There are 101 ways to promote any business these days, both on and offline. While some of the newer methods - social media marketing, blogging etc. - are often the ones that people talk about most older promotional methods should not be completely overlooked either. And one of the oldest - giving away a product or service for free - can still be one of the most effective promotional methods of all, especially for a new business, and thanks to the Internet maybe even more so than ever before.
The ROI on a Freebie
In order for a 'freebie' promotion to be truly effective though it does have to be approached and executed in just the right manner. Standing in a mall handing out free samples will no doubt be effective in making sure that all of your free offerings are snapped up. But what will your company be getting in return? There is an old saying that states that nothing good in life is ever really free and that should be the case for any freebie. You may not be charging the consumer any money, but they should be asked for something in return for your generosity.
These days it is most common to ask the consumer to trade their contact details (check this makeup campaigns as an example) in return for a freebie. This can entail asking them to sign up for an email newsletter, which is a great way to quickly build up an opt in email list that can be used for marketing purposes for months and years to come. If, on the other hand, growing a social media presence quickly is important to you offering a freebie in return for a Facebook share or a Twitter retweet might be an even better idea.
Affording a Freebie
Another important consideration before you undertake any free sample or freebie campaign is making sure that such a campaign is not going to cost you and your business more than you can truly afford.
One of the strange things about a freebie campaign is that it is one of the few promotions that other people are likely to pick up on and promote for you. There are dozens of websites that are solely devoted to telling their readers where to find freebies of all kinds and the largest of these sites have thousands and thousands of daily hits. That means that if they happen to come across yours - and if your are promoting as you should then that is likely - the freebie that you thought might attract a few hundred consumers may attract many, many more, costing you far more than you expected and a lot more than you can afford.
So should that fact put you off using a free giveaway as a means of promotion? Not necessarily. It simply means that whatever you choose to give away must not be something that will break the bank should the demand exceed your expectations.
Tracking Your Freebie Campaign
Obviously it is important to keep a careful eye on your freebie campaign, and for a number of reasons. The first is, of course, to ensure every eligible person who claims or requests your free offer receives it (disgruntled consumers are never a good thing to have) The second is to judge its effectiveness. What kind of response did the campaign generate? What kind of people did it attract? Has there been a positive impact on sales? Gathering all of these metrics may take weeks, even months but it is an essential task, especially if you are considering the pros and cons of making use of freebies again in the future.
There will often come a point in young business' existence that its principals begin to think about taking their company public. Often they are considering doing so as a way to gain some extra capital or in some cases simply some (perceived) extra visibility and or credibility. But the act of 'going public' is far more complicated than many people imagine.
When is the Right Time to Go Public?
There is never going to be a definitive answer to this question because every company, and the people who run it, is unique. In purely financial terms you may want to follow the standard expert advice that the company should be able to demonstrate at least an annual growth potential of 20% or greater. From a more personal point of view the company's principals have to decide if they are ready to give up sole control of their vision and begin answering to shareholders who may not be accepting of their ideas and innovations.
The Pros and Cons of Going Public
Like anything else in life, going public definitely has its pros and cons. On the plus side your company would stand to gain all of the following:
- Access to increased capital so that the business can be taken to 'the next level'.
- As public companies are usually valued higher than private ones the businesses perceived value is likely to increase.
- Attracting top notch talent is often easier if you can offer such employees the added 'prestige' of working for a publicly traded company instead of a private one. And the ability to offer stock options will appeal to these people as well.
There are downsides though. These include:
- Launching an IPO is an expensive business. The fees involved alone can easily reach into the six figure range, a cost that is often higher than the company can really bear.
- Launching an IPO is also hugely time consuming. Often the actual growth of a company will stall as they are preparing for an IPO as the time that is available to concentrate on innovation is seriously diminished.
- Your company will no longer be your own. Most people begin their own businesses in the first place out of a desire to work for themselves rather than for someone else. Once a company goes public it is controlled by the Board and by the shareholders. This means that once more, the company's founders are 'working for someone else.'
