insightfulmarketing

Simple, effective and insightful small business marketing

Social Media for Small Business: 3 Steps to get Started March 15, 2013

Filed under: Marketing,Small Business,Social Media — insightfulmarketing @ 10:02 pm
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Small business owners have a lot to think about on a daily basis; personnel, customer service, finances, inventory, scheduling and more.  Social media isn’t always the first thing on your to do list, and it can be daunting, but it’s integral to your marketing success…and setting yourself up for success will make all the difference.

Here are 3 ways to help get you started

1.)  Create a Strategy

It’s fairly easy to go out and set up a Facebook page or create a Twitter account.  It’s harder to sit down and decide on your strategy for managing these accounts.  However, it is an important first step. Deciding on what you want to accomplish, how this relates to your brand and business goals and who within your organization is going to do it, are important questions to ask yourself.

Set your objectives.  Be clear on what you want to accomplish.  Is it more traffic to your site or more traffic in your doors?  Is it building an email database for outbound marketing?  Is it creating an online community to support your brand?  This will drive how and what you’re communicating through your social media efforts.

2.)  Choose your Networks

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

As the world’s largest social media site, Facebook is somewhat ubiquitous so you can certainly find a network of consumers for most industries there, while Google+ is good in a B2B or software/technical market.  On the visual side, Pinterest is good for the home-making, fashion, food, fitness and home goods markets and YouTube, the 2nd most used search engine, is a good video medium for brands. LinkedIn with its 200 million+ members, is a powerful online professional network. These are generalizations, so there are always exceptions.

Explore each of the big five social networks and see if your competition, or related product/service providers are doing well there. If so, you might also be able to make a place for yourself.  It’s also a good idea to ask your customers where they are spending their time online, so you can focus your efforts in the right direction.  They’re your target, so don’t be afraid to inquire.

Don’t forget the niche-specific online networks. If you’re in travel, you could be very active on Tripadvisor Forums. If you’re a home improvement specialist in a large city or town, AngiesList is an important website for you. Paying attention to niche social networks might be a way for your business to be somewhere your competition is not.

3.)  Generate Content and Engage – 

I heard it best as “teach with story and sell with subtleness”.  Use what you know about your business and industry to sell yourself and what you do.  Think from the customer’s point of view to know how to frame it.  You’re the expert – what would customers want to know about your product or how to use it?  What success stories could you tell?  If you’re a plant nursery, you could create content on subjects ranging from soil to seasonal plants…the possibilities are endless.

Set a 90-day plan.  It’s tempting to try to do it all, but in order to remain consistent  with your content you must start small with manageable expectations. You can always add more later.  If you’ve decided to use Pinterest and YouTube, a reasonable 90-day plan could include building your social media community on these channels (remember to use your traditional or offline marketing avenues to help build your online efforts) and engaging that audience with consistent, compelling content.

There are so many ways to participate in social media, so figure out what works for you and go for it!  Be patient though.  Initially, your ROI will be in online word-of-mouth.  This eventually should translate into more tangible metrics.   And finally, reevaluate periodically to determine what’s working and what you could be doing better…it’s critical to your overall success with your social media efforts.

 

5 Business Reads for 2013 January 9, 2013

How many of you have set some New Year Resolutions either in your business or personal life?  Most do…I personally like to call them goals for the year.  I like to focus on achieving these goals and not just trying to resolve to do something more, less or better.   One of my 2013 goals is to read at least 3 business related books.  Maybe one of your goals or resolutions is too, so here’s a list of some of the recommended business reads from last year that I’ll choose from:

By David Novak “Taking People With You”

Forever Books

is the result of a program that Novak teaches up to eight times a year within the company; a step-by-step guidebook and workbook. Think of this book as your own personal MBA course with one of the most successful executives on the planet. And like any MBA course, it takes time, diligence and patience, or as Novak says, “To do this right, you need to take your time, reflecting on each step and on your own leadership style.”

By Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think,” the authors offer a boldly contrarian and optimistic book for today’s cynical times. They make the case that we are indeed on the cusp of a new era, an era when the lives of millions are improved.

