Small Business Marketing Blog

June 9, 2010

Rev Up Your Referral Engine

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 9:22 am
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What portion of your business currently comes from referrals? While it is widely known that referrals are essential for growth and vitality, few businesses have a systematic approach to getting more of them. That is why I was so excited to read John Jantsch’s new book, The Referral Engine:  Teaching Your Business to Market Itself.  Going beyond tips and tricks, Jantsch gets at the heart of what it takes to be a highly referable business. Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:  

Start with a referral mind-set. When you have the goal and expectation of getting more referrals, it changes how you do things. Instead of just being as good as the competition, or only slightly better, you set a goal for yourself of being “remarkable.”  Otherwise, no one is going to be excited about it—maybe not even you.  According to Jantsch you have work to make sure that the “core difference you offer” makes people stop and take notice.

Create a referral strategy. This starts from the very beginning of the relationship by setting up the expectation that the client is going to be so delighted by what you have to offer that they are going to be compelled to tell other people about your business. It might sound self-serving but you can make this easier for customers by taking the time to identify—during and after the service—the progress and how the customer is getting exactly what they asked for. 

Don’t forget to ask. Once the service is complete, there is a natural point where the customer is expressing how much they like the finished product. This is the perfect time to ask for referral. Don’t be afraid to be specific. Explain to them what kind of customer you are looking for and even how they can recognize “triggers” that signal a perfect time to make a referral.  I experienced this recently while I was checking out at an Aveda Concept store. I complimented a salesperson on his hair and without missing a beat he said, “Thanks, I get my hair cut at Adore Salon in Oceanside with Raelynn. She is great. Here’s her card.”  I was impressed. That was a well-executed referral based on the trigger of my compliment.

Being successful in getting more referrals is a great, cost-effective way to generate more business. John Jantsch’s The Referral Engine is a great resource for getting started. Tap into the power of positive word-of-mouth.  Get your customers excited about your product or service and help them help you spread the word. (And if Small Biz Marketing Blog is something you’re excited about, please be sure to point others to www.robinwitt.com or to me personally at robin.witt@yahoo.com !)

June 2, 2010

Now is a Great Time to Be in Business?

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 12:55 pm
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Now is a great time for business. “Business is Booming” is certainly an attention-grabbing title for a presentation at a time when many businesses are experiencing something more like “Business is barely hanging in there,” but that is the kind of thinking you get from Brad Sugars, author and CEO of Action Coach.  Sugars was in San Diego last week on one of the many stops of his 2010 “Business is Booming” tour.  Not only did I find Sugar’s presentation entertaining, I loved how he challenged the audience with the points he made. 

Here are some of my favorites:

If you have a business and you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong.

The most expensive advice is free advice from a person who doesn’t have any money.

Many people overestimate what they can get done in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.

The definition of leverage is doing the work once and getting paid forever.

Many business owners do not know how much it is really costing them to get a customer. Attracting a lead, converting a lead, and calculating the lifetime value of a customer are all important factors to know and understand.

Business opportunities change like the seasons. There is a time to grow and a time to harvest. Business owners can get in trouble if they are doing the wrong activities at the wrong time.  

Sugars reminded the audience there are no get-rich-quick schemes. It takes about ten years to become wealthy because that is how long it takes to learn how to do it, apply it, and complete a full business cycle.  

Regardless of the current economic conditions, there are always opportunities.  As business owners we are only limited by our own ability to learn, adapt, and strategize. Are you open for business?

May 18, 2010

Is it Time to Ditch Email Marketing?

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 9:13 am
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Customer reading email. With social media all the buzz, it might seem like email marketing is no longer a valuable tool for growing your business. Apparently that was not the opinion of the 300 or so people who took time to attend a Constant Contact email marketing seminar in San Diego last week. According to the event’s presenter, Ron Cates, 91 percent of people who use email, do it daily, with 25 percent checking it more than 10 times a day. He also said that accessing email via smart phones is rising steadily and is expected to double next year. Cates emphasized that not only is email marketing still very popular, it remains one of the most effective ways to increase sales, averaging a return of investment of $44 for every dollar spent.

After reminding the audience of the importance and value of email marketing, Cates recommended the following best practices for businesses to maximize results. 

Clearly identify who the email is “from.” 60 percent of email recipients decide whether they will open an email based on this factor alone.

Make sure the text, not the images, clearly conveys the message. Many email clients like Yahoo, Gmail, and Outlook block out images until the recipient clicks to say they are OK to view. This does not mean don’t use pictures; just make sure the message makes sense without them in case they are not present.

Don’t be an “accidental spammer.” An accidental spammer is when you unintentionally spam your customers. While the Can Spam Act explains what spamming is from a legal point of view, your customers might have different ideas. Possible triggers that get you labeled as a spammer by clients are: sending too frequently, not getting permission, or sending content your customer doesn’t like.

