Tag archive for "Small Business Marketing"

10 Steps to Successful Social Networking

Facebook, Guest Post, Marketing, Networking, New Media, Small Business, Small Business Marketing, Social Media, Twitter, Video and YouTube

10 Steps to Successful Social Networking

2 Comments 23 August 2010

Editor’s Note: Annie Mueller provides value-filled, relevant content to help small businesses build an effective online presence. In over 6 years of freelance writing, she’s never had an unhappy client.

Networking is about meeting and building relationships with people for a purpose. It’s that last part that counts in the definition, the purposeful part. Otherwise we’re all just socializing, which is what much of it amounts to anyway because if you don’t know your purpose, it’s pretty difficult to achieve it. That’s fine if you just enjoy socializing for the sake of socializing (and, actually, the best social networkers are people like that usually). However, if you’re spending marketing dollars and the prosperity of your business depends on the success of your social networking, you’d better do a bit more than socialize.

1. The Question You’d Better Answer First

Why are you interested in social networking? To build your business? How, exactly?Do you sell online or just promote online? Are you locally, nationally, or internationally focused? Do you want people to talk about your business online, share your links, spread the word about you, learn more about you, recommend you, sign up for a program, get a free sample, get your e-newsletter, read your blog, interact with you, ask questions, get a membership, order a product, pay for a service, refer you to their friends? If social networking works for you just the way you want it to, what will the results be? Get that pinned down first; don’t tweet a single character or start a Facebook page or write a blog post until you know the answer to this question:What do you hope to accomplish from your social networking? What are your ideal results? Be very specific; don’t say, “I want my business to grow.” Say, “I want 75 members in my exclusive coaching clubs,” or “I want to sell 6,000 widgets online next year,” or “I want 100,000 readers so I can sell pricey ads on my site,” or “I want 250+ people in my referral program,” or “I want 100 customers to sign up for my gold-level service club.”

2. Believe in what you have to offer.

Billy Mays. Everybody wished he would be a little bit quieter but nobody doubted he really loved that OxiClean. And he sold it. Bob Ross. He was all calm and light and happy trees and you just knew you could paint that way, too, if you listened to him. He believed it, and he sold it. Tyler Florence. A gourmet chef singing the praises of a packaged salad dressing? Er. Something’s screechy and wrong here. If what you are trying to sell violates the principles you have already defined for yourself and your business, don’t waste your time trying to sell it. You either have to find a new product or service which fits with the way you’ve defined yourself, or you have to redefine yourself and your business. If you can’t convince yourself that what you have to offer is genuinely worthy, then you cannot convince anyone else. Believe in your business, first. If you’re in one of those slog points, revisit the notes you made on top of the mountain. Remember your strengths. Think about your unique offer. Define the value and make sure it’s something you believe in.

3. Find the right people: the ones who actually need and will benefit from what you offer.

Target your online audience as (or more) carefully as you target your target market. Who will be interested in what you have to offer? Don’t waste your time trying to interest “everybody.” NOTHING (except maybe toilet paper) has universal appeal. Focus on the people who will love, adore, and build small shrines to the solution you bring them. They will become your secondary marketers and will talk a whole bunch of other (fringe) people into trying your business, too. They will be passionate, enthusiastic, and committed customers. Get these people. Focus on them. Pour your attention onto them. Quit trying to convince a huge crowd of slightly disinterested folks to get interested in you, and instead, start talking to the people who are already into your field. Your job is half-done.

4. Find a (free) preliminary way to solve problems.

Before you sell, give. This is a basic idea of permission marketing, education-based marketing, and Golden Rule marketing, which are all pretty much the same thing. So pick a name and then apply the concept by giving first. Offer genuine value. Don’t try to cheap out at this point. People will flee and never return.

5. Find and focus on 1 to 3 social outlets.

Even if you have a full-time, salaried social networker plugging away for your business, focusing on a few social outlets rather than trying to have a presence on all of them will get you better results. Of course Facebook and Twitter are the big daddies, but if you know your target audience well (and you should) go where they are, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, ZombieLandForums.com, or somewhere else entirely. Go to the people you want to reach and focus on a few of the places where they hang out online.

6. Be enthusiastic.

Because if you don’t really care or even like it that much, why should anybody else? Introverts, break out of your personality a bit and show some emotion. If that’s utterly impossible for you, delegate or hire out so you get a voice out there with some enthusiasm in it. Otherwise you waste your time.

