Whether you’re looking for a job or communicating with co-workers, customers or clients, you need to be able to send proper, professional emails.
From proofreading to crafting the perfect signature, every step you take when composing and sending a professional email is important. Make a major email mistake, and it could cost you your job or a great business opportunity. Taking the time to send thoughtful, well-written emails, on the other hand, will impress everyone you work with.
Business News Daily asked business and career experts for their best advice for professional emailing. Put your best virtual foot forward every time you hit “send” with these tips:
Remember that anyone can read it once it’s sent
“Before you press send, always ask yourself, ‘Would I be proud of this email if it were on the front page of the newspaper?’ — because what is in writing can easily be shared with others.” – Jennifer Brown, founder and CEO, PeopleTactics
Make the most of your signature
“One thing I always tell clients is to include all of
When you’re trying to make a sale, it’s best to trust your gut, new research finds.
The first impression salespeople have of a customer’s needs and wants is often the correct one, according to a new study in the Journal of Marketing.
“Salespeople can make accurate intuitive judgments of a customer’s needs, and those judgments can significantly increase sales,” the study’s authors wrote. “In fact, when a salesperson deliberately rethinks first impressions of a customer, he or she might lose a potential sale.”
For the study, researchers observed the interactions between salespeople, who were paid by commission and motivated to makes sales, and customers for four months at several locations of a national mattress store. In addition, they conducted interviews with both the sales associates and customers.
The study’s authors measured the sales force’s “intuitive” judgments, which was determined by the accuracy with which they ranked each customer’s top needs before interacting with him or her, and their “deliberative” judgments, which were determined by whether they changed their initial impression after rethinking their sales approach.
One of the most critical questions a marketer has to answer is what makes customers take action. What makes someone open a marketing email, click on a website and ultimately make a purchase? Rather than just guess and hope for the best, smart companies will use what’s known as A/B or split testing to find out exactly what drives conversions in their marketing campaigns.
What is A/B testing?
When you run an A/B test, you’re comparing two different versions of a campaign — whether it’s a marketing email, a banner ad or just a website page — to see which one is more effective with your target audience. Mohita Nagpal, a marketing specialist and author of a Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) blog post about A/B testing, compared the process to a scientific experiment that requires rigorous testing of a hypothesis.
“Do some background research by understanding your visitors’ behavior using Google Analytics or any other analytics tools,” Nagpal said. “The next step is to construct a hypothesis. An example could be, ‘Adding more links in the footer will
Behind nearly every news feature, profile or review about any company is a great public relations strategy. Take it from a reporter: You might have a great story to tell, but getting the word out — and more importantly, getting the media interested — requires some real PR know-how.
You may not have the budget to keep a PR firm on retainer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a professional-level media outreach strategy. With a little bit of research, planning and effort, you can get your business’s name out there while keeping your communications fresh and creative.
Whether you’re handling your own public relations or thinking about hiring a consultant, here are a few affordable but effective strategies to boost your business’s recognition and engagement.
Make friends with industry influencers. The first step in creating a good communications strategy is to connect with the right people. This is especially true if you’re doing your own PR, as you won’t have the advantage of established PR firms’ robust media lists. Margie Zable Fisher, founder of Zable Fisher Public Relations, said that it’s critical for businesses to do their due diligence and identify the appropriate outlets
While you might think you’re losing a customer when an item is returned, the opposite could actually be happening depending on how easy the process is, new research finds.
Creating positive return experiences can result in valuable long-term customers whose contributions far outweigh the costs associated with those initial returns, according to a new study in the Journal of Marketing Research.
“Product returns are no small part of the firm-customer exchange process, currently costing firms about $100 billion annually,” the study’s authors wrote. “However, these same returns create long-term value because customers who feel there is little risk in making the wrong purchase keep coming back.”
To help determine the extent to which product returns benefit businesses, researchers conducted a large-scale experiment with 26,000 customers over six months from an online retailer.
For the experiment, customers were divided into several groups that had the return process marketed to them differently. The control group received no marketing effort, several groups received traditional marketing approaches to product-returning customers, and a model group had a marketing tactic that factored in both the consumer’s positive attitude toward returns, as well as the cost to the company of those
For most startups, especially in the e-commerce industry, achieving rapid revenue and sales growth in the first few years is a dream come true. The bigger and more powerful you get, the easier it will be to keep adding resources and expanding in the future, right? Maybe not.
