Why Small Business Owners Need to be Performance Marketers

Over at ArCompany I am blessed to work with the ever wise and honest Danny Brown.  He describes himself as a ‘performance marketer’ whenever a client asks about his approach.

If you’re a small business owner you may not have heard that term before, but you need to.  Basically, it means that Danny sets goals for marketing strategy in accordance with a client’s goals,  and then he tests and measures ariel markealong the way. What works is enhanced; what doesn’t is refined or jettisoned.  And then more testing and measuring.  It never stops; your marketing plan is an ever evolving piece of your business, and it needs to produce.

Today I fielded a call that one of my small business owner clients pushed my way – among other things I serve as a gatekeeper so that they are not caught up by a slick salesperson who catches them in an optimistic moment, causing them to spend on an untested tactic with no data to back up the decision.  Sound familiar?

Today I got a call from a lovely gentlemen selling advertising on his own unique television system.  The man politely told me that he had a large, flat screened tv that he took out 3 – 4 days per week to golf course club houses, mobile home communities, restaurants etc. and played his reel of advertising continually for 5 or so hours at a time.

I get a lot of phone calls from people selling advertising, but this one was certainly different.  Although I had no real interest in what I view as a sadly outdated method of marketing, I thought I’d ask some questions in case I was missing something.  Here they are:

  1. Do you have a list of locations and dates that you will be showing your program?
  2. How many times in an hour will my client’s advertisement play?
  3. How much does it cost to produce the ad?
  4. Do you have demographic information on the people you are marketing to? Age? Gender? Income level?
  5. Can you give me a list of advertisers who currently work with your for a reference?

The man immediately cut my off, saying “Hold on. You are out of my league. Just forget it.”    And that was the end of the call.

I felt a smidgen badly for the man – he was an older gentlemen trying to make a living in a way that he thought was creative.

But the reality is that I feel far worse for my clients who make marketing purchases based on emotion or guesses.  Your dollars are too precious to gamble with, and when you purchase ANY marketing without understand the questions I asked above, you are throwing your money away.  If you want to give money to charitable causes, by all means do it.  If you want to give donations to charitable causes that align with your target market, that’s great too.    But never, ever buy marketing without understanding some basic facts about who will see the message, how often, and what the chances are that the tactic will cause them to purchase.

Think this is unusual? I see small businesses make these sort of mistakes every single week.  Just think harder, and if you need help, find a marketer who knows their stuff and isn’t afraid of performing to meet your goals.

Song Stuck Friday – It will get you moving.

This week I give you a reprieve from old-school annoying, or just plain annoying.

This is my 5 year old’s favorite song, and I have to admit, it makes me happy.

So, Happy Friday to you all!

Fiercely Protecting Your Business Sanity

Like most small business owners, time is my most precious resource. I am constantly thinking of new ideas, coming across new possibilities for revenue, and in recent years, becoming easily distracted by a myriad of social Business Sanitymedia ticklers that get me chasing someone else’s ideas as well.

There are weeks when it overtakes me. Despite my very profound understanding that in order to be successful I must stay focused, I end the week feeling out of breath and unproductive.
A very long pause and a conversation with myself is in order.

Most important is forgiving myself for once again getting off track, and knowing HOW to get back on. Here are my tips for restoring your own sanity at work:

1. Work all weekend: I know it may SEEM counter-intuitive  but you absolutely need to sit at your desk when there are NO distractions and get sh*t done; clear your inbox, organize your desk, make a new priorities list. You will feel sane and in control, and therefore able to make better decisions.

2. Simplify what you’re listening to: If you’re like me you get 400+ emails a day (no joke). Many of them are instant Deletes. Go through your recent 7 days of email and sort the emails that you regularly receive into Necessary or Frivolous. Unsubscribe or designate as Spam anything that isn’t essential. Cut down on the amount you must delete and you’ll carve minutes, maybe more, out of your day.

3. Cull the Blogs: New information and advice comes at us at lightning speed; just admit to yourself that you can’t be cutting edge on everything. Stop trying to digest it all and choose the 3 – 5 blogs you want to follow; try to digest that information and engage with that community in a more meaningful way. You’ll get a lot more out of your experience, and build stronger online relationships in the process.

