5 Of The Best Small Business Blogs You Should Read (Updated 2017!)

Here’s a list of some of our favorite blogs that would be of interest to small business owners:

1. Social Triggers

social-triggers-blog

Business, especially small business, is all about the human touch. Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers blog is a great place to read about how that plays out.  Good examples and case studies.

2. Seth Godin’s blog

seth-godin-blog

Seth Godin runs one of the longest running and most popular marketing blogs online. He’s been writing for over a decade now, and constantly presents thoughts that are interesting and challenging. Lots of thought experiments, sometimes outright philosophical.

3. For Entrepreneurs

for-entrepreneurs-david-skok-blog

For Entrepreneurs has a bit of a tech startup focus, but the clarity of thinking about marketing and business thinking is useful to any business owner operating at any scale.

4. Duct Tape Marketing

duct-tape-marketing-blog

Duct Tape Marketing is a solid marketing blog with a focus on small business needs.

5. Noobpreneur.com

noobpreneur-blog

The funnily-named Noobpreneur.com is a modern version of “Small Business For Dummies”. It can be refreshingly candid and has lots of entry-level information that’s quite easily accessible.

What are your favorite small business blogs?

Let us know, and if we like them, we’ll include them!

5 Ideas For Marketing Your Small Business

So you’re running a small business. You did the planning, you’ve set up shop, customers have been coming in. It’s been challenging but fulfilling. And now you’ve gotten to a sort of stable pattern, and you’ve started thinking about what’s next. How do you grow the business? How do you reach more people, get more customers?

Marketing a small business is tough, because of the many constraints. You’re not going to be able to hand over a big budget to a glitzy agency and tell them to ‘make it rain’. You’re not going to have the luxury of coming up with an elaborate, multi-part plan – you’re going to have to keep things simple, and get them done fast.

Here’s a list of things you could and should be doing.

1. Make sure your social media accounts are active and your site is search-friendly

Everybody’s on social media now, including lots of grandmas, so you really have no excuse any more.

It doesn’t actually need to be stylish, clever or gorgeous – it just really needs to be user-friendly.

The Oatmeal has one of the funniest ways of putting this across:

What your customers would want from your website (say you’re a restaurant):

  • Menu
  • Specials and happy hour info (including social promotions such as Foursquare, Groupon and Twitter specials)
  • Address with a link to Google Maps
  • Online reservation system that actually works
  • Operating hours, parking and contact info
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal

2. Incentivize your customers to share their purchases on social media

snap-a-pic

People pay attention to word-of-mouth from their friends and peers more than they do to any other form of marketing.

So one of the best ways to reach new customers is through the friends of your existing ones.

Give your customers a hashtag to use, and you’ll start being able to see when they post their purchases on social media.

2. Clarify your story – make it sticky and contagious

One of the most powerful things you can do for your business’s marketing efforts is to improve your story.

How do you do that? You start by finding out what your customers are already saying about your store. Literally ask them – what brought you here? What convinced you to give us a shot?

Once you understand this well, you want to work this into your messaging.

Your end goal would be to make your store more remarkable – literally.

3. Guerilla marketing – make a strong impression with a bold statement

Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford
Photo taken by Mimi Ritzen Crawford

Guerilla marketing is all about creating maximum impact for minimum cost.

One of the best examples of this of all time was Warby Parker’s hijacking of the New York Fashion Show – they invited the editors from the fashion show to a ‘secret event’ at a public library, where they had staffers staking out all the seats. Just before the editors showed up, the staffers exchanged seats with models.

What about if you’re just a little brick-and-mortar retailer along the sidewalk?

Well, you could always get creative with your signage:

funny-bar-sign-fat-people

4. Do some niche marketing for your target audience

A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.
A Lululemon store turns into a yoga studio.

Every good product solves a problem for somebody. Even if your business serves a diverse group of people (say, a donut shop), there’s bound to be some pattern – you might notice that most of your best customers come from the nearby offices at a certain time of the day, for example. Maybe you could host some sort of ‘networking event’? Talk to your customers, and look for patterns.

