Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to use competition to build better business: Scout your competition

Months or days before a gruesome season, the Florida State Seminole football team studies tapes and videos of the biggest competition known to college sports. The team comes together to strategize in a modest, open room that is packed with dreams and a projector. <#NAME> is planning the perfect defense against Clemson, <#NAME> wants to know which play will outsmart the swamp. The excitement of future victory fills the air.

We can think of marketing your small business by studying your competition in the same way that your favorite football team prepares for the biggest game of the season. Meticulous marketing and smart strategies will set you apart from the competition in no time.

Together, a plan takes your business from a budding dream to fully-realized reality. One of the best ways to build better, stronger, faster business is by analyzing habits that work in your category. You can learn a lot about yourself by studying the similar history of your competition.

First, we must learn about the competition. Like the ACC and SEC divides teams by location, we will break apart similar businesses by city or state. We need to go to regionals before we can go to nationals.

  1. Do a quick Google search for your own relevant key terms. This search will take less than five minutes and teach you a ton about the competition. Try searching for someone in your business category or sub-category. Staying with Seminole’s football, general category would be “college sports” and the sub-category would be “football.” Generally speaking, the category is a broad collection while the sub-category is more targeted and specific.

  2. Through an online search, choose three to five similar businesses whom you can go head-to-head against on a friendly level. These businesses will be similar to you. If you want to reach for the stars, model yourself after someone you aspire to be like with your future goals.

  3. Now, find parts of their practices that you especially like. LinkedIn Influencers are a good source of business role-models. I like how Mark Cuban makes links between sports and business, don’t you? Once you have identified the competition, find ways in which your product or service offerings are similar.
  4. Do you want to be alike, or different? Let’s start with the similarities you could share with your top competition. Look and see which colors they use in their brand identity. For instance, fast food companies Burger King, McDonalds, Red Robbin, Jack in the Box, Whataburger and Hardee’s all use red and yellow in their marketing materials or logo. Judging by this trend, it might be a good time to follow the crowd and join in to the color scheme.
  5. However, Taco Bell sets itself apart by using the color purple. Since no other fast food chain lives as “boldly”, when you see purple you know you are getting something different. This color-choice complements their overall message: taco bell breaks the chain or normalcy with a different combination of tacos from the predictable burger.
  6. This about this for a moment. Ask yourself: Is your business fundamentally different from your competition, like Taco Bell, or are you more of a blending Burger King? Here is one instance where scoping out the competition helps you with your own identity.
Finding the similarities between you and your competition is one way to become better in your own business habits. Studying the competition is like having a free trial campaign without risk. The work has been put out there, and you are ready to look at how it acts in real-time. Better business habits, like the strong muscles of a winning athlete, get refined over time and competition.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Smart Marketing: How to Identify Seasonal Trends in Your Industry

Ascendants Targeted Digital Marketing Tis the Season Smart Marketing tree graphic imageWhat is your favorite season? Do you like the sunny beaches of summertime, or do you prefer to cozily sit by a fire in the winter? Perhaps spring is your favorite thing. Or even autumn’s changing leaves make you the happiest.

Everyone has a favorite season. You might be surprised that businesses behave the same way.

Consumer behavior is driven by need—and want!

Well, our needs and wants are influenced by the season.

For example, we are more likely to purchase ice cream in the summer than we are to purchase it in the winter! Cranberry sauce sales spike in November, and apple pie is everywhere for the 4th of July. 

Food is not the only industry to reflect seasonal needs. Fashion and sports are among the other season-influenced industries. For the fashion industry, the trends
vary by season. Consumers need swim suits in the summer, and coats in the winter.
This bit of knowledge drives organization and markets every year.

Many activities are seasonal. Can you think of a few?

Here are some we came up with:

·        Tennis season in Spring shows an increase in tennis racket sales
·        iPhone releases new models in and March and September
·        Victoria’s Secret holds its semi-annual sales in January and July

Aside from product and service, seasons differ greatly based on location. Seasons change based on where you are in the world. Did you know that August is a cold month in Australia? This is because locations south of the hemisphere have opposite seasons than we do in the United States. Keep in mind global trends when marketing for international business. For practical purposes, we are basing this article from the perspective of an American small business. This practice makes for happy business owners and happy customers!

Happy customers are attracted every season to certain items. This key marketing point can help you predict and prepare for demand of certain products or services.

It is vital to know if your business has any seasonal trends. Once you know more about these trends, you can adjust your advertising campaigns to serve your needs.

You can find out if you have defining seasonal trends in your small business by
keeping a business log of records. This will help focus your plan and strengthen your
web presence to convert visitors to your website. 

1.     Note your start date and write down weekly numbers in a log—or log program like Microsoft Excel--to compare the changes over time. When you have a period of six months or more, various trends emerge. For advanced planners, compare your business sales to what they were one year ago or more.

2.     Next, compare your numbers between days to see the flow of business on a small scale. It will help to know if people want your business more on certain days of the week. Popular hair salons stay open late on Sundays, while this schedule might not make as much sense for a tutoring zone.

Seasons impact everything from food to fashion because our wants change to reflect our needs. We need different things in different seasons. Specifically, we need to stay warm in the winter. Therefore, the sales of winter coats reflect this trend. Looking at your sales will help you identify various trends in your business through comparison between time periods. ‘Tis the season for smart marketing!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Does Your Web Presence Confuse or Convert Followers? 2 Ways to Find Out

The internet brings together millions of facts, points, and people together in less time than it takes to click your mouse! 

