Small Business Marketing Blog

January 27, 2010

To Attract Customers Set Your Marketing GPS on Multiple Locations

Filed under: Marketing — Robin Witt @ 10:05 am
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Marketing GPS to Attract CustomersAttracting and retaining customers is important to the success of every business. When talking with other business owners, I have found that many of us are spending more time on marketing than ever before. One important step to consider before coming up with a marketing strategy is to ask yourself two elementary, but powerful questions:

Who is my ideal customer and where are they in terms of knowledge of my business and readiness to buy?

What you will find is that customers are in one of three places. To be successful it is important to design your marketing strategy to be able to reach potential customers in each of these areas.

In the Driver’s Seat–This customer has an immediate need and a clear sense about what type of product or service would be the solution. This is a person who is ready to buy and is actively looking for a vendor or service provider. Who they decide to ultimately do business with is usually determined by an online search, a quick look in the phonebook, or an ad in the newspaper featuring a current promotion on the item or service they are looking for.

Kicking the Tires—This customer is not ready to buy today, but somewhere down the road they will be making a purchase. For this customer, there might be a nagging problem or something they would like to upgrade someday but the immediate need is not there yet. Possible examples could include new marketing software, home remodeling, or even a hobby. At this level of readiness, it is all about being able to find out more by researching, learning, and engaging. In this category, the company with the most interesting and easy-to-find content wins.

Enjoying the Ride–This customer feels that they have everything they need for the present and immediate future. Life is good and they don’t feel any need for a product or service right now. They have a new pet, but they haven’t thought about veterinarian services. They have a newborn, but they are not thinking about preschool or orthodontics. At this level of readiness it is about meeting the customer where they are at.  Instead of talking solutions or products, open up a conversation about enjoying life to the fullest by exploring possibilities.

Each of these three categories presents opportunities for potential customers to get to know your business, whether it is an easy to access website, an informative blog, or just friendly conversation on Twitter. Make sure that you have something to offer each type of customer. The objective is get in front of them before they have a need, so when they are ready to buy, you are the obvious choice.


January 19, 2010

Fall in Love with Carbonita Detail

Filed under: Marketing — Robin Witt @ 5:20 pm
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Starting a new company is risky business even in the healthiest of economies. So when two ordinary guys in Southern California came up with the idea to start Carbonita, a new auto-detailing company, they knew they would have to do something remarkable if they hoped to be successful.

The plan was to get the word out about the new company in the shortest amount of time by using multiple marketing channels, This strategy included traditional marketing; such as going door-to-door and performing a few services for free. In addition to the usual promotions, Carbonita also got active in social media. This winning combination helped Carbonita go from doing two details the first week, to more than 100 in only six weeks. While the company is still in the beginning stages, entrepreneurs can learn from Carbonita’s strategy.

Marketing Lessons from Carbonita

Be an expert. There is not a shortage of car detailers who have a bucket and want to make a buck, but that does not mean they understand the science of car paint finishes. Carbonita demonstrates their expertise by being certified and educating clients. In addition, they post tips and updated information on their company blog. Recent blog topics include why I need auto detailing in the first place and why bugs are bad for your car.

Stand out from the crowd. Carbonita uses an eco-friendly approach to auto-detailing. The entire process uses less than a pint of water to completely wash the average car and all of the cleaning materials are biodegradable. They also use super fuel-efficient Smart Cars to drive out to customer locations instead of the usual gas-guzzling trucks most competitors use.

Connect with the customer. One of the social media platforms Carbonita has been most successful with is Twitter. Because of Twitter’s ability to engage in two-way conversations with prospective customers, more people have found out about the service and have been willing to give Carbonita a try. They also use Twitter’s real time capabilities to answers questions.

By using multiple marketing channels, engaging in conversations, and most importantly, delivering remarkable results, Carbonita have been able to ramp up sales in a short amount of time. This has also given them the opportunity to live their company philosophy: to remind people why they fell in love with their car in the first place.

For more information on Carbonita, visit their Website or follow them on Twitter.

January 12, 2010

Do You Speak the Language of Social Media?

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 10:33 am

Social Media is like learning a new language.There is a lot of confusion about social media these days and especially how it can be used for business marketing.  This has resulted in a wide discrepancy among  businesses with some being very fluent in social media, while others are still just getting started learning the language.

What’s your level of social media fluency? Here are four ways to evaluate your proficiency:

Native speaker in social media. This is a business who seamlessly uses all types of social media to tell their brand story. One excellent example is Stone Brewing Company near San Diego. The craft-style brewery and slow food restaurant in Southern California has really taken to social media. With six Twitter accounts, the Stone Blog, Greg’s Vlog, and a compelling story, Stone consistently dishes up interesting content for it’s more than 18,000 Facebook fans and 11,000 Twitter followers.

Social media as a second language. This is a company that recognizes the value of social media and is able to incorporate into the overall marketing strategy.  A good example of a company at this level is children’s bookseller, Chinaberry Books. They are having great success with their fairly recent expansion onto Twitter.  

