What it Looks Like When Small Business Does Facebook Right

If you’ve ever discussed Facebook with Small Business owners you will know that there is a lot of confusion and frustration as to how to use it effectively. When I push Small Business folks on using Facebook as a tactic (yes, it’s a tactic, not a reason to ditch your Traditional Marketing) I usually get one of the following reactions:

1. Total Roadblock: This is often expressed verbally as “I don’t believe in Facebook; I don’t want my high school friends looking me up and I’m worried about security.”
2. Other No-Facebook Excuses: “My clients aren’t on Facebook.” I always find this one particularly interesting since 65% of all American internet users are.
3. Frustration: “I’ve tried for ages and I only have 75 followers.” My usual question here is “Tried how?”
4. No Time: The business owner doesn’t see the value in committing his or his employees time to Facebook.

Every business is different, so of course Facebook engagement may not be the best use of your employee’s time, but it is my humble opinion that for most Small Businesses it is an irreplaceable piece of your marketing puzzle. Instead of listing all of the reasons I know this to be true, I’ll show you what my pal (and client) Billy Sweeney has done that proves Facebook is a useful and powerful tool.

Billy owns a fast growing business called Bittly Bill’s, and here’s his Facebook Page. His first post was March of 2010, and he now has 2200 fans. (I know “Rock Star” Social Media types who can’t break 1000). His page is always active, engaged, and growing. What’s his secret? Here’s what he does:
1. Posts interesting content. That means he may break the ‘golden rule of Social Media’ and skip days that there’s nothing exciting to write. It also means that his followers pay attention when he does post because they know it’s worth reading.
2. Creates interesting content to post. Billy is always thinking, and he comes up with lots of things to keep his customers engaged in real life. Ice Cream eating contests, horse and buggy rides… there is always something going on at Bitty Bills, which makes it easy to attract fans to his Facebook Page.
3. Gives his fans something. The new Timeline layout has made this more challenging, but Bitty Bill’s has a redeemable coupon for new fans. Once you go, you’ll keep going.
4. Makes his customers the center of attention. Bitty Bill’s constantly posts pictures of customers enjoying themselves at the shop. Fans respond to this because they can relate to the real people really having fun.
5. Engages in Real Time. I am a fan of Hootesuite and other scheduling programs that allow you to pre-schedule posts, but nothing beats real life engagement. Billy often has a back and forth with followers of his page.
6. Makes it FUN. As a natural wise-cracker, Billy has no problem making people smile… which is more important than almost anything because most Facebookers are on there to socialize, not be sold to.
7. Contests Billy’s not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. When he first started the page he created his own custom contest (without the help of any programs) and gave away $100 to the first fan to refer 100 fans to the page. He grew by hundreds in a week. Any small business owner will tell you that’s not easy. He’s always thinking of new Facebook contests to encourage sharing; watch this space because he’s brewing something special up as we speak.
8. The product’s fantastic. Of course this has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to do with how you run your business; Facebook is no substitute for sound business practices. What Facebook does is keep Bitty Bill’s in the top of his customer’s minds so that they don’t cheat on him with some other ice cream shop.

The reality is that smart people always figure out how to do it, even in new frontiers where they’re not quite sure. For every Bitty Bill’s there are thousands of Small Business owners who neglect their Page or have given up completely. Watch his page; I have no doubt that it will continue to grow exponentially because he puts the energy and creativity into it necessary to keep followers on board. Is there anything unique you did to quickly grow your Facebook Fan Base?

Your Customers Won’t Take Your Marketing Seriously If You Don’t

If you read my blog you know that I run a Small Business Marketing company; we empower small business owners by creating blended marketing strategies with a major focus on new media. Because strategy is my bag, I spend most of my days consulting with the decision makers on how to spend their limited marketing budget to most effectively gain the Focus on Marketing for Small Businessattention of their target clients.

If never fails to amaze me that a good percentage of my clients, and by that I mean more than half, have no personnel dedicated to marketing. Many of my clients are really small businesses with only a handful of staff, so it is understandable that they may not have a person on board whose sole job is marketing. What you do need, Mr/Ms Small Business Owner, at the very minimum, is to have the responsibilities of marketing decision making as part of the job description of an important key player.