Here’s a fun example – some Lululemon stores turn their stores into yoga studios after hours. This gives potential customers a judgement-free place to explore the brand, and help them to create a positive association with it. If they end up learning yoga and making friends at the store, and they’re going to need some yoga apparel and paraphrenelia, Lululemon becomes the obvious choice.

5. Try a loyalty program

candybar-loyalty-program

Ever tried running a loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced or forgotten their cards.

That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern loyalty program app for small businesses. No download necessary.

Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co  today!

An Analysis Of Starbucks Billion-Dollar Loyalty Program

After Q1 of 2016, Starbucks had $1.2 billion in customer funds loaded onto their plastic and mobile Starbucks cards.

This is larger than the amount held by many of the smaller regional banks. They’re so big that it’s a legitimate news event when they decide to make changes to their loyalty program.

What makes their loyalty program so compelling? And what can businesses learn from them?

1. Great mobile app

starbucks-loyalty-program-mobile-app

It’s probably not a good idea for most retailers to build mobile apps just for their store – most people aren’t going to want to have a different mobile app for every single store that they happen to visit. Starbucks gets a “law of large numbers” advantage here.

In a way, people have come to expect Starbucks on every corner in major cities – like a reliable utility.

2. Online signup

Starbucks is one of those brands where fans actually might spend time thinking about the brand even when you’re not actually at the store or feeling the need for coffee. You can signup for Starbucks’ loyalty program online:
starbucks-loyalty-program-rewards

3. Special Gold card for extra-loyal customers

starbucks-loyalty-program-gold

Having tiered levels of loyalty gives customers something to work towards.

Of course, few people are going to wake up in the morning thinking “Gosh, I really need that Starbucks Gold”, but it can tip people over when deciding whether or not to order that slice of molten chocolate cake with their cappuccino.

Starbucks’ loyalty program is a bit of an outlier.

Generally, Starbucks’ loyalty program is an example of what you can only really do when you have the massive scale they have.

Smaller businesses typically can’t afford to come up with such a complex, complicated solution, and they can’t expect their customers to invest so much time and energy into figuring out how the loyalty program works, either.

For most small retailers, you’re going to want to keep your loyalty programs as simple and easy to use as possible.

6 Steps To Making Your Customers Happy – A Guide For SMBs

Why are you running your own business?

When we talk to our retailers, we find that practically all of them are in their line of work for more than just financial reasons. Several of them even quit high-paying jobs to do what they’re doing.

They want to make a difference to the lives of their customers, however small.

So let’s spend a few moments to think about how you could be more rigorous about that.

What do you need to do to make your customers happy?

1. Put together reasonably good product to begin with

wow-image

While it would be good to have, you don’t actually need an insanely great product. As one of our retailers told us about his cold-pressed juices, “It’s not rocket science, anybody can do it.” Your product just needs to be reliably good enough for your customers.

Starbucks doesn’t make the best coffee in the world, and they don’t have to. They don’t sell “the best coffee”, they sell “pretty good coffee that’s reliable and familiar, in an environment that you enjoy.” That’s the ‘job’ that the product is hired to do.

Be very, very clear about your value proposition. About what makes you different from your competitors. About why your customers want to buy from you. When you make that clear to yourself, and to your customers, then your customers will find it easier to enjoy their experience around your business and product.

2. Have a pleasant ambience for your customers to enjoy

the-lawn-cafe
The Lawn Cafe, SG

An interesting study once found that customers are likelier to buy French wine if French music is playing, even though the customers are unaware that it influenced their decision!

Which just goes to show that ambience and atmosphere can make a big difference when it comes to how your customers feel about your store. You don’t necessarily need to pull out all the stops – you just need to make it feel welcoming and ‘positive’ for your customers.

This post from InsideRetail explores how you can use all 5 senses to really create a great, memorable environment for your customers – one that they’ll want to return to.

3. Quality service from your staff

quality-customer-service

This is one of the harder parts. First, you want to make sure that you hire staff who have the right sort of personality and mindset.

Then you want to make sure that you treat them really well, so that they feel good about coming to work and feel good about giving your customers a great experience.

You also want to give your employees some autonomy to make decisions that will delight customers – few things are as frustrating for a customer as having to deal with unreasonably complicated return policies, and so on.

