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How to Create a Marketing Plan and Determine a Budget


Tax day is a good opportunity to step back and take a look at your business’ finances. Part of it is looking at your marketing plan and budget. If you don’t have one, you should start creating one as soon as possible because it’ll help you keep an overview, stay on track with your campaigns and measure the success of your marketing efforts.

Here’s an outline of what your marketing plan should look like and some key questions to ask yourself:

1. Lay out a vision/goal for your marketing. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to reach? What are the messages that you want to send to your existing and potential customers?


2. Analyze the status quo. It’s important to know where you stand before moving forward to avoid spending money in the wrong places. What are you already doing? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy? Where can you improve? What are your competitors doing?


3. Define your target market / segmentation. Who wants your products and services? Not everything is for everyone and by marketing to the wrong people you could waste a lot of money. Think about your typical and ideal customers. What are some common features they share? Are they in a certain age group, do they share an interest, do they live in the same neighborhood? Segment your target group and try different marketing strategies. (For example, NearWoo lets you target not only specific neighborhoods, but also specific demographics and certain behaviors) Try to think outside of the box: Are there any other groups you haven’t targeted so far? What do those groups expect/need/want?


4. Define your strategy. Taking your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and target market into account, come up with a strategy: Which channels will you be using for whom? What is your niche? What kinds of advertisement do you want to use? What type of language and design – young and hip or more formal?


5. Decide on a budget. Having a marketing budget is crucial for the success of your business. If nobody knows that you exist, nobody will buy your products and services. It can be difficult to figure out how big the budget should be. Experts say to start with 10% of your revenues. See how far you get with that and adjust later. Divide the year up into fiscal quarters and determine the cost for each item (fliers, press release distribution, email marketing, mobile advertising…) per quarter. There might be quarters that need a bigger budget than others: If you own a flower shop, you’ll need a bigger budget for Valentine’s Day. Distinguish between marketing for brand development and marketing for promoting your business. Leave room for changes and unexpected events and campaigns because sometimes life happens.


6. Have a timeline. Make a rough plan for the whole year, a more detailed plan for the quarter and a specific plan for the next month to know exactly when you have to do what. The less organized you are, the more details your plan should have. Put reminders into your calendar to give yourself enough time to prepare campaigns.


7. Measure the success of your marketing efforts and adjust your plan. Read our recent blog post on measuring the success of your marketing. Make changes as needed and spend your marketing budget wisely.



How to Use Your Storefront to Attract Local Customers


With more and more chains popping up everywhere, it is more important than ever for local businesses to have an attractive storefront. Big businesses have it easy – people already know their brands, recognize the logo and know what to expect walking into the store. Local businesses don’t have the luxury and it is business owner’s job to make people want to come in. Your window display is your stores’ brand, the first thing potential customers see, one of the most important factor when it comes to their decision – walk in or walk by. Here are some tips for you to make your storefront more attractive and get more walk-in customers:


1) Be visible. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses almost disappear between flashy displays, bright colors, and the great abundance of stores. Make sure your storefront is an eye-catcher: use appropriate colors, big letters, signs sticking out making your store visible from all directions.


2) Have themes. Redecorate your window often enough for people to notice you again even after walking by a hundred times. Go with the seasons and add little eye-catchers and show people that you are up to date. Take the seasonal decorations down as soon as the holiday is over!


3) Be original. Every store around you will get out the Easter bunnies this week. While everybody loves bunnies, try to distinguish yourself from the competition. Incorporate your brand, your identity, your logo into the theme and make it unique. If you’re running out of ideas, check the internet, or look at other businesses for inspiration.


4) Be obvious. Don’t make your customers work to find out what you’re doing. You’re a restaurant? Great, put up your menu prominently. A nail shop? Awesome, put up some sample designs and arts.


5) Light and movement. Make sure your storefront is well illuminated so that people can see you even at night or on grey winter days. Have something that moves – it will catch people’s attention and make them curious.


6) Test and rethink. Watch people walk by after you changed your storefront to see if the new concept is working. Are people stopping, turning their heads? For how long? How many people actually walk in after looking at your storefront? If it doesn’t work, change it up!