The business owner’s retort to my suggestion is often: “That’s why we hired you.” Believe me, I’m grateful when any client entrusts me with their marketing. Bringing in an outside marketing consultant is smart, but ‘we,’ the outsiders, are not enough. There needs to be a person on your staff who is the liason and decision maker to ensure that the strategy you’re paying us to enact is working. Someone on YOUR team needs to be actively involved in approval and monitoring of the strategy.

If you’re a sole proprietor, you need to dedicate a percentage of every week (that’s right, I didn’t say month or year) to thinking about and monitoring your marketing efforts.

What does it mean if you DON’T dedicate personnel or time to your marketing? It means you are ignoring one of the two most important parts of your business. Without marketing you may very well be invisible to your target clients. Without marketing, your company will not grow at the rate you need it to. Without marketing, it is much more difficult to achieve the desired sales rate you need. Without marketing how will you ever get to the point of success you have envisioned since the day you went into business? All it takes is for you to elevate this most important aspect of your business to its rightful place. Spend money, but more importantly, spend the time it requires to make your marketing successful.

When We Fail

It is ingrained in my soul that Abraham Lincoln was more than right when he said “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Success only comes to those who aim to do the best job possible at whatever they do.

But there are times that all of us fail. Sometimes because we just aren’t capable of doing what we set out to do; sometimes because parts of our team or people we depend upon come up short.

Those are dark days for the Entrepreneur. Letting a client down makes most of us sick to our stomach for days.

How do we pick up the pieces when it happens?

There is nothing I can say that will make those darkest of hours better – the moment that you realize and must admit to yourself that your team has somehow come up short. We all must accept that those first few hours of realization are going to be absolutely miserable. Set yourself a time limit for misery absorption. When it’s over; come up with a solution or plan.

I know what must come first: honest communication with the client. Sincere apologies. Then, a plan for a way out.

Sometimes that plan is painful to say out loud, because it may require bringing in another company.

But I can guarantee you this – once you’ve done it you’ll feel a huge sense of relief and be able to move past it.

Build a Collaborative Trust

The rise of Social Media has provided the illusion that it is possible to sit at your desk and, by using the tentacles of the web, develop and grow a network that can help fill your sales funnel. If you bought into this concept, and I know it’s tempting to think you can make a million dollars sitting in your pajamas, I have to tell you that it’s just not going to happen. Maybe there are a few people who have grown their business having never left the office, but most of us still need real live relationships with real live people to achieve business success.

I am NOT advocating that you fill your calendar with Chamber Mixers & networking events, but rather, develop ‘real’ relationships with a group of collaborative partners whom you trust, whose loyalty you have and return, and most importantly, who you know will make you look good. These may be people you’ve met on Twitter or Facebook, but it is essential that you have your own small army that can serve as:

a) A sounding board.
b) Collaborators on projects.
c) Inspiration.

The above is obviously essential for the lone Entrepreneur, but equally important if you’re a member of a larger organization; outside ideas are the life-breath of creativity and sometimes working closely with the same team members for years makes everyone stale.

How do you select the members of your network?

First: They must be people you admire tremendously. You must leave every conversation thinking: damn ______ is smart, creative, strategic minded, or just plain special.

Second: You must make sure they’re open to being part of your team and are willing to commit to the collaboration. I’m not advocating that you draw up a contract, but you must have a conversation and ask them to participate in what will be a reciprocating, mutually beneficial relationship.

Third: You must be in businesses that are collaborative or that can ‘feed’ each other – either information, ideas or clients.

Forth: You need to meet with your team, regularly, in real life. That doesn’t mean you must get together weekly; my ‘team’ gets together every couple of months. But it’s essential that you do get together with an agenda, and have an established method for helping the members of your group.

I realize that nothing suggested above is groundbreaking, but so many people in the business world waste so much time trying to be everywhere – tweeting, posting and mixing their way into an awful lot of contacts but not a lot of substantive relationships. Take the time to build your own collaborative trust and you’ll understand how much more it brings you than the standard wheel spinning of traditional or social media networking.

