Anna Smith's Posts (809)

  • Tips on how to find and sell products online

    If you dream of opening an online store, chances are you’ve envisioned what you’ll sell. But even if you’ve always wanted to run a widget shop, you need to think long and hard about whether or not widgets will sell! If buyers don’t want what you’re offering, no amount of marketing, online buzz or discounts will make it fly off your shelves. So before you invest time, resources and effort into getting your website sales up and running, take some time to think about how to find and sell products online.

    Step 1: Finding the Right Product

    As you consider the pros and cons of different products to sell, here are some questions to ask yourself.

    • Is there demand for my product? If you’re a savvy shopper yourself, you already have an idea of what’s hot or up-and-coming. Regardless, take yourself on a virtual shopping spree to get all the facts. A few quick searches on eBay will display the market price for a specific product. Online tools like Google Trends can also provide valuable insight into hot selling products and the number of people searching for related product keywords. Find out if shoppers truly want this product, what the market size is and whether or not it makes sense to sell it online at all. Seasonality counts, too; keep in mind that certain products will sell well only during certain times of the year (like beach toys in summer). Another important point to think about: Does this product offer the potential for repeat shoppers, or is it a once-in-a-lifetime investment? These factors will drive your marketing, inventory and price.
    • Is my product legal to sell? You may know you’re not dealing in anything illegal … but if you’re planning to sell internationally, your targeted countries may not always see it that way. For instance, those vintage playing cards in your store may seem innocuous, but business won’t boom in Brazil, which prohibits their sale! As an international seller, it is your responsibility to make sure that your product is compliant with the laws of the country you are selling to. Before you set up your online store to sell overseas, make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with the regulations of all the countries you are planning to sell to. For an overview, visit eCommerceWeekly’s Shipping Internationally: Understanding Prohibited and Restricted Items.
    • Who’s my competition? In a healthy economy, there’s room for multiple sellers of the same product – but you don’t want to enter a saturated market. Visit websites of online and brick-and-mortar stores to get an idea of how popular your chosen item is, how your competition attracts and interacts with customers, and any promotions they use to drive sales. Sign up for their newsletters and social media alerts, too, and try Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to take a look at SEO competition – your online store’s eventual position on Search Engine Results Pages will have a direct impact on your ability to attract customers. Finally, search for your product on eBay, Amazon and other major marketplaces in e-commerce, because that’s often where shoppers go first.
    • What will my costs be? Once you’ve gotten an idea of what your competitors charge for their products, you can hone in on the price you should charge. But make sure you’re taking all costs into account! What are you paying for your e-commerce site, packaging, shipping and publicity? Will your product markup adequately cover your costs, plus provide enough of a profit margin for you?

    Step 2: Selling Your Product Online

    Now that you’ve determined that your product has potential, let’s start thinking about getting it sold. Once again, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How can I effectively market my product? You’ve paid attention to the competition – now figure out what these online merchants are doing right and wrong in getting their merchandise noticed. Devising an effective marketing strategy is fairly straightforward (look online for samples and tutorials) and will give you the framework to ensure you’re hitting all the marks in terms of publicity, advertising, social media (eCommerceWeekly gives a good rundown of social media and selling at Social Commerce: How It Can Impact Your Bottom Line!), promos and loyalty programs. Remember, buzz is what it’s all about with e-commerce. Grab customers’ attention in a unique and professional way, and watch your sales spike!
    • How will I ship my items to buyers? When you were weighing the pros and cons of your product, with any luck you considered whether it will survive the shipping process. A pottery shop, for instance, won’t stay in business long until you’ve figured out exactly how to protect your pieces from origin to destination, and if what you’re selling is perishable, timely delivery is of the utmost importance. In all cases, making sure you’ve invested in the best shipping materials and procedures possible will protect you from unhappy customers and the cost of having to replace damaged items.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • This is a story about two companies’ sales funnels. One company has a sales funnel that improves win rates, the other doesn’t.

    “Company A” uses the most common approach, orienting its sales funnel to the steps of its sales process: qualifying, solution identified, quotation provided, demonstration delivered, etc. You know the drill.

    Company B uses a funnel based on the customer’s buying process. Each stage of the funnel identifies specific actions that customers take when they are moving forward in their buying process. It is these “customer go forward actions” that salespeople seek to achieve as they progress an opportunity through their funnel.

    Company A’s funnel causes everyone, both salespeople and sales managers, to focus on the steps of their sales process. Sales opportunities are tracked based on sales tasks performed by the salesperson.

    Because of the inward focus of Company A’s funnel, a sales opportunity can seem to be progressing quite nicely because the salesperson is doing everything the funnel described. But if the customer slows down their buying process or the rep makes a mistake, nobody knows until it’s too late because neither the rep nor the sales manager is measuring the success of each sales call based on customer actions. They often get blindsided when a “sure-thing” is lost, or goes radio-silent.

    In short, the sales behaviors defined in Company A’s funnel are an inaccurate metric because sales reps are so often out of sync with customers’ views.

    Another flaw in Company A’s approach is that it is based on sales process statistics that are lagging indicators (data collected after a process is complete) – such as how many calls, appointments, demos, and quotes have been made. Therefore, most coaching done by sales managers at Company A is what I would describe as “performance management.” That’s where a sales manager reviews what a sales rep has already done. Typically, then, the manager cracks the whip by saying, “make more calls, and do it faster!” Meanwhile, the rep is thinking, “That’s the same advice you gave me last month and it didn’t help.”

    Over at Company B, things are run differently. A few years ago they became alarmed about poor user adoption of their CRM system. Salespeople were not inputting information in a timely manner, so the accuracy of the information being recorded was questionable. Not good.

    Company B recognized that simply providing more training on CRM usage wasn’t the answer. They wanted their sales force to be more motivated to use CRM. But that would only happen if sales managers used CRM to become more effective sales coaches – proactively coaching salespeople through big deals in a constructive way so that reps won more deals and made more money.

    Providing sales managers with improved visibility on customer actions in the earlier stages of a deal was a big reason why Company B switched the focus of their sales funnel to be focused on the buying process. Most sales managers are instinctively drawn to intervene in the latter stages of a deal, to help close it. But from the customer’s perspective, it’s in the earlier stages of the buying process when the size of the deal is determined – so better sales coaching during the earlier stages of an opportunity is crucial to making major sales.

    To build their Buying Process Funnel, Company B identified buyer actions for each stage of the buying process. These became criteria in the sales funnel that indicate a customer has completed one step of buying and is moving on to the next. Salespeople can now review those criteria to help them answer the question, “What specific action do I want my prospect to take at the end of this meeting?” They want to get the customer to commit to go-forward actions linked to these criteria. The better a sales rep becomes at having customers complete next-step actions, the smoother and more predictable the sales funnel becomes.

    Now, if and when a buyer chooses not to move forward, a buying process action criterion is not met and so alarm bells go off at Company B. Sales managers are alerted to the problem right away, and can intervene while there is still an chance to fix the problem and get the opportunity back on track.

    Company B has discovered that with a Buying Process Funnel they get far better usage of their CRM system by both reps and managers. Sales coaching is improved. Sales forecasts are more accurate because everybody is more focused on what the customer is doing.

    For years, most sales organizations have a self-concept that “we are customer-focused.” But in practice the tools many of them have been using are built around their sales process. This disconnect leads to ineffective sales coaching and poor win rates.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • It’s long been said that leaders are masters of their craft. It’s also been said that small-business owners are true masters of their craft because in most cases they’ve risked it all to foregone the standard paths to a traditional career. The entrepreneurial spirit has guided small-business owners to focus on their true skills and a lifelong passion.

    This is how you should you approach content marketing -- be the master of your craft.

    No one knows your business better than you. No one knows how to satisfy your customers better and no one is better equipped to deliver content to them that will enhance their lives.

    As you iron out your content calendar and focus on the areas that will bring the most value, think of yourself as a master craftsman in your field of choice and serve up that content from a leadership position. Be bold, courageous and determined. Show with confidence how the content you provide will help your customers. Put yourself out there as a credential expert.

    There’s nothing worse than stepping into a business and not feeling confidence come from the owner or the employees. Sadly, we often feel a tepid approach to customer service, leaving us questioning the quality and expertise. Unfortunately, many businesses do not portray themselves as masters of their craft.

    There’s nothing more frustrating then going to a good restaurant and having a server not understand the food on the menu, how to pair items with wine or what the specials are all about. There’s nothing more unsettling than going to a dry cleaner and being met with an associate who doesn’t know how to use the inventory system and can’t find your clothes. And there’s nothing more perplexing than working with a consultant who doesn’t have a solid point of view on what’s been occurring recently in the industry.

    When I’m engaging with a small business or an entrepreneur, I expect to be working with an expert who has chosen their field of work, is passionate about it and is going to help, serve and educate me. I expect to be better for the exchange.

    The only way that can happen is if you are a master of your craft. You need to know everything there is to know about your field and you need to keep current. Most importantly, the content you put out in the marketplace should reflect your knowledge, expertise and passion.

    As you approach this amorphous thing called #contentmarketing, do it as a marketing master who is setting the standard for your industry. Others will follow and share!

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Once you’ve determined what to sell, it’s time to decide how to sell. Two of the main options for e-commerce businesses are to create a website, or sell on a third-party marketplace, like Amazon or eBay. There are pros and cons to each choice; here are some quick tips to help you figure out which is best for the needs of your business.