Make your storefront tell a story, let people see what you’re doing, and don’t blend in amongst window displays around you! If people like what they see outside, it’ll be much harder for them to just walk by!


Here are some examples and inspiration:













(see more inspiration from the Creative Inspirations Pinterest board)

creative photography

Marketing Ideas for National Siblings Day


April 10 is National Siblings Day–little odd to call it a “holiday” but it becomes a popular topic on social media. It’s another great opportunity for local businesses to offer some promotions and specials to bring-in customers (with or without siblings). Here are some ideas and inspiration:


Spa / Beauty / Nail: Come in with your sister to get xx% off your haircut, mani/pedi, massage, facial.
Retail: Buy two or more of the item to get xx% off your purchase.
Restaurant: Eat lunch/dinner with your siblings and receive a free appetizer/dessert to share.
Tattoo: Get matching tattoos on Siblings Day and get xx% off!
Auto Services: If you and your friend bring in “car-siblings” (same model, same color, ..), get xx% off your car wash/oil change /…
Pet care: Bring in your pet-siblings to get xx% off grooming/cleaning /….
Photography: Get your pictures taken with your sibling(s) and receive xx% off the shooting/prints.
Entertainment: Buy tickets on Siblings Day and get one for your sibling for free.


Specials on these days make people come in TODAY instead of “maybe tomorrow.” You can also decorate your store and distinguish yourself from businesses that only do specials on well-known holidays. Don’t forget to announce specials and promotions on your storefront and online!



Picture by Jason Lee Photography


Measuring Success of Marketing Campaigns


Business owners like you spend hundreds of dollars on marketing and advertising their businesses; on radio, newspaper, billboards, Facebook, Yelp, Groupon, Living Social, and more. But do you know exactly what you are getting in return for your marketing spend? Here are 3 key steps you need to know and understand to measure ROI (return on investment) and run cost effective marketing campaigns:


1. KPI: Determine what your key performance indicators are. What’s your goal with this marketing campaign? Some of the goals should watch are:

Impression - Number of people who see your marketing campaign

Engagement - Number of people who take some sort of action after seeing your marketing campaign (likes, comments, emails, shares, calls, and clicks)

Conversion - Number of people who sign up or become a customer


2. Calculate cost per KPIs How many likes, signups, calls, emails, or customers did you get per dollar spent? Figure out your cost per click (dollar spent/number of clicks), cost per acquisition, cost per like and engagement.


3. Compare KPIs between different marketing channels. This will help you decide which marketing channels work the best for you. In addition, you can also compare with industry averages to see if you have to improve a particular campaign.


It’s important to pick the ones that are effective when choosing from different marketing and advertising channels for your business. It is in your best interest to run marketing campaigns that are measurable so you can optimize and get the best bang for the buck. Watch open and click rates for emails, reach and engagement on Facebook Insights, and impressions and click-through rates on advertising platforms.

Your job as a marketer is not over when your campaign goes live: successful marketing and advertising starts when you start measuring and optimizing!


Is Yelp Hurting or Helping Your Local Business?


More and more people are relying on online information before visiting a local business and Yelp has grown to be one of the most powerful influencers. But is it helping or hurting your local business? Wouldn’t it be great if your business page had 500+ positive reviews with a 5 star rating? But the truth is, you will never be able to have the perfect business page on Yelp. Here are two main problems business owners experience with Yelp:

 1. It’s controlled by subjective reviews and Yelp’s filtering algorithm. People are subjective, opinionated, and sometimes pretty spiteful. A positive reviews are sometimes accompanied with 3 stars, dragging down the average ratings. Not only that, number of business owners have testified that a lot of their positive reviews are filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm to remove “fake” reviews.

2. Yelp requires owners to pay to permit more prominent placement of your business in searches, and shuffle bad reviews further to the back of the business page. This makes reviews and ratings to be an inaccurate representation of the business.


So, what’s the bottom line of this? What can a local business owner actually do?

Take control of the business’s online presence.


1. Have a complete profile giving customers all the info they need. Post pictures and provide links to the website and social pages.

2. Take time to manage the Yelp page and contribute. Send a private reply or add a public comment to both positive and negative reviews. Great way to show engagement and let customers know that issues in negative reviews are and will be addressed.

