November 30, 2015 by
- Over 50% of the working population works in a small business
- 52% of small businesses are home-based
- Small businesses have generated 65% of net new jobs since 1995 (source: Forbes)
Starting a business is a challenging endeavor and achieving entrepreneurial success a great accomplishment.
Success for a startup usually occurs because the business fills an unmet need or creates an innovation in an industry that is under served.
But in all cases, there are significant obstacles, big sacrifices and nothing occurs without the individuals who have the ideas and perseverance to make them happen.
To celebrate the companies and individuals that have made this journey, here are 10 inspiring small business stories that achieved big things.
- 505-JUNK: After seeing a used trailer for sale on the side of the road one day, Barry Hartman and Scott Foran decided to look into the world of junk removal. While not a completely new idea for a business, they realized that they could diversify their business in two ways: The first to charge by weight of material removed and the second to recycle as much of that junk as possible. Barry and Scott wrote their business plan and presented it to Futurpreneur for financing. They were approved, and with the money, purchased their pickup truck and trailer and started the business in the basement of Barry’s parents’ home. Today, 505-Junk has been voted Best Junk Removal Company by Homestars.com, the online directory for renovators, repairman and retailers.
- ADAFRUIT INDUSTRIES: Limor Fried, who earned her master’s in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, runs Adafruit Industries, which sells do-it-yourself electronics kits. She welcomed people to use the information, and saw it as a way to foster innovation. Fried launched her company in 2005 with $10,000 that was supposed to go to her tuition. Anytime she made a profit, she made a tuition payment. Today, the company ships 150 to 200 orders a day, some of them worth thousands of dollars.
- APP EMPIRE: Chad Mureta was running a real estate business when a devastating car accident left him hospital-bound. Mureta decided to try his hand at producing mobile applications. At the time, the industry was relatively new, but he felt the growth potential was worth the risk. Mureta took out a loan for $1,800 to produce his first app, Fingerprint Security – Pro. It soon became one of the 50 most popular apps in the App Store, earning him $140,000 in the process. From there, Mureta founded and sold three app companies — Empire Apps, Best Apps and T3 Apps. He has produced 46 apps to date.
- CHARITY: WATER: When Scott Harrison was 28, he realized he was a “selfish scumbag” while on vacation in Uruguay. So Harrison founded Charity: water, which brings clean drinking water to developing nations. Charity: water has funded 3,962 water projects, providing access to clean, safe drinking water for 1,794,983 people in 19 countries.
- GAS BUDDY: Jason Toews and Dustin Coupal saw a need for a site to help people locate the cheapest local gas prices and founded GasBuddy.com in June 2000. The partners nurtured the website over the course of the next decade, persuading drivers to log in and share gas prices. Then, in 2009, they realized the potential of mobile apps. So the company launched Android and iPhone apps later that year, which were instantly popular. 6,000,000+ people have downloaded the apps with more visiting the website.
- OAK STREET SHOES: John Vlagos, a Greek immigrant living in Chicago, wanted to show his son George how hard it is to work with your hands for a living and hopefully choose another line of work for himself. He was a cobbler so he made young George come into his shop every weekend to shine shoes. The plan backfired as George Vlagos is now a cobbler as well. George is a bit more than that though – he is one of the most successful independent shoemakers in America. He saw an opening in the market for top quality shoes made with traditional materials that could be bought at an affordable price. George Vlagos’s shoes, known as Oak Street Shoes, are sold in some shops but he mostly sells them online. He regularly has to operate with a six-week waiting list.
- SPANX: Sara Blakely was getting ready for a party when she realized she didn’t have the right undergarment to provide a smooth look under white pants. Armed with scissors and sheer genius, she cut the feet off her control top pantyhose and the Spanx revolution began! With a focus on solving wardrobe woes, the Spanx brand has grown to offer bras, underwear, jeans, pants, active and more. She obtained her own patent, set up her company and started pitching her idea. She was repeatedly turned down until she got the buyer from Neiman Marcus to try on Spanx. She got an order and other retailers started to follow suit. And then came a mention on Oprah. Blakely is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire and in 2012, when she was just 41, Blakely made it on to the list of the top 100 most influential people in the world, as determined by Time Magazine.