4. Provide a loyalty program

bond-brand-loyalty-satisfaction
Bond Brand Loyalty 2015 Report

According to a Bond Brand Loyalty report, which surveyed over 11,000 consumers, loyalty programs actually have more influence on brand satisfaction than price or perception of value.

It’s sometimes debated that loyalty programs aren’t nearly as profitable as retailers would prefer. But in our experience, the main reason that retailers provide loyalty programs is that their customers ask for it.

Customers have grown to expect to be rewarded for their loyalty, and retailers (especially SMBs) want to do whatever it takes to make their customers happy.

Try CandyBar, a digital loyalty punchcard that gives your store a modern feel.

5. Deliver unexpected rewards

A famous example from 2011 – when Morton's went above and beyond.
A famous example from 2011 – when Morton’s went above and beyond.

This is a fun one. Studies have shown that people respond disproportionately well to unexpected rewards.  Starbucks is noted to be good at this, as well as the Ritz-Carlton.

But you don’t need to be a massive hotel chain in order to surprise your customers with something a little extra. If you notice your customer looking a little down or frazzled, give them something ‘on the house’.

Not every single customer will appreciate it, but some of them definitely will – and they’ll be talking about it with their friends.

6. Respond well to negative feedback

Sometimes you're going to get some strange feedback on Facebook.
Sometimes you’re going to get some strange feedback on Facebook.

Every so often you’re going to upset a customer, despite your good intentions and best efforts. This is unavoidable. How you respond to it, however, makes all the difference.

There have been many examples of this over the years on Facebook. Some business owners have very publicly dug themselves into a PR disaster by being mean or catty towards unhappy customers. Definitely avoid doing this.

SearchEngineJournal has a pretty good post about how to respond to negative reviews on Yelp. There’s a whole dance to it. Yotpo has a similar guide that’s worth checking out.

Conclusion

Happy customers are fundamental to any business. Business owners will find it personally fulfilling to get positive feedback from happy customers.

They’re also great for business – happy customers are much likelier to refer your store to their friends, and referred customers are known to spend more and be more loyal.

What are your favorite stories about customer satisfaction and happiness?

Why You Should Run A Digital Loyalty Program [Infographic]

Should you run a digital loyalty program?

Learn about what digital loyalty marketing is, how it works, why it’s so effective, and why we think you should get some digital loyalty punch cards setup for your small business.

CandyBar-Infographic-final

Want a digital loyalty program for your store? Check out CandyBar.co!

Embed this infographic using the following code:

<a href=”http://www.candybar.co/blog/why-digital-loyalty”><img title=”Why You Should Run A Digital Loyalty Program [Infographic]” src=”https://www.candybar.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CandyBar-Infographic-final.png” alt=”Why You Should Run A Digital Loyalty Program [Infographic]” width=”600″ /></a>
<a href=”http://www.referralcandy.com”>CandyBar – Digital punch card loyalty program</a>

Text: Why you should have a digital loyalty program

In a milkshake bar not so far away…

Alice the customer: Awesome milkshake and great service! Love it!
Bob the bar owner: Thank you!

3 days later…

(Bob sees Alice buying milkshare from another shop)

Bob thinks to himself, “If people love my milkshake and service, why don’t they come back more often?”

Well, the truth is…

Customer satisfaction ≠ Customer loyalty

“There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for ‘Satisfied’.” – Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert [source]

Customer loyalty doesn’t come by chance.
You have to actively build it!

Here’s an example:

Alice: Awesome milkshake and great service! Love it!
Bob: Thanks! Fancy getting a free milkshake on your third visit?

Here’s one way you can incentivize customers to be loyal. This is known as ‘Loyalty Marketing’

Loyalty Marketing is actively engaging and incentivizing customers to come back often.

Bob: Hmm… Is Loyalty Marketing really worth the effort?

Yes! Here’s some data and examples to prove it:

  • Starbucks’ loyalty program drove significant revenue and loyalty for the brand

“(My Starbucks Rewards) continues to be our most important business driver as new members contribute not only short-term increases in revenue and profit, but also to long-term loyalty for years to come.” – Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO [source]

  • Loyalty program members buy 20% more frequently [Source]
  • Engaged loyal customers spend 60% more [Source]
  • Amazon Prime members spend more than non-members on average [Source]
  • 73% of loyalty program members are more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs [source]

Loyalty Marketing works. It rewards your customers and drives more revenue and referrals for you.

