Be Human

I am often asked about Twitter Names – should they personal as in @AmyTobin, or the face of a company @ArielMarketing Group. When I first started seriously marketing my company through Social Media I struggled with this concept, and actually changed my Twitter handle back and forth a few times. Eventually Chris Brogan made me understand the fundamental reason you should Tweet as yourself: people buy from people, and that’s who they want to deal with.

If you are new to Social Media Marketing and you don’t know Chris, run as fast as you can to www.chrisbrogan.com and sign up for his never ending stream of helpful advice and insight. Buy his book Trust Agents (with Julien Smith) and you will understand that the key to the success of Social Media is that it allowed the individual to cut through all of the BS Traditional Marketing layers and get to the heart of the companies they buy from. It allowed all of us a voice, and became a global conversation instead of the always frustrating automated phone call when you need help or advice.

Of course companies have Twitter handles, and if you’re smart you’re probably already following @EntMagazine on Twitter, but you can also follow Amy Cosper, the brilliant editor @EntMagazineAmy. So sure, go ahead and set your company up with its own Twitter handle if you have multiple people contributing to your message, but make sure that you, and they, communicate as people too with your own handles.

Driving Without Gas

Of course I’m looking for a cute title that will peak your interest and get you to read my blog, but this one really hits on one of the unbelievably common mistakes so many small business owners make: NO MARKETING. I know it sounds unrealistic, but I would say that at least 50% of the small businesses I come across make either NO, or only sporadic, attempts at marketing their business.

Imagine What Could Happen if you DID have a plan?

What that means is that you Small Business Owner, put out your shingle and “open” sign, and then wait for customers. Of course you don’t think you’re waiting for customers – you’ve joined the local Chamber, maybe even another type of networking group, and some business IS coming in. Eventually, if you’re lucky and/or an extremely good net worker, some business begins to trickle in and word of mouth starts to get traction. You may even be making enough to pay the bills, but let me ask you something: “Is that why you started your business, to just pay the bills?”

You may answer: “I have more business than I can handle.” To that I say “phooey.” No one has more business than they can handle; what lots and lots of customers means is that you can raise prices and be selective about who you work with. It is a wonderful thing if you are booked for months – and yes, you may have to tell some customers that you won’t be able to make their timeline and they’ll have to go elsewhere. Believe me, that is nothing to be afraid of. What it means is that you become sought after – they know that if you’re THAT busy, your’re THAT good, and many more than you think will wait to work with you.

So, what does this all mean: get MARKETING. But not in a half hazard fashion! Develop a marketing plan, whether it’s print/tv/radio/online/social media – if you don’t know where to start, hire a profesional….and begin to put the pieces together so that you can become the type of small business owner I described.. not one just paying the bills.

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.

Being “ON” Social Media isn’t Enough

Interacting with Clients & prospects, I regularly hear the comment “We do Social Media,” or “We do Facebook.” Of course I immediately look up their Facebook/Twitter/Linked in pages as soon as I’m in front of a computer; more often than not I find the following:

Do you have a Social Meida plan?

1. An account on Facebook usually set up as a personal account so the client is “friending” people instead of collecting fans – bad idea for many reasons, primarily visibility.
2. No “Join Our Newsletter” button on the Facebook page, and usually no customization of that page.
3. No Twitter Account, or one that is unused and not connected to the Facebook account.
4. No Merchant Circle Account.
5. No “Like” button on their website.
6. No Blog on their website which therefore is not being posted on Twitter/Facebook.
7. Not enough content that the visitor actually wants to read; no one wants to visit your page for the advertising.
8. No video on Facebook.
9. No one monitoring the conversation and interacting with customers.

You get the picture – just being there isn’t enough. What all of these issues indicate is a lack of a clear Social Media Marketing Plan or strategy. If you’re making the same mistakes, that means you’re probably having a very poor return on the time you’ve invested. It’s not enough to just “be” on Social Media. You have to understand each platform and how to use them, as well as have a well thought out strategy that includes goals and how to measure your success or failure. You need a company culture or agreement on how you will ‘behave’ on Social Media, what the message will be, and when/how often you will be posting. If you’ve committed to a full scale Social Media Marketing campaign, you need a program or method for measuring the success of the campaign.

None of this is rocket science, so yes, you CAN figure it out yourself, but if you don’t have the time hire a professional. Facebook alone is an incredibly powerful tool if put to proper use, but just ‘being there’ is not enough and can actually be damaging to your company’s reputation if you sell constantly and become annoying to those who take the time to listen, or if it appears that you don’t care enough because your level of involvement is sporadic. Make sure that before you jump in you have a clear plan of action and the discipline to follow through; the rewards can be amazing.

