How to Catch the Algorithm’s Attention

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Linley+Lauren // Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

Guest bloggers Linley+Lauren are back with part 2 of their posts about social media algorithms. These biz besties are co-founders of WORK//SHOP, marketing, social media and store planning resources for independent retailers. Follow their fun @linleylaurenlp2 and flamingle with them during their four social media seminars on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Atlanta Apparel.

Visit www.AmericasMart.com/events or www.retailerworkshop.com/upcomingevents
for more details.

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Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

Congratulations! It’s time to get engaged… Don’t remember falling in love? Then hop over to our first post to get to know your new suitor, Al Gorithm (aka, the infamous social media algorithm). Last time we talked about why you should get engaged, so this time we’re gonna tell you how to get Al’s attention and make him fall for you!

Our bachelor beau, Al Gorithm, is going to operate on Instagram very much like he does on Facebook. Al will be checking out how engaging a post is, as well as information about photos each user has liked, accounts they follow, and anything going on in their network.

Here’s what he will be looking for in engaging prospects specifically:

1)    How often users interact with the account

2)    The number of likes and comments a post receives from the world at large and from users friends in particular

3)    How much users have interacted with the type of post in the past

4)    Whether or not users and other people across the platform are reporting a given post

The bottom line is… the more engaging the post is, the more people will see it in their feeds.

So how can you be more engaging? First of all, don’t look desperate! We don’t recommend asking your followers to ‘turn notifications on.’ It’s really annoying to have your phone ding anytime someone posts on Instagram, and it’s a quick way to turn followers off.

Next, figure out what turns followers on! Use an analytic service (we heart Iconosquare) to determine what types of posts perform best and when your audience is most likely to interact with them. Apply what you learn as you plan your future content calendar and your consistent follower interaction is sure to wow Al. Show Al that you’re a good conversationalist by asking your followers questions or using a call to action like encouraging them to ‘double tap’ if they like your post. Fill in the blanks are one of our favorite ways to start a conversation. Fill in the blank style posts get NINE times more comments than other posts, yet less than 1% of retail brands use them. Your turn… Smart retailers are planning to start using fill in the __________ style posts!

And finally, we have some really good news about this courtship…  Al is a pretty cheap date! Allocating a small budget towards paid ads to increase your audience reach can actually help your engagement too. Nerd alert! Studies have shown that followers gained from paid campaigns are more valuable than followers gained for free. Brands are reporting a 32% increase in their audience after a 30-day paid campaign followed by a 25% increase in engagement. Talk about a match made in heaven!

Like every good relationship, this one is going to take work. As soon as you get comfortable with Al, he is sure to change. But one thing is for sure, paying attention to him and getting engaged will pay off in the end and together you’ll live happily ever after!

Take care,
Linley+Lauren

Part 2 of 2

Livin’ in E-Harmony with the Infamous Social Media Algorithm

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Linley+Lauren // Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

 

Today’s guest bloggers Linley+Lauren are biz besties and co-founders of WORK//SHOP, marketing, social media and store planning resources for independent retailers. Follow their fun @linleylaurenlp2 and flamingle with them during their four social media seminars on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Atlanta Apparel. Visit www.AmericasMart.com/events or www.retailerworkshop.com/upcomingevents for more details.

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We’ve got a special guy we’d like you to meet. You may not be looking for anyone new, but he’s actually already in your life. In fact, he’s been all up in your business lately.

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Al Gorithm // Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

You’ve probably heard his name before. He’s quite the social butterfly, after all! Meet Al Gorithm (as in the infamous Facebook algorithm).

Waiiiiit… Don’t stop reading now! Sure, you (and almost every other business owner in the world) have a love/hate relationship with him, but hear us out. We think he’s gotten a bad rap, and he’s worth getting to know.

In fact, we suggest you get serious with him pretty quick… like maybe consider getting engaged?? That’s right! Social engagement is the best way to have Al Gorithm start working for your business and increase your social media success. Here’s why:

  1. He’s a real go-getter… and a bit of a workaholic too! He’s been organizing your customers’ Facebook news feeds since 2010, and he’s recently gotten a second job at Instagram. Whether you like it or not, he’s becoming increasingly important to delivering your social media content to your customers. If you don’t have a good relationship with him, he could be a bit of fatal attraction for your business.
  2. He’s quite the VIP. Sometimes it feels like ’ol Al is just using you for your money. After all, social media algorithms can force you to pay for ads or boosted content to increase your reach… especially if your engagement is low. But face the facts. Facebook users have liked more pages than their capacity to consume the information that comes from them — around 1,500 posts at any given time, and Instagrammers miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. If a feed is too overwhelming, users won’t see a thing. That’s why Al has become a Very Important Poster (and so well paid too!).
  3. He’s a good guy. Deep down, he really cares about what is important to you and your customers. The goal of the social media algorithm is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. On Facebook, he narrows those 1,500 posts down to the 300 or so that users are most likely to find interesting. Nice guy, right? No word on his start date at Instagram and how exactly he’ll work, but since Insta is owned by Facebook, he’s bound to operate similarly.

