Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc.

The Advantages of Social Media for Small Business

Since the early days of the 21st century, the use of social media for business has grown exceedingly, becoming an integral aspect of an overall marketing strategy. This is due to a growing awareness that cultivating relationships with potential customers is key to growth in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Using methods of social media marketing helps form relationships with potential consumers in ways previously unavailable to the business community.

Social Media Inclusion in Marketing Plans

Research confirms the necessity of incorporating social media into comprehensive marketing strategies. According to Jacques Bughlin’s July 2015 article, Getting a sharper picture of social media’s influence, “Consumers who use search engines to gain some initial knowledge of a product are also more likely to tune in to social media before a purchase.” * Although research shows that businesses that invest in SEO (search engine optimization) can increase conversions by incorporating social media in their marketing plans, this approach can be maximized further by also including email marketing, SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and Reputation Management into their marketing plan. Why? Because each of these channels cross-connect.

Social Media Activities that Influence Digital Shopping Behavior

As we have seen, consumers make connections with companies to obtain or deepen their knowledge of products prior to making a purchase. But, how are potential customers using social media to reach their decisions to buy or not? A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey conducted in September 2015** revealed the social media activities that influence digital shopping behavior. The report, based on a worldwide sampling of 22,618 digital buyers aged eighteen and above, shows that: 45% – Read reviews, comments and feedback 44% – Receiving promotional offerings 30% – View Ads 25% – Stay on top of current fashion and product trends 22% – Write reviews, comments and feedback 20% – Associate with particular brands or retailers 16% – Purchase products directly through a social media channel Businesses that understand and master the digital domain can use each type of contact in their social media marketing to guide consumers along the way, whether they arrive to the business’s website from an ad, a blog post, a review, a tweet, an image, etc. Each marketing channel can be an extension of the business through which the consumer gains knowledge, forms opinions, and develops impressions that will lead to making decisions.

Reputation Management through Social Engagement

An advantage of using social media is the ability to better track and respond to the information that is circulated on the internet. When a customer feels strong enough to leave a review or comment regarding a business, they will most likely go to that business’s website. Businesses who do not utilize social media in their marketing plan may not know the feedback they receive. However, customers pay close attention to such information and will use it to determine future actions. For small businesses, the opportunity for interaction and for conversions is great due to their ability to develop closer, more intimate relationships with their customers than larger businesses. Customers who frequent smaller, local businesses tend to spread the word online to friends, co-workers, and within community groups. Small businesses can use social media to: • Quickly release information about a service or a product going on sale • Post and discuss pictures of their products • Respond to customer service inquiries • Build e-mail lists for the purpose of alerting customers of specials, ads, community events or causes, contests or even personal announcements, such as births or weddings When a small business uses social media to interact with their customers, they make deep inroads into the community in which they serve. They get a better understanding of their customers’ wants, needs, and future desires which, when acted upon, may lead to greater success in the marketplace. Thinking of incorporating social media into your marketing strategy? Cascade e-Commerce Solutions supports small business with their SEO, SEM, Social Media, and Reputation Management needs. Contact us today at 206-244-9092 or [email protected] ________________________________________ * http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/getting-a-sharper-picture-of-social-medias-influence ** (February 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, “They Say They Want a Revolution: Total Retail 2016.

Hotel Restaurants | The Hidden Gems of the SeaTac Area

If you’re a foodie like me, you’re probably on the lookout constantly for new restaurants to try. In my searching and consistent interest in restaurants and food, I’ve discovered something fascinating. Because this Seattle Southside area has a substantial airport smack dab in the middle of everything, there are lots of hotels. Hotels have restaurants. Often times these hotel restaurants are fairly unique to the hotel and the area. They range in style and cost. They are often of great quality and they are close by. Here’s the problem: no one knows they exist. (Ok, well maybe some people, but not many.) These hotel restaurants can be hard to find even online. Even when they are found, there is yet another issue; many people don’t know that these restaurants are open to the public outside of hotel. In other words, you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to go there. Some of you may have already known this, but this was exciting news for me. There’s so many great places to try. But wait, what about parking? Don’t most hotels charge for parking? Yes they do, but the restaurants typically validate parking for those who dine with them! This has opened up a whole new world. I’ve looked into a few places to try: Basil’s Kitchen at Embassy Suites in Tukwila. I had lunch there recently. I had a burger with grilled onions and balsamic vinegar. They had great service and I didn’t get to try them but they have zucchini fries! Overall, they were unique and had great food. NW Landing at the Double Tree Hotel in Southcenter. I have not eaten there personally, but the owner of CeSI has been there a few times before. She adores their brunch, and if a restaurant has great brunch, I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re just great. I have been to a few weddings at that hotel previously, so I can say that it’s a nice location and definitely worth checking out. The Bistro at the Courtyard Marriott. I have not been here myself. The hotel is nice and I have taken a look at the menu and while they a nice variety of choices, overall I’d say there menu is light and fresh. If you try it out you’ll have to let me know! Copperleaf Restaurant & Bar at the Cedarbrook Lodge. This is one place I’m really looking forward to trying. The resort itself is fairly tucked away. I’ve lived in this area my entire life and up until a few years ago I had no idea there was a high end lodge a few blocks from my house. I’d say that’s pretty fancy. From everyone I know who’s been there I’ve heard only good things and between that and looking at their website I would describe them as elegant. Seaports Restaurant & Lounge at the Double Tree Hotel in SeaTac. I’ve lived right around the corner from this hotel for the majority of my life and have never been here. But it looks very nice. This is another one I’d like to try. They serve lunch and dinner daily. Their menu definitely looks really good. Gregory’s Lounge at the Red Lion Hotel in SeaTac. I want to go here, because it seems casual and inviting. Often when I drive by I think they must have god food, I see people there frequently. They are almost directly across from the airport which is nice too if you’re to or from Seattle. Spencer’s for Steaks & Chops at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in SeaTac. Spencer’s is a high end restaurant, they have steak and seafood options. I have not been here yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Their menu looks great! These are just a few examples of hotel restaurants in the area. If you can think of any others or if you have anything more to add about the restaurants above let us know! Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! P.S. Writing about all this made me hungry.