- TASTY: Liane Weintraub, a local Los Angeles TV reporter and Shannan Swanson, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and former cook at one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants thought, given the current obsession with label reading and organic ingredients, there must be dozens of organic baby food brands. But they were wrong. The pair started making organic purees for their own babies and couldn’t believe how few options were available in stores. Today, Tasty Brand is carried at Whole Foods, Fairway, Tops, and other chains. The company turned a profit four years after its founding, and it’s on track for sales of $2.5 million this year.
- USEFUL CHARTS: When starting his business, Matthew Baker initially sold small laminated study guides. But he quickly noticed that what people wanted was posters. He discovered that there was a real need for visual-learning material. His chart-based posters now help students, teachers and home schoolers the world over. His Timeline of World History poster is especially popular, and has on several occasions reached Amazon.com’s Top 500 items.
- ZANE’S CYCLES: Chris Zane, 46, got his start at age 12 fixing bikes in his parents’ East Haven, Connecticut, garage. At 16, he persuaded his parents to let him take over the lease of a bike shop going out of business, borrowing $23,000 from his grandfather at 15 percent interest. His mother tended the store while he was at school in the mornings. In his first year, he racked up $56,000 in sales. Now, Zane’s Cycles has annual revenue over $21 million.
As a small business ourselves, we’re inspired by these stories. We started Barnraisers, a full-service digital marketing agency, with the belief that what companies want is to be guided by data-driven results to help them achieve greater levels of success. We’re glad to have taken a similar journey to these inspiring entrepreneurs and to be able to help those starting out.
Do these small business stories inspire you? Are you motivated by the entrepreneurial spirit of the people who started them?
August 03, 2015 by
Case studies are a form of problem-based learning, where you present a situation that needs a resolution. Case studies are a great way to improve learning, gain involvement and encourage immediate use of newly acquired information and skills.
But case studies are also grounded in stubborn facts that must be faced in real life situations. A case study can be a couple of paragraphs or 20 pages or more.
Case studies may differ in length, depth of research and market situation, but great case studies share similarities.
Here are 10 compelling characteristics of great case studies.
- TELL A STORY: Case studies stories are told to make a point or teach a lesson. They explain a journey. One that has a clear beginning and end. In this journey, the audience learns of heroes, villains, obstacles, extraordinary actions and imaginative thinking. In the end, meaningful change results.
- HAVE A LOGIC FLOW: Instead of chapters, case studies follow an outline that establishes a logic flow. The right outline is one that teachs the lesson you want the audience to learn. It can be as simple as: Situation, Solution, Results or Customer, Challenge, Journey, Discovery, Solution, Implementation, Results or one that is more customized to your desired result.
- RESOLVE A PROBLEM: The logic flow explains a problem that is resolved. At the beginning, great case studies provide perspective and context that fully explain the problem. Who is company? What do they do? What is the problem they were facing? How is this situation different for the past? Why is this relevant to your business? This establishes credibility and relevance with the audience and makes the resolution have more impact at the end.
- FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER: The problem and the resolution always has the customer at the core, especially their relationship with the company or brand. In most cases, the company’s relationship with the customer has changed. Maybe the company stopped listening or customer needs changed or they have outgrown the product or service the company offers. But there is something that has been lost that has to found in a new way.
- PRESENT INSPIRING ACTIONS: One of the most important part of case studies is the action the company takes to overcome their problem. It should be logical but profound; smart, imaginative and showld motivate the audience to do something similar for their company.
- AVOID JARGON: Case studies should avoid terms such as “market leading” and “unique.” No one believes them. They diminish credibility and relevance.