Think of this book as the ultimate “Yes, we can.”

In “For Better or for Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and their Families,”Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, a columnist and the wife of the founder of Stonyfield Yogurt, offers her account of what life in a startup really looks like — from the inside.

“Breakthrough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea Into a Big Brand.” There’s something different about entrepreneurs whose startups take off and those whose just sputter along – beginning with how they begin. Catherine Kaputa

Engagement from Scratch – Danny Iny. The real life advice from real people is invaluable and you can instantly apply it to build your blog, paid membership site, forums and discussion boards is invaluable. This book also covers how to do this for the all important email list community and social media platforms.

Maybe one of the books from this list will spark your interest or perhaps you have another list in mind.  Either way, I hope you achieve your goals and better yourself with a good read!

 

Holiday Cards: Another Touch Point to Customers November 9, 2012

Filed under: Marketing,Small Business — insightfulmarketing @ 9:31 pm
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English: self made

It’s already November and the holidays are upon us.  Before you get “wrapped up” in the hustle and bustle of the season, have you thought about holiday cards for your small business?  It’s another way to reach out to customers, new and old, to say thanks for their business.  It’s also a way to nurture the relationship and reconnect –a touch point that signifies the sentiment of the season.  Here are some things to think about:

 

  1. Get going! Don’t wait. You should pick out your cards and have them in the mail well before the actual holidays. You don’t want your customers to think the cards were an afterthought OR to miss out on any of the goodwill (and business) that could result from the gesture.
  2. Personalize. If you’re going to strengthen your relationships with your customers, you’ve got to make it personal. Address your cards to a specific individual(s) and, whenever possible, include a personalized note. It doesn’t have to be a novel—a sentence or two will almost always do…or have the whole office sign to add that personal touch.
  3. Keep it professional. Every touch point you have with your customers reflects your small business and your brand. This includes not only the messaging you share, but also the quality of the communications you’re sending out. You don’t have to spend an arm and a couple legs at your local stationary store—upload your own artwork or choose a style that fits your business personality.  Many sites including http://www.vistaprint.com have reasonable pricing and many styles to choose from.
  4. Neutral is best. Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving or Christmas.  You wouldn’t want to offend anyone with something that was meant to be a positive. To avoid putting anybody off, look for card designs that focus more on the “seasons.”

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with your customers. Before you get swept up in the holiday rush, don’t forget to make some time to pick up some greeting card, stop and say thanks, and touch your customers one more time before year end!

 

 

How Much Time Does Your Business Spend on Social Media? November 2, 2012

A new survey from email marketing software firm VerticalResponse found that 43% of small businesses (100 employees or less) spend at least six hours a week on social media, with seven percent spending over 21 hours a week on Facebook, Twitter, and such! Wow, with hectic schedules and the many hats they wear, small business owners are spending more time on-line, suggesting that more businesses are either realizing or actually seeing the benefits of social media marketing.  “Our survey confirms that small businesses are understanding the value of social media,” said Janine Popick, VerticalResponse CEO/founder. “They’re spending more time doing it, and investing more money into it at a faster rate. But the extra work will likely lead to time management issues, especially for the small business owner who’s handling social media on top of all the other responsibilities of running a company. This implies that small businesses are in need of tactics and tools now to help them save time.”

It’s interesting to note that small businesses are realizing the value of content – but, again, time is an issue.  More than half (55 percent) of small businesses surveyed have a blog.  (Of those, 43 percent publish a blog post at least once a week. Nearly half (45 percent) spend one to three hours to create one post, while 16 percent spend more than three hours.  (I can relate as it often takes time to come up with content, write the blog and then post it).  So, nearly half of those who blog spend up to three hours per blog post on at least a weekly basis – time that, prior to having a blog, would have been used on other business activities. This suggests that small businesses are recognizing the increasing importance of generating content for social media, over other business activities.

