The 3 Pillars of Social Media for Small Business: Listen, Act, Evolve

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First, it’s important to establish the three attributes that make a good business great and 3pillarsofsocialmediathen we’ll apply these to our social media best practices.  Great businesses have three things in common:

1.  They know their customers.

2.  They care about their customers and act upon important customer feedback.

3.  They evolve with their customer’s needs.

Social media for small business is by definition communicating with your customers online.  The first step to a successful social media program is simple: take a step back and think about the human interactions you have with your customers every day.  Your online interactions will be no different.  You will listen to, act upon and evolve with your customer’s needs online the same way you would offline.

While social media may seem daunting and time consuming, the rules of social media mirror basic “relationship 101” skills.  They’re just disguised with names like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and blog. [Read More…]

Keep Your Customers Coming Back, Groundhog Day-Style

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What do you think of when you hear “Groundhog Day?”  Some people dread another six weeks of winter.  And then there are those who immediately think of the classic 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray who lived the same day over and over and over again.  (For the record, we here in Chicagoland are thankful that Phil did not see his shadow this past weekend!)

"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?" –Bill Murray, Groundhog Day

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” –Bill Murray, Groundhog Day

In the business world, don’t you wish you could make your best sales day a “Groundhog Day” and have that best sales day replicated each and every day?  [Read More…]

5 Easy Ways to Increase Holiday Sales by Offering Incentives and Rewards

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1. Offer a Free Gift

Many of the women reading this post have been “wooed” by the “free gift” technique offered by many department store cosmetic lines and other women’s brands.  The “free gift” technique gives shoppers a valuable and desirable free gift if they spend a certain dollar amount – perhaps something that can even be used as holiday gift for someone else on their list. [Read More…]

Gift Card Incentives: Why You Should Use Them

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Whether you are trying to reward loyal employees and customers or increase conversion rates and sales, the right incentive delivered at the right moment can improve results every time.

Co-branded promotions and the use of prepaid gift cards are a tried and true way to build interest and consumer excitement. In fact, they can often break through the clutter and successfully capture customers’ attention where other promotional techniques can’t. As one case study illustrated, not only did gift cards get the targeted audience to stop and take notice, it also increased close rates by a significant and measurable amount.

Promotional incentives such as gift cards can also provide the nudge some customers need to close the deal. For example, one company implemented a promotion that gave customers who enrolled in one of their programs the reward of a gift certificate. They, like many organizations who use gift cards to motivate sales or strengthen brand loyalty, quickly learned that there’s no faster or more effective way to drive results than giving customers something they want and consider highly valuable. In fact, during the promotion, the company reported that “the conversion rate for the Gift Card test segments were nearly double the conversion rates for three other offers tested”. Better yet, when they gave gift card incentives to those who spent over a defined dollar amount, they also succeeded in getting people to spend more. Now that’s what I call a win, win situation!

As research by the Incentive Research Foundation and Incentive Gift Card Council recently revealed, “Aside from being easier to customize and more flexible than many other incentives, gift card-based incentive programs tend to also be easy to administer and are more flexible and customizable than most other promotional tactics.” Respondents in their study even go on to add that, “ [Gift] cards can be more meaningful, personal and impactful than cash,” with over 50% reporting that, “… dollar for dollar, they are the most effective reward available”.

There may be other options available but when distributed at the right time and place, no other promotional incentive will perform as reliably and consistently as gift cards.

Building Buzz

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Nothing increases traffic or accelerates customer acquisition efforts more than effective PR, especially when your message gets into the hands of key influencers who have the potential to help you spread the word. But, capturing the interest of “movers and shakers” can be tricky. Unless you have something to share that is time-sensitive or incredibly unique compared to what others offer, getting on people’s radar can be challenging. Here are some tips to help increase the odds your PR efforts will be successful:

1.  Be sure you’ve clearly defined your target audience.

Nothing is more important than having a good handle on who it is you’re trying to reach. Are you trying to attract more of the same kind of customers you have or is expanding to a new audience your goal? What do your customers care about or value? Are there other businesses who may be trying to reach the same audience that would be interested in partnering? Many make the mistake of sending their information far and wide, like throwing wet spaghetti against the wall in the hopes that at least some will stick. If you use this kind of shotgun approach, chances are you won’t get results and, even if you do, it won’t reach the people you truly care about reaching.