Make it easy for customers to sign up to be on your email mailing list. Display a sign-up field in a prominent area on your website and include a link in your email signature. You can also encourage people to sign up by offering them an irresistible incentive to do so.

Most importantly, share content that is valuable and interesting to your intended audience. If all your emails say the same thing “buy my stuff, buy my stuff, buy my stuff” that gets old over time. Instead, show your expertise and focus on building relationships.

Email marketing continues to be a valuable way for businesses to communicate with customers and demonstrate their expertise. By sharing useful and interesting information, businesses can look forward to both increased loyalty and revenue.

May 11, 2010

3 Marketing Tips to Learn from American Apparel

Shoppers lined up for American Apparel's Rummage Sale in San Diego's Gaslamp District on May 8, 2010.   471, 472, 473 clicked the attendant in the green shirt.  It was the number assigned to me, my teenage daughter, and her friend as we descended down into the basement of clothing retailer American Apparel in San Diego’s Gaslamp District.  When I first saw the crowds snaking along several blocks I thought they were waiting to buy tickets to a concert or Padres’ game. Little did I know I would be waiting in that very line for three hours before we would reach our final destination, the 3rd annual American Apparel Rummage Sale.

These days, not many retailers have people waiting in line to give them money. In fact, most are reporting their lowest sales in years. So how does a retailer like American Apparel, dealing with the same business pressures as everyone else, post an 8 percent increase in sales for the last quarter of 2009? From what I could see, it comes down to three things.

Consistency.  American Apparel is consistent with their brand (simple, quality, American-made fashions) and this builds trust because people know what to expect. In addition, American Apparel stocks a large selection in their stores and many of the styles are not available at other retailers.  This winning combination has garnered American Apparel a loyal fan base.  

Socially Connected.  American Apparel uses social media effectively to keep in touch with customers. Most of the people I asked in my small circle in line had found out about the sale on Facebook. But American Apparel does more than broadcast promotions on Twitter and Facebook, they also engage in meaningful conversations with their online followers. For example, in one of their posts they asked people who were planning on attending the sale what they were hoping to find, so they could make sure it was available. Another post offered tips for avoiding a long wait. It was evident they were using these real time online tools to improve the customer experience.   

Constantly Promoting. American Apparel’s Rummage Sale was obviously successful, but that did not mean the staff was going to rest on this one event, they continued to promote for the future.  While customers were waiting to get into the store, employees with clipboards walked around to see if anyone wanted to get on their email list and offered a gift when they signed up. They also scouted out the line for possible new hires.  I guess they figured if someone is willing to wait several hours to get into the store, they very likely would make a passionate employee.  And for a final hook, they tucked a postcard into my bag with a 15 percent discount for next time.

Even during tough economic times, when shoppers are looking for the best deals and most retailers tell you how hard it is to make a buck, hard work, good value, and strong promotion can still bring people into a store.  Take a look at the three ways that American Apparel creates the kind of buzz that makes it seem reasonable to wait in line for hours for the chance to buy something.  What can you do in the areas of consistency, connection, and promotion to improve your business?  It might take a little time, but with some concentrated effort, you can create a loyal fan base, and the strong word-of-mouth endorsement that has folks lining up to do business with you.

April 28, 2010

San Diego Women’s Week: Trail Blazers Share Lessons for Business and Life

San Diego Women's WeekI attended the final day of San Diego’s first Women’s Week this weekend. The event featured nearly 30 speakers including Gayle Wilson, the former first lady of California; U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt; TAG founder Alicia Gwynn, wife of San Diego Padre legend Tony Gwynn; retired White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano; and entrepreneur Ingrid Croce, wife of the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who’s operated Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar in San Diego’s Gaslamp District for 25 years.

Hundreds of women in leadership roles across all organizations and industries, participated in the inaugural event designed to inspire, empower and connect women executives, managers, and professionals. Discussion topics changed daily and included health, fitness, finance, law, retail, fashion, business, the arts and entrepreneurship.

On the day I attended the themes were careers, business, and entrepreneurial spirit and featured women speakers who have been and are pioneers in their industries, competing in male-dominated industries and overcoming immense obstacles to achieve their goals. Their stories were funny, heartfelt, and inspiring. For those of you who were not able to attend this year’s event, here are some of my favorite words of wisdom.  See how many of these resonate with you, the way they did for me.

Gayle Wilson Former First Lady, California: “Set your sights and standards high and don’t lower them for anyone.”  

Barbara Noerenberg VP Corporate Research and Development, Qualcomm, Inc: “Dream big and be fearless!”

Jayne Hancock VP Flo TV, Qualcomm, Inc: “Have perspective. It keeps you balanced and grounded.”