How the Process Works
So, having weighed up the pros and cons, and had a good long look at your balance sheets you have decided that going public is the direction in which you want to take your company public.
So what now? If a business is to go public it must be done via an IPO, an initial public offering. This means that equity in the company is sold off by an investment banking firm in the form of individual shares that are then made available for trade on one of the world's stock markets.
Finding just the right investment banking firm is one of those time consuming tasks previously mentioned. Size and general reputation alone are not the only things that should be taken in consideration when choosing such a firm. The more an investment bank's staff knows about your particular industry and niche the more likely it is that the IPO will be successful, so taking the time to seek such a firm out will be important.
Almost a year to the day after launching the iPhone 5 Apple once again summoned the world's press to its headquarters on September 9 to reveal two more highly anticipated products - the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.
The launch of the Apple Watch (which most people had incorrectly predicted would be called the iWatch) marked the first time that Apple had launched an entirely new product since 2010, when, in what would be his last launch appearance, the late Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPad. To many pundits the watch then represents a lot more to the company than just another way to makes truckloads of cash, it also marks the real beginning of the post Steve Jobs, Tim Cook led era for the company.
But just what do these new offerings have in store for all of the Apple fanboys and fangirls awaiting them with bated breath? Let's take a look.
The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus
No one was really expecting any radical changes in the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 5 so at least no one was disappointed. The biggest change is in the size, something that is a direct response to the phone's Android based rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy, phones that have boasted larger screens for some time.
The standard iPhone 6 boasts a screen size of 4.7 inches while the iPhone 6 Plus moves into 'phablet' territory with a screen measuring a whopping 5.5 inches. Both models are also sleeker and thinner than their predecessors. Apple have also added an A8 chip which they say offers “up to 25% faster processing power and up to 50% faster graphics,” and some major tweaks to the cameras that should please those who like to use their iPhone as their primary camera (yes, we're talking to you selfie fans)
While there is nothing so groundbreaking about the iPhone 6 that an immediate upgrade from the iPhone 5 is a must the lines were already beginning to form around Apple stores days ahead of its September 19 release!
The Apple Watch
It is quite fair to say that the real star of the launch conference was the Apple Watch, which will debut for sale 'in early 2015'. Once again squaring off with Samsung, who already make and market a smart watch, the Apple Watch looks impressive. But just what does it offer? It will deliver phone calls emails, those all-important Facebook updates, simpler apps and the endlessly ready to please Siri to the wrist, negating the need to be that annoying person who has to pull out their phone every few minutes during a serious meeting, or worse still, a hot date.
In terms of visuals its screen boasts the same high quality retina display as the iPhone and although its square face is not quite as elegant as the circular Moto 360 the Apple Watch is still a relatively good looking piece of jewelry as well as a piece of tech. Make proper use of the many lock screen 'watch faces' that will be available to you and you will not only be able to personalize its look but make it rather attractive as well.
Price point is also of course of great interest, and although the company would not be drawn to name a definitive final price tag for all markets the likely cost will be right around $349, £217, 270€ or AU$379. Again, it is certainly not a necessity that you get an Apple Watch but we fully expect to see them flying off the shelves next year.
In far less than a decade the marketing landscape has changed completely for businesses both large and small. Online marketing has slowly taken over from offline techniques and, over the last few years especially the focus for many has been on SMM - social media marketing. So much so that some people, especially small business owners, have moved away from the tried and true practice of email marketing in favor of reaching out to customers and prospects via one - or usually more - of the many social media channels that businesses can make use of.
Abandoning email altogether can be a big mistake though, as there are still plenty of good reasons that a strong email marketing campaign can still be one of the biggest weapons in a business' marketing arsenal. Here are some of the most compelling of those reasons:
One on One Conversation
Social media channels - whether you are talking Facebook, Twitter, G+, Linkedin or even Pinterest - tend to be very noisy places. In the average users timeline/newsfeed there tend to be dozens of posts competing for a consumers' attention at any given time. The chances that your message will even be seen among all of these updates is very small compared to the chances that an email with a strong subject line would be noticed in an inbox.