    Option 1: Creating Your Own Online Store

    PROS:

    • Your store; your identity. With your own site, you’re not just another marketplace seller, but your own entity. It’s up to you to establish your brand, and build your business and reputation.
    • Fewer transaction fees. Online marketplaces assess fees for the convenience and features of their sites, and many sellers feel “nickel-and-dimed.” The fees are usually small on their own … but they add up fast! With your own store, you’ll certainly have costs – like hosting and credit card transaction fees – but you also may have some control over those fees.
    • You make the rules. Large online marketplaces usually have numerous rules and regulations in place – many with good reason considering the scope of their businesses. But with your own website, you can run your business as you see fit.

    CONS:

    • Success isn’t always simple when you’re on your own. With the freedom of your own store also comes the responsibility for a lot of the details that marketplaces like eBay and Amazon take care of for you. You need to be prepared to put in hours for setup and site maintenance, as well as dealing with your inventory and customer support issues.
    • Success comes at a cost. As mentioned earlier, you’re going to be paying fees. Website design, prepackaged sites and hosting can get expensive, not to mention fees for third-party credit-card sales.
    • Your customers need to find you. Online shoppers frequently visit sites like eBay and Amazon first for their searches, so maintaining your own site removes you from that potentially lucrative equation. You’ll also need to factor marketing and advertising into your time and monetary costs.

    Option 2: Selling Via Third-Party Marketplaces

    PROS:

    • Start selling … immediately! There are millions of shoppers already on sites like Amazon and eBay and by searching for what you’re selling, they can easily get to your store.
    • It’s easy to expand your reach. You can list your products on multiple marketplaces (e.g., on both eBay and Amazon). In addition, you can test shopper interest in products before committing to a large-scale selling operation.
    • It’s turnkey. You won’t have to set up checkout and fulfillment support when you sell on large marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay. And don’t forget loyalty and frequent-buying programs (like Amazon Prime), which can be very difficult to develop on your own – especially in the beginning.

    CONS:

    • The cost of doing business can be high. The turnkey model comes at a cost to sellers, usually deducted as a percentage of each sale along with other fees.
    • Your identity is tied into the marketplace’s identity. You may find it’s hard to stand out when you’re part of large online selling sites, and that could limit your branding and ability to connect with customers on a personal level.
    • You need to do your homework … and legwork. Large e-commerce marketplaces usually have strict listing requirements, and making sure all of your products conform to the rules can be a challenge. In addition, if you’re selling on multiple marketplaces, you may need to customize your listings to conform to the different rules – which can mean double the setup work. Finally, because the landscape changes frequently, you’ll need to check in regularly stay abreast of new developments.

    The Bottom Line

    Clearly, there are pros and cons to all of your e-commerce selling options. Carefully weigh what you think will work best for you – it can even be a combination of options! And remember, you can always change course as your business dictates. Happy selling!

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.

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  • Strategy Making Sure as Heck Better be Innovative

    By definition, strategy is about allocating resources today to secure a better tomorrow. It is important, however, to understand the nuances and complexities of innovation as they relate to strategy. Here is my list of the four most important:

    Not every industry is equally dynamic. Some industries are faster paced than others. The smart phone industry has gone through several disruptive changes in just a decade, whereas the steel industry’s technology shifts took place over a hundred-year period. Managerial “best practices” in a fast-paced industry don’t necessarily apply to everyone, everywhere.

    Not all innovation is created equal. I put all innovations into two broad categories: linear innovations (which are consistent with the firm’s current business model) and non-linear innovations (not perfectly continuous with the current business model). But we need to add another layer of complexity to those categories: innovations can be incremental or radical. To illustrate, consider the Tuck School of Business, my employer. A linear, incremental innovation would be if professors from different disciplines co-taught a course. A radical (but still linear) innovation would be a major overhaul of the two-year MBA curriculum. If we were to fundamentally change our business model by offering an online MBA, that would be non-linear. Not only is there no well-understood process for creating such a program, but doing so would require Tuck to build an entirely new set of capabilities.

    Execution is essential to successful innovation and strategy.  Innovation is about commercializing creativity. If a firm is not making money with an idea, there is no innovation. The real challenge lies in the long, frustrating journey toward converting an idea into a fully scaled up profitable business. Moreover, this isn’t always about coming up with new products and services. We tend to think of a shiny new product offering when we picture “strategic innovation,” but that’s too limited. Apple has disrupted several industries using new business models, not new technologies. And Toyota changed the auto industry forever with a systemic process innovation (the lean production system).

    Finally, innovation (and hence strategy) is not just the CEO’s job. There are two significant problems if the firm’s leader is the only one worried about strategy. First, strategy is about adapting to change – and the people at the bottom of the organization are closer to customers and the competitive environment than the CEO. Second, the company needs to selectively forget the past as it invents the future. The CEO will have the most difficulty in forgetting, especially if the CEO was responsible for creating the status quo. The people at the bottom of the organization not only are closest to the future but they have the least vested in the firm’s history.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Ecommerce is simple. Don’t let anyone trouble you with thoughts on mobile, social or personalization. The beating heart of ecommerce is the triangulation of data and uniting your best products with your best customers to make the most profit. 

    I think its worthwhile dwelling on this idea of knowing your products and customers ahead of anything else. Ultimately it’s the nub of your site design but also your marketing efforts including media spend. 

    As marketers start to join up data sources, they need to be wary of jumping the gun, trying to stitch up remarketing, social CRM, personalization, before they’ve truly looked at optimising product mix and display. 

    Here’s what Mike had to say…

    The concept of data triangulation

    The concept of triangulation is nothing new or difficult.

    We can define ecommerce simply as using a stack of technology to put products in front of customers in order to generate profit.

    Then if we look at sales in the light of the Pareto principle (or 80:20 rule) we can see that:

    • 20% of customers account for 80% of sales.
    • And 20% of products account for 80% of sales.

    This means that 64% of sales come from top buyers purchasing top products.64522...0.000 In light of this generalisation, the concept of data triangulation is finding that sweet spot, knowing what best customers buy which best products to generate the most profit.

    Of course, the long tail is important for a retailer like Amazon, with lots of customers and lots of products. But not every retailer has infinite shelf space.

    The concept of ignoring the long tail customers in order to spend time on the most valuable is what Tim Ferriss expounded in his immensely popular book, ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’. 

    Mail order companies have for a long time been trying to master data triangulation, for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to send a £5 catalogue out to a customer that isn’t interested, or indeed to print a catalogue with the wrong product mix in it.

    With the advent of the web and the maturation of ecommerce there is now enough data at sufficient resolution to do something useful with it.

    What are your best products?

    1. Products clicked most often.
    2. Products bought most often.
    3. Products with the highest order revenue (that’s total order revenue, not simply the product in question).
    4. Products that encourage most return visits to your site. 

    Using the AIDA model of customer journeys (awareness, interest, decision, action) as illustrated below, we can give different definitions of ‘best product’ depending on what stage the customer is at.

    Click propensity – promoting off site

    Which products should you promote away from your website (via display, paid search etc)? This is all about the ‘awareness/interest’ stage of the customer journey.

    Fairly obviously, one should promote products with high click propensity, or proportion of clicks to impressions, in order to attract as many new visitors as possible.

    Purchase propensity – promoting on site

    Which products should be prioritized in your merchandising?

    Take a category page with 30 products showcased. We want to assess how each product performs against the null hypothesis of random clicks and random purchases, or an equal share of clicks and purchases for each product.

    With 30 products the null hypothesis is 3.3% CTR, 3.3% purchase.

    Mapping how often each product (in this case three completely hypothetical examples) is viewed and sold as a percentage of the null hypothesis can be visualized as follows: 

    Those products that are under-viewed and yet oversold are the ones to focus on. In Mike’s words:

    ..adjust traffic flows through your site to match product-views with product-purchase-propensity.

    Ensuring highest margin

    Aside from focusing on highest purchase-propensity items, and factoring in total order value, there are other factors that affect profit.

    Ensuring the highest margin is achieved involves looking at each product’s profit margins but also at the product’s return rate and any discounting that may in place.

    That concludes this short and simplified version of ‘finding your best products’. I’ll be following this up with ‘finding your best customers’ so do stay tuned.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • What defines a Social Business?

    So your company now has accounts on all the major social media channels such as, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Maybe you’re even posting to a Google+, Pinterest, Slideshare or YouTube.

    These practices, however, are quickly becoming old school as we move beyond the age of social media and fully into the age of the Social Business.

    This means using your social networking channels to meet the needs of a new breed of customer – the Net Generation.

    According to a recent paper by the Tapscott Group that we sponsored here at SAP, a social business need to:

    1. Align employee social networking with business objectives
    2. Use social media as a platform for co-creation and collaboration
    3. Treat transparency as a top priority
    4. Enable real-time collaboration both within the enterprise and outside with customers and partners
    5. Listen to customers and take action based on their opinions and needs

    I think the last point is clearly the most important. As the next generation of business leaders, buyers and customers evolve, a social business will be mostly defined by its ability to be responsive to customer demands.

    Today’s “digital natives” are well-informed consumers who can cut through the noise that plagues us all in this age of data explosion.

    They subject products to intense scrutiny and research, deftly scouring customer reviews and ratings. They’re not afraid to share their opinions, and they expect to be taken seriously when they have a grievance.

    Pithy, informative Facebook posts about your latest and greatest product won’t cut it in this kind of climate. Only businesses that can respond quickly and accurately to this “next generation” can expect to reap the rewards of social media.

