Ceramic piggy bank with autumn leaves in the background

Businesses: Consider Preparing Financially for Fall

Along with change in season comes change in spending habits

The beginning of this decade has taught us that nothing is and will ever be as predictable as life before COVID. This holds true for every characteristic of personal habits, including finance. What people once valued and invested in quickly shifted in spring 2020. Family, money and where time is spent become the three most popular priorities in American lives.

Undoubtedly, how cash reserves are managed in the office has changed as well.

Fall always signifies a time when individuals and businesses rethink finances and begin to prepare, much like other mammals, for the long winter. Do you need to hold onto money for holiday, family reunion or home/office improvement? COVID has altered most plans for typical autumn and winter activity, so how does one prepare financially for fall during the pandemic?

Here are four steps to review, plan, and hopefully successfully achieve during these uncertain times.

Pay Off Debt

This is always the number one piece of advice a financial expert will give you if you come into funds and have debt. If you have any surplus of money from lack of vacations, going out or get togethers, look at refinancing or paying down debt. Rates are extremely reasonable and many banks and credit unions are willing to work with individuals.

For small businesses there are numerous debt relief programs that are now more critical than ever during COVID. The top tips to pay off debt for a company — create a monthly budget, decrease spending, consolidate debt, negotiate with lenders and increase business (if possible) — are still the same, pandemic or not.

Load the Emergency Fund

In the most uncertain of times, prepare for the most uncertain of experiences. That vacation that didn’t happen, the summer wardrobe that wasn’t purchased; use these types of funds to now fund your emergency fund. If it’s $100 or $10,000, it’s always usable. Then, set the goal for each quarter during the pandemic to grow the emergency fund. This will leave you with less stress which could help keep you healthier.

Reorganize Holiday Plans

There is a good chance that you might not be able to visit family for the typical Thanksgiving, Christmas and Winter Holiday. Instead of flying, you might be driving. Instead of a racking up a large bill at the grocery for the 30-person New Years’ Eve dinner you usually host, reprioritize your holiday plans and spending.

Make a target goal of saving 10 to 15 percent of your usual holiday travel and food budget for emergency funds. If you are longing to travel, but know you cannot fly or drive to your destination this year, look into booking discounted travel for the future with refundable deposits – scooping up numerous COVID offers from airlines and hotels in the process.

When purchasing and shipping presents (still sending office gifts?), don’t forget to send in bulk and do it in advance to save even more money. Things will be surcharged and possibly shut down. Reorganize when you do things and do not waste money on last-minute items.


For a small business, the holiday party was often a year-long highlight with significant others even joining in on the cheer. Don’t forget to reprioritize office holidays as well with restrictions in place. Invest in employees and their needs this year, whether that is more family time, flexibility or a monetary bonus. Open the lines of communication about this season to help understand the needs of the business and its employees.

Home Improvement/Business Office Projects

HGTV has turned everyone into a DIYer (Do it yourself-er). In summer 2020, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes, etc., were running out of spray paint, brushes, etc., due to the home improvement surge.

Now is the time to be financially responsible with home projects or business office upgrades. Don’t invest in something that might be trendy during COVID but would serve no other purpose once life returns to a normal pace.

Be thoughtful in your approach. What is a good value and what could detract from your home or office? It’s always a good idea when thinking of undertaking a major DIY project to consult your real estate agent.

Adding an outdoor grill and patio area is lovely, but you don’t need to go overboard and buy three types of smokers and enough seating for three dozen. Be reasonable and appreciative of the renovation or addition.

Likewise, office spaces need less space in 2020 and likely beyond as workers adapt to working from home, a trend likely to stick around post-pandemic. Is it really necessary to invest in office art, new chairs or an upgraded kitchen? Likely not. Maybe a new espresso machine is more in the budget and realm of reason.

Spending and financial habits were drastically changed upon the emergence of COVID. Don’t fall victim to a personal financial pandemic as well. Prepare for the change in season with a change in financial attitude.

back of man looking at a dozen drawn "thumbs up"

Effective Uses of Testimonials

Testimonials are an often overlooked, yet effective marketing tool. They can be helpful to gain new customers and keep potential return customers.

Think of your own experience making purchasing decisions. Do you go to a restaurant based upon a recommendation from family or friends? Before making major purchases, do you research and read reviews from people who have experience with the product or service?