- ARE GROUNDED IN HARD FACTS: The conclusion for all case studies is results. They should include statistics to show the difference made and benefits gained. Hard fact demonstrate how the application of the actions produced real-life results. Ballpark figures and/or indexes (if figures are confidential) are fine.
- ARE SKIMMABLE: More than one case study is generally given to make a point and teach a lesson. You may be presenting them or your audience may read them without you. Organize and write case studies so it’s easy for your audience to get the information you want them to take away.
- WORK AS SALES TOOLS: Case Studies are not about praising past work as much as courting new prospects. Whether you are responsible for the case study or merely telling the story, case studies are a reflection of the type of challenge you rise to, thinking you admire and results you recognize as important.
- HAVE A CALL-TO-ACTION: The lessons in case studies are meant to inspire others to action. It’s best to help them take the first step with a call-to-action with what you or your company offers.
If you spend any time on the BarnRaisers website, you’ll see we are big believers in the power of case studies, In fact, we’ve written a book you invite to download our free ebook, 166 case studies prove Social Media ROI.
Were these components of great case studies convincing to you? Are there any other you would include?
June 28, 2015 by
- 60% of Facebook fans and 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower.
- 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are fans.
- Facebook users who ‘like’ a brand’s Facebook page are 33% more likely to buy a product, and 92% more likely to recommend a product to others. (source: Chadwick Martin Bailey)
These facts suggest social media builds brand loyalty. But does it and how?
See for yourself. Here are 11 compelling case studies that prove social media builds brand loyalty.
- CARS.COM. Encouraged rating, reviews and sharing (versus no ratings, reviews and sharing) and it showed that pages that had ratings and reviews had a 16% higher rate of conversion and a 100% higher rate of traffic through to dealer’s sites.
- DOVE: As women love to sing in shower, Dove launched a campaign titled “Showeroke”. The campaign “Showeroke”was designed to see the influence of music in the lives of younger women. And the brand preference for Dove because they connected with this value. Videos were posted on YouTube. Dove created a microsite called the “Shower Remixer” where users customized their shower experience selecting different fixtures, floor designs, shelves and window scenes and as they remixed the shower experience. The music changed along with it. Dove Bar annual penetration went up from 13.7% to 18.4%. Dove Body wash loyalty went up from 24% to 27.6%.
- FOLICA: A well-known retailer of health and beauty products, noticed they had many referrals to their website, but no way of tracking and identifying these referrals. By engaging their customers and encouraging them to share the secrets of great hair by Facebook, Twitter, email and personalized URL’s. There was a reward for both the referrer and the referee. Each party would receive $10. After 30 days of running the new Social Referral Program 6,000 brand advocates were identified. The average number of shares per advocate was four. 21,000 shares had been generated via Facebook, Twitter and email and a 16% conversion rate was driven by the program.
- GENERAL MILLS: on French Toast Crunch, wanted to get the brand into the hands of the company’s best and most socially connected consumers. A tweet was sent from the French Toast Crunch brand, basically saying, “Hey, who wants this?” The brand’s Twitter followers were urged to retweet to their followers and use the hashtags #sample or #MoreFTC to receive a free sample of French Toast Crunch in the mail. The popup window collected an email address and a physical address for delivery of the cereal. Once that social media attention died down, a follow-up email was also sent to the freebie recipients, giving them a coupon for 50 cents off a box of French Toast Crunch in-store as a reward for their social media engagement. Nearly 40% of those who received the 50-cent-off coupon opened the email. About 20% of those who received the email redeemed the coupon, 4X higher than the industry norm.
- J. HILBURN: A retail, apparel brand for men was receiving many referrals from existing satisfied customers. J. Hilburn wanted to identify their most valuable customers and reward them for their ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. By offering customers $50 for each friend referred and encouraging the advocates to share the offer using social media, they identified and rewarded brand advocates. Any referred customer who spent over $100 received a $50 discount on their purchase. Once again, a two sided offer for the referrer and the referee. After 45 days, 1,000 customers had made referrals. Averaging 12 shares per advocate, the referral program produced 10,000 social shares via Facebook, Twitter and email. The bottom line result was 600 transactions which created over $250,000 in sales.