    Social networking in a corporate environment should now be a listening exercise rather than a post-a-day marathon. Gather information about what your customers are saying so you can accurately gauge sentiment and make the necessary interventions. This generation expects a dialogue, not a lecture.

    Simply put, what you have to say to this emerging generation is less important than what their peers have to say. Your customers don’t care what a press release says about a product – they only care what other customers say about your product.

    What’s more, marketers can respond to customers in real time and use social media as an advantage – to converse, respond and iterate.

    The possibilities for success as a Social Business are endless – as long as you listen to what your customer are saying. This is creating a Social Business Imperative. What are you waiting for?

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  • Ernest Hemingway woke each morning and began writing straight away.

    He described his daily routine by saying, “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

    Hemingway’s routine — along with hundreds of other prolific authors, artists, and scientists mentioned in Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work — hints at the most productive strategy I have found for getting things done and making daily progress in the areas that are important to you.

    Let’s talk about the only productivity strategy you’ll ever need, why it works, and what holds us back from using it consistently.

    Productivity, Simplified

    No need to draw this out. This productivity strategy is straightforward: Do the most important thing first each day.

    Sounds simple. No one does it.

    Just like Hemingway, who produced an remarkable volume of high-caliber work during his career, you can make surprising progress each day if you simply do the most important thing first.

    Why It Works

    We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.

    Being productive is about maintaing a steady, average speed on a few things, not maximum speed on everything.

    That’s why this strategy is effective. If you do the most important thing first each day, then you’ll always get something important done. I don’t know about you, but this is a big deal for me. There are many days when I waste hours crossing off the 4th, 5th, or 6th most important tasks on my to-do list and never get around to doing the most important thing.

    As you’ll see below, there is no reason you have to apply this strategy in the morning, but I think starting your day with the most important task does offer some additional benefits over other times.

    First, willpower tends to be higher earlier in the day. That means you’ll be able to provide your best energy and effort to your most important task.

    Second, in my experience, the deeper I get into the day, the more likely it is that unexpected tasks will creep into my schedule and the less likely it is that I’ll spend my time as I had planned. Doing the most important thing first each day helps avoid that.

    Finally, the human mind seems to dislike unfinished projects. They create an unresolved tension and internal stress. When we start something, we want to finish it. You are more likely to finish a task after starting it, so start the important tasks as soon as possible. (Just another reason why getting started is more important than succeeding.)

    Why We Don’t Do It

    Most people spend most of their time responding to someone else’s agenda than their own.

    I think this is partially a result of how we are raised by society. In school, we are given assignments and told when to take our tests. At work, we are assigned due dates and given expectations from our superiors. At home, we have tasks or chores to perform to care for our kids and our partners. After a few decades of this, it can become very easy to spend your day reacting to the stimuli that surround you. We learn to take action as a reaction to the expectations, orders, or needs of someone else.

    So naturally, when it comes time to start our day, it doesn’t seem strange to open our email inbox, check our phone, and look for our latest marching orders.

    I think this is a mistake. The tasks assigned to us by others might seem urgent, but what is urgent is seldom important. The important tasks in our lives are the ones that move our hopes, our dreams, our creations, and our businesses forward.

    Does that mean that we should ignore our responsibilities as parents or employees or citizens? Of course not. But we all need a time and space in our days to respond to our own agenda, not someone else’s.

    Not a Morning Person?

    Does the word morning make you mourn? Does the morning sun remind you of the The Eye of Sauron? Can you think of nothing worse than rays of golden sunshine streaming softly onto your pillow?

    No worries, night owls.

    As I scanned the daily habits of hundreds of authors, artists, and musicians in Daily Rituals, I noticed an important trend: There was no trend.

    There is no one way to be successful. There are just as many night owls producing fabulous work as there are early birds. But no matter what their particular routine looked like, every productive artist embraced the idea of protecting a sacred time each day when they could work on their own agenda.

    I find morning to work best. Your mileage may vary.

    The phrase “Do the most important thing first each day” is just a simple way of saying, “Give yourself a time and space to work on what is important to you each day.”

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  • How Blogging Helps You Rank In Search Engines

    You want traffic to your site. Blogging generates traffic for your site. Everybody understands the first part, but surprisingly few businesses grasp the second part.

    It’s tempting to give in to the idea that the only way to generate sales is engaging in direct sales. Handling inventory, nurturing your email list, and calling to make potential customers will only go so far past a certain point. If you’re spending all your time trying to convert customers, then you’ll soon be neglecting reasons for customers to discover your business in the first place.

    Blogging is a great way to build your audience and generate more traffic and sales for your business. You shouldn’t treat it as an unnecessary luxury. Even infrequent posts can help your business.

    How?

    Having more blog posts drives traffic to your site because it improves SEO; it lets you tell stories thatconvert visitors into customers; and it increases the chances of engagement, not just on social media but also on traditional media. You might increase the chances of being covered by a news site, which are usually seen as more credible sources of opinion. And besides, all that stuff you hear about content marketing? For most businesses, that means keeping a good blog.

    If you need some inspiration, this post features examples of three small businesses that run excellent blogs. Stay with us as we explain how a blog helps your business, and to see the examples of stores that get it.

    If your audience is small, you might feel the temptation not to blog because you feel that no one will read it anyway. Don’t give in. Not blogging is one way to ensure that your small audience stays small.

    Blogging, even when you’re not breaking new ground, helps your site in terms of SEO. This is especially true if you create content that people want to link to.

    Why does it help? For the following reasons.

    First, blogging means more pages for your site. More pages means more internal links pointing to your homepage.

    Internal links are great, but links from other sites are much better. When an article of yours gets shared on social media and gets linked to on other sites, then your page rankings really improve. It's easier to generate links from interesting content than from your product pages. And the more links you can generate back to your site because of the content you create, the higher you'll climb in the search engines.

    Keeping a regular blog also signals that your site is being updated. Search engines track these changes. Each new page is a sign that your site is active. Google rewards that by ranking your site more highly.

    Blogging also gives you the opportunity to rank for more key phrases because it gives you a way to create content around the keywords you’re targeting. Any product page you link to in your blog post will also benefit if someone links to your post. It isn’t just the fact that someone searching for what you write about will have a better chance of coming to your site. You’ll also give yourself the opportunity to create strong internal links with rich anchor text that link to your product pages.

    Want to see what how blogging can benefit SEO? Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas wrote such a great piece of content that he ranked first on Google for a key phrase that's critical to his business. His blogging strategy was so effective that it got him interviewed by the New York Times as a success story. We'll let him explain the results himself: “Within about 24 hours of writing that article, it was No. 1 for every fiberglass-pool, cost-related phrase you could possibly type in. And because I have analytics, so far to this day, I’ve been able to track a minimum of $1.7 million in sales to that one article.”

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  • Customer Experience strategies are failing to deliver the quality of experience customers expect. Notwithstanding today's technology, tools and analytics, it is sobering that customers are not experiencing a significantly improved customer experience.

    Following are the top 6 Customer Experience mistakes that emerged from our analysis of thousands of hours of VoC research our firm.

    1. Customers do not feel that marketers are trying to understand the customer journey from the customer's point of view. To many, it feels like "customer journey" is another term for mapping the sales opportunity journey.
     

    2. It is obvious to customers that companies are doing things piecemeal. Examples cited in the research include;

    • Improving multichannel marketing but not fixing customer service.
    • Installing CRM systems which only automate bad behaviors but don't improve the quality of communications and experiences.
    • Building Preference Centers which don't ask the right preference questions. 

    “Install an enterprise wide preference center. Go beyond preference centers for individual channels such as email and create an easy-to-use portal where customers can create individual profiles, select topics of interest, preferred delivery channels and pace of communications. Preference centers provide the ability for customers to maintain their preferences as their interests change over time. Connect the preference center to all customer touch points”. 

    3. Customers want marketers to move from thinking about individual campaigns to a holistic engagement strategy with proactive value added touches at key points important to the customer, not the marketer. High quality experiences must be maintained throughout the relationship and per a quote from a VoC interview, “Not just when you are selling or renewing”. 

    Thought Leader Insight:  
    Eric Nystrom

    Dell, Director, Social Media Services Group;

    “We need to think in terms of engaging customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle. This causes a shift from one-way communications to conversations and to think about content differently. Customers expect to engage with subject matter experts and empowered employees, not corporate spokespeople. Content needs to be relevant, interesting and engaging…and always on”.

    4. Conflicting metrics for measuring success; Marketers are looking at short term sales and ROI from individual campaigns. Customers are judging companies based on the quality of the overall experience, over time.

    5. Frustratingly poor data. Customers want marketers to improve the quality of their data and shift from transaction-based information to opt-in preference-based information which will drive truly personalized communications and offers. 

    Thought Leader Insight:
    Andrew Bailey, Marketing Principal, FedEx;

    “FedEx has always valued the customer experience and continues to make strides in providing an optimal one. FedEx works to allow customers to tell us how often they’d like to receive email, and on which specific topics. This helps spark a dialogue that allows us to better serve our customers by meeting their individual needs with information for the right person, containing the right content, in the right place and at the right time”.

    6. Viewing Customer Experience as being about a few campaigns, will ensure you’ll fail. Successful companies view Customer Experience as a transformation of their culture, impacting every business process. Culture change is hard but is the longest lasting. Individual campaigns do not result in sustained change. 

    MassMutual is an excellent case study of a company which has committed to transforming the customer experience with the goal of creating customers for life. They began by conducting Voice of Customer research to understand how different customer segments define deeper relationships with MassMutual Retirement Services at key points in their lifecycle. 