Broken social media. This is a company that has tried to get social media marketing going, but it flopped. It could be for a number of reasons: poor strategy, too pushy, not committed, or didn’t know how to add valuable content. I am not going to name any companies here, but you can look at the skeleton Twitter accounts for examples of businesses that just gave up.   

Social media alien. This business owner is still on the sidelines thinking about it, but not actively learning.  They may be waiting for more conclusive ROI, or waiting to see if this new language is just a fad.  They don’t realize that social media is part of today’s language of business.

If you are not yet fluent in social media marketing, there is still time to get involved, but don’t wait too long.  I’ve listed two books below that can help you get an introduction into this new resource for attracting and retaining customers.  And if you have already tried, or want to be more efficient with you time, you can hire a consultant like myself who has already worked with others to learn this new language. The important thing is to begin. It is a new year with new possibilities. 

Looking for more information?  Check out Inbound Marketing, where authors Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah talk about “digital citizens” and describe qualities you should look for when hiring inbound marketers.  In Trust Agents, authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith share the characteristics of “digital natives.”  Both books are good reads that will give you additional information on improving your own social media literacy skills.

January 6, 2010

Small Business Marketing: Do You Really Need a Blog?

Filed under: Blogging — Robin Witt @ 2:22 pm
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Balance between website and blogging.Small business owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to be more effective in generating business. One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Do I need to blog if I have a website?”

Blogs and websites are different.

A website is considered an essential resource. You might think of a website as an online brochure that tells what your company does and what you are about.  The information on a website, for the most part is set in place, and updated only as needed or as the budget allows. One of the disadvantages of websites is once a potential customer has looked at it, there might not be a reason to visit again anytime soon. This is bad news if you were not successful in getting them to buy on the first try because off they go looking somewhere else.

A blog on the other hand provides a way to add new content on a more frequent basis. Many bloggers write entries several times a week—some as often as every day. This is a nice complement to the static nature of a website.  In some ways, a small business blog can be thought of as an expanded Frequently Asked Questions page with blog posts often answering questions and concerns readers might be thinking about. Another way blogs are different is the style of writing tends to be quick and informal. Not only is this an engaging way to convey information, it also encourages frequent visits to see what the new developments are.

Both are important.

Having an online presence is essential for attracting customers today. Websites and blogs are both an important part of that equation.  While websites do a great job of serving as your home base, blogs really get into the nuts and bolts of what customers are looking for.  Do you need both?  You bet.  Use your website to provide a grounded presence and use your blog to provide some color and personality.

December 31, 2009

Social Media Marketing in 2009: White Lies and Half Truths

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 8:27 am
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Social media marketing in 2009 included some white lies and half truths. In a year when Twitter was named the most popular new word in the English language, there was a lot of buzz about social media marketing in 2009.  The jury is still out about whether social media is a beneficial marketing channel for businesses. Critics and fans squared off at one end of the spectrum or the other, concluding that social media is either a complete waste of time, or the answer to everything.  Now that we are at the end of the year looking back, it is a good time to sort through all the hoopla about three key claims.   

Social media is free. While it is true that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube don’t have a monetary cost, to say that they are free, is not entirely accurate.  Instead of cash, business owners will be spending their time, energy, and talent to engage customers on these sites.

Social media is easy. There is a sense that if you build it, they will come. What small business owners have been finding out is that establishing a presence on different networking sites and drawing followings is the easy part. Having interesting content and maintaining the momentum to keep it going is another.   

Social media is the new mass media. Social media doesn’t replace mass media, it complements it. The important thing to understand is how social media is different than mass media and not make the mistake of shouting out an advertising message to everyone.  Customers are getting really good at tuning out traditional marketing and at the same time are spending more time on networking sites like Facebook which added 200 million new users in 2009.

So don’t think of social media as a quick fix or some marketing magic trick. Steer clear of these half truths and white lies and you’ll be fine.  Social media marketing is different than traditional marketing, but in some ways it is the same, requiring strategy, discipline, and time to see the results of more customers and sales.

December 29, 2009

2010: Time to Look at Your Small Business in a New Way

Filed under: Business — Robin Witt @ 6:50 am

Waiting in a long line on the day after Christmas gave me plenty of time to think about my New Year’s resolutions.  Surprisingly, resolutions and returns have a lot in common.  When making a return, you hope to exchange an unwanted gift for something better. When making resolutions you hope to exchange time and resources for better results. While getting a replacement for an ugly sweater you received as a gift is not going to have a huge impact on 2010, having goals that are thoughtful, compelling, and meaningful will.  Here are a few new ideas to exchange for some of your old ones.   

Work smarter. As you reflect back on 2009, identify what is working and what’s not. Take advantage of opportunities that garner maximum results. Sometimes we do things just because we have always done them, instead of whether they are desirable or necessary.

Focus your efforts. Expand or narrow your efforts. Are you trying to do too many things?  This can dilute your effectiveness—especially in today’s crowded and noisy marketplace.  Specialize and stay on message so you can stand out from the crowd!