With all of the information available between customers and clients while marketing your small business, sometimes it can seem like you are stuck out in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight.

How do you know when your web presence is working?

You might wonder to yourself if your web presence is doing all it can for your business. In fact, your web presence might either be confusing or converting your followers. 

Converting a customer means having them fulfill your desired Call to Action. For example, this could mean that they subscribe to your newsletter or even purchase that car you're selling. 

Rest assured—help is on the way! There are a few ways we can help you measure your web presence. We can do this by setting a few small, defined goals and creating an understanding of your small business’s trends.

When something is measurable, it is instantly more controllable. Enter: Analytics.

We know Analytics. At Ascendants, we are Certified Analytics Experts – and we want to help you with an in-depth understanding of business growth opportunities.

Here are a few fundamental tips to get you started!

Google Analytics is an amazing tool to measure successful practices in real-time. However, the different terms and categories can be confusing.

There are 2 specific terms we pay attention to when focusing on conversions:

1.      Bounce Rate

The bounce rate in Google Analytics, in a nutshell, refers to the rate at which visitors leave your page. It should be that visitors only need one page of information to get what they need from your site and follow through the Call to Action, also known as the persuaded decision (if you have one). That's what you'll get with Ascendants TrueMatchTM.

In other cases, the time before purchase is extended. More time and more research is common in large investments and big purchases such as real estate, automotive, or wedding venue. If this is your specialty, it is good to capture and hold the attention of your website viewer.

When the bounce rate is low for a large-investment product or service, this can be a sign that your web presence is working for you!

2.      Behavior

The Analytics Behavior tab is a direct measure of an action on your website.

Knowing Behavior trends can give your web presence a high Google "Quality Score". A high Quality Score gets preferred placement on the Google Network! 

Thus, look for different trends that show what people actively like on your website. When visitors have positive behaviors--like purchasing your product--your web presence is focused and it is clear what your objective as a small business is. 

However, if you notice some Behavior scores that range below a 3, it is likely that your visitors are confused by your web presence. A confused visitor will not follow-through on calls to action, and will not convert to a happy customer.           

It's important to note if you are seeing an observable change in your business numbers. For example, if your phone is ringing more than it was last month, or your eCommerce site has greater sales volume than it did last year, these are things we want to know.

Ascendants always recommends looking at campaign traffic to measure success. Comparing sales statistics of the present to the past allows you to make preparations and goals for the future.  

With defined goals and an understanding of your small business’s trends, your web presence will help bring followers from confused to converted!

For more tips on web conversions, like our Facebook page or subscribe to our newsletter at For any questions or awesome birthday invitations you have, email me at   

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Monday, July 25, 2016

You don't know what you're missing: Try this 1 surefire way to get Customer Feedback

Did you know that the best marketing begins with research?

Everyone’s favorite frozen find, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, has a team of food scientists who research the current trends, buzz, and tastes you love. Research helps suit-up your taste buds with a delicious pint-size treat in the comfort of your own home!

Ascendants Targeted Marketing azure team man in black suit white shirt graphic

Whether you’re interested in ice cream or some other entrepreneurial streak, you can build your very own dream team to aid in market research with a fast and easy questionnaire.

One simple questionnaire can provide valuable feedback that makes the difference you’re looking for. Let’s find out how to create a questionnaire below.

First, we need to find out two things:
1.      What to ask
2.      Who answers your questions

Find three friends whom you trust. These people could be mentors you admire, family members with free time, or the neighbor who lent you some sugar last week. They can be any level of expert, as long as they are willing to help provide feedback. A team of three people is small enough to be manageable yet large enough to be diverse. Different dream team members might be a:

·         Teacher

·         Parent

·         Friend

·         Spouse

·         Online Acquaintance

Asking for honest feedback will cover first-impressions and responses. Your 3-member team will prepare you for the equally-honest feedback of people you have not yet met.

Once you have identified your team, you are ready to ask them for their input.

You might be surprised by how many people are willing to help you. Help them help you by streamlining your questionnaire. A good goal is keeping this activity within 5-questions and 5-minutes. Wouldn’t you be happy to help someone in the same amount of time as it takes to watch a funny Facebook video?

Now, create a 5-minute, 5-point questionnaire to help identify your strengths and weaknesses. Tailor your questions to fit your experiment. If you are developing a website, use questions to find out about the impressions of your website. If you are launching a campaign, you can use questions to ask about preferred brands. Possible questions include:

·         “What are your overall impressions of this website?”

·         “How likely are you to share this product with a friend?”

·         “What would make this better?”

* Substitute your area for the italicized word, or try some new questions!

Five questions are plenty for this initial research questionnaire. This will help us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. When we know what we need to improve, we can develop a plan to get to our goals!

Ensure your team knows that you are looking to identify your strongest and weakest points of your online presence. To do this, let some of the questions be free-response. Free-response questions leave room for new perspectives. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know!

Finally, let your team know that leaving all positive feedback will not help you improve. It is important to be constructive and honest in this questionnaire. This is the perfect opportunity to listen.

Constructive criticism through a 5-item, 5-minute questionnaire is one step you can make toward achieving your goals, today!