    Thought Leader Insight: 

    Kris Gates, VP Customer Experience, MassMutual Retirement Services;

    "Based on the learnings from the VoC research, we have redesigned the way we look at relationships with customers. Taking a Learn – Pilot – Scale approach to our marketing efforts, we already have several VoC research-based initiatives underway. These range from redefining how we view the customer-focused value of CRM platforms and our data, to campaign targeting and preference based communications. 

    One of the findings from our recent VoC research indicated that our customers wanted communications driven by their preferences and interests. We used the rollout of our new educational video series SmartView, to measure the difference in response between mass emails to an entire list versus preference-driven offers to those who had opted in and told us their preferences and interests. Results from customers who opted in to receive information versus the mass email population: 94 percent higher open rates, 1,062 percent higher video views, 100 percent deliverability and Zero unsubscribes".

    8 Key Takeaways to Avoid Customer Experience Mistakes
     

    1. Digital has changed buyer and marketer behavior. Traditional campaigns are definitive…social is about long-term relationships…think about how to drive content streams to improve search, engagement and conversion”.
      Eric Nystrom, Director, Social Media Services Group, Dell
       
    2. Engage your customers to provide their preferences regarding information they want to receive from you; right person, right content, right time, right place and right medium”.  
      Andrew Bailey, Marketing Principal, FedEx.
       
    3. Help customers at every point of contact with your company; from information gathering, to purchasing, to ongoing engagement. Make every aspect of doing business with your company easy.
       
    4. Communicate a consistent message and brand across all channels, and customer touch points, including customer service.  
       
    5. Constantly improve how you communicate your value proposition; this applies to your products and your company, so customers understand why they should continue to do business with you.
       
    6. Learn the customer journey from the customer’s perspective. Know what customers want from you at each stage of their journey with your company and satisfy their needs.
       
    7. Rethink all communications with customers to be personalized, relevant and helpful based on their individual preferences. Don’t just send transaction-based “spray and pray”.
    8. Change your culture to be customer centric in all aspects of your company and unite these efforts across all departments. 
    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • If you’re starting an online business, you’re probably reading this article as part of your initial research. (As a research addict, I commend you for that.) You have probably heard that you will need a good web hosting provider. But with so many hosting options available, how do you pick? We’re helping you choose an ecommerce web hosting provider by highlighting 5 important features.

    1. Speed

    Speed, specifically fast load times, is very important. According to “How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line” published by leading research companies, 47% of consumers expect a page to load in seconds. 40% of them will abandon the site if it takes too long to load. Once a customer gets to your site, it would be a shame for them to leave before they see your products. Your web hosting provider plays a key role in your site’s load speed.

    2. Customer Service

    As with most technology, things work until they don’t. You’ll want customer support that is available 24/7/365 with quick response times. Chat with the sales team or call support to experience the customer service first hand. For an added bonus, Also, look for companies with credible awards. Having an A+ rating from the BBB for 4 consecutive years.

    3. Storage

    Ecommerce storage is determined by the pictures and videos you use. Both their size and quantity quickly take up space. Some web hosting companies limit not only the amount of data stored but also the amount transferred onto their servers. Your new ecommerce site should not be limited by data storage.

    4. Domains

    The domain name is the web address that will access your site. Check out our recent blog post for tips on picking the right domain name. Having a free domain is great but you’ll also want a few extra ones. These extra domains work as if you’re calling dibs on another web address, which is especially helpful when your web address is commonly misspelled.

    5. Security

    As an ecommerce site, you’ll receive payment for your products. A private SSL will help build customers’ confidence in your site. They protect not only credit card information but also user logins and passwords. These issues don’t normally arise with regular customers but are needed to discourage and prevent hackers from stealing confidential information.

    In addition to meeting and surpassing our top 5 features;

    ● 99.99% uptime
    ● Automated backups
    ● 300+ free applications
    ● SPAM Safe E-mail Accounts

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • So why do some retailers email me almost every day, whilst others sent hardly any?

    According to the Direct Marketing Association, consumers currently rate online retailers as the best at email marketing, with supermarkets and high street retailers coming in second and third.

    Now technology means that any retailer can send customized marketing emails to people, but good customer service wins every time over a scatter gun approach. 

    We are happy to received tailored messages and many consumers welcome follow up emails in principle, but it’s a fine line between creating engaging content and people switching off.

    In fact, over a third of consumer say they actively welcome a follow up from retailers after abandoning an online purchase. Getting the message right and delivering it at the right time, with the right frequency is critical to success.

    Using my own experience and the positive aspects of the marketing emails I was sent, here are my top tips for online retailers to consider when using emails to re-market to customers:

    1. Personalisation is key to customer engagement. 
    2. Email frequency can directly affect a customer’s attitudes towards a retailer. Industry standard currently stands at two or three emails a week.
    3. The average iPad user spends less than 15 seconds reading an email so you must consider message length . 
    4. Ensure that your primary call to action is clear and prominently placed within the email. 
    5. Ensure that any emails you send are responsive to view on every platform from tablets to smart phones to desktops and that no quality is lost on any screen. 

    Email marketing can yield fantastic results when done well so it should really become a big consideration when putting together your online marketing plan. 

    Also consider that triggered emails have a far higher open rate than standard newsletters, around 45%-55%, almost four times higher than newsletter open rates which averaged at around 10%.

    However, always bear in mind that there’s a fine line between being helpful to a customer and becoming an annoyance. 

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • When asked to rank American Presidents, scholars consistently have ranked Abraham Lincoln amongst the top three, and when ranked on leadership, he is usually ranked number one.

    It is well known that Lincoln became successful despite overcoming many barriers such as poverty, loss of family members, failure in business and politics, and lack of education.

    "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
    -Abraham Lincoln

    The reasons for his success have been widely debated, and there is good evidence to suggest that Lincoln possessed a high level of emotional intelligence that allowed him to overcome countless obstacles that would have stopped most people.

    Here are five areas in which Lincoln excelled:

    1. Keeping vision in constant focus

    Keeping his eye on what he was working toward allowed Lincoln to set aside personal differences, egos, and personal ambition and continually work towards an end that he envisioned.

    To do this he needed to have the best people around him, despite the fact that many of them disagreed with him and publicly criticized him.

    As he was constantly being challenged, he had to forgo the need to be right and put his ego and personal feelings aside for the betterment of others and his country. If others came up with better ideas and solutions, he was always ready to listen and change his mind if he needed to.

    2. Ability to manage his emotions

    When challenged, as he often was, by subordinates Lincoln was able to able to channel his emotions and not retaliate or lash out in anger. Instead, he used letters as a way of diffusing his anger.

    When Lincoln felt anger he would write a letter and not send it until he had a chance to cool off, usually the day after. In most cases he did not send the letter as he had calmed down and saw that acting on his emotions would not be of any real benefit, but rather result in more acrimony.

    3. Listening and communicating

    Lincoln was a great listener, and the people who were in contact with him always felt heard, even though he did not always agree with them.

    He had a knack for speaking in plain language and was a great storyteller. He never spoke above his audience, and he used metaphors to make his point in ways that his listeners understood and appreciated. He had the ability to take complex ideas and put them into terms that everyone was able to grasp.

    Awareness of the needs and feelings of others

    Lincoln had the ability to bring people of differing opinions together and was a great mediator; he had the ability to mend fences with his enemies.

    At the end of the Civil War he went to great lengths to not humiliate a defeated enemy through his words and actions. He treated their leader, General Lee, with dignity and allowed the Confederate soldiers to return home with all of their possessions apart from their weapons. He resisted calls from some members of his cabinet and others to deal harshly with the South and rather focused on ways that he could heal old wounds.

    Flexibility, Humility, and the Ability to learn from mistakes

    Lincoln was known for his open attitude and willingness to listen to new ideas, especially those that were different from his own.

    He had the self-awareness and humility to recognize that he was fallible and that there were others that had knowledge and information that was better than his own.

    When he made mistakes, he neither tried to hide or deny them. Instead of dwelling on them, he acknowledged them and moved on as quickly as possible.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Understanding Buying Habits of US Shoppers

    As our world continues to become a much smaller place, the ability to buy goods online from other countries is on the rise.

    One valuable target group for UK online retailers are US customers shopping on their sites.

    We’ve used our own data to explore the shopping behaviour of this particular customer group to help UK ecommerce companies maximise the revenue opportunity these shoppers bring. 

    Our data has shown that despite US customers on UK sites only making up 4% of total visits, they are extremely valuable; spending up to 3.88 times more than the average UK customer.

    To put that into revenue terms, that equates to a market size of around £11bn per annum based on current stats.

    However, the challenge with this group is that whilst they make up 4.12% of total traffic they only make up 0.68% of conversions. Obvious reasons for this could include no onsite functionality to display the price in dollars or perhaps restrictions on international shipping.

    Given the time zone difference, US online shopping peaks at 3:00am on UK websites, compared to 6.00pm for UK customers. Also, whilst UK shoppers peak on a Sunday, Friday seems to be the big spending day for the US.

    Geographically, they are a homogenous group too, with the top 10 visitor locations being dominated by New York and San Francisco in particular. 

    In order to take advantage of this lucrative customer base, UK online retailers need to ensure that their websites are set-up accordingly.

    Here are six tips for maximising conversion rates with US shoppers...

    1. Be engaging 

    Did you know that 80% of visitors to your website will never come back? It’s therefore important to engage potential customers as soon as they land on the page or you’ll risk losing them forever.

    US consumers will need a completely different experience to UK consumers so it’s important that relevant information about the brand and products suitable for that market are highlighted upfront.  