Stop Whining About Social Media

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the Backlash towards Social Media. Some of the people I admire most even weigh in on their blogs. The complaints are never ending and go something like this:

1. There is so much idiocy to wade through – I don’t care what you’re eating for breakfast.
2. How many people a day are going to offer to Make Me Rich?
3. I tried Social Media Marketing but it doesn’t work for me.
4. I don’t care about these ‘social friends.’ I want to speak live to my real ones.
5. I don’t believe any of these phonies parading themselves around as Social Media Gurus
6. If I can’t measure the ROI exactly I won’t buy in.

Sometimes the negativity can seem overwhelmingly convincing. I mean, WHAT are we doing here anyway? I’ll tell you what we’re doing:

We are using the single greatest tool for connecting with other people that has EVER existed.

Believe me, I understand the bitching – Social media can be a black hole of time wasting, but so is television, gossiping on the phone, and a million other distractions in our everyday lives.

And I’ll tell you what else I know: before Social Media it was impossible for a small business to connect with hundreds, thousands, or millions of people because they didn’t have the budget or tool to do it. You know what they were doing then? Spending money sporadically, when they could afford it, on print advertising that they hoped someone would read and take interest in. Attending Chamber business card mixers and BNI events desperate for connections.

Before Social Media the small business owner had NO chance against their larger, richer competitor. Now a smart one can develop a strong fan base on Facebook and run cost effective campaigns targeted at their demographic. They can blog and build trust with their readers and NEVER, ever have to cold call again. They can develop a Twitter following by providing interesting, useful content on a regular basis and open themselves up to millions of potential customers. They can write and distribute an ebook for the same effect.

And personally? If you’re like me and you’ve lived all over the globe/country, it was almost impossible and REALLY expensive to keep up with all of your friends in far flung places. Sure you tried, but eventually they would drift. Now I can keep in touch with my friends in Scotland, Boston and Laguna Beach everyday if I’d like, for FREE!

By now I’m sure you get my drift: I am so SICK of the complaining about Social Media; sure, you may sound cool and ‘ahead of the game,’ but you are so WRONG. And more than that you are very welcome to go back to the old way of communicating and leave the power, ease, and cost effective medium to us.

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Yes, Give IT Away for Free…

That’s right, I’m telling you to give away FOR FREE, your professional advise, the expertise you worked years to earn – the thing that should make your living for you. Only by doing so will you ever get people to want to pay for more of it. I work with small to mid sized businesses on Social Media & Marketing Strategies, and I spend a lot of time at conferences, networking events and on Facebook giving non-customers free advice. Last week someone actually asked me why.

Why? Because in this ‘new media world’ the consumer expects a whole lot more from you before they pledge allegiance; you need to earn their trust before they buy. Become the educator, the trusted one, and THEN they will not only become your customer, but they’ll tell their friends & associates about you. I’m not saying you give the store away; if you’re a marketing consultant you don’t write a comprehensive marketing plan. But you might give out some insights as to how to communicate through Social Media – how to link Twitter to Facebook for example. If you’re a Realtor, perhaps you give out some advice on the best way to stage a home – what days are best for an open house. Of course you’re sharing what makes you great, but you’re also getting the word out that you’re the one in the “know” – the one to turn to when you need the products or services you offer.

The karma boomerang has never been more ‘real’ than it is in this new, social media world so many of us inhabit these days. The only way to make sure that it comes back your way is to throw it out there in the first place.

What You Owe Your Clients:

Are you shooting straight?

Frankly, it can all be summed up with one word: Honesty. Honesty in describing your services & capabilities. Honesty as to whether you can meet expected deadlines. Of course this is all intuitive and hopefully expected in business relationships with clients.

But it goes deeper. I believe that in being honest you should also be providing the best service you can to your client, and if you’re not an expert in certain aspects for a project… don’t tell them you are. Bring in outside experts if you must, but don’t mislead your client into thinking you can do more than you’re capable of. And I think you’re being dishonest if you don’t continually strive to be the expert in your field…. instead of just resting on your old knowledge and passing it on to your clients as the best that’s out there.