So do you heart him now? Then it’s time to say, “YES!” and get engaged on social media. We’ll be back with a second love letter soon to give you specifics on how to increase your placement in the algorithm by engaging your followers on Facebook and Instagram.

Take Care,
Linley+Lauren

Part 1 of 2

Where Is The Script For Your Business?

by Mike Gomez, President, Allegro ConsultingMike Gomez, Allegro Consulting. Speaker at July 2013 The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market

I spoke to a large gathering of business owners and asked whether there was an inherent conflict between planning for growth and the more free spirited entrepreneurial-like approach – where  you stay agile and react to opportunities as they arise (i.e., operate without a plan, make decisions on the fly, etc.). This was a great question as it addresses a big misconception about planning: that it somehow handcuffs a business.

To answer the question I asked the audience to imagine that they accidentally walked onto the set of a movie production. Then imagine grabbing a megaphone from the ground and asking everyone on the set to freeze for a moment and to please hold up their script for the day. In this case, none of us would be too surprised to see that the cameraman, the director, the soundman, the actors, and even the caterers will all be able to produce a script for that specific day’s shoot. The cameraman will know which cameras he has to have ready and where they should be staged. Because of the script, the actors will know the lines and scenes he is expected to perform. And the script will reveal to the caterers how many meals they have to prepare for and where they will be served that day. You see, a movie will never come together without a good script.

I then asked the audience to imagine taking that same megaphone into their place of business ask your mangers and employees to produce their script for the day. How will they react to this request? I suspect most will give you that “deer in the headlights” look. There is not a producer in the world or investor that would pursue a movie production without a well written script. The idea is simply preposterous. Yet most of us will run our businesses without one.

The script for your company is a plan – a simple, concise document which aligns your team around a common objective or end-state that is consistent with your vision and market conditions. And, like the script for a movie, there are portions written specifically for specialized roles. Sales, operations, finance, human resources, marketing should each have a script which defines the specific tasks they must complete (and when) to keep your “movie” progressing.

The script governing the day-to-day operations are process documents which describe how things are done in your store/business.   You will find that businesses that grow consistently year after year operate to a well vetted long-term (3 year) and short-term (1 year) plan. It is the plan they refer to BEFORE making a hiring decision, investing in capital equipment, or spending precious cash on marketing campaigns and website improvements. It is also the plan that will guide them when building and executing a sales or marketing strategy.

These same growing companies also recognize that the process they use day-to-day impacts competitiveness. By documenting these critical processes they eliminate the risk of being dependent on any one person’s memory or contribution. It also gives them a foundation from which to explore innovative changes that will improve efficiency and thus increase profitability.

Now I hope I have convinced you that, like a movie, your business too requires scripting. Can you imagine actors, cameramen, and set designers coming to a specific location and then left to their own to interpret the verbal instructions of the producer’s vision for a movie. It would be chaotic at best with numerous costly ventures down one frustrating dead-end after another. Entrepreneurial or not, is this the atmosphere for a growing thriving business? No.

So, where is the script for your business? It is worthwhile to note that since 1980 more than 70 percent of the winners of the Academy Award for best picture also received the Oscar for best screenplay – the script.

Mike Gomez presents “10 Essential Elements for Long-Term Sustained Growth” as part of The Education Center at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market on Thursday, July 11 at 9:30 a.m. Visit AmericasMart.com for a complete list of seminars and events.

Mike Gomez is president of Allegro Consulting, a growth specialty firm with a singular purpose of helping businesses grow. Allegro helps owners with marketing strategy, sales, and operations. They also provide leadership and business coaching. For more information, visit http://allegroconsultant.com.

Marketing made Manageable

AMCPatricia Norins, publisher and CEO of Pinnacle Publishing Group, Inc., prefers employing marketing tactics that maintain visibility within the marketplace and do so on a modest budget. She stresses the importance of incorporating marketing into your business plan and presented 50 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas to Boost Your Bottom Line at the January Market. Having and implementing a smart marketing plan results in increased sales because it keeps your business “top of mind” while building strong relationships with customers to create a larger sense of community.

