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.

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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.

 

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….

 

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.