- SENDGRID: An email delivery and transactional service company, created an offer for existing customers which could be shared socially. Customers received $20 cash and the referred customer would also receive a 25% discount on their first three months of service. By giving the existing customer a gift and the new customer a discount, a “Captive Offer” had been created. The share could be made using email, Facebook or Twitter. SendGrid achieved a 111% return on investment after the first six months of running the newly implemented referral program.
- SEPHORA: Tiers are one of the most effective ways a loyalty program can motivate a desired behavior. The tiers that Sephora has set ($350 for VIB and $1,000 for Rouge) have effectively segmented shoppers. The Rouge status is tough to reach, but obtainable, which leads to the most effective form of motivation. The tier rewards like exclusive events, access to the beauty studio, and early access to products and sales align perfectly with what Sephora stands for. These rewards create a sense of luxury and assign an exclusive status to members in the upper tiers. The rewards are announced on Sephora’s social media sites to build greater brand loyalty and let their already loyal customer know of special events and offers.
- STARBUCKS: Since 2008, MyStarbuckIdea.com has been advocate-driven idea tank where Starbucks drinkers submit ideas for new products and coffee concoctions. It has worked as a hub for all Starbucks customers to share all their ideas, suggestion and even their frustration. “We used to launch a new product and it cost millions of dollars. Now, when we launch a new product, we already have millions of fans,” say Chris Bruzzo, Vice President Brand, Content and Online at Starbucks.
- SUBWAY: Sponsored the “Slim Down Challenge,” a live speaking event consisting of some of America’s hottest speakers and celebrities. Its mission was to travel from city to city across America delivering powerhouse information that challenged your mind, heart, and waistline. They used social technologies and promotion apps to raise awareness of the Slim Down Challenge and recruit speakers. The strategy included a social competition. This was part of a full marketing strategy for the campaign. They found that 71% of site traffic that went to the registration page, came directly from Facebook.
- TREK: Offered customers a Trek Care loyalty and warranty package when they buy a new Trek bike, but cyclists can take coverage to the next level by purchasing the Trek Care Plus package. Trek used social media giving away free repairs for a widely read post to make customers aware of the Trek Care Plus Package. By tying in benefits with social media usage, Trek was at the forefront of consumers’ minds.
- US AUTO PARTS: Decided to shift marketing investment from customer acquisition to customer retention for its loyalty program, APW Rewards. Working with 500friends’ customer success team, U.S. Auto Parts began to leverage capabilities such as increased rewards for high-margin products, personalized post-purchase enrollment offers, a status tier, and triggered email campaigns based off of a person’s repurchase history to maximize customer lifetime value. U.S. Auto parts increased its spend per member by 20%, its repurchase rate by 14%, and its enrollment rate by 45% after updating the loyalty program of its flagship brand,
Do these case studies convince use social media builds brand loyalty? Is one your favorite? Are you using social media to build brand loyalty for your business?
June 21, 2015 by
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
To create a brand, a business usually follows the steps of creating a mission statement, core values, competitive differentiation, brand benefits, product messaging, logo, product and/or design, identifying mark, selling idea and the business strategy and measurement plan to achieve the desired results.
How many brands take these tangible and intangible benefits to their social media sites?
Here are 10 inspiring brands with a strategy for social media.
- CITROEN: Uses trust as a strategy for sales by letting its Facebook fans design its forthcoming C1 Connexion. It’s the world’s first crowd-sourced car. Over 24,000 different versions of the final car are submitted. 15,000 extra fans join up. The strategy leads to the sales of 500 cars.