4. Stop trying to be everywhere: if you are, you will not make an impact anywhere. Find the networking groups and Social platforms that work for you and stick with them.

5. Exercise: You can’t feel sane and maintain the necessary level of energy if you aren’t in shape. And don’t tell me you don’t have time – that’s just an excuse. Cut 30 minutes out of the time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, or having cocktails every day and run, bike or get your rear to the gym. This is a marathon you’re running – you have to be in shape for it.

If my list sounds like a lecture, forgive me…. I have to give it to myself every now and then. That’s how I know these things work.

How Much Should a Small Business Pay for a Website?

I just met with a potential new client who is looking to move past her company’s first (free) website and really build the internet as a referral stream. The client is smart, and their 8 year old business is successful. Thus far the referrals have been coming via word of mouth, networking, and limited and sporadic print advertising. The primary reason they haven’t invested in the internet is their lack of understanding of how to do it effectively. This small business owner was scared off by many horror stories, including one scenario where her small business owner friend paid $10,000 for a website that brings in NO leads.

Unlike many business owners, this one came to our meeting prepared with a budget they could afford, but also was willing to be ‘educated’ on what marketing on the internet means. Here’s what I told her:

1. Yes, you can get a decent website for under $2,000 depending upon your needs and how much fancy programming you require.

2. You need to not only consider your initial investment, but understand that you will need to be tending your website regularly; it needs to grow and evolve over time. $2000 may be ok for now, but you need to budget for regular updates, alterations and most importantly, additions to your site.

3. Building the website is only the beginning; in order to get leads from your site you need to first of all show up when someone searches for your service. That requires a long term commitment to organic SEO – search engine optimization, and very probably a commitment to pay per click advertising while you work on building your ranking organically on the search engines.

4. Someone within your company needs to be dedicated to learning at least the basics about both your website and how organic and paid SEO works. It’s fine to have a consultant assist you, but this needs to be an important part of your marketing plan and someone internally needs to own its oversight.

Both of us left our meeting with a more clear understanding of what to expect from each other going forward. Hopefully my potential client left with the knowledge that building your business online is an ongoing project that requires time, money and commitment to be effective. Because so many of the Small Business owners I speak with don’t seem to grasp this, I thought it might be helpful to illustrate it here.

What lies at the root of your lack of commitment?

Most of the non-successes I’ve witnessed in life were caused by a lack of commitment. Whether to a profession, a business, or a family, the primary reason for failure is always a lack of commitment.Fear of failure

Without total commitment you will not build that business, write your book, or sustain your marriage.

No matter what you’ve read, or what theories you’ve developed yourself, it’s never too late to make the necessary commitment to your cause. But first, you must face the reason you haven’t been able to commit thus far.

Much of the time… no, most of the time, fear is at the core of why you haven’t focused 100% on making it happen.

Fear of committing with all of your soul and not getting there.

Fear of failure.

At this point I could provide you with a list of overused quotes about staying the course, how close most failures were to success, and the positive that comes out of trying and failing.

You’ve probably read them all. They’re not what matters.

You understanding that your fear of failure is stopping you from committing to your ultimate success is what you must do in order to change your focus and get there.

Essential Social Media Housekeeping

This morning I finally spoke live to my Social Media buddy and Snarkster Extraordinaire, Sam Fiorella because I may need his services for a client of mine. When we hung up it dawned on me that we weren’t connected to each other on LinkedIn. I then got an invite from another Social Media pal (Daniel Newman) and by connecting with him I realized I wasn’t LinkedIn to one of my favorite chums, Margie Clayman.

How on earth did this happen? Because I became lazy about my Social Media Housekeeping.