7. Offer value, help, and attention.

First, offer free items of value. This could be content (your blog, your resources) or samples (don’t be cheap) or trials or digital products (ebooks, podcasts) or giveaways or clubs or services.Second, offer help when you see a need and, definitely, whenever people ask for it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t count up the loss of billable hours. Help.Third, offer attention when people start interacting with you. Don’t work to get people to notice you and then ignore them when they do. Follow up. Listen, Respond. Interact. Be real. Give your attention.

8. Be consistent.

Give people familiarity and reliability. They tend to like that sort of thing.

  • Consistent message: say one thing, say it clearly, and repeat it often.
  • Consistent value: don’t create one great product and then cheap out on the next. Your customers will feel betrayed.
  • Consistent method: if you blog, post on the same days and follow the same format; if you tweet, offer the same kind of helpful info all the time; whatever you do, set up a format that works for your goal and stick with it. Sure, some variation and creativity is great; just work within some basic boundaries so people know what you offer and aren’t disappointed. It only takes one visit to a blog without a recent post for a visitor to strike you off the “live” list.

9. Be ready to sell what you have to offer.

If you follow the steps as outlined, eventually (maybe much sooner than you think) people will ask, “What else?” You’ve offered value, you’ve been sincere, you’re enthusiastic and likeable, you’ve been helpful, you’ve been consistent. You’ve won them over. They like you. They want to give back. They are eager to invest back in you the way you have invested in them. So give them a way to do just that!

  • Make it obvious. Obvious doesn’t mean obnoxious. No flashing signs or neon arrows necessary, but a nice big button that says, “Order XYZ Product Here” could do the trick.
  • Make it easy. Purchasing should be a simple, one or two step process.
  • Make it sincere. Any sales material you have needs to reflect the heart and vision of your business. Go back to step 1: do you still believe in your business? Put that belief into words. Be real. You can always get an editor.
  • Make it subordinate. Yes, this is your business; but your first goal must remain – always – to help the people in your network. If you know that they would be better helped by another product or service, or that your product/service will NOT help them, then it is your responsibility to say so. You may lose a sale, but you will gain a reputation that is worth many more sales in the future.

10. Follow up with even more value after the sale.

Repeat steps #7 and #8 with everyone who buys from you. Sound like hard work? It is. That’s the thing with social networking: it isn’t a magic button or an automatic cash cow. There is no keyword strategy that can build a business without any real value any it. So build a good foundation. Put the work in. And here’s the good news: the initial work will pay off exponentially. That’s the magic part of the social networking model, and it does work. Once you put in the work, the time, the belief, the energy, the effort, the attention, and the value, you win over a few people who love you like you love your business: maybe 10, maybe 100, maybe 1000. Then they network for you. The 10 becomes 100, the 100 becomes 1000, the 1000 becomes 10,000. And it keeps growing. You keep giving, of course. So yes: social networking, done right, is 1) hard work which 2) requires time and effort and 3) takes time before it pays off. But it also 4) does pay off and 5) the returns can be quite great and often 6) will take off and continue to grow far beyond the original investment you made.

Photo Credit: Intersection Consulting


Media Using Facebook: A Success Testimonial

Facebook, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Marketing

Media Using Facebook: A Success Testimonial

No Comments 20 August 2010

I’ve heard rumors that the media is scared of Facebook (and social media in general). It’s turning their world upside down and twisting up their old way of media delivery. They aren’t in control anymore. So, I love it when I hear of an independent media source that is using social media and is willing to attest to its benefits. This testimonial about the benefits of using Facebook as a marketing tool came across my desk from Heather Logrippo of Distinctive Homes, a luxury real estate magazine in New England so I just simply MUST share it with you:

“We hired a company to create and manage our Facebook account. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what it would do for us, or why we even needed a Facebook Page. But it wasn’t very expensive, so I thought we’d give it a try. We started up in July of 2009.

Well, it’s a year later, and I can tell you that 20% of our new business has come from Facebook. It is really amazing. People are contacting us for information – we are staying top of mind with our clients and readers and have been able to target our audience in a way that would have cost us tens of thousands of dollars offline.

The company we use sets up the pages, helps us integrate a strategy throughout all of our marketing efforts, manages a pay per click on Facebook account for us and send me an executive summary each month so I can see what has happened. I love it.”

I love it, too. This gives some testimony to the post I wrote on how media should give better PR and the other ideas I put in that post. Thanks for sharing, Heather.

How about you? How are you using social media tools to grow your business? This isn’t just fun and games – it’s a real money-maker on multiple fronts. Are you making the most of this marketing opportunity?