    2. Be fast  

    Fulfilment can be one of the main reasons for consumers not converting. To combat this, make sure delivery times are clearly visible in order to manage customer expectations.

    If you have a compelling delivery option such as free delivery if you spend over £50 or you offer free returns make sure potential customers are aware. 

    3. Be best of British 

    US customers love the idea of quintessential Britain so play on our heritage by encouraging people to engage with content that talks about how and where the products were made.

    It’s also important to capitalize on Britain’s national events when customers will be keen to pick up some once-in-a-lifetime memorabilia. For example, the Royal family or the Olympics.  

    4. Be local

    It’s important to combine online and offline content in order to create a succinct multi-channel experience.

    If you have physical stores in certain US cities then encourage your online US customers to come and visit you in store by using city level targeting. 

    5. Be helpful

    Customers are creatures of habit and may struggle to navigate a new site if the layout and functionality is not familiar. If customer feedback indicates that users are struggling deploy navigational sign-posts to help them find the products and services they’re looking for.

    For example, Farfetch ensures that filters are market specific and offer their US and UK customers a chance to search for the right size according to the metrics they’re used to. 

    6. Be persuasive

    Lastly, don’t give people an excuse to leave. No matter how personalized and engaging you make your site between 60-80% of visitors still drop off at the checkout so you need to find innovative ways to re-engage them before they leave.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • We make lists for everything – from weekly lists for groceries to annual wish lists for birthdays. These checklists help us stay organized and leave nothing out. This is why we created the smartest checklists to manage your online store. We’ve compiled a list of tasks that are truly important for running an online business then divided them by how frequently they should be completed. These downloadable lists will help prioritize your daily activities to effectively run your online business.

    These checklists are broken down by frequency – daily, weekly, and monthly. We then went a step further by organizing the lists by business function. They are listed in order of importance below:

    Operations (keep your online store running)
    Customer Service (addresses any problems / issues from customers)
    User Experience (UX) (update your site to be more user friendly)
    Collect Data (actively gather information)
    Plan (schedule for upcoming events)
    Analyze (draw conclusions from the data you’ve collected)

    Smart Daily Checklist:

    The daily checklist should be completed… well every day. They should also be completed in the order listed below. Although collecting data ranks lower in importance than operations and customer service, these tasks are relatively easy to complete. Get to them first thing in the morning, or you probably won’t get to them later.

        √  €Read Industry-Related News

    COLLECT DATA

        √  €Read News About Your Online Store

    COLLECT DATA

        √  Jot Down Any Ideas / Problems With Site

    COLLECT DATA

        √  Manage Logistics (Fulfill, Process, Package, and Ship Orders)

    OPERATIONS

        √  €Read And Reply To Customer Service Emails

    CUSTOMER SERVICE

        √  €Participate / Post Content on Social Media

    CUSTOMER SERVICE

        √  Read / Address Customer Comments (on Social Media)

    CUSTOMER SERVICE

    Smart Weekly Checklist:

    The weekly checklist should be completed on the day you experience the slowest sales. If you operate from Monday – Friday, aim for any day midweek. This way, you allow yourself plenty of time that day to complete both the weekly and daily checklists.

        √  €Fulfill Orders From Other Marketplaces

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  Track Your Shipments

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  Process Returns / Exchanges

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  (If Multi-currency) Update Exchange Rates

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  Restock / Reorder Inventory & Supplies

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  Balance Books / Accounting Tasks (Trust me, don’t put it off)

    OPERATIONS

    €    √  Follow Up with Referrals

    CUSTOMER SERVICE

        √  €Test Checkout Process (All Payment Processors)

    UX

    €    √  Test Product Filters (Should Produce Accurate Results)

    UX

    €    √  Test All Links (No 404 Error Pages)

    UX

    €    √  Test Search to Improve Intelligent Search

    UX

        √  Test Responsiveness on Mobile Devices

    UX

    €    √  Test Ecommerce Store on All Browsers

    UX

        √  €Test Each Product Category (Should Have Products)

    UX

    €    √  Review Sales

    ANALYZE

    €    √  Review your Marketing / Sales Initiatives

    ANALYZE

    Smart Monthly Checklist:

    The monthly checklist should not be completed on a specific day but instead distributed throughout the month. When distributing tasks, group them by function – this way you’re completing similar tasks. The most important function on the monthly checklist is planning. Also important this month is analyzing sales data – which helps you plan.

        √  Plan Upcoming Sales (include Important Shopping Dates)

    PLAN

        √  Plan Advertising / Marketing (for month)

    PLAN

        √  Outline Social Media Posts (for month)

    PLAN

        √  Review Sales

    ANALYZE

    €    √  Define Best Sellers

    ANALYZE

    €    √  Define Poor Sellers

    ANALYZE

        √  Forecast Sales

    ANALYZE

        √  Note Top Customers

    ANALYZE

        √  Update Newsletter Subscription Email List

    OPERATIONS

        √  Check Competitor Pricing

    COLLECT DATA

        √  Subscribe to More Competitor Emails

    COLLECT DATA

        √  Ask for Feedback on your Site

    COLLECT DATA

        √  Test your Site Speed

    UX

    €    √  Ensure Each Page has a Clear Call to Action (Add to Bag)

    UX

        √  Test Email Subscription Banner

    UX

        √  €Update Banners to feature Current Sales

    UX

    Download and print the daily, weekly and monthly checklists to start organizing your ecommerce schedule! Share other tactics that help you organize your schedule in the comments below. Also let us know of any important tasks we may have missed.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Improve Your Sales Force To Grow Your Company

    When you're starting out, you may be sales manager, marketing director and lone salesperson all in one--plus filling whatever other spots exist on the organizational chart. As you grow, however, you'll find you need additional people to handle specialized jobs. These will someday include a chief financial officer and vice president of operations, among others. But one of the first specializations in which you're likely to need to hire is sales. This makes sense because sales are what drive your company's growth. All other things being equal, the more salespeople you have, the more sales you will generate. So adding sales personnel and improving your existing sales staff are essential parts of growing your company.

    Evaluating Your Sales Force
    Maybe your sales force is fine the way it is. Maybe not. How can you tell? Evaluating your sales force is an important step in the process of deciding whether and how to grow your sales team. If your existing sales force is fine and will be more than adequate to fuel future growth, you still might need some additional training or perhaps a revamped compensation package. On the other hand, your sales force may need to grow by a few heads, or you may choose to stay the same size but have different people filling the sales positions.

    Step one in evaluating your sales force is to decide what you want it to do for you. For some companies that do most of their selling through mail order or the Internet, a sales force is strictly an option. In this case, you may expect your sales force to handle only the larger accounts, leaving the smaller orders to customer service personnel and order-takers. For other companies, however, the salesperson is the most visible--and perhaps the only--outward manifestation of the company seen by customers. This type of salesperson carries a heavy load. He or she has to uphold the company's image, hold the customers' hands, interface with delivery and repair departments at headquarters, and, of course, get the sale.

    It won't require a lot of thought for you to come up with a good description of what you want your sales force to do. Make sure you're not evaluating your sales force based on some other company's needs. For instance, if your salespeople are primarily charged with following up on leads generated by your advertising, don't penalize them if they aren't making a lot of cold calls. Once you decide what jobs your sales force is intended for, simply check their performance against the requirements. The key measure when it comes to evaluating a sales force is sales productivity.

    Measuring Sales Productivity
    The simplest measure of sales productivity is the dollar amount of sales per salesperson. That's easy enough to figure out: Just divide the volume of sales by the number of salespeople on staff. That will give you an average sales productivity figure and let you know how the average salesperson in your organization is doing. More useful, though, is to know how each individual salesperson is doing compared to the average. You may have a handful of relatively productive people who are carrying the load for a raft of underperformers. This is the kind of information you'll need to know to decide whether to make a change.

    Be warned, though: Sales productivity may involve more than simply generating dollars of sales. Your sales force may be moving a lot of product now but costing you sales later by alienating customers with poor service. They may be making promises you cannot deliver on, overburdening your production and shipping departments. They may be selling a lot of the wrong products (items with low margins or high support costs) while ignoring your more profitable lines. Check to see if certain salespeople have large numbers of returns or tend to sell to customers who don't pass credit checks. These salespeople could be costing you more than they're worth.

    Hiring Salespeople
    Adding salespeople can result in steadily increasing sales. This can free you up to spend time and energy on other tasks. Hiring salespeople could also hurt sales, erode profits, damage valuable customer relationships, and destroy your image in the marketplace. The difference between these two scenarios is the difference between hiring the right salespeople and the wrong ones.

    Salespeople aren't just the people responsible for building your bottom line. They're also your front-line troops, the ones with the most daily contact with your customers. With those caveats in mind, it's important to not only grow your sales force, but to grow it properly.

    To start with, understand that there may not be any truly bad salespeople. There may just be good salespeople in the wrong positions. To hire the right salesperson for the job, you have to understand and be able to describe what the job is. That means clarifying whether this sales position is intended to immediately generate sales or perhaps develop contacts for a sales cycle that may stretch into months or years. Do you want someone who is a closer or one who takes more of a consultative approach? Matching your company's sales needs and selling style to your new hires is the first step in getting good salespeople.

    Few salespeople are motivated by altruism, and misunderstanding your company's compensation package is one of the main reasons for sales staff dissatisfaction and turnover. For all potential new hires, explain precisely what the compensation plan is. In addition, clarify the territory, your performance expectations, any training you will offer, and any sales tools you will provide. You should also provide candidates with a thumbnail description of the market and the competition. Then you will know that you've explained the opportunity accurately to anyone who's interested.