This is nothing short of scandalous considering that I spend my days advising my clients on how to build and maintain their own marketing presence. So I created a checklist that I will make sure I review every month or so, or at least as often as I change the batteries in my smoke detector. Here it is:

1. LinkedIn Review: Am I connected to my new clients and latest Social Media friends? Do I have any recent recommendations? Have I asked for an Introduction to a target client from a connection? Have I updated my profile in the last 6 months?
2. Twitter: Have I reviewed my New Tweeps List to see if any of my newer connections belong on a different list? (If you aren’t using lists, read this.) On a less frequent basis, have I reviewed those I’m following and cleaned out the bots and other undesirables? Have I updated my profile description? Is my background still relevant?
3. Facebook: Have I checked my security settings? <-- those dang things have a habit of changing on their own. Do I really need to Like 658 Pages, or can I clean up my stream a bit by Unliking a few? Does my Timeline need a refresh picture? 4. Facebook Business Page: Is my Page Timeline pic tired? Is my Page liking other Business Pages it should be tied to? Are there any we should Unlike?
5. EVERY ONE OF THEM: Does my profile pic accurately reflect who I am now or is it time for an update? Have I put the most recent profile pic on ALL of the platforms? This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine. Be who you are in Real Life online too.

Yes, I’ve left that other one…. G+… totally off because personally I’ve fallen out of love with it, but you may have suggestions for the G+ lovers still out there.

Mine is a short but essential list of to dos that I am sure will grow over time. I’m keeping it and setting an alarm every month or two, so that I never again shock myself by my untidy, and frankly lazy handling of my most important connections. What would you add to the list?

Twitter Lists: The Underutilized Gem to Follow More People Sanely

Twitter best practices seem to confuse a lot of people; ‘experts’ give out all sorts of contradictory advise. One of the most disagreed upon issues is Follow Back Policy. Ted Coine and I have had a friendly discussion about the issue since we don’t necessarily agree. His fabulous post can be found here, and mine, here.

I was inspired to clean up my stream after Chris Brogan’s The Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011; it had become a meaningless mish mash where I was lucky if I managed to catch tweets that I actually wanted to read. I spent a couple of hours combing through all of the handles I followed and realized that a huge portion of them were people I followed back because I was so happy to have anyone follow me. Since then my stream has become very meaningful. Now almost every tweet in my stream is worth reading, and I spend more time on Twitter because of it.

So, after all of this thoughtful consideration of Follow Back rules that work for me, last week I realized I was completely wrong because I was not using the one tool that made it all possible: LISTS. In a conversation on #dadchat (Sundays at 8pm) with Mack Collier I decided I needed to explore this more and in a big way.

If I’d thought it through thoroughly, I would have made specific lists including one HOLDING that allowed me to review new tweeps and decide after consideration whether I want to keep them. I’m not stopping there. I now have the following lists that will continue to evolve:

1. Digital Marketing/PR Pros: is my most potent list; these are people I follow closely, read their blogs, and have built relationships with that are invaluable to my work.
2. The 12 Most: this is a list I didn’t create but follow because the fabulous 12Most.com community is a huge part of my online life.
3. Clients: There are times I want to communicate with my clients all at once – often to share knowledge or tips.
4. IRL: Honestly, many of my Real Life friends aren’t actually on Twitter and spend lots of time on Facebook for socializing, but I like keeping them segmented here so that I can easily reach out to them.
5. SportsSmarts: Twitter has TONS of sports chat going on; this list helps me zero in on the bloggers/critics I find most worthy of my precious time.
6. Women Leaders: Self explanatory and absolutely essential to my vision of professional sisterhood.
7. Business Heroes: This is my shortest list of Business Leaders I may never meet, but whom I admire deeply and want to emulate.
8. Social Media Favs: My personal favorite peeps on Twitter for whatever reason
9. Holding: People who followed me; I follow back and review it in a few weeks.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it IS on the front end, but having those I follow organized makes it easy to follow more people in a more meaningful way. By checking out a list I can clear away the clutter of my many interests to stay focused on the issues or thought process at hand. This will hopefully allow me to push past the mysterious Twitter Follow Limit rules and follow many more people in a focused way.

How do you keep your Twitter Stream organized?

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?

When Your Personal Life Effects Your Business Life

I’ve always prided myself on my professionalism, and my career success has meant a lot to me. There was a time when I am sure some of my friends worried about how hard I worked, my career was all I talked about. There were times I worried about the oft-touted “balance;” I knew it was missing but I didn’t mind that. I loved my career and was very fulfilled.

Then I had a daughter. Balance never arrived, and frankly, I don’t believe in it. I think it’s a myth invented by people trying to sell books and videos on how to ‘get’ it. My life, as you can imagine, changed drastically. Suddenly, there wasn’t time to work 16 hour days. This new being needed some of those hours, and I actually wanted to give them to her. Thus began my struggle to continue turning out stellar job performance AND have a personal life.