Tina Mickelson PGA Golf Professional and sister of Masters Champion Phil Michelson: “Find humor in your mistakes because many times mistakes can take you to a place you wouldn’t have gotten to without them.”

Ingrid Croce Owner Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar: “One thing I learned is whether you plan it all out, or just make it up as you go along like I did, you can never do it alone.  You really need others.”

Kim Moses Executive Producer, director, and writer, Ghost Whisperer: “Live in the place you want, be with the people you love, do the right work; on purpose, and break some rules along the way.”

Jill Lieber Steeg The first women in the history of Sports Illustrated to cover professional sports. Also broke Pete Rose gambling story: “When doors open, even if you are not ready, you have got to walk through them because they might not open again.”

As you can imagine, it was an inspiring day. Be sure to look for it again here in San Diego next year.  And look for me too–next year I’m going for the full week!

April 23, 2010

4 Tips for Writing Blog Leads that Work

Filed under: Blogging,Business — Robin Witt @ 8:47 am
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When writing a small business blog, pay special attention to your very first sentence. This sentence is called the lead and after the headline, an interesting lead makes the biggest difference between someone reading your post, or moving on to something else. Here are four different types of lead sentences to try out on your business blog:  

Delayed Identity.  In this type of lead, the writer keeps the identity of the subject a mystery until later in the paragraph. Here is a successful example from Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert Blog

 I’m sitting in a restaurant in Cincinnati recently, surrounded by  televisions with the sound turned down. The bartender approaches, and asks if I’d like to hear the TV. I say “sure” expecting him to saunter over to a monitor, and turn up the volume. Instead, he reaches under the bar, and pulls out a Soundog unit.

Scene Setter.  Painting a picture, or creating a state of mind for the reader is the hallmark of this type of lead. Do it in a succinct manner and include emotional triggers like anxiety to create tension, momentum, or anticipation. Here’s one from a recent HubSpot Marketing Blog.  Notice how you feel like you are right there trying to solve the problem.

You’re sitting in front of your computer, trying to come up with a fantastic lead nurturing campaign.  You know you need to provide value.  You know you need to drive these early funnel leads to later…

Shocking Statement. Write a sentence that goes against popular belief, or has a bold opinion. This is from the Church of the Customer Blog talking about South by Southwest (SXSW), a wildly popular, interactive conference featuring music and film held in Austin, Texas each year.

The panels at the SXSW Interactive sucked.

Question. Asking a question can sometimes be the simplest way to get the reader thinking and engaged in a short period of time. Here is an example where a question is used effectively in a recent Duct Tape Marketing blog post.

Why are you captivated by some people, but not others? Why do you recall some brands, yet forget the rest?

Give leads the special attention they deserve by keeping them fresh. Don’t be afraid to try different types. You’ll be rewarded by readers that are more engaged and more likely to recommend your writing to others.

April 20, 2010

Chocolate Kiss Your Marketing Message

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 8:22 am
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A chocolate kiss is a metaphor for keeping your marketing message simple.In talking to other business owners, I have found that we are all doing more marketing than ever before. One of the contributing factors is that the products and services we are selling are pretty complex. Another factor is increased pressure from the competition. This, combined with the usual business factors, has stepped up the time and energy needed to explain our value proposition and differentiate ourselves.

But just because our task may be more complex than in the past, our marketing message shouldn’t be. In marketing your small business, the challenge is to make the complex simple. Here are a few tips from one of my favorite metaphors, the Hershey Chocolate Kiss, to help you remember to keep your message simple. See if you can use any of these ideas in your marketing business strategy:

Be recognizable. Hershey Kisses are an excellent example of effective branding. Although Hershey Kisses are available in several types of chocolate, and some varieties even have nuts, they have retained their iconic plume shape and foil wrapping. Customers easily recognize the Hershey Kiss and know what they are getting. What are you doing to create a consistent message and feel across your products and services to ensure an easily recognizable image?

Miniaturize the Message. With a Hershey Kiss, you get full chocolate flavor, but in a tiny package. Distill what you do into a small, bite size morsel that is easy to remember but is still delicious and valuable.  For Hershey Kisses, their tagline is simply, “Kiss someone.”  What’s your message you want people to remember?

Be easy to share. Hershey Kisses are individually wrapped making them easy to share. Getting others to share your message is one of the best ways to attract new customers.  How can you make your message easy to share on social media networking sites, emails, and blogs?

Just because your products and services are more complicated, doesn’t mean your messaging should be. Think of the Hershey Kiss to remember to keep it simple, memorable, and easy to share with others.