My partner and I own a Marketing Company that focuses on Small Business Marketing, primarily over the internet, and unfortunately in our field we constantly come across clients who are misinformed or misled. Sometimes it is because the client hasn’t done their homework, and let’s face it, if you’re investing in an integral and not inexpensive part of your marketing, shame on you if you haven’t done your homework. But sometimes the client has done their homework in a very common way – by asking people they know. Unfortunately, when it comes to web design there is a lot of ignorance out there. Nothing makes me more frustrated when I encounter a small business owner who has invested what for them is a small fortune in a website that is built on a template, possibly even in HTML, meaning that it’s impossible for them to update themselves, and often their web designer takes forever to update the site – rendering it virtually useless.

I’m not claiming that we are experts on all facets of internet marketing, but we are continually reading, taking classes, and following the leaders in our field to ensure that we are providing the best possible service to our clients. If you’re not doing the same in your field I think you should step back and ask yourself exactly what your intent is. If it’s just to make money as easily as you can, maybe it’s time for a little soul searching.

And OK, I’ll get off my soap box. But I love what I do, and I really like the small business owners who are my customers. They work harder than just about anybody you’ll come across, so if they’re your client too, make sure you’re doing everything to provide them with the best that your industry offers. Someday the kharma gods will look down and reward you handsomely, and I guarantee you’ll be more successful than most in your business.

Yes, Your Business Card Still Matters.

I gave up paper calendars and filofaxes years ago, my iphone is synced to my Outlook calendar and yes, I’m slightly addicted to technology and being connected. I have spend so many hours on Facebook, for both work and play, that I sometimes think my family should organize an intervention. I regularly send people to my website for contact information, and I’m more likely to email or “Facebook” someone for business purposes than I am likely to dial their number…

With all of this technology and the ability to be so connected, is your business card really that important anymore? YES IT IS, perhaps now more than ever. And it’s important that it is sharp looking and that the pertinent information stands out instantly. A) Your card, whether it’s given out at a networking event or at a business meeting, will inevitably land in a pile on someone’s desk… I’m looking at a pile on mine right now that’s been there for a month or so. But if it’s more attractive than most the holder of that card will be more likely to remember you – and after your warm conversation has faded from their memory, that card is the only reminder of who you are, what you do, and how to get ahold of you.

It is the simplest of things, but having a stunning logo with a clean, easy to read card – YOUR NAME most prominent of course, is essential to being remembered in a sea of faces and the whirlwind speed of our lives.

What Do You REALLY Want Out of Life?

WHY are you headed in the direction you're going?

As a business owner I am sure you set goals, however vague they may be, at the start of your fiscal year. You know that you want your business to grow, and hopefully you have a percentage goal and a marketing/management strategy that will take you in that direction.

What are your goals for life? What is it that the income you accumulate will buy for you? A college education, a second home, a dream vacation to Italy for a month? And when will you accomplish these goals? You see, if you don’t have your life goals set with a target for how and when you are going to get there, WHAT are you really working for?

Years ago when I first decided to build a career in Sales, I heard a man named Warren Tyler speak at a company conference. Dressed in an outlandish light blue suit with a distinct and fairly heavy southern accent, my initial reaction was to write him off as one more over the top Sales-Motivational-Speaker… but during his talk he spoke about life goals rather than just sales goals and phrased it something like this: “Why doesn’t your child deserve to go to the best private schools? Why doesn’t your family deserve a vacation home on the beach? Why don’t you deserve to drive a desirable car?”

That talk hit me like a ton of bricks because I realize that I was so focused on what was happening with my career, and in particluar the numbers – sales over last year – sales over last month… the typical myopic view of any workaholic salesperson – that I hadn’t evaluated where I was with my material LIFE GOALS, or even what they were in any concrete fashion. I hadn’t put together a plan at all – just put my head to the grindstone and worked like a banchee… but it was a singularly hollow existance with very little sense of accomplishment.

After that talk I mapped out a plan. Of course it’s changed over the years because I have since had a daughter, been laid off from a well paid job, and am currently wading through the Great Recession, but it is something I do on a yearly basis: make a plan for what I am going to do with my hard earned money. And on a yearly basis I evaluate where I’m at, where I’d planned to be, and if my goals have changed. Not only does this ensure that I am staying focused on the important things, but it gives any financial success a new sense of fulfillment, and makes all of those endless hours of work really worth it. What’s your life plan?