insightfulmarketing

Simple, effective and insightful small business marketing

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!

 

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….