To find out more about how you can use a chocolate kiss approach to attract customers with social media marketing, contact Robin Witt: robin.witt@yahoo.com

April 17, 2010

3 Journalism Tips for Writing a Better Business Blog

Filed under: Blogging,Business — Robin Witt @ 8:33 am
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Many of the same foundation principles apply to writing bogs for your small business. Although the style of writing a blog for your business is different than writing a traditional news story, they both share the goal of communicating important information. To make sure you are writing clearly and with purpose it is a good idea to have a checklist of key questions to use as a guide. In journalism these are known as the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  Using that same idea, here are three essential questions to keep in mind when writing your business blog:

Who am I writing for?  The answer to this question is your customer, of course. It’s funny how easy it is to get off track on this one and write about what is of interest to us or our peers. Remember to keep your ideal customer in mind at all times and write in a manner that makes sense to them by avoiding “insider” jargon.

Why is it important?  Share information that will help your customers with their issues. Answer the question, “Why should my customers care?” Also, be sure to write about what will happen if they don’t adopt what you are proposing.  

What do you want them to do next? Put action into your writing by sharing tips with your readers on how to get started or how to get more information. After all, what is the point of information if it doesn’t change what you are doing or the results you will get?

Writing a business blog is an effective way to position yourself as a trusted expert in the eyes of your customers.  By answering the three essential W’s for business blogging you will ensure your content is appealing and helpful to your target client.

For more information about blogging or social media marketing for your business, contact Robin Witt: robin.witt@yahoo.com

April 13, 2010

Business Lessons from Kitchen Nightmares

Filed under: Business — Robin Witt @ 7:44 am
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The TV show Kitchen Nightmares provides tips for businesses to be successful. My husband sucked me into watching the reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares featuring chef Gordon Ramsay.  Ramsay goes to a different struggling restaurant each week to help them get their culinary groove back (and hopefully some customers, too.) Although each restaurant has different chefs, menus, and locations, there is a surprising similarity to the bad business practices contributing to their current state.  Even though the show is about restaurants, I think there are important universal lessons for businesses of all types to consider. See what you think:

Don’t skip the basics. When people come to a restaurant they expect the kitchen to be clean and the food to be fresh. This is a basic requirement. Still, every week Ramsay finds filth in the kitchen, frozen food masquerading as fresh, and an overworked microwave. Is there any area in your business where you need to improve on meeting the basic expectations of your customers?

More is not usually better. Most of the restaurants Ramsay deals with are trying to provide too many choices. Difficult to pull off from a tactical standpoint, the restaurants end up trying to do a lot of things, but none of them well. Ramsay’s solution is always to trim the menu and feature a few signature dishes that the restaurant can be known for. Is your business trying to be everything to everyone? What do you need to trim from your menu? What is your specialty you can be known for?

Relationships matter. Communication is another missing ingredient in these failing restaurants. When business owners do not listen to feedback from customers and employees it creates tension throughout the entire restaurant. It takes everyone working together to make a successful business. Are the relationships in your business helping or hindering?  

Make sure that have all of the ingredients for success in place at your business.  Pitfalls that can get in the way of this include: not having the basics covered, offering too many choices, and not working together. Make sure you pay attention to these critical factors to avoid your own nightmare.

April 9, 2010

Don’t Let Writer’s Block Derail Your Small Business Blog

Filed under: Blogging,Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 7:45 am
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Writer's block  is a problem when writing small business blogs. Writing blogs is one of the best marketing tools small business owners can use to attract customers. Posting  on a consistent basis is essential to getting the best results.  One of the biggest stumbling blocks is not being able to remember any of your good ideas when you finally sit down to do the writing. The secret is to have a steady supply of story starters at your fingertips so your time can be spent on the writing instead of generating ideas.  Here are four tips to get you started. 

Make idea generation and blog writing two different activities.  When you sit down to write your blog posts for the week, your time should be spent on just writing not looking for ideas. If you try to do both activities at the same time it will take too long and there is a risk you won’t get it done. 

Have a way to capture ideas.  Finding ideas is an ongoing process and you don’t always know when inspiration will strike. Find a reliable way to save these ideas to be used at a later date. Some people write down ideas while other people like to store ideas in their phone or leave themselves a voice message. It doesn’t matter what you come up with for a solution. The important thing is that it works for you and is easy to do, otherwise it won’t be successful. 

Constantly be on the look-out for possible ideas. Great blog ideas can come from a variety of different sources.  For example, clients have questions, concerns, and issues that make excellent blog posts. When you are reading articles, ask yourself, “Is there something here that would valuable to share with my customers?” Just add your own point of view and link back to the original source.  Other sources of inspiration could be movies, books, or your life experiences. 

Fill in the blank. Simple  phrases  or fill-in the blank sentences can help jolt the creative juices. Here are some universal themes to get  you started: 

  • Avoid this mistake at all costs.
  • Do this to be successful.
  • What your _____doesn’t want you to know.
  • How to _______.
  • Thinking about______? Why that is the worst idea ever.