Business intelligence company RJMetrics recently published its 2015 E-commerce Growth Benchmark report, which analyzed anonymous data from its e-commerce clients to uncover trends in growth, sales and revenue. The report found that the smallest companies — those with less than $1 million in annual revenue — grow at a rate of nearly 140 percent each year. This annual growth slows significantly when a company reaches each new revenue bracket, dropping to 40 percent at $1 million to $5 million, 25 percent at $5 million to $10 million, and about 10 percent at more than $10 million.
The report’s authors wrote that it becomes harder to sustain rapid growth as a company gets bigger and that the business will eventually need to explore new ways to boost its revenue.
“The most successful e-commerce companies … target a very specific niche of customers,” said Jake Stein, chief operating officer
Online businesses benefit most from offering loyalty rewards programs, new research finds.
Shoppers typically don’t need an added incentive to continue visiting their favorite brick-and-mortar retailers, however, online shoppers can be much more persuaded by a loyalty reward to revisit a merchant’s website, according to a study recently published in the Decision Support Systems journal.
Online shoppers tend to search the Internet for the best bargains they can find, with little sense of loyalty to one retailer or another, said Sanghee Lim, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. By offering discount programs, online retailers can turn choosy Internet shoppers into repeat buyers.
“Offline stores may be giving away profits when they offer loyalty rewards to customers who will keep coming back anyway, regardless of any discount that’s offered,” Lim said in a statement. “Online shoppers, on the other hand, may use a coupon to revisit a retail website even when it’s not one of their preferred sellers.”
For the study, researchers used a model that examined how shoppers might behave after making a purchase. Once buyers made that initial purchase, they looked at whether they
Making a sale isn’t always the easiest task.
From finding leads to closing deals and signing contracts, the entire sales process can be long and exhausting. One wrong move, and you could lose a huge lead. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to improve your sales game and get past many of the challenges you’ll face along the way.
Ready to become a better salesperson? Here are 11 major sales mistakes to avoid from now on.
It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the task at hand — making a sale — that you forget to look at your potential client’s needs.
“What matters most — when prospecting, during a sale and even after the contracts have been signed — are their problems, their time,” said Rory Channer, chief business officer at CircleBack.
Channer also warned that neglecting the client’s needs could destroy his or her trust in you and shut down all communication.
Mistake: You don’t follow up quickly enough.
Businesses should follow up immediately when a lead is generated because waiting too long could cost them sales, said Brandon Stuerke, president of Advisors Edge
Businesses are not doing enough to ensure disabled customers have a positive consumer experience, one researcher argues in a new paper.
Despite their progress in giving disabled customers access, many businesses don’t recognize that the consumer experience goes beyond the ability to simply enter a building, according to research from Rutgers University-Camden.
“Maybe they can get in, and maybe there is a ramp, but what about the rest?” Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, the study’s author and a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, said in a statement. “If the aisles are blocked and there’s merchandise in the way, and shoppers just can’t get around the store, it’s a signal that they’re not welcome.”
The research points to a court case involving Hollister clothing stores. The business has steps leading up to the entrance of the store, which is made to look like a beach-style hut.
Although a federal court originally ruled that the store entrance violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the case was overturned in 2014, when the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court found that, because Hollister offers alternative entrances for the disabled, the retailer was not breaking any laws.
Self-help guides have been around for centuries, teaching their readers how to solve every problem from weight loss to getting ahead in the workplace. In the business world, “self-help” translates into useful guides and articles that aid customers in navigating issues they might have with a product or service.
It’s easy to see the appeal of self-service from a modern customer standpoint. In an age when Google has become a verb, consumers want instant answers to their queries — they don’t always have time to sit around waiting for a customer service rep to take them off hold or answer their email.
But offering self-service in a way that truly enhances a customer’s experience means more than throwing a quick FAQ page on your company’s website. Here’s how you can help customers help themselves, while still offering the level of support consumers expect.
Why you should — and shouldn’t — provide self-service
Robert Johnson, CEO of B2B customer support software company TeamSupport, said today’s consumers are accustomed to searching for answers online, and as a group are more educated and self-reliant. For simple issues and common questions, it’s much more efficient for
Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter have been a part of mainstream Internet use for the better part of a decade, but the ways in which brands use them have changed dramatically. Instead of using social networks solely as marketing platforms to trumpet their products, today’s companies also use them to build and enhance the customer experience.