However, while they’re realizing content is valuable, time is still an issue. Respondents reported that finding and posting content to their social networks are the most time-consuming, followed by: learning and education; analyzing their social media efforts; and following their competitors’ activities. Answering questions posted on social media is the least time-consuming.

budget

Even with limited marketing budgets, small businesses are finding value in paying for social media. The survey data show social media budgets are increasing at a faster rate than overall marketing budgets.  More than 22 percent reported an increase in their social media budget compared to a year ago, while only 6 percent reported a decrease. So, there are nearly four times the number of small businesses that have increased their social media budget, versus those that have decreased.

Take a look below at the inforgraphic illustrating this data:

Image

 

Seasonal Marketing March 15, 2012

First quarter is coming to an end…where do you stand with your marketing plan and accomplishing your annual goals?  For many businesses, there is a seasonal upswing in the summer months.  Whether you own a landscaping, childcare, vacation rental or other business that see sales increase during the warmer months, then you need to start thinking about what your marketing tactics look like now.  It’s not too late! What is the message you want to convey to new and returning customers? How do you plan on reaching them? Do you have longer lead advertising, like print, set?

Marketing Plan

One of the best things to do is create a reverse timeline. Working backwards from what you considered to be the kick-off of your busy season, will help you get printed materials in full gear with plenty of time to spare. In addition, it gives your business the opportunity to hone its messages, regardless of the medium you choose to deliver them with.

During your non-peak season, you will also want to keep your brand in front of your target customer. At this point your business can save money by having fewer ads and less promotional activity.  However, you should continue to promote brand recognition so that they will draw instant attention to your seasonal marketing plan once it launches. A brand, even one with a seasonal business should not disappear altogether as the ramp up period then becomes more arduous as businesses attempt to re-connect with their customer base.

The critical aspect of your overall business plan is to have your annual marketing plan in place well in advance of your peak season(s) and plan your marketing budget accordingly so you can manage cash flow effectively.  By managing marketing expenses throughout the year, you’ll have tactics in place for the peak times as well as non-peak times when you want your brand to stay in the minds of the consumer, thus creating a very effective overall strategy.

 

3 Steps to Better PR for Your Small Business March 1, 2012

What is PR? And how can your small business use it effectively? Public Relations is ultimately the relationship between the public and your company…it also encompasses the professional maintenance of a favorable public image. Certainly, PR will always focus on publicity, but today it includes community participation both on-line and off, bylined articles, public speaking, media commentary, relationships with local area reporters and development of a good professional reputation.

Brand Building & Public Relations #03

These elements of PR can be particularly effective at local and regional levels and therefore, especially useful to your small business….and it’s not as scary as you might think.  You know your business best, so who better to craft and tell it’s story!

1.  Who is your audience?

Amazingly, even large corporations often fail to realize who their audiences actually are. It’s important to define your “audience” – Think about the individuals or groups who have any interest or stake in the activities of the business. This can reach far beyond just your current customers. It’s totally possible that your audiences includes the local media, your neighbors and surrounding community, current/ former employees and their families, vendors/suppliers, networking organizations, government regulators/agencies at several levels and even your competitors. And remember, audiences–friendly or not–have the power to communicate information about you and your company.

2.  Develop a PR plan

Even without a degree in journalism or marketing this is obtainable.  It doesn’t need not be complex, in simplest terms, a PR plan consists of a few elements:

  • Objectives:  identify your goals and what you want to accomplish for your business.
  • Positioning:  decide how you want to be perceived by the audiences you’ve determined. As the best quality sign maker in town, or the least expensive sign maker?
  • Key messages: prioritize the most important facts about your business.

Once you have developed these core concepts, you can create:

  • Strategy–how you can accomplish your objectives. For example, you may adopt a strategy of marketing your products services only to those in a high-end demographic group. Or create the impression that your products are more expensive, but worth their quality.  Or position your business as an innovator in a technology instead of just a follower. None of these are new, but continue to be good illustrations of simple business strategies.
  • Tactics–the tools or means to carry out the plan you’ve established. Speeches, articles, sitting on advisory boards or committees, media outreach and social media outlets are all good tactics for small businesses.