Writing blogs is one of the most valuable activities you can do to establish credibility and trust. Don’t let the pressures of time or an occasional case of writer’s block keep you from making the most of this marketing tool.  With a little bit of planning and attention to a couple of simple strategies you can have a large pool of ideas to choose from.

April 6, 2010

Don’t Let Your Social Media Sites Become Ghost Towns

Filed under: Marketing,Social Media — Robin Witt @ 8:28 am
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Socieal media sites can become ghost town without proper attention. No  fans or followers on your small business social media sites?  As a consultant I hear this complaint many times. There seems to be a misconception that if you put up a site, you don’t need to put any more effort into it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creating a Facebook fan page or new Twitter account is just the first step.  To be successful long term, it’s important to avoid these three common mistakes.

Mistake #1—No goals. What is your desired outcome?  If you don’t know what you want out of your social media marketing, there is a very good chance you will fail. Like other forms of marketing, it requires clear goals, good strategy, and consistent effort to be successful.

Mistake #2—No plans.  Writing tweets, updates, and blogs all take time. It’s important to identify who is going to do it, when they are going to do it, and how much time they will devote to each activity. Planning this out ahead of time will save you heartache in the long run.

Mistake #3—No value. All the content you post should be aimed at your target audience. This is not about your interests, it is about attracting potential customers. With that said, does that mean you have to stifle your personality? Absolutley not, that is what makes you unique and real. You are not a robot after all! Just make sure you stay on message by keeping your ideal client in mind at all times.  

It is tempting to want to rush into social media because of the opportunities it offers small businesses.  Make sure you have clear goals, a well-thought out implementation plan, and a sense of what would be interesting to your clients before you begin.  If you fail to address these three areas your sites might end up being empty, lifeless ghost towns, instead of the vibrant communities they should be.

March 30, 2010

Small Business Blogs: Make Your’s a Tiny Treat

Filed under: Blogging,Business — Robin Witt @ 8:34 am
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Blogs are like tiny candy treats.Creating too much of a good thing is one of the mistakes I see small business owners make when they start writing blogs for their business. In their eagerness to provide good information for prospective clients, they often go overboard with content. While more can be better in some cases, with business blogs you’ll be more successful if you portion out your information as a small bag of M&Ms rather than the whole candy store. By “fun-sizing” your blog entries you’ll keep readers interested and wanting more.  Here are three tips to get started:

Limit your blog posts to 500 words. Make your entries the right size. A small size is not less delicious than a bigger size; it is just easier to consume. If you really can’t cut it down to less than 500 words you probably have enough information for more than one post. The good news is longer posts can be made into a series which is a great way to get return readers. 

Be fun and creative.  Readers want important and useful information, but they also want to be entertained.  Make your entries delicious with a dash of personality. Also, don’t forget to use pictures. Many times the right picture can say more than words alone.  

Make your entries easy to consume. Get to the point in your writing.  Ask yourself, “What am I trying to say and why should anyone care?” Also, make the key thoughts easier to identify by breaking up text with bullet points and numbered lists when appropriate. After reading your post the reader should be able to easily tell someone else what it was about.

Business blogs are a great way to show your expertise to new and existing clients. Just keep it short, sweet, and to the point to invite readers back for another piece the next day.

March 26, 2010

Small Business Marketing: What Can We Learn about Social Media from Alice in Wonderland

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 8:39 am
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Maze represents learning in a new place.For small businesses looking to get started with social media networking, the thought of connecting with customers on Facebook and Twitter can feel like being thrust into a whole new world. This is similar to what happens to Alice when she tumbles down the rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland. Besides not drinking the tonic and forgetting to bring a Smart Phone, we can learn a lot from the misadventures of Alice and the other characters. Here are three mistakes to avoid when you find yourself in a new space.

Don’t be in a rush. It’s easy to feel like the White Rabbit thinking you are late for an important date if you are not yet participating in social media marketing.  It’s true that you don’t want to delay in getting started with this new opportunity to connect with prospective customers, but don’t let that cause you to skip your homework.  Social media marketing is more than just setting up your networks. Many Twitter accounts and Facebook Fan Pages look like ghost towns because they were built without a plan in place. Don’t let this happen to you.  

Know where you are going. There is a well-known scene where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions and he tells her that it all depends on where she wants to go.  Alice replies that she isn’t really sure, to which the wise Cat replies, “Then it doesn’t really matter which direction you choose.” Clearly identify your goals with social media.  Do you want a large number of followers, more traffic for your website, or something else? Unless you decide what your goals are ahead of time, you will not know if you are getting closer and if you need to change your game plan.