Is My Business Healthy? | What We Learned from Peter Busacca of Washington BBI

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Chesire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This quote may seem random or odd when discussing the health of a business, but it couldn’t be more fitting. Many businesses are struggling or even dying because they have no vision, no plan…no idea where they want to go. These same businesses wonder why they’re not meeting their full potential. They may ask what they should do, where they should go or what road they should take, but the truth is none of that matters when you don’t know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.

Planning can be stressful and difficult for all of us, but it must be done and it’s easier than most of us think. Following through is the hard part. A new friend of ours is incredibly helpful in this process though. We met Peter through the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce. He owns Washington BBI which is a business brokerage firm serving business owners in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. They are business brokers with an end-to-end solution.

One of the best things we have learned from Peter is the important role that a work-life balance plays in a healthy business and therefore an important factor in making your business appealing to potential buyers. When you plan better and execute more effectively, YOU SLEEP BETTER AT NIGHT. I’m sure we can all agree that this is extremely important. If you’re someone who thinks that working hard all of the time and never sleeping is the best way to run a successful business, I get the logic, but hear me out. While working insanely hard may produce amazing results for a short while, can you sustain that level of energy and effort for 6 months? 1 year? 3 years?? It simply can’t be sustained for an extended period of time while producing the same results. Your business is better off if you delegate tasks to capable staff or teams. Your life is better off if you keep things more balanced. YOU are better off if you rest, maybe take a vacation once in a while. It may sound impossible, but with a good plan and the right team you can have a healthy business while also having a healthy life.

Along with this work-life balance is the balance between qualitative and quantitative factors that help determine the health of your business. You may think the health of your business is solely based on your financial growth or that is all about the values of your business. It is not one or the other. A truly healthy business has a good balance of both. You should run your business with values always in mind while still keeping the bottom line in the picture. A high quality business can only help the community if it keeps its doors open.

The great thing about a business like Washington BBI is that whether you’re just about ready to sell or you have no idea where to start, they either have ways to help or ideas to get you going in the right direction. Regardless of whether you decide to work with this business or another, the goal is that you’ll find what ways your business could be healthier, set attainable goals to get there and work hard with a dedicated team to achieve those goals. A healthy business is a growing business.

Business Success on the Web

Business owners often ask me, “How can my business be successful on the web?” My response is, “Your business will be successful on the web when:
  1. People can find your business’ website easily,
  2. The text on the website is persuasive and easily understood,
  3. The design of the website is attractive and professional looking,
  4. The website loads quickly and is easy to get around and easy to use on a handheld as well as on a PC,
  5. The intent of the website is clear,
  6. The website offers something that the visitor wants or needs and
  7. The action you are seeking from the visitor is clear and easy to take.
The next question invariably is, “How do you make a website do all those things?” I tell them: research and proper coding. It is necessary to understand what the business wants the website to accomplish whether that be get more customers, sell more products, educate existing customers, and/or support customers. Understanding what the business makes or does and how these products or services differ from those of competitors is also an important element. Keyword research is the next step in making a website successful. The actual words and phrases that people enter into the search engines when they are searching for the products or services offered by the company must be found. It’s best to identify two sets of phrases (those used by the business and those used by prospective customers) and then test these phrases to identify the text that will best represent the business on the web. Studying the competition – what are they selling and how are they marketing their products and services – to see how a client can best represent themselves on the web is a necessary step as well. Visiting competing websites shows how they are doing their marketing. It’s important to report findings to the business owner/executive. I like to include good news, opportunities to improve, statistics regarding keyword phrases and a web plan that details the names of the web pages I would build and the metatags and text content for each page. Based on a discussion with the owner or executive about what is learned through research, it is then possible to proceed with drafting the website design, securing approval of the draft design and building the site to incorporate all of the above. This process is known as web development and search engine optimization. The job doesn’t stop there. It’s necessary to set up traffic tracking for the site. Monthly reports of search engine rankings and traffic to the site show where updates need to be made and points to possible recommendations for further improvements to the website. Sometimes I am asked “Once the website does all these things will my staff be able to update and maintain the website in-house?” “Absolutely,” I respond, “at any point in the process, I can and will train internal staff to make, maintain and improve the website. My philosophy is that the website is a dynamic tool that belongs to the business. As a teacher-type personality I take as much enjoyment out of training in-house staff to successfully maintain and improve a website as I do in doing this work myself.” Helping businesses find success on the web is a passion for me. It is work. There is no magic involved, but when all goes as hoped the happy result feels like magic.