Bob: If Loyalty Marketing is so good, why don’t all businesses already have it or do it well?

Good question! Here’s why:

  • It may not work well for some industries. (Such as: Automotive sales, Construction, Appliance repair, etc) One-time purchase industries are better off focusing improving their products and services and encouraging referrals.
  • A physical punch card loyalty program can be costly and labor intensive. From designing, printing, promoting to manually stamping them during every transaction, every step can add up to a huge amount of work.
  • Customers aren’t always fully engaged. Sometimes they forget to bring their punch cards, sometimes they lose their punch cards
    It is hard to track and measure impact. It’s a challenge to determine how many percent of the overall revenue can be attributed to loyalty program

Bob: Sounds daunting! Are you sure I can do Loyalty Marketing? I’m just a small business owner…

A digital loyalty program app would be ideal for you:

  • It’s easier and faster to set up and run
  • Customers can access their punch cards on their smartphones any time
  • Everything is tracked and measured automatically
  • More time for you to engage your customers and understand them better

A digital loyalty program app is a smart and easy way to incentivize your customers to come back often.

And this is why you should have a digital loyalty program.

Bob: Sounds good. Let’s do this!

Want a digital loyalty program for your store? Check out CandyBar.co!

16 Examples Of Loyalty Punch Cards

Looking for inspiration for your loyalty punch card?

Here are some examples.

1. FourOFive Loyalty Punch Card

coffee-hut-digital-punchcard
Image: fourofive

 

2. Cici’s Pizza Loyalty Card

cici-pizza-punch-card
Image: PeelADeal

3. Quiznos Sub Punch Card

quiznos-punch-card
Image: Quiznos

4. Zaxby’s Loyalty Punch Card

zaxby-punch-card

5.

punch-card-example-coffee

6.

free-thing-punch-card-1

free-thing-punch-card-2
Image: Punch Card Templates

7.

punch-card-free-something-7
Image: Punch Card Templates

8.

burger-loyalty-punch-card
Image: Punch Card Templates

9.

loyalty-punch-card-9-get-1-free
Image: CustomerLoyaltyCards.co.uk

10. Subway Rewards Punch Card

subway-rewards-loyalty-punch-card
Image: Subway

11. McDonald’s India Loyalty Punch Card

mcdonalds-india-loyalty-card

12. Elite Nails Spa Loyalty Card

Image: Elite Nails Spa
Image: Elite Nails Spa

13. Nando’s Loyalty Punch Card

nandos-loyalty-punch-card-example

14. Coffee loyalty punch card

coffee-loyalty-punch-card

15. Drury Loyalty Punch Card

drury-loyalty-punch-card

16. Car Wash Loyalty Punch Card

car-wash-loyalty-program-example

Loyalty Program Statistics – 5 Important Numbers To Note

What is loyalty all about? Let’s ask an expert:

Loyalty is a precious commodity.

As skewed as Dwight’s logic is, he did get one thing correct—that is, loyalty should be valued and pursued after. Certainly, the idea that customer acquisition is far more important than customer retention appears to be on the way out.

Numerous studies, polls, and industry experts have consistently demonstrated that cultivating a faithful repeating customer base is not only cost-effective, but highly lucrative.

loyal-customers-likelier-to-buy
Existing customers are much likelier to buy.

And key to achieving such results comes in the form of loyalty programs, which may reward frequent customers with discounts, new products, free merchandise, gifts, and even company stock.

Here are five important statistics to further show you that romancing your existing customers is simply the right (and profitable) thing to do.

1) The 80/20 Rule – 20% of a company’s existing customers will generate 80% of its future revenue (Garnet)

pareto-principle-graph

In a detailed article by Forbes, a particular statistic stood out. According to research conducted by the Garnet Group, one-fifth of a company’s existing customers will generate at least 80% of its future revenue.

In other words, you don’t have to search far for greener pastures, when all you have to do is tend to the one you’re standing on now.

