I am passionate about small business development and a BIG part of this is how small businesses can adopt a marketing strategy that works for them. If you are using social media platforms as part of your strategy you could actually, in my opinion, be a) wasting your time or b) alienating your potential audience. If you were to walk in to a room full of strangers and shove a business card or flyer in their hand without any form of introduction what do you think they will do with what you have handed them? What would you do if you were on the receiving end? Pasting an advert in groups or on pages on Facebook has pretty much the same effect.
A very important part of marketing is being able to engage with your audience, people still buy from people even if they haven’t physically met. If I receive great service in a business I am likely to tell people about it, if I receive poor service I am also like to tell people about it. Wouldn’t it be much more effective if you could get me to portray your business in a positive way? Cue referrals.
I use social media platforms to discover what my potential clients are up to, what they are interested in and then work out how best to engage with them. I call this my ‘base line’ customer profiling process. If I see that someone has a question that I am able to answer, I try to offer them a solution which may mean directing them to someone else I have in my ‘little black book’ of contacts who can help them directly, or I try to provide an insight in to how they can answer their own question. The important thing here is that they will now be aware of me. On Twitter, they may follow me or on Facebook they may like one of my pages or join one of my groups. The key to making the most out of ‘Social Media’ is in the first word, SOCIAL. Go back to the room full of strangers. In a real situation like that we would try to find common ground with some of the people there and start to have a conversation with them. During this conversation we may discover things we otherwise would have been oblivious to, yet we can relate to.
One of the very first business networking events I went to I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was on my own and didn’t know anyone in the room. Before I had even had the chance to grab a coffee a man was shoving his business card under my nose stating that my business ‘needed’ his services. As you can imagine, I didn’t feel the love here! We weren’t building rapport or connecting in any way other than I felt he had encroached on my personal space. Admittedly, his business did offer something that I did use and had he built a relationship with me, I would have been likely to use his services. What a wasted opportunity. Fortunately, this experience didn’t put me off attending other networking events and I can honestly say that I have made some extremely productive and long lasting relationships over the past few years and business has taken place!
I also have an issue with wasting time. Just because you go to a networking event, or belong to groups on Facebook or use social media as a platform for your business doesn’t mean that it is time well spent. I worked with a client who had been in business for just over a year who wanted to increase their exposure and ultimately grow. Before we could create a plan, I wanted to look at what activity was currently being undertaken and what results were being generated. I discovered that on average, ten hours per week were spent on ‘social media’ but he was unable to calculate what the return was on this time investment. Ten hours in my world can create and generate a huge amount of productivity and I wanted the same for my client. “I have a Twitter account” he proudly told me. That’s a good starting point. “What do you use it for?” I asked. “I tweet out my company’s offers on a daily basis and have even learnt how to use Hootsuite to schedule these posts.” He told me he had been on a social media training course and that was the nugget he had taken away. YES Hootsuite is a great tool and when used properly can indeed generate customer engagement and even sales, but, if all you are doing is selling your audience will soon either unfollow you or mute you to ‘shhhst’ you up. We incorporated his social media activity in to a much wider marketing strategy that was backed up with informative content as well as direct social engagement with his target audience. He is now able to calculate in a precise way the return on his time investment and adapt his methods where needed.
I understand that small businesses may have a limited marketing budget, but without marketing, no one will know about you. During a recession, those with a marketing budget tend to reduce it and in my opinion, reduce their exposure further during what is, a crucial time for businesses wanting to survive and grow. You may be a business owner, but you are also a consumer. Think about the kind of online messages you respond to. What helps you make a purchasing decision from either a local business or a company online. With your current marketing activities, are you likely to buy from you?
The internet offers many FREE and LOW COST marketing opportunities but my advice to you is, don’t equate FREE and LOW COST to mean generating SPAM. Think about what you are posting out there. Are you postings a true reflection of the heart and soul that sits behind your business. No matter how big or small your business it, it is ultimately all about meeting the needs, desires or wants of your potential audience!
If you would like to get in touch with me, please use the form below, Thank you. Hilary
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