Testimonials work because they aren’t strong sales pitches and they come across in an unbiased voice and establish trust. You’re using real people to show success in your product or service. In the end, your testimonials will be there to convert more prospects into customers as long as you use them correctly.

If you’re selling a product or service on your website, customer testimonials can be a key content element because they are unbiased comments that prompt visitors to buy. By using testimonials in text, audio or video formats on your site, you introduce content that will promote your product in convincing fashion.

Here are some tips for effectively using testimonials to convert more leads on your website:

1. Be Selective

A key to using testimonials is to choose the ones that work best. Instead of direct recommendations of your product or service (“I think it is great!”) – find testimonials that provide details that explain how it satisfies a consumer need or tackles a pain point. Testimonials that provide specific product benefits will induce sales.

2. Show Face

Make your testimonials eye-catching by adding an image next to your customer’s statement. Research has shown that adding a picture increases your click-through-rate by a significant amount.

Prospects like to put a face to a name. It helps them feel more secure and confident in what you’re claiming. It shows that the testimonial is coming from a real person. Adding an image is a simple addition that will increase your trust factor.

3. Show Them Everywhere

Once you get great testimonials for your website, it’s important to show them off.

Make sure to add them across your website wherever appropriate. Add them to your homepage, contact page, case studies page or even create a dedicated testimonials page. Use in ads, on social media and other materials.

You might try a web application that allows you to set up a testimonial page or a plugin that will allow you to post different testimonials on each page of your site. There are a number of possibilities, so determine what works best and incorporate testimonials all over your site.

4. Remember Your Buyer Personas

When gathering your testimonials it’s important to make sure you’re hitting all the pain points of every one of your buyer personas. Many of your prospects are looking to see testimonials that they can relate to; stories that show others like them being successful.

Be sure to feature customers from all the demographics and buyer personas that you’re trying to attract. Focusing on just one in your testimonials will limit your reach and value.

5. Never Fake It

The most important rule in sharing testimonials is to use real testimonials from real customers. It’s not worth the risk to fake anything on your site, especially testimonials.

Testimonials are there to provide credibility and establish trust. If you’re faking them, how are your prospects supposed to build a healthy relationship with your company? Faking testimonials can put your reputation on the line and even if you do win some business, your customers are likely to go in with unrealistic expectations.

6. Get Video

Creating a video testimonial isn’t a must, but it’s something you definitely should consider. Seeing and hearing a customer talk about your product or service resonates more than just reading about it.

Get some of your more personable customers to create a short 30 second to 1 minute video testimonial sharing how your company has helped them. Your prospects will be able to really see the appreciation and emotion from your current customers. 

Reach out to your current customers who you know are happy with your company and ask them to share their success story. By showcasing these powerful feelings and stories about your product or services, you’re creating another tool to get prospects to trust your brand and commit to it.

Computer is the winner an online award

It’s a New Day: Digital Marketing Moves to First Place

Recently, a lot of marketers have found themselves playing in a different sandbox than the one that they may have been used to in the past. The old sandbox consisted of a hybrid kind of marketing, one that relied on both digital and physical platforms. As our world continues to shift for the foreseeable future, more and more of that physical marketing becomes irrelevant and marketing teams find themselves competing in a digital landscape.

There are a lot of benefits to shifting focus to digital. While there are still costs involved in online marketing, they’re often less. However, it also means competing with literally everything else on the internet at any given time. What we present to our target audience has to be put forward in an interesting enough manner that their attention can be pulled from the thousands of other options calling for them at any given time. That’s a tall order!

Shifting your marketing behaviors can be a difficult pill to swallow, but remember that it doesn’t all have to happen overnight. It’s also important to remember that this might not be forever. Right now, we’re in a constant state of adapting. Here are some tips for taking the plunge into this new landscape.

Focus on Engagement

We’re not just talking clicks here. Right now, one of the best things you can do for your marketing is to keep yourself accessible. Schedule live chats or seminars, or even create an online forum. These things may not have been considered to be standard marketing in the past, but right now it’s all about getting that attention. Accessibility will go a long way to set you apart from the rest of the pack.