Learn the culture.  Each platform has different expected practices and if you don’t follow them you risk people calling out, “Off with your head!”  Well, maybe not that drastic, but a sure way to lose followers is to barge in without knowing what you are doing. Take time to learn about this new environment. The important thing is to approach social media as a place where you are sharing information, ideas, and helpful advice.

Whenever you are in a new environment  it takes time to learn new skills and practices. Social media marketing presents a wonderful opportunity to reach new and existing clients, so it is worth the extra time and effort to get on the right path.

March 23, 2010

Social Media Marketing: 3 Time-Saving Tips

Filed under: Business,Marketing,Social Media — Robin Witt @ 11:00 am
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Saving TimeNot having enough time is one of the biggest concerns clients tell me about when they are considering social media marketing for their small business. The thought of adding tweets, blogs, and other interactions to an already jammed schedule can seem overwhelming  to many. The result is some business owners become paralyzed taking no action at all to market themselves in this area, while others think about finding to an outside agency to do it for them. Both of these ideas are short-sighted. Unless the reason you don’t have time is because you have too many customers, doing social media by someone inside your company presents a wonderful opportunity to get closer to existing and potential customers. The trick is to use your time wisely. Here are 3 tips that will help you to get started with social media in a time effective manner: 
  1. Develop specific goals.  This begins by identifying what you want social media to do for you.  Do you want to create a large follower group, drive traffic to your web site, or provide a resource for existing customers?  All of these are possible goals for social media. Once you identify the end result, you will be able to develop a more targeted plan and approach. If you don’t, you will spend more time than necessary.  Different goals require different actions.  Get clear on your desired outcome.
  2. Define your target audience.  Second, identify your ideal client. It is tempting to say that everyone could benefit from your product or service, and that may be true, but trying to target messages to such a broad audience will generally result in scattered efforts.  Instead, clearly define who your best customer is.  See them clearly and then choose content that would be most interesting to them.  This precision will help you to sort through content quickly to find the best items. The clearer you are in this area, the more focused, targeted, and successful your strategy will be.
  3. Get experienced help.  This third tip will generally save new users the most time.  Trial and error is an effective way to learn, but it takes a lot more time. Small business owners can dramatically decrease their ramp-up time by finding an expert who knows what the time traps are and how to avoid them.

Even under the best of circumstances, getting started with social media takes anywhere from 1-3 months before new users see results.  Don’t delay the process with unclear goals, undefined customer segments, or a go-it-alone attitude.  With a little bit of help, small businesses can be up and running with social media and enjoying the benefits in 4-6 weeks.   The extra planning up front saves time and achieves better results in the long run.

 

  

March 19, 2010

Small Business Customer Service: Lessons from a Recent Haircut

Filed under: Business — Robin Witt @ 6:40 am
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Customer service lessons at the salonFinding a new hair stylist is a big deal for most women (and I suppose a lot of men also.) Recently I’ve been searching for a new stylist, so I’ve had an opportunity to experience several different salons here in the San Diego area. Here are the three things I’m looking for:

I want a quality haircut. I define this as something that looks good with minimal care and does not require a lot of product intervention or excessive styling. I don’t have a lot of time to spend making my hair look good by propping it up with tons of hairspray or endless styling routines.

I want a haircut that looks good on me. Sometimes a stylist will give you a nice looking style, but if you don’t share the same physical characteristics as the model, it doesn’t look good on you. Not everyone looks good in every style. (By the way fashion designers, who does look good in those cropped pants? I don’t know of too many people whose legs are so long, that they require cropping.)

I want a stylist that cares about me. The last stylist I went to was more interested in the employee working next to her than to me. I am not a needy person, but I do want the full attention of the stylist I am talking to, paying, and referring others to.  

At first glance this list may seem valuable only for getting a haircut, but I think these points represent universal desires shared by most consumers.  See if you agree that customers want these three things:

  1. Expertise. Whether it is a dentist, car mechanic, financial planner, etc., customers want to work with someone who knows what they are doing and gets good results.
  2. Customization.  Customers want products and services that are ideally suited for them.  The perfect solution is the one that is perfect for you, and that generally does not come under the category of “one size fits all.”
  3. Care. With so many choices these days, customers are expecting personal attention and maybe a little influence too. It doesn’t have to be extensive—just the idea that you matter. No one wants to be a number.  It is always more satisfying to do business where you are appreciated.

While this list does not hit all the wants and needs of every customer; I think if you get these three basics right you are well on your way to having happy customers.  And as you may have noticed, I did not include price in the equation. It is not that I think price is unimportant, I just don’t know if it is one of the factors that I would include in my top three. 

What do you think?  How does this match up with your desires as a customer?  I’d appreciate your comments below.