3. Don’t rely solely on yelp reviews. Develop marketing contents on Facebook and Twitter because lots of Yelp users will click to go to the website to see the complete menu, specials, etc. Keep in mind that not all customers come from Yelp; use additional marketing channels to build the brand and online presence.


Don’t let Yelp hurt your online presence and business. Take actions now!


8 Creative April Fools Pranks


April Fools is not just a day of mockery and hoax! Some brands have managed to be funny–while not ruining the brand–to support their marketing campaigns. Pranks can also be an opportunity to study consumers’ interest in not-so-sure products and services (Ex. Do you want to buy Play-Doh 3D printer? April Fools! but we are considering the development of the product based on demand).

Here are some clever and fun April Fools pranks and marketing promotions:


Glass-bottom Airplanes from Virgin America



Bacon Flavored Scope Everyone loves bacon. but bacon flavored mouthwash?



Play-Doh 3D Printer



Headphones for Cats



Pet Eyewear: by Warby Parker

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 5.05.14 PM


Left Handed Burger: Burger King advertised that the burger’s ingredients were rotated 180 degrees, thus placed conveniently for a left-handed person to eat.



Undie Iron



“April’s No Fool” Promotion: This one was not a prank. Airline actually offered to refund the entire fare (as a JetBlue credit) of anyone named April who happened to fly JetBlue on April 1.



Try your own and make it part of your marketing campaign. Be funny and creative to grab customer’s attention, but remember to know when to stop in order to not damage your brand! 


5 Solutions to Instantly Improve your Marketing Campaign


Finding out the right way to write for your marketing campaigns is truly a science. But in looking at effective social posts and ads, they all have similarities in their style. If you hit a writing or creative block, keep these in mind and you might just get over that hump!


1) Call to Action

Seems pretty simple right? It has actually been proven that within advertisements, those who ask, tend to receive. Don’t be afraid to incorporate a form of engagement, whether it is asking for individuals to share or to give, telling/asking for a specific action gives consumers a roadmap of what to do and how to do it.


2) Use Negativity

Before you judge the title, let us explain exactly what this means. Using negativity is creating the idea of ‘Fear of Missing Out.’ Surprisingly, people are more inclined to do something when they feel that if they don’t participate they could be potentially missing out on something big. Using keywords like ‘don’t’ or ‘stop’ catches individual’s eyes and minds compared to keywords like ‘do’ or ‘go.’


3) Scarcity

Scarcity gives people incentive to act faster. Try including limited quantities and time limits. Future customers are more likely to act towards these as it gives sense of urgency because they can only get what you offer if they act now.


4) Curiosity

Give just the right amount of information. The power of your marketing campaign being looked at relies on how people are drawn to what you are saying. By introducing phrases as, ‘you won’t believe,’ brings a sort of mysteriousness to your promotion that entices and encourages click-throughs.


5) Verbs over Adjectives

Not necessarily saying for you to use only verbs, but more-so the fact that verbs tend to bring strength that adjectives simply cannot. Describing your product or service compared to what it can do for them is very different.

“Our dry cleaning service is fast, effective and affordable” vs. “Our dry cleaning service will make any stain go away within a couple hours”

When you read these two aloud, which one of them seems stronger?


These simple fixes to your marketing campaign can mean a world of change towards your conversions. Use one, a combination, or all if you would like; utilize these tips to find the best ways to advertise to your customer base.


Marketing Your Business for Spring


It’s the first day of spring! Make your customers feel like spring has sprung with different types of promotions and events. People freshen up, get organized, revisit resolutions, feel sentimental, and engage in more outdoor activities. What does this mean for your business? Here are 5 different marketing strategies for spring season:


1) Products and services for spring cleaning

Customers need new home goods, cleaning and storage services, food and drinks to fuel them through the cleaning, pampering, and all sorts of products and services. You can also tell customers about your spring cleaning and run a spring sale event.

2) Keep the positive vibe from spring fever

Help your customers make life seem a little brighter and feel great every morning!

3) Summer preparation 

Spring spurs another round of health kick in preparation for summer. People want to start working out again, eat healthy, and look fit. Come up with marketing copies and promotions to appeal to these people.