Think about teaming up. Consider working with another business or affiliate that offers complimentary services. Not only can you offer more services, you can double your marketing reach too.  

Embrace new marketing channels Today, more and more customers look for information online through websites and blogs when deciding what products and services to buy.  Peer recommendations on Facebook and Twitter are also important.

Dream big. 2010 promises to be a year of getting real and being practical, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think big when coming up with goals. 365 days is a long time and you can accomplish more than you think. Do your research and come up with a thoughtful plan to get there. Passion combined with a well thought out business plan can make a big difference in setting you apart from the competition.

December 24, 2009

Don’t Give Out Fruitcake on Your Small Business Blog

Filed under: Blogging — Robin Witt @ 4:38 pm

Good blogs and good gifts have common qualities.Gifts are a big part of the holiday season. Some gifts are personal, thoughtful, and just what you needed, while others are exactly the opposite.  My grandmother routinely gave me an itchy and ill-fitting sweater while my favorite aunt seemed to find something really special that I hadn’t even thought of. This got me thinking. What is the difference between gifts that are highly prized and ones that are destined for re-gifting? When I listed the qualities, I noticed the same could be said for blogs. So what do good gifts and good blogs have in common?

They are focused more on the receiver than the giver or writer. A cherished gift is personal and just what the receiver wanted. A valuable business blog is customer-focused, rather than product or writer focused. It’s not an advertisement, but rather information that is valuable and interesting to your clients and customers.

They anticipate the needs or desires of the receiver. A good gift giver finds something for you that you didn’t even know you wanted.  A good business blog writer does the same. For example, a potential customer might be considering doing a mail piece for their business and you are a provider of printing services. Instead of writing about your business, the quality of the paper, or how fast and accurate you are, write a blog on 10 ways to use direct mail more effectively.

 A good gift creates an enduring memory. It’s the thought that counts. Gifts given with little thought are quickly forgotten.  In contrast, when a gift or blog site is found to be valuable, not only is it used and enjoyed at the moment, but it is saved, remembered, and passed on to others. Good blogs, like good gifts, bring a smile to the face of readers.

This season show people you care about them and that you are thinking of them.  Take the time to choose thoughtful gifts that focus on them and what they most want. When someone gives you something that is of value, whether it is a gift or information, you think highly of them.

December 22, 2009

Small Business Marketer: Avoid Social Media Marketing Scorch and Burn

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 5:12 am
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For small businesses wanting more customers and sales, social media appears to be a profit launching pad, especially if we can figure out how to go viral. This is every business owner’s dream because who doesn’t want instant success and of course, that’s all we hear about.  The reality is social media is not a magical elixir that will fix the ills of a poor marketing plan, nor is it a way to get rich quick. Although social media marketing is different in many ways from other forms of marketing, it still requires consistency, focus, and a well thought out plan to be effective.  Here are three tips to help you get started.

Begin with the end in mind. What is the purpose of your social media marketing plan? Are you trying to find new customers?  Drive traffic to your website?  Both? Write down your goals and track your progress. It may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many smart business owners skip this important step in their rush to get started.

Decide who your target audience is. Who are your ideal customers and what are they interested in? This should always be foremost in your mind. It is easy to get off track and have a diluted message if you don’t remember who this person is. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, their profile becomes the guide for the content you post and what activities you use to engage them. 

Take your time. A big part of social media marketing is developing relationships and interesting content, both of which require time and attention. It is much more involved than just setting up networking sites. Many small business owners are eager to get started with social media, but often get frustrated when they don’t see immediate results.  Relationships take time to develop.  You can’t rush the process.  That is why it is so crucial to know where you are going and to make sure that your efforts going in the right direction.  

Social media is a powerful marketing tool for small business, but it will not fix a wimpy or non-existent marketing plan. With all marketing efforts it is important to know what the desired outcome is and how success will be measured; otherwise you can waste a lot of time and not get the results you are looking for.

December 20, 2009

Getting Started with Social Media Marketing: Look Before You Leap

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 12:07 am
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For small business owners ready to get started with online social media marketing, it’s important to remember the benefits of going slow at first, so you can go fast later.  For owners and entrepreneurs used to moving at a fast pace, this can be a challenge.  Still, it’s important to understand the intricacies of each of the different platforms before moving forward. 

There is so much to learn about Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, especially in a business context. While it is tempting to just get started, a trial-and-error approach ends up being  time consuming and rarely produces good results. With a little bit of guidance, you can accomplish a lot more.  I found this out personally when I first got started. I had the good fortune of attending a social media workshop and was able to accomplish more in a one-day session than I had in the previous four months.

Successful people use personal trainers, get advice on investing, and seek out mentors.  Use the same approach when you’re getting ready to use social media. The amount of help could range from a one-day class, a guided three-month launch, or an all-inclusive program. A good coach or consultant will get you started on the right foot by educating you throughout the process.

Successful small business owners know that this is the time to take the social media plunge.  Just make sure you get some help before you jump into the deep end of the pool.  A social media consultant will help you learn more to get maximum results.  In the long run, you’ll save time too!

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