Since marketing as a whole can be somewhat abstract and overwhelming, Patricia recommends business owners write a brief marketing plan and spend more energy on implementation. Her formula for a six-sentence plan is as follows

  • 1st sentence: State your purpose (To motivate people to visit and buy from my store and website).
  • 2nd sentence: Emphasize your primary competitive advantage (I carry the widest selection of eco-friendly gifts).
  • 3rd sentence: Describe your target audience (men, women and children ages 2-100).
  • 4th sentence: List the marketing tools you’ll use to implement your plan.
  • 5th sentence: Identify your niche and what you really stand for (quality gifts from around the world).
  • 6th sentence: Provide your marketing budget. Patricia recommends this be 10% of your store’s budget.

Patricia suggests incorporating some of the following tools into your marketing strategy. List them in your 4th sentence.

  • Patricia notes that 80% of sales usually come from the top 30% of buyers. Motivate your current customers to buy from you through referral programs, frequent buyer cards, money-back guarantees and personal contact, such as hand-written thank-you notes. Ask your customers to engage through surveys, polling, testimonials and reviews.
  • Establish a social media presence; add fresh content frequently; and interact with your customers through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to create a sense of familiarity and community. Maximize your reach by using Facebook and Google advertising.
  • Increase your email marketing by improving your email list, sending information on a regular schedule with call to action points and tracking your results. She suggests learning the CAN-Spam Act guidelines to make certain you are in compliance with the law.
  • Improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by investing in your website and online presence. Add useful content to your website and update it regularly, blog frequently and link it to your website. Make certain your business is listed on websites like Google Maps and Yelp.
  • Host events to offer customers a reason to come into your store to shop and tie in themes like a sale or charitable benefit. Partner with other businesses in the area to co-op marketing and advertising efforts and expenses. Create a newsworthy angle for the event and promote it to your local media through a press release.

Better Selling Leads to Better Sales

WilliamSmithWilliam Smith of William Smith Counseling returned to the AmericasMart Education Center to present “Getting to ‘I’ll Take It.’” According to William, successful retailing comes from properly hiring and training staff to increase the amount of daily transactions while raising the total dollar-amount-per-transaction through up-selling. By accomplishing these goals, you’ll both increase your bottom line and have satisfied customers wanting to return to your store.

He suggests training your staff to recognize the two main personality types – thinkers and feelers – and know the approach to selling that appeals to each individual. Thinkers use their brain to make purchases and want to know the details, facts and features of a product to help them determine if they want to buy the item. Feelers are emotionally driven to purchase and often select items based on form over function. Being able to identify customers’ personality types will help your staff control the shopping experience.

William suggests these steps to better retailing:

  • Properly greet each customer.Make sure that the customer is addressed as they enter the store and that a salesperson is always on the floor.
  • Create a personal and emotional connection with them.

    Most people buy from people they like. Therefore, it is important to engage each customer and make them feel comfortable.

  • Discover their needs and get them to the proper merchandise.

    Ask probing questions (Who, What, Where and Why), rather than questions that they can answer with a “yes” or “no.”

  • Explain merchandise features and their corresponding benefits to the customer.

    Make sure your staff is knowledgeable about the merchandise you sell and understands the features of those items.

  • Carry unique merchandise.

    Make certain you offer items that are unique to your store and aren’t readily available for purchase online. Carry a selection of items that will give your customers a reason to return, rather than buying online.

  •  Close the sale.

    Be able to identify visual and verbal clues that indicate the customer is ready to close the sale. Then, suggest additional items that are related to what they are purchasing, why they are making the purchase, or for whom they are buying. For instance, if the customer is purchasing a birthday gift, ask them if they have other upcoming events that may require a gift.

Finally, William stresses the importance of thanking your customers with either a follow-up email or hand-written thank-you note to reinforce positive feelings about their shopping experience and make them more likely to return.

HGTV’s David Bromstad Brings a Splash of Color to Market

IMG_BromstadWe were delighted to have David Bromstad, host of HGTV’s Color Splash, at Market where he presented, The Power of Color, to a packed, enthusiastic audience. David is passionate about color and its use in his designs, noting that color is an important part of how we live and the decisions we make on a daily basis. “Color is so important,” says David. “If you ask someone ‘Do you love the color purple?’ they will either be ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ and it is a very hard response.” He continues “your favorite color is always something that is very true and dear to your heart.”

In the hour-long talk, David discussed the function of color, summarized positive and negative color associations, examined its psychological effects and explained why certain personality types tend to favor certain colors. For example, red is known as the most sensuous of all the colors. According to David, it represents love and sexuality, but it can also represent the opposite extreme of hatred and violence. It brings energy and warmth and is known to stimulate blood pressure and appetite. It is associated with people who love, are passionate and have great energy. They’re impulsive, assertive and aggressive. They have courage, strength, and power, and are adventurous and a little dangerous with a need for personal freedom.