“Brands and entertainers realize the benefits of connecting and communicating directly with their fans, without an intermediary,” said Sylvia Vaquer, co-founder and creative director of SocioFabrica, a global digital strategy and design firm. “Where once artists and brands had to rely on massive marketing budgets to build their fan base and audience, now they employ social media tools and platforms like Instagram and Periscope to help grow a flourishing community of fans.”
In a recent Business News Daily article, John Swanciger of small business community Manta said that building a community should be a brand’s top priority for its social media use. Here’s how you can create an engaged network of fans and followers around your business.
Know your audience well
Your social media followers are not just a homogenous fan base that all behave the
If you want your business to succeed, a powerful marketing department is essential, new research finds.
Strong marketing departments help businesses thrive in both the short term and the long term, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Marketing.
“Structurally, the marketing department not only improves performance by increasing a firm’s capability to perform marketing activities, but also directly increases performance, because they influence the strategic decisions made by the top management team and direct their attention to marketplace issues,” Hui (Sophia) Feng, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State University, said in a statement.
Researchers designed the study to measure marketing department power, and a company’s ability to build and leverage brand equity and customer relationships, by developing a new scale using publicly available data for more than 600 firms in the United States over a 16-year period.
To determine the marketing department’s power, researchers compared head count, compensation, number of responsibilities and rank of job titles of marketing executives to executives in each business’s top management team.
The study discovered that despite a worry that marketing departments have been losing influence in recent
The busy holiday season can make or break many retailers’ annual revenue goals. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce business, the upcoming weeks will be critical for driving those important year-end sales.
Although you’re probably already relying heavily on social media to spread the word about holiday promotions, focusing on visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube can take your marketing efforts to the next level. That’s because images are an incredibly powerful communication tool: According to an MIT study, the human brain can process and identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.
“It’s anthropological,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of visual social media marketing platform Curalate. “Our ancestors communicated through pictures on cave walls, and now we’re doing the same thing [on social media]. There are so many things competing for our attention today, and you need shortcuts to process it. Images allow us to do that. They’re mental shortcuts that allow us to understand our world better and faster.”
If you want to use visual marketing to your advantage this holiday season, follow these expert social media tips. [Picturing Success: How Photo-Sharing Can Boost Social Marketing]
Use eye-catching images.
The holiday shopping rush is just around the corner, and retailers across the country are preparing for their post-Thanksgiving promotions. This is especially true of e-commerce businesses, which need to anticipate an influx of website traffic during what’s likely to be their biggest sales period of the year.
As a small e-tailer, it’s in your best interest to get your website in tip-top shape for the season, to help you keep up with your larger competitors. Frank Yue, director of application delivery solutions at Radware, a provider of application delivery and security solutions, said that if your site slows down, you have a lot to lose — 57 percent of consumers will abandon a site that fails to load after 3 seconds, according to Radware research.
“If the site doesn’t respond … [customers will think] it’s not worth it and go to another website to buy [the item] somewhere else,” Yue told Business News Daily. “It’s not just the [site] outage you have to worry about, but also the degradation of performance and delivery to retain customers.”
Yue and Debbi Lechner, vice president of product marketing and management for Web.com, offered the following tips for optimizing
To succeed in today’s competitive business environment, more and more small businesses are prioritizing marketing, new research finds.
In a recent study from email marketing provider Constant Contact, more than 70 percent of small business leaders said external forces, such as the economy and increased competition, have forced them to become better marketers.
In addition, most of the small businesses in the study have become more active marketers. The research revealed that 68 percent of the small businesses surveyed are marketing more today than they did two years ago.
However, just because small businesses are spending more time marketing, that doesn’t mean they are spending more money on it. Just 34 percent of the businesses surveyed are planning to increase the amount of money they allocate to marketing in 2016.
Although the majority of those surveyed said their main marketing tactics today are word of mouth, email and websites, many have an eye on what the future of small business marketing may look like. More than half of those surveyed said streaming video is an emerging trend they think will play the biggest role in how they market in the years to come.
For many new businesses, the biggest challenge is standing out in a sea of competitors that all do the same thing. Restaurants, retail shops, service providers and other similar types of businesses need to distinguish themselves and show customers what makes them different.