Whatever social network you happen to use, on average only about 10-20% will ever even see your post. An email will reach every single one of the customers on your mailing list, it is then your job to make it compelling enough for them to open it and spend a few minutes reading it, but that is a different issue altogether.
There was time when an email was a text only document but that is no longer the case. Today's email templates allow you to add images, videos and even audio clips to a single message. This means that you can offer a richer multimedia experience to consumers within a single message than you can in a single post or tweet.
Almost all social media updates have to be short, as that is the nature of these platforms. That does make them ideal for quick connections, or as a way to direct users to longer form content elsewhere (on your website for example) An email newsletter however offers you the chance to offer long form content directly, and if that content is compelling a reader may spend up to five minutes reading it, as opposed to the five seconds they are likely to devote to your social media update.
Achieving a Great Balance
In the end, the simple fact is that in today's marketing plans both email and social media have an important place and can in fact be used to compliment and boost one another's effectiveness. Social media can be, for example, a great place to build an email list. Updates on social media can be used to create interest in your brand and then a consumer can confirm that interest by signing up for your email newsletter, creating the deeper engagement that will be needed to 'close a sale'.
In turn, by including social sharing buttons within the body of an email you can have your customers do a little free marketing for you by encouraging them to share content that interest them with their social circles.
It has taken several years for everyone to catch on, but in 2014 almost every business owner understands that social media marketing is an essential part of any marketing and brand building campaign, whatever their business actually does or however large or small it is.
That having been said, there are still a number of big misconceptions out there that can derail a social media marketing plan and at best make it less effective than it could be, and at worst actually damage a company's reputation. Here is a look at some of the biggest.
You Must Have a Profile on Every Single Social Network
Many businesses, headed by owners who quite rightly try to read and keep up with trends, fall into the trap of believing that if they do not have a business profile on every single social network out there they will be missing out on some big, huge opportunity. So they set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Redditt and..well the list goes on and on.
What they are setting up for themselves however is an unmanageable situation, even if they hire outside help. The very simple fact is that certain companies and niches are better suited to certain social networks than others. Taking the time to figure out which these are for your business and then concentrating your resources on developing a truly useful and engaging presence on just three, or maybe four, different social networks, will be far more successful than having a dozen, neglected boring profiles that are there simply because a manager read that they should be.
You Cannot Use a Facebook Page to Replace a Website
This is a rather scary dangerous misconception that many small and businesses - especially small local businesses - fall prey to. On the face of things it makes sense though; why pay good money that could be spent elsewhere if you can do practically the same things - a store, a blog, news updates - on Facebook for free?
Why is this such a bad idea? To begin with, a real, dedicated website gives you a permanent, solid presence that any Internet user can find. Because contrary to what you might think, there are lots of Internet users who never answered the 'seductive siren call' of Facebook, and even more who simply got bored with the whole thing and moved on. And these people are your potential clients and customers as well.
An even bigger problem is that you do not own your Facebook page, Facebook does. That means you have to post only what they approve of or the page could disappear overnight without warning. And Facebook disapprove of pretty harmless stuff. In addition Facebook decides who sees your page. Even if you have 5,000 followers right now you are one of the lucky ones if even 20% of those people ever see your content.
Social Media is Not Appropriate for Your Kind of Business
This is often the attitude taken by a more 'serious' company, a lawyer perhaps. But whatever your niche if you are not sure that social media is worth your time ask yourself the following questions; Does your company need to generate new leads? Do you need to generate more traffic to your company website? Are you at all interested in building a stronger brand image? Are you interested in providing an easy way for your customers, and potential customers, to give you feedback and ask questions?
If you answered yes to any of the questions then yes, social media marketing can help you. Now if you are a lawyer you may be better off concentrating your efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter rather than the more 'lighthearted' Facebook, but social media should still be a part of your overall marketing plan
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