 

March 16, 2010

Marketing with Yelp: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Filed under: Business,Marketing — Robin Witt @ 7:23 am
Tags: , ,

Woman talking loudly signifying Word of Mouth Marketing with YelpIf you are a small business owner who sells to consumers, you’ve probably heard about Yelp but may not know much about it. It’s important to get up-to-speed quickly with this new online review site where customers are describing their experiences with a business for others to see. Yelp calls it “word of mouth amplified.”  Don’t miss out on this important new online forum.  Your business can benefit by being active with Yelp right away with seven quick actions.

Complete your business profile. Go to yelp.com and access the section for business owners at the bottom of the page. Think about how you can make your profile as inviting as possible. Start by posting important information about your business like the hours you are open and your website address. Also include photos or a logo. 

Unlock you business page. Once you have completed your profile you have the opportunity to use tools that are geared toward businesses such as information about how many people are reviewing your business. A step-by-step video guides you through the process.  

Check in frequently.  You can learn from what others write about you. Where is your business doing well and where do you need to improve?  If someone is unhappy with your business you can take this opportunity to find out more and possibly turn them into a fan instead of a critic.

Respond to both positive and negative reviews. Online communities like Yelp are relationship extenders. Reaching out to people who have taken the time to talk about your business can make a big difference. You can respond to reviewers privately or publicly.

Be authentic. Who doesn’t want to have as many favorable reviews as possible? Just make sure you get them in an ethical way. Remember, the transparency of social media makes everything you do very visible. It is OK to promote and ask for reviews, it is not OK to offer rewards or manipulate this process.

Check out additional Yelp resources. There is a lot of great information for business owners including a section on commonly asked questions.  For example, why do reviews sometimes disappear? There are also videos with actual business owners you can access.

Realize you can’t please everyone. Sometimes you will come across someone who uses online communities to make unrealistic demands on businesses. In that case, you will just have to let it go.

Knowing how to effectively use Yelp can help your business find out what your customers are thinking and how to better meet their needs and expectations. By using Yelp’s ability to generate “word of mouth amplified” you can create better solutions, happier customers, and more referrals!   

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March 8, 2010

Don’t Forget These Three Marketing Ingredients for Small Business Success

Filed under: Marketing — Robin Witt @ 12:35 pm
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Don't forget these important marketing ingredients for small business.Yesterday I was making one of my favorite recipes.  It’s a homemade version of the lettuce wraps with spicy ground chicken made famous by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. When I needed to leave unexpectedly, my husband offered to finish it up.  (That’s a first, but more about that at a later time.) When I got back from my errand, he said, “I did what you said, but something is missing.”

After looking back over his steps, we figured out that he forgot to add one of the ingredients.  Once we added it into the mix, it made all the difference. We were both surprised by the impact that this one small ingredient had on the overall dish.  (By the way, the missing ingredient was ginger.) This got me thinking about business and specifically, about marketing.  Is there a missing ingredient that could make all the difference in your business? Here are three powerful, but often overlooked, ingredients to consider:

The Customer—Keep the customer in mind in all of your marketing messaging. I know this sounds elementary, but it is easy to get off track and think in terms of our own interests instead of the customer.  For example, some people get wrapped up in the visual esthetics of their website and become more interested in that than if the website is easy for the customer to navigate.

Anxiety—Marketing is all about creating anxiety. Shocking? It shouldn’t be.  In marketing, anxiety serves two purposes; first it gives the customer a reason to take action and second, it creates urgency.  Make sure it is clear what the customer will miss out on if they do not get your product or service.

Exciting Offer—Once you have created anxiety, the next step is to present a clear solution, otherwise known as the “irresistible offer.” Show how your product or service will solve the customer’s problem and make their life better.  

That’s it.  Three success ingredients that will increase your chances of attracting and retaining customers.

PS: Don’t forget to ask for the sale.

February 20, 2010

Marketing Lessons from a Roller Derby Playbook

San Diego Derby Doll, Lila Troncone, aka Lilamonster

San Diego Derby Doll, Lila Troncone, aka Lilamonster

I love stories about girls kicking some booty, so it was merely a matter of time before I brought home the roller derby movie Whip It. It’s a fun, coming-of-age story about a small town Texas girl who discovers herself when she joins a local roller derby team. The characters are warm and believable, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised how much you’ll like it.

I think you’ll also be surprised when I tell you that I was able to find some lessons and ideas that could apply to social media marketing!

A cool name is just the beginning.  Picking out a fierce derby name like Smashlee Simpson or Babe Ruthless is fun but it will not win you any bouts. This is one of the things the derby coach told the newly enlisted team members. If you want to win, you have to do the right actions. The same is true for social media marketing. New businesses can get caught up in picking out the color for the Twitter background, but then don’t take the time to find exciting content or keep up-to-date on conversations.  Social media marketing requires daily interaction with friends or followers and to be constantly on the look-out for content the client would find valuable and interesting.