3.  Develop a relationship with and use local media

Small business owners should never be intimidated to get their story out to reporters.  Especially at local and regional levels, the media are always looking for a new story, a different angle, a fresh approach to business and therefore, potentially interested in you and what your business is all about. These media outlets, charged with covering their communities, do not have the vast resources of celebrities, renowned experts and satellite feeds. They may very well need you and what you have to say about your industry or market segment…and it’s what their readers are interested in.

When your business gets a significant new customer, invests in new equipment, moves to a new location, wins a community award or comes up with a solution to a community problem, don’t hesitate to call an appropriate media outlet. You may not always get coverage, but you have nothing to lose by cultivating and maintaining these valuable relationships.  Who knows, you may be asked for comment on a related story, which garners more exposure for your business.

In your small business, what do you know, offer, produce, compile, interpret, provide, market, analyze, understand or do better than anyone else? Whatever it is, someone among those audiences wants to hear more about you…so tell them!

 

Finally, here are a few things not to do as you become more adept at delivering effective PR for your company…

 

Don’t rely on spamming the media with your press releases and PR pitches. It won’t work.

Send out press releases without search-engine-optimization keywords. You are missing out on a great opportunity to get more online exposure.

Adhere to deadlines. Find out the cut-off dates or times for an outlet to receive your information. There’s no point in sending timely information if you’ve missed their deadline. If they ask for further information by a certain date, make sure they get it!

 

How Pinteresting February 22, 2012

How many of you are pinning?  Pinterest, the newest social media site, just hit more than 10 million unique visitors, making it one of the fastest growing websites ever. In the past six months, visits to Pinterest grew by 4,000%, receiving 11 million hits in just one week! I have been seeing or hearing about the site everywhere…from the delicious recipes I was perusing on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures that had a link to her Pinterest page to the friend at my son’s basketball game last weekend that shared she recently got an amazing recipe and her kid’s Valentine idea from the visual pinboard.

English: Red Pinterest logo

Pinterest was named the best new start up of 2011 by TechCrunch and is doing a great job of driving traffic, leads, and sales. In fact, early research indicates that Pinterest is more effective at driving traffic back to a website compared to other social media sites, even Facebook. Josh Davis includes some interesting stats on his blog:

  • Pinterest is now driving more traffic to the Real Simple website than Facebook is.
  • Warbly Parker, the hip but inexpensive eyeglass retailer, reports that 11% of its social traffic is coming from Pinterest. 18% is coming from Twitter.
  • Like many early bloggers, Kate Bryan managed a blog that was based around her interests, but it never generated many readers. She blogged about her professions of hairstyling and jewelry making, and also her craft projects. Hairstyles are extremely popular pins on Pinterest. Kate started pinning her own work and rapidly started generating traffic. In five months, she achieved over 14,000 new subscribers to her site as well as generating over one million page views from Pinterest.

What’s unique about Pinterest compared to most social media websites, is that it reduces the number of steps from discovery to the coveted conversion. This means that visitors from Pinterest convert into leads or sales faster than from other social media sources. Pinterest is also a great tool for increasing links back to your website, thus driving more traffic.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Let’s look at Twitter, as one example. If a person reads a tweet regarding a product, it’s less likely that a user will buy that product from just seeing one tweet – well, we’re all a little shallow so maybe unless it’s celebrity-endorsed. Are you in the market to pay big bucks for Snoop Dog, Tori Spelling or the Kardashian’s to endorse your tweets? Ummm, probably not!

The site now connects with Facebook, according to a recent Open Graph announcement, which enables users to automatically post new pins to their Facebook news feed for others to see. This translates into more people from other channels getting access to the images you post to Pinterest. However, for business marketers, right now Pinterest only connects with personal Facebook profiles, not business pages, so there is no way for businesses to automatically share their pins to their Facebook pages. In order to do so, marketers must manually share the link to the pin on their business page.

Yet, if marketers sign up for Pinterest using the same email address used for their corporate Twitter account, they can automatically share the pins they post to their Twitter account.

So ask for your invitation and start helping your customers plan their wedding, select their next pair of shoes or just let them get to know your business brand better through the visuals you pin.

Happy pinning!