    Don't stop by describing your needs. Imagine the ideal salesperson for the job, including his or her personality, experience, energy level, reputation and abilities. You may not find someone exactly like that, but if you don't know what you want, the odds of making a bad hiring decision are high.

    Only now should you actually start looking for salespeople. But before dashing out a three-line ad and calling the classified department of your local newspaper, consider some other options:

    • Look internally. You may have technical, support, operations or administrative people who would and could successfully move into sales. Post the ad on a bulletin board and see what happens.
    • Ask for employee referrals. Chances are your existing employees know the kind of people who would be happy working for you. They may be able to suggest some people for you to contact.
    • Network with suppliers, customers, colleagues, advisors and social contacts. This can be cheaper, faster and more reliable than advertising to the general public.
    • Check with professional associations. They may have job lines to help members find employees.
    • Try online advertising. The speed, freshness and searchability of online job banks make them attractive options for both candidates and employers.
    • Check with your local college. You may be able to hire a recent graduate who's enthusiastic, effective and less expensive than a seasoned professional.
    • Contact headhunters. Headhunters specializing in sales personnel aren't cheap, but when labor markets are tight, it may be worth the cost to find a solid salesperson.

    Consider using temporary and staffing services. Temporary and staffing services can provide you with sales and marketing personnel on a temporary, temp-to-perm, or permanent direct-hire basis.

    Types of Salespeople

    Manufacturer's Reps
    Manufacturer's representative, broker and agent are terms used to describe independent sales agents who work on commission. You don't pay them a salary, just a percentage of what they sell. Manufacturer's reps offer a practical, cost-effective alternative to a direct sales force for many growing companies. There are more than a half-million reps in North America, most selling to targeted markets in select geographic regions. Reps know their markets because they call on local buyers regularly and have established working relationships.

    Using reps can provide you with many of the benefits of having a satellite office in the location--including knowledge of local markets and rapid access to large accounts--without your incurring large fixed costs. With reps, sales costs are always a fixed percentage of sales. The downside is that reps typically handle many different products. Some may be complementary to yours, while others may compete. A typical manufacturer's rep earns a 5 percent commission on sales, although that amount varies widely depending on the product, market and sales volume.

    Telemarketers
    Telemarketers who contact your customers by phone can provide customer service, answer questions and follow up on previous shipments as well as take orders. One of telemarketers' most useful jobs is generating qualified leads. Because you contact customers using phone numbers, it's easy to track results from a telemarketing effort. You can build your own telemarketing operation in-house or contract with a third-party call center.

    Of course, you need not decide to go with only one form of sales force. Many entrepreneurs effectively deploy a mix of inside and outside sales forces, sales reps and telemarketers. The challenge is managing conflicts, including turf wars and cannibalism.

    Sales Managers
    It's never easy to hand over responsibility for an important management job to someone else, but delegating accounts to your sales manager may be the toughest thing you will ever have to do. After all, you've won over these customers. How can you be expected to happily shift the responsibility for servicing them to somebody else? But hiring a sales manager is an important part of your business's growth. It's unreasonable to expect to be able to make a dozen sales calls a day, direct other salespeople and run the company at the same time. Once you hire a sales manager, you'll be able to greatly reduce your sales calls and eliminate managing salespeople, and devote the balance of your time to the jobs you're uniquely qualified to handle, like devising the company's strategy.

    A good sales manager has to be able to:

    • Oversee salespeople
    • Develop sales strategies and plans
    • Set targets for the sales team
    • Monitor sales performance
    • Personally handle key customers
    • Prepare sales reports and other reports
    • Report directly to you or a superior in marketing

    Typically, you'll want a sales manager with experience both selling and managing. Sales managers should be well-versed in the computer or other technical skills required to manage your department and demonstrate your products. He or she should have good leadership and communication skills and have a proven record of growing sales in past positions. If you have a specific problem you want your sales manager to address, such as difficulty reaching larger corporate customers, you will want someone with expertise in that area.

    In-House or Outsource?
    In these days of outsourcing everything, many companies continue to keep their sales forces in-house. There are plenty of opportunities for having outside salespeople hawk your product, but there are many advantages to keeping the sales function internal.

    Inside salespeople work for you as employees so you can expect their full attention and dedication to calling on customers, answering queries and handling problems. Because they work for your company, they should know a good deal about opportunities for cross-selling additional products and services to existing customers when they are placing orders. Since they're on staff for the long haul, you can afford to train them to be knowledgeable and courteous when dealing with customers. Inside salespeople can be shaped the way you want them--to go after large sales or focus on after-sales service--as you and your strategy dictate.

    Outside salespeople, such as manufacturer's reps, have one shining quality that distinguishes them from in-house people: They're cheaper. Because you don't have to pay a salary and benefits to third-party salespeople, you can afford more of them. This may allow you to reach more markets and customers than if you were relying solely on the salespeople you can afford to hire as permanent, full-time employees. The problem with outside salespeople is they may be selling similar and even competing products, so you could lose sales.

    Dividing Up Territories
    A sales territory is a segment of your market that you've assigned to a salesperson or a group of salespeople. While a sales territory is usually described as a geographic area--states west of the Rockies, for instance--it should be thought of as a group of customers and should be serviced with close attention to customer type. Some territories aren't geographical areas--customers over $1 million in annual sales, for example. These "territories" may be assigned to product or account specialists, such as those focusing on large accounts, rather than to the people who would otherwise own them because of their geographical territories.

    Few things are as loaded as the assignment and division of sales territories. Salespeople tend to think all the good prospects are in others' territories, while all their best customers have been gerrymandered into someone else's territory. When dividing up territories, you want everyone to feel they got a fair shake, but at the same time, you have to be realistic. You want to match salespeople with territories based on things other than strict equity. For instance, if your salespeople vary widely in talent and energy level, you don't want to give everyone comparable sales territories. It makes sense to divide territories to make the most of everyone's abilities. If a salesperson is great at dealing with midsized accounts, save big prospects for someone who'll do well there. Therefore, the key to good sales territory design is appropriate balance.

    Just Sold!
    As your business grows, so will your need for additional sales personnel. Remember: The more salespeople you have, the more sales you will generate. So don't make the mistake of thinking you can grow your business without growing your sales force--one way or another--right along with it.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Finding and evaluating products to sell online

    Coming up with a great idea for a product to sell online will occasionally strike when you least expect it. Many times though, it’s something you need to be proactively on the lookout for. The internet contains a wealth of ideas and inspiration, but as a new entrepreneur, where do you begin? Aimlessly searching online will only get you so far so we have compiled a list of the best resources to give you direction and get you started.

    As you go through all the resources listed in this post, it’s vital to keep two things in mind:

    1. While searching for new product ideas, make sure to look beyond the products themselves. It may sound cliche but as we learned in the last post, there is heavy competition in the most common and popular product categories. Choosing a different or unique angle can be instrumental to your success. Try not to just look at products, rather look for potential in the product category. Consider new markets, new features and new ways to use the products.
    2. Don't be afraid to look at smaller product categories and niches. Even though a niche is a smaller subset of a larger category with less potential customers, it makes up for that by way of less competitors and a more targeted audience. Less competition makes it easier to get to the top of Google, and is usually more cost effective and efficient to advertise to your customers.

    In this post we will go into detail about the best places to look for product inspiration and ideas. We’ll start with some broad ideas to get your head in the right space to start your search and then get into more specific resources closer to the end of the post.

    Let’s get started.

    Make a List

    As you go through this post and the list of resources, it’s best to capture all of your ideas on paper. Once you have all of your brainstormed ideas recorded, you will be able to return to them later and evaluate them for viability and potential.

    1. Start With What You Have

    Before you begin searching the depths of the internet and the ends of the earth for product and niche ideas, it’s always best to start with the ideas you already have. Maybe it’s a product or idea you have had for years. Maybe it exists in a half written business plan sitting in a folder somewhere on your computer. Even if you’ve discounted it at some point prior, it’s worth taking a fresh look at it. At one point you thought it was a great idea right?

    Here are a few questions to consider when making your list:

    • What products, niches or industry you are particularly passionate about or interested in?
    • What products, niches or industries are your friends passionate about?
    • What pain points do you have in your own life?

    2. Local Community

    Sometimes, you don’t need a new idea at all. Traditional brick and mortar businesses have been around much longer than their ecommerce counterparts. Paying attention to trends in brick and mortar retail and adapting them to ecommerce can be just the ticket you need to create a profitable and unique business. Look around your community and take note of what new or interesting retail concepts people are talking about. Your local newspapers can also be a great resource for this type of news and information. 

    3. Online Consumer Trend Publications

    A great place to start your search for product ideas is to look at some top consumer product trend publications. Following trend publications is great way to begin getting a sense of the direction consumer products are going and the ideas other entrepreneurs are introducing to the market. Following these publications can also expose you to new product categories and industries that you previously didn’t know about. Following what’s trending can help you to dream up new goods, services and experiences for your online business.

    There are several popular trend publications online including, but not limited to:

    Trend Watching - Trend Watching is an independent trend firm that scans the globe for the most promising consumer trends and insights. Trend Watching has a team of thirty professionals in locations like London, New York, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney and Lagos all looking for a reporting on worldwide trends.

    Trend Hunter - Trend Hunter is the world's largest, most popular trend community. Fuelled by a global network of 137,000 members and 3,000,000 fans, Trend Hunter is a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and the insatiably curious.