4) Create visual contents

Decorate your store, emails, and social media posts. Images and decorations are great ways to grab customers’ attention and spring is the perfect time to use eye-catching colors and images.

5) Highlight the weather

Weather will definitely get people out of their homes and bring more people to your store. You can even have a fun promotion related to the temperature: “Get a percentage off for every degree above 60 degrees. Take 5% off when it’s 65 degree outside and 10% when it’s 70 degrees.”

Make your spring count with seasonal marketing campaigns!


Small Business connections at SXSW

With over a thousand events, panels and parties to attend at SXSW, attendances to any of them were not only memorable but also, inspiring. Having the opportunity to start my SXSW experience with Amtrak, I started my journey in Los Angeles with an enlightening group of social media stars. As we embarked on a journey together to Austin, we shared insight, new ideas and past accomplishments.

IMG_0945To name a few, Anna  Curran founder of  CookBook Create, pitched to SXSW to put  together a collection of recipes. The Official  SXSW 2014 Interactive Cookbook features a  diverse mix of recipes from popular tech leaders  like 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, Foursquare  founder Dennis Crowley, and Zappos CEO Tony  Hsieh. Another amazing woman I was able to  meet was Rachel Hofstetter, besides being an  author to Cooking Up a Business she is a co-  founder to a lovely company called Guesterly. A great idea with one goal in mind, to celebrate and connects friends and family at your wedding. After 33 hours, the AmtrakLIVE crew finally arrived to Austin.


Rachel with examples of Guesterly books


Anna’s SXSW interactive Cookbook


The first party I attended was the Yahoo House Party. As we walked towards the venue, the purple lights assisted us through front and continued throughout the entire room. Indulging myself with the great Mexican food, I was surrounded by big screens with sports entertainment. As well as large photo display of “Humans of SXSW.” With separate rooms with co-working space, and access to the rooftop, the Yahoo House Party was only the start to my first experience at SXSW.

Brandon Werber, President of Lootsie & Melissa Cheng, CEO of Pop17

Brandon Werber, President of Lootsie & Melissa Cheng, CEO of Pop17

Along for the ride, the guys who joined me was Brandon Werber President of Lootsie and his colleague Benjamin Figueroa. Lootsie is a loyalty and rewards platform that can layer into any app that will give that app the ability to dish out points for various achievements throughout the app. Those points can be converted into awesome rewards from top brands; Shoedazzle, ALDO, 1-800 Flowers, FatBurger, GlossyBox, Fiji Water, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Uber, Jackthreads, Lyft and L’Oreal.  It’s like credit card rewards, but for mobile!

Had a chance to attend the third annual LATECH Connect Party. With thanks to Cornerstone on Demand for compliments of the 10 minute massages. What a great way to start a party with some relieved tension from the past days at SXSW. Felt energized to mingle with several guests and anxious to explore the numerous startup companies that attended. Pelons Tex Mex was a beautiful venue, with an open patio and chandeliers in the trees. Hats off to LATech Connect for putting on a great party, excited for next years event!

Zachary Dodge, Melissa Cheng & Ben Figueroa

Zachary Dodge, Melissa Cheng & Ben Figueroa

Wasn’t able to catch a ride on the HootBus, but was glad I was able snap a few photos of those big owl eyes. Even though the first couple days were wet and cloudy, I was still able to enjoy some “Damn good food” on 6th street,  at a great place called Jackolope. Many music and tech groups indulged in some Austin Brews and a great selection of burgers. 

Here at NearWoo we ran mobile ads around the 4th street blocks to ensure that any time someone went to play angry birds or browsed safari on their iPhone they would see ads promoting NearWoo as a small business. We decided to innovate a campaign about our own company because SXSW interactive is the go to destination for startups looking to get noticed.

Once the sun went down, and the street lights came on. The rain seemed to make everything around Austin glisten, which was a beautiful sight to see. As a newcomer to not only Austin, but also a first timer to SXSW having this experience was definitely once in a lifetime. Although this year went through some heartbreaking mishaps, the connections and knowledge learned from SXSW are worthy of always of returning. Until next time, thanks SXSW!