David stresses the importance of color, especially when designing your store and storefront, setting up windows and when designing your own products. “Using the right color to stimulate that right person is so key,” states David. He suggests that every designer and storeowner research the psychology of color and how it affects behavior. He recommends that if you own a gourmet foods store, use warmer colors like red, orange and yellow, since these colors stimulate appetite and make people want to eat. He notes that certain colors can make people want to spend money and others can make people want to just hang out.

Using a bold color can make someone walk by a store and entice them to enter, but if you are displaying items like clothing, it is best to use a neutral like white or grey. Grey is the easiest color for the eye to adjust to, considered psychologically neutral and it promotes serenity. David stresses that a blank slate doesn’t need to be boring: “Bring in texture or use white-on-white or neutral wallpaper to create visual interest.”

Crystal Vilkaitis Explains QR Codes

Crystal Vilkaitis is today’s guest blogger. The owner of Crystal Media, a company dedicated to helping retailers and manufactures integrate proven social media and mobile marketing strategies into their businesses, Crystal will be presenting at The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market® in January 2013. Her first Education Center seminar, Seven Sure-Fire Social Media Tips to Increase Traffic and Sales, will be at 1 p.m. on Friday, January 11 and again on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Her second seminar, Proven Mobile Marketing Success, will be on Friday at 3 p.m.

Crystal’s post offers a look into how Quick Response (QR) Codes work and the potential future of this expanding technology.

Mobile Marketing with QR Codes

QR Code Marketing has been adapted by businesses around the world with ease and excitement. Along with social media, the new deal phenomenon and flash sale sites, mobile marketing is changing the way we sell goods and services. Before all of these innovative game changers surfaced, the business landscape looked much different.

For those of you who are new to QR Codes, the QR stands for ‘Quick Response.’ To scan a QR Code you must use a QR Reader application, which are free, using your smartphone. You simply open the Reader application and scan the QR Code just like you would take a picture. Once scanned, your phone will display a message and take you to a URL or something else depending on what the code is being used for. Often these codes are black and white, but now they can be any color. Below you’ll see an example of a QR Code. If you have a smartphone, I suggest you download a QR Reader application and scan the code it to test out this technology.

Try it out – scan this code with a QR Reader with your Smartphone to ‘Like’ my business on Facebook.

Now, “back when I was kid,” tech companies were strategizing how to get businessmen, families and qualifying individuals to buy a machine that sat on a desk, plugged into the wall, turned on, dialed up and allowed you to talk to others around the world. We no longer had to hand-write a letter. We didn’t even have to pick up the phone anymore, the Internet completely changed the way we communicated with others.

Businesses had to adapt and figure out how these tools could speed up their processes, produce more for less money and increase their exposure, both online and in the physical world. Marketing changed. We started building websites for our businesses, buying online banner ads, creating email addresses and trying to collect email addresses to digitally send marketing communications.

Now, a business can create a black and white (or red, yellow, blue, rainbow) QR Code in seconds that is filled with a message to their customers. It’s a real-world hyperlink that takes you to a video, website, Facebook Fan page, product information, special savings code, phone number, email address and more. Then, you display it wherever you’d like it to be – in the window, at the cash register, on a t-shirt, sticker, hat, sign, post-card, building – anywhere! To create a QR Code for your store, check out http://qrstuff.com.

More consumers are becoming familiar with this technology, especially with the help of big brands. Last year Toys“R”Us® ramped up their holiday mobile marketing strategy by integrating QR Codes into their The Great Big Toys“R”Us® Book catalog, which allowed shoppers to learn more about their products before making their purchase. Simard also used QR Codes to increase website traffic and conversions by placing them in magazines their target audience was reading. Each code led to a video hosted on their site highlighting kitchen trends and designs. Through this mobile marketing effort Simard doubled the average time a visitor stayed on their website and sales increased by 18% from the previous year.

Looking to the future, I think we’ll see more social integration and sharing of QR Codes, such as liking a code on Facebook and displaying it on our Wall or in a photo album to gain viral exposure. You’ll begin to see more websites offering better code design features, such as clip art, the ability to turn logos and photos into codes. More products will feature QR Codes directly on them, which may include product info, price or a YouTube video about the item.

The possibilities show us that now, more than ever, it’s important for independent retailers to drive traffic into their stores and provide value so customers won’t turn to doing all their shopping online. Attend my Market seminars to learn more about how to use QR Codes to market your store, as well as gain insight on other mobile marketing tactics. Visit my retail-focused blog and sign up for free social and mobile marketing tips at crystalmedia.co.

– Crystal Vilkaitis