    Jeremy, the founder of Trend Hunter says, "Like many of us, I was an entrepreneur at heart, but I didn't know what idea I wanted to pursue. I chose careers that I thought would lead me to my business idea... but after years of searching, I was still hunting for inspiration. It was then that I started Trend Hunter - a place for insatiably curious people to share ideas and get inspired."

    Springwise - There are millions of business ideas spanning the globe that operate in a specific way, have their own style, and market in a unique fashion. It’s not always possible to travel the world searching for these ideas to bring home though. That’s where Springwise comes in. Sources such as Springwise travel the world for you, on the search for new entrepreneurial ideas, trends, and stories.

    4. Industry Leaders

    If you know the industry or niche you would like to be in you can use various tools to discover the influencers in the industry. Following the right people on social media can help inspire new ideas via a constant stream of carefully curated content from the people in the know. It’s up to you to uncover the opportunities.

    There are several online tools you can use to discover the influencers online for a particular industry or niche

    5. Product and Trend Discovery Review Sites

    Product review and discovery sites can also be a fantastic source of ideas and inspiration. Sites like Uncrate (men’s products) and Outblush (women’s products) are great ways to see new curated product trends daily. What better way to get inspired than to get a daily glimpse into the new and interesting products other entrepreneurs are bringing to the market.

    Don’t just look at the big and popular sites but explore niche reviews sites as well. Consider what types of products and niches you're particularly interested in and search for consumer product review blogs in those niches.

    6. Social Curation Sites

    Pinterest and other similar image curation sites can be a goldmine for product and niche ideas. Many of the images contain interesting, new and trending consumer products. Using the built in social signals you can sometimes get a sense almost immediately of their popularity. This could be your first clue if there is a market for the product or niche.

    Several of the larger social curations sites are:

    • Pinterest - Pinterest is the fastest growing social network with over 50 million monthly users. Don’t forget to check out the popular section for what’s trending.
    • Polyvore - Polyvore is a new way to discover and shop for things you love. Polyvore's global community has created over 80 million collage-like “sets” that are shared across the web.
    • Fancy - Fancy describes themselves as part store, magazine and wish list. Use Fancy to find a gift for any occasion and share your favorite discoveries with all your friends.
    • Wanelo - Wanelo (Want - Need - Love) describes itself as a community for all of the worlds shopping, bringing together products and stores in a Pinterest like product posting format. You can start by checkout out trending people

    7. B2B Wholesale Marketplaces

    What better way to get product ideas than right from the source. This has been a popular option amongst ecommerce entrepreneurs for a while and this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Wholesale and manufacturer sourcing sites like Alibaba exposes you to thousands of potential products and ideas. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of product available so take it slow.

    8. Online Consumer Marketplaces

    Another rich source for product ideas are online consumer marketplaces. Million of products is probably an understatement so you may want to begin your search with some of the popular and trending items and branch out into other interesting categories that catch your eye from there:

    eBay - eBay is the largest online consumer auction site. 
    eBay Popular - A list of some of the most popular product categories on eBay.

    Amazon - Amazon is the largest internet retailer. 
    Amazon Bestsellers - Amazon's most popular products based on sales. Updated hourly.
    Amazon Movers and Shakers - Amazon's biggest gainers in sales rank over the past 24 hours. Updated hourly.

    9. Social Forum Communities

    Reddit is the largest social media news aggregator. It describes itself as the front page of the internet and is enormously influential. Reddit has thousands of “subreddits” which are sub-sections or niches that cater to different topics and and areas of interest. It’s within these subreddits that you can find lots of inspiration for your next product or business idea. 

    If you have an idea for a particular industry, niche or product category, it’s worth doing a search and finding a suitable subreddit community to join and actively become a part of.

    There are also many product focused subreddits that are packed with ideas.

    If you're active on Reddit and pay close attention, occasionally you have come across interesting posts like these:

    • Reddit, What is One Product Under $20 That You Recommend Everyone To Buy?
    • What $100 Item Has The Single Greatest Ability to Increase Quality of Life?

    No matter which approach you take, Reddit is has been and continues to be a valuable source of entrepreneurial ideas and inspiration, coupled with a great and supportive community.

    10. Instagram

    Instagram isn’t just pictures of food and dogs, it is also an interesting option for inspiring product ideas. Because it’s photo based, it makes it easy to scan through many ideas and photos quickly.

    There are a few ways you can use Instagram to search for product and niche ideas:

    • Hashtag - Once again, if you have a particular interest in a product category or industry, you can try searching for applicable hashtags. Another great option is to do a search on Instagram for applicable hashtags that insinuate buyer interest and intent like #want and #buy.
    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Many businesses have shied away from getting involved with online reviews because of the fear that bad reviews will ruin their business.

    But it’s just not true. Everyone knows that no business is perfect and that sometimes things can go wrong.

    So across-the-board five star reviews should always be taken with a pinch of salt as it’s inevitable that someday, someone, somewhere will have been less than ecstatic about the company they bought from.

    For example, there’s the recent publishing industry scandal when best-selling author R. J. Ellory was caught out using fake personas to praise his own work and denigrate that of other authors he perceived to be his competition!

    A recent review into fake online reviews found that even though they are not as prevalent as people might have thought, the vast majority of fake reviews do tend toward five-star rating. 

    Good or bad, what people say online matters though as the latest figures in Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey show.  

    70% of consumers trust online reviews completely or somewhat. But getting a negative review doesn’t automatically lead to losing customers - it’s how you handle any negativity that counts.

    Follow our tips for complaint handling and you should find that even negative reviews can ultimately have a positive impact.

    Five ways to handle negative online reviews

    Before we start on the tips though, this article shows exactly how not to handle negative reviews, with two examples of businesses being outright rude and insulting to the customers who gave them! So the first rule of thumb is - don’t become emotional. 

    Respond quickly, positively and personally

    By joining the conversation in a positive manner as soon after the negative review has been posted as you can, you start taking the right steps to resolving the issue and ensuring your company doesn’t look bad.

    Have your customer service agent use their name rather than referring to the company name as it instantly makes you seem more approachable, trustworthy and engaging.

    Try and take the conversation offline by offering to call them to discuss it.

    Show empathy with the customer that has left a negative review

    Let them know that you understand why they feel dissatisfied with the product or service they received from your company.

    Even if you disagree, don’t enter into a debate; instead let them air their grievances so you can understand how to make amends.

    Make up for the mistake even if it wasn’t your fault

    By agreeing to compensate in some small way - maybe a box of chocolates or bottle of wine for the product they are unhappy with - you instantly remove their cause for complaint.

    Often this will prompt them to write a new, positive review or edit their original comment with a less overtly negative tone and increase your star rating.

    Good will goes a long way in winning repeat business. Even if a customer has been unhappy with a purchase, by making amends you’ll be more likely to get their business again. 

    Detail how you will make things better for future purchases

    Learn from the experience and show how you’ll ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If it’s a service you provide directly, tell them the step you’ll take to remedy the issue.

    If the complaint is about a product you sell on behalf of other brands, detail how you’ll address it with them.

    Try to ensure this doesn’t happen in the first place though with these tips for improving your after sales service. 

    Sometimes it’s better to move the issue offline

    If you handle the negativity well, playing the whole thing out in public is an opportunity to show your high levels of customer service.

    But sometimes it would be better to move the discussions offline to email or phone so that you can really get to grips with it.

    Who manages online complaints and social media questions well?

    89% of customers will start doing business with your competitors following a bad customer service experience and 50% only give a brand one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.

    An article from Convince & Convert reveals that 83% of people who complained on Twitter and got a reply from the brand liked or loved that they were heard.

    Despite this, 70% of companies ignore customer complaints made on Twitter.

    Some companies are getting it right:

    • KLM, Walmart, Next Online and Xbox all have average response times to customer posts on their Facebook pages of less than 40 minutes.
    • Instead of directing customers to a website or general email when they post questions on their Facebook page, Next Online representatives stay within Facebook as much as possible by using direct and private messages to solve personal issues or deal with sensitive information.
    • Xbox’s "Elite Tweet Fleet" earned the Guinness World Record for Most Responsive Brand on Twitter.

    To make sure that your organisation can respond well when customers post negative reviews on social media, you need to ensure you have the proper process in place to deal with it in a consistent and friendly manner.

    • Make sure someone has ownership of dealing with online reviews and a timeframe for responding.
    • Ensure that you respond quickly and positively.
    • Don’t start a debate.
    • Show you understand the problem.
    • Detail how you’ll resolve it.
    • Show you have learned from the experience.

    Always remember, though, that no matter how well you handle the situation, some customers are just downright awkward and don’t want the matter to be resolved.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Content Marketing: Be the Master of Your Craft

    It’s long been said that leaders are masters of their craft. It’s also been said that small-business owners are true masters of their craft because in most cases they’ve risked it all to foregone the standard paths to a traditional career. The entrepreneurial spirit has guided small-business owners to focus on their true skills and a lifelong passion.

    This is how you should you approach content marketing -- be the master of your craft.

    No one knows your business better than you. No one knows how to satisfy your customers better and no one is better equipped to deliver content to them that will enhance their lives.

    As you iron out your content calendar and focus on the areas that will bring the most value, think of yourself as a master craftsman in your field of choice and serve up that content from a leadership position. Be bold, courageous and determined. Show with confidence how the content you provide will help your customers. Put yourself out there as a credential expert.