- CLEVELAND CLINIC: In a regulated industry generally far behind the content marketing curve, the hospital delivers posts that help people deal with chronic diseases, overcome depression, and the battle to live a healthier life. And all of the content is written by physicians who practice there. No wonder a regional hospital has more than 1.2 million Facebook Likes.
- COCA-COLA: Has a mission statement, on their website: 1) To refresh the world – in mind, body and spirit, 2) To inspire moments of optimism – through our brands and actions and 3) To create value and make a difference everywhere we engage. Coca-Cola shares around the globe stories in social media that naturally highlight and unify its mission and values. Its YouTube channel isn’t divided up into smaller sub-channels by country, region or product line, for example. Instead, it features video stories from all over the world in one place.
- GENERAL ELECTRIC: Lives up to its “Imagination at Work” slogan. GE’s social media content is dedicated to scientific and technological innovation. They encourage engagement attracting their target with a mission statement that states: “We love science, technology, innovation, and hearing from you! So, say hello.” GE’s Facebook Page has 1,300,000+ Likes. GE utilizes multiple social networks for each of its business categories, such as GE Capital, Aviation, Healthcare, Industrial Solutions, Transportation, and Mining. Aviation is the most popular division, with over 86K followers on Twitter alone. It gathers its community with the hashtag #avgeek.
- HUBSPOT: Practices what they preach about the value of content marketing by giving it away. But contest takes many form and Hubspot gets that visual content get 94% more total views and is now 40% more likely to be shared on social networks. They frequently give away packs of stock photos and have even created 60 customizable templates to help folks with no design expertise create dynamic social imagery.
- INTUIT: Has been voted as one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Intuit uses social media to showcase the people that make up the company while offering lifestyle tips and advice for potential job seekers. Intuit is one of the rare B2B brands using Pinterest with great success.
- MAERSK: a leading shipping company with a fleet of 580 container vessels, explains its social media evolution on its website. Maersk states there that it finally got going with social media in 2011. Up until that point, it had been in “a listening phase,” trying to digest what social media is about and decide whether or not it makes sense for a B2B company. Maersk states that is main goal with social media is to “get closer to our customers.” Its Facebook page has over 1,100,000 million Likes.
- RED BULL: Gets huge per-post engagement from Instagram. Yet according to an analysis by SimplyMeasured, the company made fewer posts to Instagram than any of its other social networks, averaging just 0.6 posts per day. Red Bull’s Instagram story is proof that it doesn’t matter how much content you publish. It matters what that content is. Red Bull highlights people doing extraordinary things in extraordinary places. This content appeals to risk takers, recreational athletes, and all viewers who are stirred by the Red Bull vision of life.
- T-MOBILE: In an attempt to steal away customers from it’s competitors, T-Mobile offers to pay the contract cancellation fees of any person who “broke up” with their existing cell phone service and switched to T-Mobile. They launched an ‘Un-Valentines Day’ with a Facebook App that let people create a custom break up letter to their carrier and print it out or share it on their social networks.
- TURBO TAX: offers users a variety of ways to engage, including through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. As you might imagine, because the company deals with the most dreaded of things (taxes), a handful of disgruntled customers use the company’s social media to vent their dissatisfaction. nstead of ignoring the negative vibes, TurboTax addresses every concern. In doing so, its credibility skyrockets, because the fact is, we’re all going to be disappointed now and then. When we are, we want to know someone cares.
Do these stories inspire your brand with a strategy for social media?
September 07, 2014 by
New media channels have more to prove.
Many companies believe there still isn’t enough data to prove return on investment (ROI) in digital marketing.
However, according to Nielsen Ad Dynamics, companies in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) allocate 60% of media to television even though only 18% of tradition TV campaigns generate a positive ROI (source: Socialnomics).
What does this tell you about how companies make decisions? By habit? Or by effectiveness?
Here are 11 studies that prove the ROI of digital marketing (with the links, brief summary and key findings of what each study proves).