Keep Your E-Blasts Interesting

You know what’s exhausting? Endless mailers. You know what’s even worse? Endless cookie-cutter mailers. Cutting and pasting information into the same email format you’ve sent forever might be the easy route, but it’s not going to get you the engagement you want – especially not right now. Give your audience a reason to click on your newsletter! You can utilize anything from small giveaways to something as simple as a snappier intro. Make your readers feel like you’re making an effort to connect.

Avoid Platitudes and Watch Your Frequency

We’re all getting inundated with marketing from across industries telling us that everything’s going to be okay and that our best interests are being looked out for. You don’t need to be that person. No one wants to hear platitudes all day long. We’re far enough into our current global situation that we’ve all pretty much figured out what we need on an individual basis. Focus on what you’re bringing to the table, and don’t overwhelm your email list with correspondence.

If you find yourself constantly digging for information to include in your marketing or other digital correspondences, lower the frequency of your newsletter. The people you’re reaching will appreciate that a lot more than a halfhearted information aggregate.

Keep on your Toes

As things change, change with them. There’s no sense in wasting your money on ad space or physical marketing that isn’t working for you. The future’s more uncertain than it has been in several generations. While it can be hard to accomplish, do your best to just go with the flow. Keep with the digital marketing while it makes sense, but be prepared to incorporate the physical back into rotation if the marketing landscape calls for it.

Focus on What Works Best You can read all the advice columns out of Forbes you want, but no one knows better than you do about what you and your audience are looking for. Use the advice of the experts as a spring board, and then do your best to make something unique out of your marketing. Not only will this set you apart from the crowd, it will also give your audience more of a reason to engage.

graphic of business man connecting a heart and a brain with an electric outlets

Be Sensitive, Be Smart: Good marketing in difficult times

Put yourself ahead by remembering some easy tips.

Good marketing doesn’t just remain important as we navigate a global pandemic, it becomes imperative. Sorting out how to represent your brand while constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting landscape can be a tall order, but that doesn’t mean it’s unachievable. We’re all learning on an international scale, but you can put yourself ahead by remembering some easy tips.

Remember Your Voice

Voice matters in branding. No one’s looking for generic ad jargon from social media content when things are normal, and they’re certainly not going to respond to it while in isolation. While everyone’s seeking some sense of normalcy, it’s important to remember that a shift in social strategy doesn’t have to mean shifting your voice. Outside of eliminating some dangerous buzzwords and avoiding jokes that may make light of the current situation, the voice you’ve cultivated up to this point should be the one you maintain as you continue to market.

Check for Insensitive Words

A good rule of thumb here is to avoid the use of anything that might pertain to the pandemic as a whole. It’s not so much avoiding the topic as it is wanting to avoid reminding your audience of their current situation. Avoid phrases like “killer deal”, or any health-related terms while drafting copy. It’s also wise to hold off any phrases that include gathering or events until Stay at Home and Shelter in Place orders are lifted.

To that end, remember to maintain an added level of sensitivity in your content. Use words or phrases that encourage a kind of togetherness without overtly stating or implying physical connection or gathering. You want phrases and keywords that make people feel less alone. Talk about how engaging with your post or taking your offer can help them do things like contribute or connect while avoiding the normal ad phrases like “take advantage of” or the idea of profiting off of or from something.

Copy Editing Still Matters

This might feel like a no-brainer, but we’ve all got a lot on our minds right now. It’s easy for copy editing to fall by the wayside while you’re juggling so many things, but clean copy is always a critical aspect of any social strategy. It’s wise to avoid any embarrassing typos while most of your demographic finds themselves at home with a little bit more time on their hands.

Current Clients Over Lead Conversion

While it can be tricky, the most engaging and effective content is going to be the kind that makes your audience feel comfortable. We’re in constantly uncomfortable times, and folks are just looking for something familiar and easy. We always want new clients and a larger reach, but your primary focus should be on contributing to the conversation with your current reach. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool, and people will remember who kept things focused on business as usual rather than forming a sense of community and outreach amid uncertainty.

Sensitivity Is Key

Keeping things light in our interactions is a great way to make people feel at ease, but it’s a difficult line to tow right now. There’s still space to be witty but be sure that you’re maintaining a level of sensitivity while doing so. With emotions at an all-time high, a poorly placed joke can lead to lost engagement now more than ever before. This can easily circle back to remembering your social voice. You don’t have to change your entire strategy, just be extra mindful for the time being.