Photo credit: Distinctive Homes Magazine


Dear Agency: Don’t Forget the Web Site Address

Advertising, Branding, Cause Related Marketing, Community & Small Business Branding, Marketing, Marketing Mistakes, Measuring Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Marketing, Smart Strategy, Web Sites

Dear Agency: Don’t Forget the Web Site Address

No Comments 19 August 2010

Dear Traditional Advertising Agency:

Reference: See my previous post about the three key elements of a brand.

Leaving your client’s web site URL off of their print advertising does the following harm to your client and it wastes all of their money:

1. This mistake gives you nor your client any way to measure the value of the print advertising by tracking incoming traffic to the web site.

2. This mistake leaves the reader (and potential business prospect) with no real actionable place to go to learn more without making a phone call. (In 2010, we just need a URL. Period.)

3. Worst of all, this mistake leaves the impression that your client is behind the times and isn’t worth considering for important business.

Instead of allowing this sort of image torture to happen for your client, I would recommend that if you insist on pushing print advertising into your client’s budget that you at least implement the following strategies to give the ad spending the best shot at giving a return on investment:

1. Build a vanity URL (www.clientname.com/magazinename).

2. On this specific web page (within your main web site), put valuable, advertisement specific copy, images and links to a wealth of business information, testimonials, and include another call to action to the prospect into your sales funnel deeper. (How about asking them some information about them or providing them with a valuable tool for free to grow their loyalty towards your client’s business?)

3. Put a call to action in the print ad that answers the “What’s in it for me?” question for the prospect and lures them to the vanity URL you created earlier.

4. Collect the data about who visits the page including geography, what else they look at on the site, what information is working and not working and conversion to next step or other actions within your sales funnel.

5. Help your client make adjustments in their process based on this new business intelligence.

Sound simple? Well, it really is pretty simple. No matter how complex the business model, a simple strategy like this followed through to the end (with measurement and continuous improvement) will show your value to your customer as an advertising professional.

There are a million ways to kick that idea up another notch, but for now, let’s start with getting that URL onto the advertisement in the first place and having a web site that’s ready to accept traffic. That’s the first step to building credibility and brand legitimacy in 2010.

Thanks for listening.



My Ideas for Inspiring My Small Business Senses

Blogging, Inspiration, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Marketing, Work Life Balance

My Ideas for Inspiring My Small Business Senses

No Comments 18 August 2010

Our last past on inspiration garnered some interesting feedback including the question, “How do you stay inspired?”

Here’s my answer for business inspiration – and not in order of priority:

1. I read blogs. LOTS and lots of blogs. Mostly business and marketing related. If you’re interested in exactly what I read, connect with me on Google Buzz. I click “share” for all the posts that I read that I like on pretty much any subject.

2. I read and analyze print magazines. I read magazines that have nothing to do with my career niche. By the time it comes out in print, it’s long gone. I get my business info on the web because the web moves quickly just like business. But I love to analyze layouts, strategies, organization and article presentation in print magazines. My favorites of the moment feed my current hobby of decorating our new-to-us 1920s urban bungalow and my desire to be a more creative, organized, and thoughtful mother to my kids and friend to lots of types of people. Currently, I’m reading House Beautiful (because they run the gamut of practical to totally impractical, on their editorial while keeping their presentation creative and simple to consume), Martha Stewart Living (because Martha and company still have the perfect balance between practical and remarkable) and Real Simple (because I usually find a tip that sparks inspiration in my life) pretty much every time a new issue comes out.

3. I read product packaging. I like the wit and information found on great product packaging and the opportunity that it provides to connect with an existing customer and extend that customer experience. I love it when I hear the personality of the company come to life on the product labeling. Right now, I’m drinking a Sparkling Blackberry IZZE from a can. The label reads: “We stay true to the fruit. IZZE is 70% pure fruit juice. A splash of sparkling water. Made with natural ingredients and fortified with vitamins with no refined sugars, no caffeine, no preservatives. Naturally delightful. Visit IZZE.com.” They could have skipped the “stay true to the fruit and the naturally delightful part and still told their story. But the personality jumped in a bit and makes me more interested and adds value to my experience. I watch for that, consider it, am inspired by creativity in the details of a business.

4.  I hang out with my kids. We paint, read, laugh, play games, cook together and go on special outings together. Each child sees things from a unique vantage point – which inspires me to do the same. They help me look through a new set of lenses and give me ah-ha moments unlike any others.

5. I garden a manageable amount of flowers that give me opportunity to be rewarded in short order with cut-worthy blooms. I water them to get refreshed. I look at them to get inspired. I tinker with fertilizing them, pruning them, and rearranging them to learn from them.