Invest in your relationships with your customers!

2) It’s all in the Family – 63% of millennials share similar brand loyalties as their parents (Adroit)

According to a comprehensive Adroit Digital survey, around 63% of the millennials polled were loyal users of the same brands their parents follow. This discovery has some important implications.

For one, we see how brand loyalty can be passed down from generation to generation, with each tier strengthening that bond.

It’s all in the family.

Second, the idea that young individuals display similar consuming patterns as their parents further dispels the false dichotomy between customer retention and customer acquisition. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Creating loyal customers out of parents means setting up their kids to be loyal customers too.

3) The Other 98% – Loyalty programs tend to over-reward the top 2% of customers (HBR)

In an enlightening article by the Harvard Business Review, the author revealed that loyalty programs in the airline industry tend to over-reward and privilege the top 2% of customers.

Could your loyalty program be alienating some of your customers?

The author’s point here then is that loyalty programs can alienate customers if they’re not careful. A good should be cater to the varying profitabilities of different customers, while never making them feel second-class.

4) Repeating customers spend 70% more in their 31st month than in their first six months with their preferred retailers (Bain)

“Patience, you must have,” said Master Jedi Yoda. Indeed, in a study published by Bain & Company, repeating customers were discovered to spent almost 70% more in their 31st month with retailers than in their initial six months.

As we’ve said before, it’s a marathon, and never a sprint.

Long-term relationships are a most valuable thing in this tumultuous world.

5) Love Your Other Half – More than 50% of customers have switched brands due to poor customer service (Accenture)

In today’s digital, faceless age, you’d be forgiven for thinking customers don’t prioritise human contact. But apparently, they do. Market research by Accenture Strategy showed that 83% of American consumers prefer interacting with ‘human’ customer services.

Alarmingly, 52% have switched brands and service providers due to poor customer service, costing companies a loss of $1.6 trillion dollars.

What this shows is that human interaction remains a vital component in inducing customer loyalty. A well-designed loyalty program means little if customers feel like they’re interacting with robots, or worse, actual human beings who couldn’t care less.

Please don’t do this.

Recap:

  1. 20% of your existing customers will form the backbone of future profits and revenue
  2. Customer retention and customer acquisition are not mutually exclusive
  3. Be mindful if you’re privileging your ‘best’ customers at the expense of the majority
  4. Long, meaningful company-customer relationships do pay off
  5. Good customer service remains fundamental

A Comprehensive List Of 31 Loyalty Program Examples

Looking for a list of loyalty programs to steal ideas from?

We’ve trawled the Internet, hunting down a wide array of loyalty programs across different industries.

Here they are:

1. Starbucks loyalty program

starbucks-loyalty-program

Probably one of the most used loyalty programs in the world! Starbucks’ loyalty program is called Starbucks Rewards.

Spending money at Starbucks gets you “Star points”, which you can then redeem for rewards.

2. Samsung loyalty program

samsung-loyalty-program

The Samsung loyalty program, based in India, is called the Samsung Smart Club.

There’s a Gold tier and a Platinum tier.

3. Sephora loyalty program

sephora-loyalty-program

The Sephora Card Program has three tiers – White, Black and Gold. Benefits include…

  • Private sales
  • Offers on your favorite brands
  • A surprise on your birthday
  • A brand gift of your choice every 200 points

4. Chipotle loyalty program – Chiptopia

chipotle-chiptopia-loyalty-program

Chiptopia was an experiment in loyalty run by Chipotle. The program is no longer active.

5. Amazon Prime loyalty program

amazon-prime-loyalty-program

Amazon’s Prime loyalty program has been subject to a lot of analysis.

Users get shipping benefits, exclusive access to movies and TV shows, Kindle books, and generally a superior Amazon experience all-around.

6. Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty Program

starwood-spg-loyalty-program

Starwood’s Preferred Guest loyalty program can be linked with Marriott Rewards and Ritz Carlton rewards.

7. Best Buy Loyalty Program

my-best-buy-loyalty-program

Best Buy’s loyalty program is called My Best Buy, and it has three tiers – Regular, Elite, and ElitePlus.