- CADBURY: Cadbury’s “Chocolate Charmer” online advertising campaign provided ROI almost 4X higher than their TV campaign. The chocolate brand ran a cross-media campaign for its Dairy Milk brand, covering TV, online ads and YouTube promoted videos. Despite only investing 7% of its budget in online, the brand saw the sector generate 20% of the sales.
- COMSCORE (KELLOGG): Kellogg uses marketing mix models to assess the effectiveness of the various elements of its marketing mix. Results from two Brand Market Mix Models show an increase in ROI of 5x and 6x for digital advertising since Kellogg began using comScore advertising effectiveness services to improve the delivery of its media plans. As Kellogg adds viewability measurement* to its optimization processes, it is expected that these ROI numbers will increase further.
- DIGITAL CONSORTIUM STUDY: Consortium members who include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, Kraft Foods, Mondelez, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Kellogg Co. found marketing-mix models undervalued digital ads, Overall, the best models underestimated the ROI of Facebook and Google ads by only 4% and 11%, respectively. The study found ROI from Facebook ads is underestimated by as much as 48% and from Google search ads by as much as 39%.
- DIGITAL DISTRESS (ADOBE): In a survey of 1,000 US marketers, it was found that only 44% of marketing departments say they have a great deal of influence over their organization’s overall business strategy; 40% think their company’s marketing is ineffective; only 34% feel highly proficient in digital marketing but 83% say it is important for marketing to prove the business impact of ROI and 79% say it will be even more important next year.
- ECOMOMETRICS: Microsoft did an Econometrics study of the effectiveness of digital advertising. Econometrics is looking at vast amounts of good quality data, collected over long periods of time to identify and quantify different brand drivers. As for ROI, they found digital outperforms TV, Print, Radio and Outdoor. They also found that, if digital is added to these media channels, it enhances their effectiveness.
- ECONSULTANCY: comScore and Econsultancy show that more than half of digital ads (54%) are never seen by consumers. It’s a colossal waste, and demonstrates the need for brands and marketers to make sure for ROI that ads are viewable. They recommend: 1) Make viewability a top priority, 2) Select ‘on-demand’ ad formats, 3) Native ad formats will be more viewable, 4) Make the creative compelling and 5) Be relevant to the content and the consumer.
- FOURNAISE: In interviews with 1,200 CEO’s, management and marketing decision makers, 90% global marketers are not trained to calculate return on investment (ROI), and 80% struggle with being able to properly demonstrate to their management the business effectiveness of their spending, campaigns and activities.
- GOOGLE AND DOVE: Google and Dove worked together to explore the impact of online advertising on in-store sales. The study found that the inclusion of online advertising resulted in a 6% overall sales uplift. Online advertising was most effective when used in synergy with national TV, a combination that led to a 11% sales uplift. Most interestingly, it was found that although the campaign advertised a single product, it was effective in generating sales over the whole range.
- KANTAR WORDPANEL: Coke’s return on investment from Facebook advertising in France beat its ROI from TV. Every euro spent on Facebook returned 2.74 euros in additional Coke sales. That was 3.6 times better than the ROI attributed to TV ads. In all, 27% of incremental sales Kantar attributed to the campaign came from Facebook, but only 2% of the cost.
- NIELSEN: Consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands can experience a return of almost three dollars in incremental sales for every dollar spent in online advertising that has been precisely delivered using purchase-based information. Nielsen completed more than 800 studies over the past seven years, collaborating with more than 300 CPG brands and 80 companies to measure the correlation between online advertising and offline consumer purchases.
- 166 CASE STUDIES PROVE SOCIAL MEDIA ROI: BarnRaisers has published case studies that prove the ROI of social meidia for B2C and B2B comapnies (large and small) across a broad range of digital marketing channels – Social Media, Social CRM, SEO, Customer Service and Social Promotion. You can download the eBook for free on the sidebar of this website
Do these studies prove the ROI of digital marketing to you? Do they help your company to make decision based on effectiveness, not by habit?