6. I exercise… With Andy or alone, mostly by walking or running outdoors. I’m not a group game sorta person. I use my exercise time to talk things out, think things out, breathe fresh air, run off my frustrations, capture a change of scenery – all leads to a more inspired me – and make me a healthier human for my family.

I hope that helps and gives you some ideas for gaining your own inspiration – what about you? What inspires you in your business?

Photo Credit: Clearly Ambiguous


Web Site Stats for Small Business Web Sites

Marketing, Measuring Marketing, Small Business, Small Business and Google, Small Business Marketing, Web Sites

Web Site Stats for Small Business Web Sites

No Comments 14 August 2010

Just had an interesting conversation at lunch about web site statistics for small local businesses. I thought you might find the key takeaways from that conversation interesting when you consider your own local business or small business web site traffic statistics:

1. Google Analytics and other widely used script-based analytics services typically do not capture true page load and unique visitor numbers. Why? Because if someone views your site via a smartphone or in a browser with cookies and scripts cut off, then that view won’t register.

2. The true number (for unique visitors and for page loads) is the one that your server can provide you. This is a great reason to host with a local but robust web hosting provider with whom you can have a personal relationship to give you and explain to you the true server traffic numbers for your small business. I happen to know someone who can help you with that sort of thing (link to a company we own).

3. If Google Analytics and other analytics packages aren’t capturing all the traffic numbers, what good are they? They are extremely valuable to you as a business because they give you customer and potential customer intelligence. Here are some areas of intelligence that might interest you:

a. See what content, products, etc. are creating a lot of interest among visitors overall or within a specific geographical area.

b. Test headlines and navigation titles to see which get clicked more often.

c. Measure the success and behaviors of customers during campaigns like e-mail, social media, online and off-line advertising campaigns.

d. Learn geographical data about your web customers.

e. Measure conversion rates from visitor to customer ratios.

f. Learn how long visitors stay on your site.

g. Learn what search terms are bringing folks to your site – and if they’re not relevant, change your content. If they are relevant, produce more content along those same keywords.

There is a LOT more to discuss in this conversation, but the bottom line is that for those of you who are selling advertising or competing in some way on traffic – the true server numbers are where you want to be looking. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – those Analytics numbers tell you things about your customers that you never would have known otherwise. Get to know that information, track it, make changes, measure some more and take action to improve your small business based on this free intelligence. Your success depends on it.

Have you taken action in your business based on information you learned from web site analytics? Why or why not?

Photo Credit: edkohler


Indie Candy: Meeting a Niche Need

Attitude and Success, Authenticity, Facebook, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Marketing, Small Retail Business

Indie Candy: Meeting a Niche Need

1 Comment 12 August 2010

A few weeks ago we took the kids on vacation and stopped overnight in Birmingham to visit our blogger friend, Eat Birmingham.

Before we left the next day, the kids and I went on a little shopping jaunt through the villages of Mountain Brook. (If you want to do the same, may I recommend that you get in touch with @shopmtnbrook for advice along your way?) There were lots of fun surprises (we shopped mostly kid-friendly places like the toy stores, kids clothing boutiques and…. Indie Candy in Crestline.

The candymaker in Indie Candy explained to the kids and me how his candy was a better candy: all natural with no high fructose corn syrup or any yucky preservatives of any type. My kids love gummy candy – but it’s TERRIBLE for their teeth. But in this case, I caved. A beautiful selection of fascinating shapes and stained glass colors mesmerized all of us, and as a mom, I loved the somewhat old fashioned look of the signage that announced things like “The Best Gummies EVER” and “Indie Candy: naturally gourmet sweets.” I was sold.

P.S. If your kids love lollipops over gummies, they have lots of those, too – in cool shapes and sizes. See photo.

Indie Candy has a humble shop in Crestline village with a more than friendly and informative candymaker in residence. They’ve made an enterprise by selling their candy through several online candy shops and reaching out to loyal customers through Facebook. What I truly love is that they do what they do well – and they connect well with a dual audience: kids who love candy and mom’s who want healthy choices for their kids. It’s a winning niche with an approachable, friendly attitude.

What niche can you fill in business? How can you connect better with your customers and make something that you can sell not just locally – but beyond? Are you connecting with your customers online and off-line.


