure the content they share on Twitter is actually being seen?

“It really starts with making your content easy to digest. Things like “Top 10 Tips” are always good because it lets people know exactly what they’re getting into. Or using words like “Always” or “Never” or “Best Example” or “Worst Example”—those extremes will always catch people’s attention. It’s good to think about it like you would an email subject line.”

-Azure Collier, Education Development Specialist

13. What’s behind Pinterest’s surge in popularity?

“Pinterest is actually a lot more familiar to people than they might expect. The actions they take on Pinterest: follow, repin, like, comment—really aren’t anything new for the average social media user. It’s also really easy to navigate and find the content you’re looking for—whether it’s searching by different categories or using the search bar. And it’s well integrated with a lot of the other social networks. You can actually “like” something right from Pinterest and share it with your friends on Facebook or send a tweet to tell your followers to check something out on Twitter.”

-Erica Ayotte, Social Media Manager

Content creation

14. Why is content so important to your marketing?

“I think content is so important for your marketing because it gives you an opportunity to stay in touch and in front of your customers without it always being about asking them to buy something, or asking them to do something that’s self-serving. Using content that’s relevant or useful or otherwise entertaining to your particular audience or customers is really just a great way to keep your business top-of-mind and help build connections with people. And that will serve you when the time comes that they are looking to buy something your company offers or something your nonprofit organization does.”

-Content Manager, Dave Charest

15. How can a survey help small businesses create content customers actually want to read?

“The most basic thing you can do is just ask people, “Hey, you signed up for our newsletter … what do YOU want to hear about.” Asking your customers for feedback can really be that simple and a lot of businesses don’t do it. When it comes to segmenting your list—ask customers what types of products or services they are interested in, because not all your customers are going to be interested in the same things. Give them options to choose from and ask them, “Out of these products and services, which do you want to hear about?

-Dave Gerhardt, Associate Product Marketing Manager

16. What advice do you have for small businesses that are having trouble coming up with content ideas for their email newsletter?

“One thing that we tell small business owners is to not think too hard about it. You have a lot going on during the day, and it might not all seem interesting to you, but it’s interesting to your customer. Step outside a little bit and think about what you would talk about with someone if they asked you about your business. You’d tell them the customer stories, you’d tell them the fun conversations you have with people, you would tell how you helped to make somebody successful, or about your knowledge of the industry. All of these things that are going on each day can be used as content for your email newsletter or social media.”

-Azure Collier, Education Development Specialist

17. What advice do you have for small businesses looking to develop case studies that will get the most value in a more social world?

“The key is probably to be universal at this point, and to really emphasize “the you,” so the case study can be applied in the aspirational fashion where anyone whose reading can say, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ But you also have to be honoring the business and customer you’re featuring. So it’s kind of a multipronged approach. So many customers have so many takeaways. It really has to be a customizable approach at this point.”

-Blaise Lucey, Content Developer

Local Deals

18. What are some of the elements of a successful local deal?

“The first thing to start out with if you’re looking to run a successful deal is a really engaged customer base. I don’t care how tough your competition is, if you have a really engaged customer base, that’s an asset   no one can ever take away from you. And if you have that level of trust built up with your customers, they’re going to go out and tell their friends all about you, they’re going to buy deals from you, and they’re going to be repeat customers.”

-Dave Gilbertson, Vice President and General Manager

19. How can small businesses run deals that their customers will actually want to share?

“To really get that sharing happening online, you want to create an awesome deal that they just want to tell their friends about. So it should be an offer on something that is a strong offering from your business. You don’t want to unload inventory that’s just completely unwanted. You really want to promote something that people are going to want to tell that friend about who could really benefit from your product. The second thing is to find a way to reward them for sharing. They’re putting their reputation on the line to tell their network about your business and you really want to give them something for that.”

-Amy Kass, Senior Marketing Manager

20. How can a small business make sure their local deal is not a horror story?

“I think it comes down to proper planning. You have to know what you want out of your deal. Is it new customers? Is it to drive engagement from people that you think are on Groupon’s list? A lot of times you just have to know the financials. They’re going to tell you what deal you want to run. But with Constant Contact, we put that control back in your hands. We know you can decide what you want your deal to be.”

-Dave Wachtendonk, Product Manager

Other marketing hot topics

21. What does online event management offer that other traditional ways of event management do not?

“The tools today allow you to send those same invitations, but do it through email. It allows you to integrate with your social channels like Facebook and Twitter, and promote the events that way. You can also integrate your promotions with online directories dedicated solely to making people aware of events in the area. It has really taken the promotion to a whole other place.”

-Mary Crogan, Senior Marketing Manager

22. Why would a small business want to consider creating a podcast?

“A podcast is really just a great way to connect with your audience. People can hear your voice—it’s a way for you to share your expertise and they get those vocal inflections and those types of things. It’s a nice way for people to hear you and connect with you better. But it’s also a great way to start your content creation process. It’s a lot easier to talk about a topic that you have expertise in or can talk to somebody about, than it is to sit down and say “OK, I’m going to write an article on this.” Because there’s not an intimidation factor there and it’s easier to just talk about things.”

-Dave Charest, Content Manager

23. Why is SEO important for your blog?

“Nobody likes speaking to an empty room, right? You write content, you want it to be read, and you want it to be seen. So writing content with SEO in mind just means, simply and ultimately, writing so people will find it … so people will get it, people will read about it, and people will learn about what you’ve got to say.”

-Peter Hughes, Search Marketing Manager

24. What is customer marketing and why is it important for small businesses?

“It’s all about deepening relationships with your existing customers by providing them with timely, relevant, and valuable information. As you do that, you’ll be able to learn more about what’s valuable to them and what’s of interest to them by the way they respond to your efforts. As those relationships begin to grow and mature, and you deliver on their expectations, you’ll also start to build customer loyalty and advocacy.”

-Maureen Plowman, Senior Customer Marketing Manager

25. How can small businesses get more publicity in just minutes-a-day?

“My biggest piece of advice is once you’ve identified the key media in your industry, read every day. It only takes 10 minutes in the morning and you can really put yourself in a good position by seeing what they are writing about in your industry. By seeing what’s interesting to them and by following them and identifying the right outlets, you’ll get to hear the most important things from the most important people in your industry.”

-Dave Gerhardt, Associate Product Marketing Manager

Have questions you’d like to see us talk about on Ask an Expert? Let us know in the comments below.

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