But some companies, especially those in the tech space, have the opposite challenge: What they do is so inherently different that consumers are completely unfamiliar with it. Therefore, to succeed in the market, these startups need to convince potential customers to try a new product or method of doing something.
This is rarely a simple obstacle to overcome. After all, not every consumer in your target market is an “early adopter,” and many may even be skeptical or hesitant about making a switch.
“Let’s be real — nobody is looking to change their behavior,” said Adam Padilla, president and chief creative officer of Brandfire creative agency. “Humans are a race of habit formers, and we are notoriously slow to adopt new ones. Many new businesses set out to create a new habit, where the smarter move would be to leverage an existing habit and have consumers try your product instead of one that
Big Data gets a lot of buzz in the business world. It’s true that data analytics can give you deep, useful insights into your business and its customers, but only if you use those insights to their full potential.
There are three main components to business analytics: descriptive, predictive and prescriptive. Descriptive analytics — the “simplest class of analytics,” said Lithium Technologies’ chief scientist Michael Wu — is your raw data in summarized form. It’s your social engagement counts, sales numbers, customer statistics and other metrics that show you what’s happening in your business in an easy-to-understand way.
Predictive and prescriptive analytics are the next steps that help you turn descriptive metrics into insights and decisions. But you shouldn’t rely on just one or the other; when used in conjunction, both types of analytics can help you create the strongest, most effective business strategy possible.
“Predictive by itself is not enough to keep up with the increasingly competitive landscape,” said Mick Hollison, CMO of sales-acceleration software company InsideSales.com. “Prescriptive analytics provide intelligent recommendations for the optimal next steps for almost any application or business process to drive desired outcomes or accelerate results.”
“Predictive analytics forecasts
There are two good reasons to adopt email marketing as a core component of your marketing campaign: It’s easy and inexpensive to create and it can deliver an impressive ROI ($44 for every $1 spent). Few marketing tools offer so much for so little.
To figure out if email marketing is right for your business, it’s critical to understand exactly what it is and how what your options are. Here’s what you need to know:
Understanding email marketing
- Email marketing is essentially the online version of direct mail. Instead of sending fliers and coupons to a customer’s home, email marketing sends those same items digitally to a customer’s inbox.
- Whereas the impact of direct mail can be difficult to track, email marketing lets businesses see exactly who is opening their mail and which emails are leading to sales.
- Businesses can use email marketing in a variety of ways, from building brand loyalty and finding new customers to encouraging loyalty and repeat business.
- With email marketing, you have a choice of do-it-yourself software or full service agencies that do all of the work for you. You can read more about the differences between the two below.
If you’re starting a business, you’ve probably defined your “target customer.” You know their age, gender, location and perhaps even their income and education levels. But demographics alone won’t give you a complete picture of who’s buying your products.
“Understand intimately who your customer is,” said TJ Parker, CEO and founder of PillPack, an online pharmacy and medication management service. “If you don’t know your customers, it’s hard to … communicate [your product’s] benefits so they react positively.”
So what else should you be learning about your customers, aside from basic demographics? Here are the top three things you should find out, and how to incorporate that information into your strategy.
This is perhaps the single most important piece of the customer puzzle. No matter how well you’re projecting your customers’ values and interests, you ultimately won’t succeed if you don’t show that your product or service solves a problem for them.
For example, PillPack has succeeded because it has invested a lot of energy into understanding the hassles that people go through every day while trying to order, refill and manage their prescriptions via a traditional pharmacy, Parker noted.
“How do you build
In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to get away with not having a website for your business. Even small, local businesses can benefit greatly from having a simple Web page that provides potential customers with more information. And it’s not a matter of having a website in the first place — your website needs to be built with quality and customers in mind in order for it to be effective.
So how do you create a website — or improve your existing site — that will build up your business? We asked business owners and Web experts to share their advice. Here are five simple tips for achieving online success.
Plan your website thoroughly before you build it
You may want to get right into the creative process, but it’s important to take the time to plan the structure of your site and your goals before you start building or revamping your design.
“My No. 1 tip for creating an effective website is to spend adequate time on planning and strategy at the beginning,” said Anna Stout, owner of Web design and marketing company Astute Communications. “I’ve seen