Don’t worry, I don’t want your pity. I don’t even want to sell you something. What I do want is to tell you one thing I know:

Without organization, order, and peace, you will never be great at your job.

Disarray and emotional turmoil will suck the creative juices right out of you. You will become unfocused. You will be much less efficient.

Things happen to all of us; we have children, we lose parents, we have our hearts broken. Loads of things happen to loads of people… and they will impact your work life. None of us are superhuman. None of us can honestly say that we never, ever miss a beat at work.

It’s ok to miss a beat; upheavals in your personal life will impact your business life, but that impact MUST be short term. If something is regularly occurring in your personal life that drains you emotionally, you must find a way to curtail its impact, or accept the fact that you will not be able to give 100% at work. There are times when this is unavoidable: a sick relative may need more of your attention than your job does. However, there are other distractions that we allow to drain the energy right out of us that are not so meaningful.

If you care deeply about career success, you must be able to admit to yourself what these distractions are, how they’re impacting your work, and then you must take steps to eliminate them from your life. My guess is that you are already acutely aware of what these distractions are. My advice is for you to journal them; take a notebook specifically for this purpose, and make notes of exactly how many minutes per day your attention is drawn away from the task at hand and absorbed by this distraction. After one week, make a list of all of the tasks you DIDN’T achieve that you could have if you’d used the time spent on the distraction. That alone should give you the motivation to begin taking the steps to eliminate the unnecessary distractions.

How have you ‘refocused’ yourself when you’ve become distracted?

Restrooms are for Customers Only

I am baffled by the widely accepted practice of hanging up a sign at a Retail Location that says: Restrooms for Customers Only. Why would any retail location NOT welcome people into their space? If you know anything about shopping habits you understand that familiarity makes shoppers relax, and when they’re relaxed they spend. One of the biggest challenges for any new retail location is to get people in the door the first time.

What’s your reaction when you see the Restroom Warning Sign? Mine is always “I’m never going in there;” you’ll only let me pee if you make money off of me? I envision myself with my 4 year old daughter bursting at the seams and no where to pee. I think, “Wow, are your restrooms too precious for the truly pee-needy?”

When I ask store owners about this I get lots of excuses:

1. “It was becoming a real problem with people coming in JUST to use the bathroom.”
2. “There were people living down the street under the bridge…”
3. “I’m not cleaning up after non-customers”

Really? Don’t many of your ‘customers’ come in and NOT make a purchase? Isn’t browsing allowed anymore?

Traffic is the life blood of Retail….. there are hundreds of books written on how to use signage to get people in the door, how to layout your store to get people to buy… the psychology of retail is finely tuned. No where in any of those books will you see the suggestion that you put up signs telling people not to come in your door.

IF you are one of the very rare Retailers who has a homeless problem right down the street, you can converse with your maker about how compassionate you want to be to a person in need of facilities. But the vast majority of Retailers using this sign are NOT dealing with that particular issue.

My office is located in an affluent town where we do not have loitering issues, and I see this sign everywhere.

In fact, there is an ice cream shop that has the following signs to make customers feel really special as they wait in line to order:

“Have your order ready when it is your turn.”
“If you drop your Ice Cream, that is YOUR problem.”
“If you are with a large group we will only issue ONE check.”

WHAT message do you think they’re sending? I know that’s an extreme example, but here’s the school of thought I come from:

I love my customers, and I even love the ones considering becoming my customer. I am always grateful and amazed when they turn their hard earned dollars over to me for my services. I think there is far too much negative energy in the world; I don’t intend on pushing any of it on the people who fund my paycheck. If I get to the point that I’ve even tempted to put up a sign like that, I’m quitting.

After everything our economy has been through in the last 4 years let me tell you something:

Every person still in business should be grateful to the people who walk through their door. You never know who you’re turning away with negative signage.

So if you’ve got a sign like that up, and I don’t care if it’s at the Gas Station you own, go take it down right now. Have some pity on the need-to-pee-ers. And have some gratitude that you own your business and people think it’s worth walking through your door.