2.  Be sure to include Influencers when you promote your business. 

“Word-of-mouth” advertising is one of the more powerful, not to mention affordable tactics, you have available. But, to get influencers attention, you have to make sure your offer is unique and noteworthy. As Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point wisely suggests, “Make sure that “connectors”, people who influence many others, like writers, leaders, or even celebrities get your message so it can be spread quickly”

3.  Keep your message short, simple, and easy to understand. 

In this time-starved world, people find it difficult to read anything longer than a few sentences or more complex than what a kindergartner can understand. At some level, we understand this and want to be brief but when you’re promoting your business, and talking about your “baby”, it can be hard to keep it short. But take heed: “Messaging must be short and sweet, as you have less than 10 seconds to make an impression,” and ten seconds isn’t very long. The fewer words you can use to express the information you’re sharing, the better.

4.  Incorporate a call to action.

In other words, give people a reason to pay attention to your press release and recognize them for doing what you ask. For example, if you are trying to get people to “like” your new Facebook page, give the first 100 people who respond a gift card or other valuable reward. Embed a promotional offer in your announcement, provide an incentive award to attract readers’ interest, and make sure you’re giving reporters and consumers a reason to care about what you have to say.

It’s not rocket science. Simply offer information that is timely, tailored and relevant, add in a valuable incentive to motivate people to take action, and you’ve got all the right ingredients to get media coverage and create valuable buzz for your business.

Putting an End to Cart Abandonment

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Ever find yourself standing in line at the grocery store, only to realize you’ve left your wallet in car? After investing a considerable amount of time shopping, gathering exactly what you want, there are a limited few that would make the decision to leave empty handed. More likely, you’d ask someone to watch your cart, run to the car, return to complete your transaction, and leave feeling incredibly relieved that all that time wasn’t wasted.

Online it’s a different story, right? Often, we willingly invest hours of time surfing. Page after page, site after site, shopping for the things we need or want and yet, at the end of our journey, when it’s time to check out, we get distracted or realize that the total is a lot bigger than we thought, and flee without even a backward glance.

Somehow when we are shopping in the privacy of our office, home, or even on our phone, it just seems easier to leave. In fact, the latest statistics show that 59% of the time a customer places an item into an online shopping cart, that customer fails to check out and complete their transaction.

There are lots of reasons people give for abandoning their carts but multiple studies show that online shipping costs are the number one reason people walk away from their online cart. A close second is that the cost of the items you’ve put in your cart, add up to more money than you’ve got to spend.

To combat this abandonment issue, many e-tailers have found that launching a follow-up e-mail campaign to entice a customer back can be an effective strategy for closing the deal. They understand that shoppers may have left their cart in a hurry because of circumstances beyond their control. Perhaps a boss walked by, a child fell, or the phone rang. By sending a reminder e-mail to that shopper a few hours later when they’re in the comfort of their own home or things have calmed again, it’s possible their interest in making a purchase can be rekindled.

If a simple reminder isn’t enough, often adding in an incentive award like a gift card or discount on a future or larger purchase, can increase conversion and turn a browser into a long-term and loyal customer. As Dealnews Features Director, Lindsay Sakraida, recently put it, by offering a promotional deal or additional discount to sweeten the pot, e-tailers are more likely to “convince on-the-fence shoppers to pull the trigger on a purchase”.

Promotional Incentives Prompt Top Performance

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I’ve always been a fan of company incentive programs that use a combination of cash and tangible rewards to measurably improve performance. Maybe it’s just me but, unless a reward involves a huge amount of money, receiving something I can touch and feel has always felt more motivating, especially when the item is something I desire.

Certainly, in some industries and some situations, cash is still king and can be an appropriate and very powerful motivator. However, statistics show that a company can actually increase results and potentially save money by designing a recognition or incentive rewards program that offers both cash and non-cash prizes. As Chairman of the Incentive Federation recently confirmed, “…the average cost of a cash award is roughly triple that of either merchandise or gift cards”. Further, the Aberdeen Group, a well-respected market research firm, suggests that, “Companies that use non-cash rewards and recognition programs report higher revenue increases – 9.6 percent as opposed to 3 percent who don’t”. This explains why recent research conducted by Incentive Magazine revealed that, in just the last year, “64.3% of the respondents purchase dining/restaurant gift cards for their incentive programs”.

To ensure your promotional incentive program is as compelling as possible, it pays to select rewards that are tailored to your team. For instance, if I know an employee dining out, picking up a token gift card from is an easy, low cost way to say “thanks” for a job well done. It may not be a grand gesture, such as a vacation, but for many, recognition of the little details can be incredibly motivating.

There are lots of ways to construct a compelling incentive program but, if strong business performance and more motivated employees are your goal, be sure both cash and non-cash awards are used.

Why Your Company Should Use Incentive Motivation for Employees

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Employees are the heart and soul of every business. Without extra hands to take care of all the details and needs of a company from sales to safety and administration, a company would be ineffective at reaching customers, making products, taking care of records and all the other things associated with keeping a business…well, in business. That’s where an incentive award program plays a vital role in keeping employees happy so that they stay on the job and hopefully stay motivated to do that job very well.