8. Gilt Insider loyalty program

gilt-insider-loyalty-program

Gilt Insider loyalty program has four tiers – Insider, Select, Premier and Noir. At the highest level,  you get…

  • Birthday gifts
  • VIP customer service
  • Waitlist priority
  • Private events
  • 1 Hour Preview of Sales

9. Adidas loyalty program

adidas-loyalty-program

Adidas’s loyalty program for customers in Asia is called 3stripes.co.

It gives participants a $10 voucher for every $100 spent, among a host of other benefits.

10. Amtrak loyalty program

amtrak-loyalty-program

Amtrak’s loyalty program is called Amtrak Guest Rewards, and is framed very much like a hotel’s, interestingly!

11. Barnes&Nobles loyalty program

barnes-and-nobles-loyalty-prorgam

Barnes&Nobles has a loyalty program in the form of a $25/year membership with over $50 in coupons.

12. British Airways loyalty program

british-airways-loyalty-program

British Airways’ loyalty program is called the Executive Club, with tiers named after precious stones – Emerald, Sapphire.

13. Costa Coffee loyalty program

costa-coffee-loyalty-program

Costa coffee loyalty program is called the Costa Coffee Club, and ha two tiers.

14. Dr. Brandt loyalty program

dr-brandt-loyalty-program

Dr Brandt’s loyalty program uses a point system that gives customers points for all sorts of specific actions.

15. Expedia loyalty program

expedia-loyalty-program

Learn more: Expedia+ Rewards

16. Graeters loyalty program

graeters-loyalty-program

Learn more: Graeter’s Sweet Rewards Program

17. Hotels.com loyalty program

hotels-com-loyalty-program

Learn more: Hotels.com loyalty program

18. IHG loyalty program

ihg-loyalty-program

Learn more: IHG’s loyalty program

19. Lancome loyalty program

lancome-loyalty-program

Learn more: Lancome’s loyalty program

20. Marvel loyalty program

marvel-loyalty-program

Learn more: Marvel Insider

21. National’s loyalty program

national-emerald-loyalty-program

Learn more: National’s loyalty program

22. Nestlé loyalty program

nestle-loyalty-program

Learn more: Nestlé’s loyalty program

23. Nordstrom loyalty program

nordstrom-loyalty-prorgam

Learn: Nordstrom’s loyalty program

24. Old Navy loyalty program

old-navy-loyalty-program

Learn more: Old Navy’s loyalty program

25. Patagonia loyalty program

patagonia-loyalty-program

Learn more: Patagonia’s loyalty program

26. Subway loyalty program

subway-loyalty-program

Learn more: Subway’s loyalty program

27. Ulta loyalty program

ulta-loyalty-program

Learn more: Ulta’s loyalty program

28. Virgin America loyalty program

virgin-america-loyalty-program

Virgin America’s loyalty program is called Elevate.

29. Virgin Atlantic loyalty program

virgin-atlantic-loyalty-program

Virgin Atlantic’s loyalty program is called the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

30. Yuenglings loyalty program

yuenglings-loyalty-program

Yuengling’s loyalty program gives subscribers access to coupons, discounts, contests, a free pint of ice cream and more.

31. Zappos loyalty program

zappos-loyalty-program

zappos-loyalty-program-2

Zappos’s loyalty program has 4 tiers – Sliver, Gold, Platinum and Elite – and the last is invite-only.

Interested in setting up a loyalty program of your own?

Check out Candybar.co! You can have it completely set up in under an hour, and it’s incredibly easy for your customers to use.

New Feature: Customer Feedback

Boy do we have a new year goody for you!

Providing a great customer experience is the key to a successful business. Now you can find out what customers think about their experience at your store even when you’re not there to ask them.

With our new feedback feature, customers get prompted to give feedback every time they get a stamp on their card.

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When they submit feedback, you’ll get an email telling you about it. Use the feedback you get to make your in-store experience even better!

New Feature: Easy Stamp Approval

We’re excited to introduce a new feature which we think cashiers will love! With our new Easy Stamp Approval feature, it takes just one click for cashiers to grant a stamp:

easy_stamp

Cashiers can always grant more stamps or reject the request with the “More Stamps” button.