How to Move Towards Your Goals

Attitude and Success, Getting Results, Marketing, Planning & Goal Setting, Small Business, Small Business Goals, Small Business Marketing, Success in this Economy

How to Move Towards Your Goals

2 Comments 11 August 2010

For some reason, August is always like my second chance every year to course correct and get back on track with those New Year’s resolutions that fell to the wayside or to get my business’ marketing plan back on track after the lazy days of summer. It’s back to school – and with that fresh start for my kids seems to come a fresh start for me. And I know I’m not alone, because the phone is ringing off the hook with others just like me seeking help with their own fresh start.

This year has been an especially poignant one for me in the area of discipline, goal setting and goal achieving. I’ve always been a planner (I’m a recovering plan-a-holic). But this year, I’ve been learning a few things about achieving goals that I wanted to share with you:

It’s best to go towards a goal than to run away from a problem.

This year, I started running for the first time in my life. The problem was that I had gained some extra weight and had lost my father too young to a heart attack. The problem was that I was scared. But if I looked forward I could see a healthy me with lots of energy to do almost anything with my kids and who was able to live a long, happy, effective life. My goal is to live well and finish well. From a physical health perspective that meant not just losing some weight, but becoming more physically healthy. Andy and I started training for a marathon, and I’ve never run in my life. Now, that’s running towards a goal instead of away from a problem.

What about your small business? It’s probably easy to list all the problems, challenges and discouragements that you face each day. Your fears and anxieties can easily overshadow everything else, especially when it comes to the daily grind of owning a local business. But when you look into the future longingly – what do you want it to look like? Define the future – and then run towards it.

There is no time like the present to start making changes.

If you want to win, you can’t wait until next Monday to get started. Change doesn’t start next month or next year – it starts today. When you realize you aren’t doing what you should be doing, you need to set your sights on the future goal and run towards it – TODAY. It doesn’t matter how slow the pace or how short the stride – it just matters that you don’t wait – that you do something TODAY that moves you closer to your goals, whether it be in small business ownership or in life.

When you fail, focus that frustration on being better again. Not on guilt.

Here is where I confess my failures. We started training for a marathon. I could run five solid miles, and I spent Spring Break this year riding bikes and kayaking with my kids. Then we moved to a new home.

Andy and I have exercised (either swim or walk) no more than two days a week since April. We have eaten too many desserts, and I’ve been drinking soft drinks way too much. We quit spending time stretching everyday. We’ve put on a few pounds and our bodies ache again. We miss the health, and we’re going to get it back. We woke up yesterday disgusted with ourselves for letting this happen. And yesterday we started doing something about it. Soft drinks are out and healthy, life giving water is in. I stretched this morning and am looking forward to an evening walk with my hubby. We’re turning our disgust into positive, life-changing, goal-achieving energy. I’m not going to sit around and mope about my failure. I’m going to do something to make it better again.

How about your business? Have you been complacent about your marketing, customer service, store displays, community involvement, social media messages, employee training, e-mail campaigns, or web site updates? Have you let bad habits creep into your business life? Have you let your passion slide? Have you taken your eyes off of your sales goals, marketing goals, business goals, life goals? Don’t focus on the pain and consequences of your complacency and bad habits – instead focus all of your energy on achieving your goals, sharing your passion, and finding your future success.

The cliché is true: you really do eat an elephant one bite at a time.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this all sounds well and good but your circumstance is WAY more complicated than this. You’ve got layers and layers of problems and failures and scary obstacles to overcome. I wish I could tell you but I can’t – but my health is the least of my worries. But I can also promise you this: doing nothing but throwing a pity party will not get you any closer to freedom. Don’t be overwhelmed by the big picture. It is what it is, and there’s nothing you can do to change the past. But you can change your future. You make choices every moment about how to spend your time – and what you do next will affect your future one way or another. So, with your eyes on the goals ahead, find a tiny little bite-sized piece of a task that you can do right now that will move you one tiny step closer to your goal, to your full potential for success. As you train, you’ll be able to take bigger bites and the momentum will grow and you’ll get more accomplished and the race will get easier. But today, just take a small bite. That’s all you have to do. And tomorrow, take another small bite. Keep taking bites. Until you eat the entire elephant – or achieve your small business goals…

Want some encouragement along the way? What are your goals? Share them, and we’ll stay in touch as you walk towards the future.

Photo Credit: One-Fat-Man


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About Marianna Chapman

For the past 15 years, Marianna Chapman has been creating game-changing big ideas resulting in big returns for dozens of businesses and communities across the U.S.

Today, Marianna and her team help business and non-profit clients at Big Idea Company, Inc., writes the Results Revolution blog, serves as Executive Editor for Eat Cities, LLC media outlets, and is a frequent speaker to national and regional conferences.

Marianna is a professional problem solver and rainmaker for hire.

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