It’s really that simple! No one’s asking anyone to reinvent the marketing wheel. You can still have exceptional brand strategy amidst a pandemic, it’s just about adding a little extra dash of thoughtfulness into the equation.

A man standing with a email symbol.

Have You Asked: Is Email Marketing Dead?

Would you be surprised to know that 99 percent of people check their email every day?

With a statistic like that, it’s not hard to see why email marketing is a go-to for marketing campaigns. What’s confusing, though, is that sometimes, email marketing ROI can look a little bleak.

An unsuccessful email campaign in a world where opening emails is such a big part of people’s lives can be confusing, and brings up an important question:

Where is the gap between consumers checking their email constantly, but not clicking on your brand’s message?

As you consider the value of email marketing, consider this — 73 percent of millennials prefer email communication when receiving marketing material. Ultimately, the problem may not be the marketing channel, but the message delivery. So, is email marketing dead? Or, is there something that can be done to enhance the email marketing experience — for consumers and marketers?

A marketing strategy makeover might be necessary for a struggling brand. Email marketing as a marketing tool isn’t dead. But some email marketing practices are, such as impersonal email address lines, violating General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), ignoring user experience, and not tracking metrics.

If your brand’s email marketing strategy is currently struggling with bringing in high ROI, it could be that your strategy hasn’t been improved to reflect how email currently works.

Ultimately, if you’re not catering to your audiences, or if you’re not using metrics to appropriately measure and improve your email campaigns, you’re likely missing out on ROI — not because email marketing is dead, but because your strategy is outdated.

To improve your email marketing ROI in 2020, here’s what to retire:

1. Impersonal subject lines

Email marketing starts before readers even open the email. Subject lines can make or break open-rate, a metric that tracks how many subscribers open your emails.

Personalizing marketing messages makes readers feel connected to what’s being sold. Generally, making a subject line personal can be as easy as noting the holiday season or asking a question to get readers thinking.

Think about what in your email is the “must-know” takeaway, and create a short subject line that taps into emotions to get subscribers clicking.

2. Ignoring GDPR standards

GDPR means making sure the reader gives clear, unambiguous permission to receive marketing emails. Full compliance with GDPR ensures that sending marketing emails is legal.

GDPR was created so consumers know their data is protected and being used by brands they have trusted with personal information. They opt-in to emails they’d like to receive from brands they’re interested in.

This is good news for marketers because it means your email campaigns will only be sent to users who are genuinely interested in your marketing messages. It also ensures your email marketing messages are compliant with the law.

3. Using templates that aren’t mobile-friendly

The world is mobile now. Many people check emails from their phone.

Emails that aren’t mobile-friendly are probably raising your bounce rate exponentially due to poor user experience. Because it’s so easy to click away from something that’s unappealing, emails optimized for mobile should be an important step in the design process.

The Apple iPhone is the most popular method for opening emails. For some audiences, marketing emails that are stellar for mobile should take priority over emails for desktop, so the majority of readers don’t get turned away from desktop-friendly templates.

4. Poor email design

It’s imperative to take time designing emails that delight readers.

Emails lately have gotten snazzy. From animations to GIFs, and even embedded full-length videos, businesses are dipping their toes into exciting email marketing efforts to pull readers in.

Emails that have quick loading time, bold CTAs (Call to Action), and colorful visuals typically perform best.

An email newsletter with long paragraphs, the same-old template and a CTA that hasn’t changed in years are less than exciting, and probably leave readers clicking out of that email.

5. Not strategically using metrics

Tracking metrics helps fill in the gaps when looking where to improve marketing efforts. They break down the behavior of email subscribers. 

Metrics collect data on how many people are interacting with emails, when they are, who they are, and for how long. All of this information is important to know when planning because they lead to important marketing decisions.

Metrics save time by reporting on what’s working and what isn’t. To begin tracking metrics, consider what email software you use. Many have reporting and tracking built into their tools, as well as information about how that data is collected and interpreted.

Ultimately, the reasons you may not be seeing results, is not because email marketing is dead — it’s because of how you’re email marketing. So, before you turn away from email marketing as a whole, think about ways you can improve your strategy to compete.

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