You have to make contact. To be successful in roller derby, you have to eventually make contact. It wouldn’t really be roller derby if everyone just skated around without pushing, shoving, and the occasional hip-check.  It is the same with social media.  You have to be prepared to mix it up a bit.  You can’t expect to engage in an authentic conversation without getting your hair messed up.

Work the strategy. Early in the movie the featured roller derby team (The Hurl Scouts) never wins a game.  Why?  According to their coach, it’s because they’re not disciplined and they don’t follow the playbook. They thought if they just laced up and got on the rink, it would somehow happen all by itself. Guess what, the coach was right. Shooting from the hip rarely works, especially long-term. With social media marketing it is important to know what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to get there.  

For a fun experience, requiring minimal effort, you can’t go wrong with the movie Whip It.  Having a successful presence on the internet will require more effort and tenacity. The important thing is to keep going and not be afraid to take a few hits.

Photo courtesy of Lila Troncone, San Diego Derby Doll.

February 11, 2010

How to Get Noticed Without a Super Bowl Commercial

Del's Barber Shop owner, Dan Engelbrecht, with a customer, was one of four businesses featured in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial.

This year, one Super Bowl commercial caught my attention more than any other and it wasn’t because of creativity, humor, or special effects. It was a Miller Beer commercial and the theme was “giving it up for small business.” When the first business name and location came up, I nearly lost my pretzels. There on my TV screen was Del’s Barbershop, a family-owned business not too far from my home.

It was a great promotional opportunity for Del’s Barber Shop owner, Dan Engelbrecht. Not only was Dan lucky enough to be among four businesses that Miller decided to highlight, he also had the good fortune to be part of a commercial shown during the one broadcast where people actually watch the commercials.

What if you are a small business that wants more business but doesn’t have the Miller Brewing Company asking you to be a part of a national campaign? Don’t be discouraged, you can still capture the attention of potential customers. Here are a few tips to make sure your small business gets noticed.

Be visible and valuable on the Internet. People are constantly searching, exploring, and learning about things that they are interested in. As a business owner, you want to make sure when customers go looking, they find you! Make sure that you are creating content through company blogs, websites, and other online resources. Be sure to include key words that prospective clients are likely to be searching on.

Join in the conversation. People are spending more and more time on networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, talking with their friends, and interacting with brands. It is important that your business be present on these sites, as well. Remember that customers want two-way communication. Take the time to listen as much as you broadcast. Embrace this new two-way dialogue because you will learn so much about your customers, and how they feel about your products and services.

Even if you don’t have the good fortune to be featured in a Super Bowl commercial, don’t let that stop you from interacting with your current and prospective fans. With online marketing you can engage in a dialogue that will make your business an MVP in their eyes. Provide good content, be easy to find and approachable, and you’re sure to start seeing results. Congratulations again to Del’s Barbershop and all of the small businesses profiled in Miller’s campaign. If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, here’s a link: www.spike.com/video/miller-high-life/3338461

February 4, 2010

Don’t Be a Social Media Faker

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 12:21 pm
Tags:

Man in disguise trying to be someone else.In the 1989 film, When Harry met Sally, Meg Ryan shocked Billy Crystal by simulating an off-the-charts orgasm in the middle of a crowded diner. The purpose of Ryan’s over-the-top performance was to show how easy it is to fool someone if you really try. While this made for a hilariously memorable moment, faking it in real life is generally not a good idea. This is especially true if you are a small business owner using social media marketing. While it might be tempting to have an outside source do your tweeting, blogging, and Facebook, “faking it” misses the whole point of social networking and will not get you the results you desire. Here’s why:

People buy from people they know. How can people get to know you if someone else is doing the writing? When networking on Facebook and Twitter, customers want a real person to talk to, engage with, and ask questions. Be that person! 

People buy from people they trust. If the blog says it’s from you, make sure that it is.  You don’t want to start your online relationship with a lie.  Many people are already skeptical. When we see a YouTube video, the first question we ask is, “Is it real?” People don’t really expect you to be amazingly fascinating every time, but they do expect you to be honest and authentic with them.

People buy from people who take the time to get to know them. One of the ways we let people know that we value them is by spending time with them. When it comes to business, who is more important to you than your customer?  Show customers you care by taking the time to personally communicate with them. The good news is that they’ll appreciate it and you’ll learn a lot about them in the process.

Don’t put your most important relationship into the hands of an outsider.  With the transparent nature of the web, everything about products and services can easily be compared. This means there needs to be another compelling reason for customers to do business with you. By engaging in social media marketing, customers can get to know you better and trust you. It also provides business owners with opportunities to learn more about their customers. This information puts them in a better position than the competition.

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