insightfulmarketing

Simple, effective and insightful small business marketing

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!

 

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

 

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!

 

5 Branding Tips for Small Business February 16, 2012

Filed under: Marketing,Social Media,Uncategorized — insightfulmarketing @ 9:51 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Even though you may not be the size of a corporate giant like Coke or Microsoft, engaging in branding is important for your small business.  Here are 5 branding tips that could make a difference for the long-term success of your small business.

English: English and Hebrew Coke labels in an ...

1.  Create a logo and put it on everything.  You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money creating your logo, but you do need something that stands for your business that customers can recognize.  You then need to put it on everything from letterhead and invoices to your website and newsletter…and every communication in between.

2.  Start a blog. A blog can be a great tool for a small business. With it your site will rank better in search engines, you can communicate to customers and grow brand involvement. Blogs help you share valuable information and help you become the expert customers will trust when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

3.  Prepare a one-page business overview. This one pager will be critical as a leave behind when you meet prospects. Be brief – Use short sentences in short paragraphs – people like to read quickly. Also make it very conversational; it’s not a white paper. Your one page overview should include your value proposition, target audience benefits, customer testimonials and a mini-case study – and don’t forget to put how to contact you!

4.  Participate in local business events and network.  Participate.  Get involved.  Going to events is wonderful, but you’re just a face in the crowded room. Ask to be on one of the committees or chair or sponsor a meeting. Interestingly enough, it’s as easy as just asking most of time. Groups are looking for volunteer to help and it’s a great way to elevate your status and visibility among the entire organization and your local community.

Proper branding is critical to your long-term success. A lot of people think of branding as just logo development. But in reality, branding is managing the thoughts and feelings of your customers through the whole sales process to ensure that you can bring the benefits they desire. If your desired brand image isn’t what’s in the minds of your target audience, you’ve got to figure out where the gaps are and how to address them. And fixing those issues is hard work because the old adage still rings true – the customer is always right.

 

 

 

Are you marketing and selling your small business? February 2, 2012

Do you believe you have a great product or service, but you’re having trouble getting your small business to the next level? Whether it’s dog grooming, window washing, resume creation or coffee shop, marketing makes a difference….and even if you have a great service or product…I don’t think your business if going to sell itself.  So let’s take a look at your sales and marketing planand see where there’s opportunity for improvement.

Customers are Ignoring You

Web Strategy

Ask yourself these questions:

  • If you have a website, how great is your landing page? How well does it represent who you are and what you can do? And if you don’t…WHY NOT?
  • If you have customers that make appointments, do you offer on-line appointment setting?
  • How strong is your call to action
  • Do you have customer testimonials…they are an excellent way for someone else to sell your business and give it credibility.
  • Are you using social media to connect and have conversations or do you provide valuable information to customers or potential customers via the Internet?

Product or Service Strategy

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How well do you know your target market? Who exactly is your customer?
  • Are you putting yourself in your customer’s shoes? Are you looking at your business offerings and service from their prospective?
  • How well do you know your competition?  How do they do things? Are they outselling you or offering something your customer’s might benefit from?
  • Would it be appropriate to cross-sell?
  • What are your business objectives for the year?

In short, marketing and selling your business has many components with both web based and traditional tactics to think about, but they can provide you with the tools to bring your business to the next level and meet or exceed your goals.  Start thinking about them today and see where you go….

 

Local Business + Social Media January 27, 2012

Your small business can learn a ton from large corporations and their social media tactics. It’s not rocket science and you don’t need a dedicated team to do it.  Local businesses have a unique opportunity that doesn’t often present itself in the face of big corporations. If your local company isn’t trying these local social media opportunities, it’s time to get started! Here are 7 productive ways to begin that cost you nothing…but your time!

 

Creative Ways Local Businesses Can Use Social Media

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

1.) Complete all of your profile/page information. I know, it’s not very creative, but the easiest to accomplish. As search gets more social, it’s more and more likely your social profile could show up in search results. Make sure you’ve filled it out with adequate information about who you are, what you do, where people can find you, and how to get in touch with you. Of all the social media networks to consider when leveraging an organic search presence, Google+ is currently at the top of the pile. With its consistent incorporation of Google+ profile and page information into search results, brand presence on Google+ is quickly becoming a social media must. Are you there?

2.) Monitor social media mentions. Of your brand…of related products and services…and of your competitors. When people are talking about these things, you should be the first to respond with a coupon, information about your product or service, or just a helpful answer to their question. People use social media for real-time information, and if you’re the one who provides the answer, you elevate yourself as a local expert and a trusted source. This tactic will help you generate new leads, close more sales, or just keep prospects, customers, and your community happy.

3.) Do a little investigating. Check out your fans’ and followers’ profile information to see what they like, and edit adjust marketing activities and communications accordingly. This helps you create buyer personas, refine the style, tone, and content of your messaging, and ensure you’re talking about the things your audience likes to prompt more social engagement.

4.) Become a resource for local events in your industry. Keeping your ear to the ground on events — whether live or web-based — that your audience would like to attend makes you an indispensable resource. Aggregate everything that’s happening in your industry, and maintain groups on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, or Circles on Google+ that keep interested parties up to date on can’t-miss activities. And be sure to show up to these events, too; your future customers will be there! Why not create another impression?

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

5.) Maintain your presence on local review sites. Sites like Yelp! often appear among the top results in search engines. How does your reputation look? Consumers hold peer reviews in high esteem (I do), and it’s crucial that their first impression of you is a positive one. Plus, these sites help answer common questions for customers like addresses, hours of operation, and contact information that people are frequently checking on their mobile devices when on the go. You should be actively involved in maintaining your reputation on these sites by keeping your business information up to date, soliciting positive reviews from satisfied customers, and working to resolve issues with those who have posted negative reviews of your business.

6.) Ask your employees to use their social networks for your business. National companies may ask their employees to do this, but they won’t reap as much benefit unless their employees connect with people that are overwhelmingly interested in their industry. What do people tend to have in common with lots of their connections? Location! If their networks know their friend or family member works for a local company, you can be sure they’ll contact them the next time they need a local dentist, doctor, health food store, pet sitter, t-shirt maker, custom closet designer…well, you get the point.

7.) Connect with other local businesses and consumers. Get active in online conversations. Connect with people that live in your city and businesses that are doing cool things in your area (especially if they could act as a referrer of business!). It’s important to stay locally connected and network with people even if they’re not directly related to your industry; you never know when someone has a secret passion for something you offer or a need arises further down the line for your products and services.

Your local business can use social media to remain a fixture in the local online community and at your storefront.

 

Branding November 17, 2010

Brand

I believe a “brand” lives in the mind of the consumer. What the consumer perceives your brand to be – is what your brand is. Being a high caliber company is only true if the consumer believes it to be true. Branding is by far one of the most important factors influencing an organization’s success or failure in the marketplace, and can have a dramatic impact on how the “organization behind the brand” is perceived by the discerning buying public with, for the most part almost limitless purchasing options. In other words, the brand is not just a representation of a company’s products and services; it is a symbol of the organization itself, and that is where the core of brand loyalty lies. To build brand equity, all elements of the promotional mix are required to develop and sustain the desired perception in the mind of the consumer. Initially, the challenge is to build awareness, then to develop the brand personality and reinforce the perception. This leads to another important factor in brand-building: the need to invest in the brand over the long-term. Building customer awareness, communicating the brand’s message and creating customer loyalty takes time, but ultimately translates into sales and reputation on a local and national level.  Successful organizations “invest” in their brand, often at the expense of short-term profitability.