    There’s nothing worse than stepping into a business and not feeling confidence come from the owner or the employees. Sadly, we often feel a tepid approach to customer service, leaving us questioning the quality and expertise. Unfortunately, many businesses do not portray themselves as masters of their craft.

    There’s nothing more frustrating then going to a good restaurant and having a server not understand the food on the menu, how to pair items with wine or what the specials are all about. There’s nothing more unsettling than going to a dry cleaner and being met with an associate who doesn’t know how to use the inventory system and can’t find your clothes. And there’s nothing more perplexing than working with a consultant who doesn’t have a solid point of view on what’s been occurring recently in the industry.

    When I’m engaging with a small business or an entrepreneur, I expect to be working with an expert who has chosen their field of work, is passionate about it and is going to help, serve and educate me. I expect to be better for the exchange.

    The only way that can happen is if you are a master of your craft. You need to know everything there is to know about your field and you need to keep current. Most importantly, the content you put out in the marketplace should reflect your knowledge, expertise and passion.

    As you approach this amorphous thing called #contentmarketing, do it as a marketing master who is setting the standard for your industry. Others will follow and share!

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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  • Let’s say you've implemented the advice from our previous posts and you've come up with a few of your own ideas. How do you go about evaluating those ideas and determining if there is potential to build to build a profitable business around them? 

    In this article we evaluate the potential demand for a product we choose from the previous post, look at niche opportunities that exist around it and get an idea of demand for that niche.

    Validating an idea or product is important because it helps you get a sense of the potential market or, lack of market, for your product idea before spending a lot of time and money on it.

    In our last post we looked at Google Trends to see how the products were trending. Google Trends is a good start but only tells you a small sliver of the story. If there was one person searching for a product last year and 10 people this year searching for it, the trend is increasing but the market is still insignificant to enter as a business. 

    Market/Demand Evaluation vs. Product Evaluation

    In this post we're strictly going to be conducting a market based evaluation to get a better idea of potential demand and competition for coconut oil. In our next post, we'll be conducting a product-based evaluation, which will focus on the viability of the particular product including potential margins, restrictions and regulations etc.

    The Product

    Out of the 10 products we looked at in our last post, we’ve decided to choose coconut oil as a product to further validate. We picked coconut oil partially because it seemed like an interesting and versatile product but also because when we compared all 10 trending products to each other, coconut oil by far had the greatest search interest. We determined this was the best start point.

    *Note that Google Trends only allows you to compare up to five products at one time, but we did check all of them.

    Where It Began

    If you remember from our last post, we originally discovered coconut oil as a potential product when we came across a Pinterest pin on 30 ways to use coconut oil. Here’s that pin again:

    Coconut oil is not just for cooking anymore!

    Let’s take a look again at Google Trends to see if in fact coconut oil is trending upwards, how big the trend is and when exactly it began. 

    Looking at “Coconut Oil” in Google Trends, we can see that the trend and popularity for coconut oil exists, increasing dramatically since approximately 2011. 

    To further validate the popularity, appeal and usefulness of coconut oil we decided to look at some product reviews. On MakeupAlley, a review site for all types of skin and haircare products, coconut oil had an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 based on 834 reviews and 90% said they would purchase it again. Very favorable feedback for the raw ingredient. 

    Although we didn't find much in the way of negative comments for coconut oil, looking at negative comments in reviews can help you find deficiencies in current products that you can capitalize on. Read: The Amazon Whisperer.

    We also decided to check out Amazon to see how well coconut oil is selling.

    So now we know that coconut oil is indeed trending and people are purchasing it. However, the question still remains, how many people are actually interested in coconut oil?

    Keyword Evaluation

    To take things one step further, let's look at “Coconut Oil” in Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. The Google Keyword Planner Tool allows you to search for keywords to determine how many searches per month are being made for that term, how much competition there is competing for it and related search terms.

    To use this tool you need to have a Google Adwords account which you can sign up to for free. Login to your account and select Tools from the top menu, then select Keyword Planner. On the next screen, click Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.

    On the next screen enter your product idea. Double check your settings under Targeting to make sure they're to your liking, in particular the locations you want to target.

    On the next screen, it will be on the default tab Ad Group Ideas, change that to the tab labelled Keyword Ideas.

    The first column will list the keyword you searched for as well as the various search queries related to the keyword you entered. The second column shows you the number of searches being performed each month in the geographic area you specified. The third column is the level of competition for each keyword.

    After looking through the results, a few things stood out, noted below:

    1. As we already knew from the original Pinterest pin, coconut oil has many uses. From the keyword planner though, we can see uses for hair, skin, recipes, dogs and face. Going through the full list uncovered even more.
    2. The main search term “Coconut Oil” has a lot of search interest. 246,000 searches per month in the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, it also has high competition. This means that there are a lot of other people already advertising and competing for that particular term online, making it more difficult for you to compete effectively.
    3. There are many other search terms that still have high search volumes with less competition. That roughly translates into opportunity.

    Filtering out the keywords with high competition, it appears there's still a lot of keywords with high search volume that are less competitive. Noticing a few of them had the word “hair" in them, we created a new search for “Coconut Oil + Hair”.

    Here’s what we found (Results have been color coded by competition difficulty):

    The search volume for many of these terms are pretty strong and all have low to medium competition. The top term “coconut oil for hair” in particular has extremely high search volume.

    What Type of Content Is Ranking in Google (Content Competition)

    Let’s take a look at the largest search term, “coconut oil for hair” in Google to see what type of content is currently taking the top spots. This will give us a better idea of what we would be competing against.

    We can see from this Google search that almost all the top 10 positions on Google for the search term “coconut oil for hair” are one-off articles. There doesn’t appear to be any one person, company or domain that is dominating for this search term. We found similar results when we searched for the other keywords as well.

    This means that if you were to try and compete for this term, your chances of ranking high in Google is much greater than if you were trying to outrank established major brands or businesses.

    Overall things looks extremely positive. We know that there's likely opportunity with a coconut oil product for hair. Exactly what type of products or niches can this be turned into though? To get a better idea of products, we went back to the original Pinterest pin that started it all. Following the link through to the website, we took a look at the 30 ways to use coconut oil. We did a search to highlight the term “hair" to see how exactly coconut oil can be used for your hair.

    It turns out that four out of the 30 uses for coconut oil were for some type of hair treatment, including taming frizz, conditioning, deep treatment repair and removing gum from your hair. Each one of these is a potential product opportunity.

    Geographic Validation

    We know that people are searching for coconut oil information and products for their hair but who are these people? Sometimes products and trends can be very specific to a geographic region. We need to make sure that the people that are searching for the terms we discussed previously are living in a area that we're able to sell and ship to.

    Let's jump back into Google Trends will help us answer these questions:

    Which countries are searching for these terms:

    What cities in particular have the highest number of searches for “Coconut Oil Hair”:

    Social Media Validation

    We already know coconut oil is pretty popular on Pinterest, after all, that's where we discovered it in the first place, however, there are other channels we can use to get a better understanding of the market and demand. Twitter is an effective source for looking at market potential and product interest. We used Topsy to search for the volume of tweets per day mentioning the words "coconut oil", and "hair" in a single tweet.

    From the Topsy graph we can see that everyday approximately 150-250 people are tweeting our keywords. To get a better sense of what exactly they were tweet about and the sentiment of their tweets we also did a search on Twitter.

    Here were just a few examples that in particular, hinted towards buying intent:

    Using social media to research your product not only reveals the volume of conversation surrounding your product idea but it also helps you discover the language your potential customers are using. This can be helpful when creating ads or writing product descriptions down the road. 

    Competitor Evaluation

    From our analysis, there are three areas of competition in the coconut oil hair product market.

    1. Pure Coconut Oil - Pure coconut oil is the main ingredient and from our research, does a great job on its own of moisturizing and repairing hair. Pure coconut oil is readily available online and locally.
    2. DIY Coconut Oil Recipes - Do-it-yourself recipes are available online. All recipes obviously include coconut oil as the base ingredient, but also combine various other ingredients to seemingly improve the effects of the final product or to help change it’s core function/texture. For example, hair treatment/conditioner vs. hair mask.
    3. Commercial Coconut Oil Hair Products - These are products produced by businesses large and small and contain a proprietary blend of ingredients to create a unique and perceived better final product.

    Overall market demand appears to be fulfilled maybe even saturated with the various types of coconut oil products available online. However, as it relates to commercial products, there doesn’t appear to be any one product or brand that is dominating the market. 

    What We Learned

    When we started, all we had was a product idea that we got from Pinterest.

    With a bit of research and using free online tools we were able to find out quite a bit about demand potential of coconut oil. From the Pinterest post we knew coconut oil had many uses. By using Google’s Keyword Planner, we were able to uncover several search terms with low to medium competition and high search volume. It was these search terms that lead us down the niche path of coconut oil for hair applications, including a hair conditioner, hair mask, deep root conditioner and frizz taming. 

    We learned from Google Trends that coconut oil for hair is trending and has been since approximately 2011. We were able to identify the countries and even the specific cities that are searching for our potential keywords. 

    The Google Keyword Planner told us that there are at least 74,070 searches in the US and Canada by people looking for information or products related to coconut oil for hair every single month. Moreover the keywords that are being used don't have a lot of competition so there is potential to rank well for them in Google over time.

    Conclusion

    We now have a much better understanding of this potential opportunity. We've seen some very favorable results in regards to potential demand and we've uncovered some great keyword opportunities. All of this so far looks great but we’re not ready to call this yet.

    ARTICLE SOURCE: This factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.
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