Companies can use sales promotion tools to give rewards to sales team members when they meet or exceed sales goals. Incentives can help acknowledge employee achievements for a job well done or even milestones such as being with the company for five or 10 years. Businesses will also benefit from fostering teamwork by giving incentives when employees pull together to create a product or better work processes to get a job completed more efficiently. Additionally, when employees know that a company cares about them and then shows them with gift rewards it can also improve employee retention. Employees want to stay with a company that demonstrates their value and concern for that person. Gift Cards will successfully help your company motivate, retain and award employee loyalty. Your employees will enjoy the large selection of restaurants and appreciate the choices available for their dining. Your company will welcome the affordability of putting an employee incentive program in place. Give us a call today at 877.833.2352 to learn more about how we can help with your employee incentives.

3 Simple Ways to Keep Employee Productivity High

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The more productive your employees are, the stronger your business can become. But in today’s incredibly high tech and hectic world, the real challenge is in finding ways to keep your employees focused, motivated and performing to their full potential.


Consider three key ways to make sure your team’s productivity remains high:

1.  Autonomy works wonders:

Especially in these multi-tasking times when personal and professional pressures run rampant, flexibility and the ability to be the master of your own destiny is often a key ingredient for success. Just ask any working Mom. The more freedom one has to structure their time and prioritize tasks in a way that suits their schedule, typically the more that can be accomplished. In fact, “A century of research into productivity shows that a major way to improve (results) is autonomy,” according to Inc magazine. And, organizational psychologist, Dustin Jundt, agrees, “[Greater autonomy] can lead to lower turnover and higher levels of creativity, innovation, and even performance”.  

2.  Reward excellent results:

Another important way to encourage optimal employee productivity is to recognize and reward those who achieve clearly defined goals. Be it number of calls made, number of sales closed, or some other quantifiable way to measure success, rewarding those who deliver or exceed expectations can be a powerful tool you can use to enhance overall productivity. Rewards can take many forms but those found to be most influential include sales incentive tools such as valuable gift cards, merchandise, or peer recognition. As found in recent research conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation, “Incentives increase performance by boosting the value people assign to work goals, causing them to make stronger commitments to those goals and achieve them.

3.  Make work meaningful:

Last but not least, nothing inspires top performance more than meaningful work. “Everybody wants to be proud of where they work, to feel that they are investing the most precious thing they have–time–in something that matters.” The more you can, “create direct links between the success of the business and the community you serve,” the more successful you’’ll be. Better yet, if achieving your business goals satisfies a higher purpose, employees will be inspired to work harder and smarter because they are invested in the outcome.

Used in combination, you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve!

Become Indispensable and Watch Your Business Grow

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Success depends on having a growing number of customers and in today’s world where competitors abound and choices of who to buy from are plentiful, businesses have to work harder than ever to attract and keep customers coming back.  As Entrepreneur magazine agrees, “Making your company indispensable is a vital key to marketing success.” In other words, business owners across all sectors need to make building customer loyalty and creating lasting and meaningful relationships with their best customers a top priority.  

By starting with people who’ve bought from you before, you’ve already broken the ice and identified they have a need for a service or product you provide.  The more time you invest in getting to know your customers, their buying patterns, and preferences, the more insights and tools you’ll have to help you create a meaningful and strategic reward incentive program that will bring them back, again and again.  


In fact, as Business Week recently reported, studies show that, “68% of customers leave a business relationship because of a perceived attitude of indifference on the part of the company.”  


Here are just a few examples of how you can offer special perks to entice your best customers to buy from you again:

Airlines commonly reward their frequent buyers using special customer perks or rewards such as early boarding privileges, fewer baggage limitations, and the ability to upgrade at the last minute to more premium seats. They’ve also gathered important data about their customer base which enables airlines to further distinguish not only who is buying on a regular basis but paying more than average such as business and first class ticket buyers.  This distinction earns even higher rewards such as membership into elite airport clubs and special onboard treatment.


Another way to endear customers to you is by providing free services or by allowing them to earn promotional “points” or incentive rewards for every purchase they make.  Designed to encourage repeat purchases, customers accumulate points that can later be cashed in for merchandise or something they value such as special status or recognition, price discounts, or other desirable products and services.


You can also make sure your best customers feel valued by ensuring they receive exceptional service every time they make a purchase or interact with your business.  Top service will motivate your patrons to be loyal over time – not because other options don’t exist but because they enjoy the relationship you’ve cultivated and nurtured with them better than those they have with other companies. 



By rewarding your best customers with best-in-class service and perks they value, you will ensure they feel special and have the motivation and incentive they need to return again and again.