“My Customers Aren’t on Social Media”

That’s what one of my very smart customers has said to me, repeatedly. What she means by that is the customers coming in the door aren’t on Social Media. And of course, I want to scream from my marketing soul “That’s because YOU’RE not on Social Media!” But I don’t. I listen, sincerely, to every reason she has for not investing the large amount of time and not so large amount of money to get her Social Media campaign kicked off. Like I said, she’s smart, and successful; there’s no way I’m going to dismiss her thought process and proceed trying to bulldoze her ideas.

Can Your Customers Find You?

But I won’t give up either. To this day I still haven’t got her to commit to developing a Social Media Strategy and implementing it, but I will. Because she’s smart. Eventually she is going to realize that her FUTURE customers are using Social Media. In the end, I will convince her that somewhere in the 500 million Facebook users and millions & millions of Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Merchant Circle etc. users are customers with lots of money to spend on her services.

The moral of the story: if you’re not there, we can’t find you. People with money and interest in your product are spending more and more time each day on Facebook, Twitter and their own favorite Social Media platforms. If you don’t have a campaign targeting them with the information they WANT to find, someone else that may be just a wee bit smarter and a few miles ahead of you in the marketing race can easily swoop them up before they even know you exist.

The Great Twitter Debate

Small Business Owners constantly ask me about the usefulness of Twitter. Actually, LOTS of colleagues and friends do as well. Why? Because HOW to use it is not obvious to any of them. In general terms, many small business owners are overwhelmed by how to use Social Media to market themselves; I usually have an easy time explaining to anyone serious about marketing how powerful Facebook can be. Once a business owner is committed to harnessing the power of Facebook, we develop a strategy and we’re off to the races.

Do You Tweet?

Twitter? Not so much. The questions usually focus around the point that Twitter often appears like a whole lotta people saying a whole lotta stuff – with no one really listening. Of course that’s not exactly true. When I first dove into the Social Media Marketing world I didn’t quite know what to make of Twitter either, but I stuck with it because often I learn about new technology and its capabilities only after I’ve used it repeatedly. This is what I tell my Small Business Owner Clients that I’ve learned:

1. If you have limited time but want to enter Social Media to market your business, start with Facebook and make sure you are providing content, especially visual content, that people actually care about.
2. Set up a Twitter account no matter what you think of it & link it to your Facebook account; important posts such as blogs, links & your website can resonate on Twitter and you will gain followers, even if gaining them is a very slow process.
3. No, you don’t have to tell people what you are doing every millisecond on Twitter; if it’s not interesting no one will follow you anyway. If you’ve got something important to say – Tweet it often.
4. If you don’t have the time, energy, or staff to tweet regularly (or schedule Tweets to come out regularly), and I mean hourly at least, don’t expect a lot of followers and Don’t Worry About It. Focus on Facebook, your blog, and making sure your website retains customers once they visit.
5. Use Twitter for professional development: even when I didn’t trust its usefulness I used Twitter to find lots of smart internet marketing types who have broadened and enriched my knowledge base.
6. Understand that Twitter can be very powerful for branding, which is very different than building a business. So, if your goal is to make everyone in a 1 mile radius come to your sub shop Twitter might not be for you; if your goal is to make as many people as possible aware of your new product, its priceless. Get the difference?
6. Don’t shut the door on Twitter forever. Technologies constantly change, and so do companies. Once upon a time Facebook was only for college students. Keep abreast of Twitter developments & keep your mind open.

Should You Hire a Social Media Marketer for Your Business?

I see it all the time: website proposals with Social Media Networking as an option on a checklist. Usually it reads something like “Jump Start” or “Set Up” your Social Media platforms. Prices range from $100 up to $1000’s, and when I ask the client what they are getting for that price most of them don’t know.

Is it worth paying someone to set up your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn accounts? Perhaps, if you’re so busy you can’t breath… If that’s the case, go a step further and have those accounts customized, linked together, and have all of the add ons and plugins you would need added as well. But hiring someone to do your Social Media Marketing? Only if you’re willing to invest the time and money to make it effective.

Do you speak Social Media?

No one can march into your company and immediately start effectively marketing you through Social Media; for one, they must understand your company, its culture, your products & services, and most importantly, they must understand your target customer and what segments of the Social Media world they inhabit. That takes time to understand both on your end AND on theirs.

There ARE companies that can help you with Social Media, but chances are they are not your run of the mill website design company, or even a traditional marketing company. Make sure they have a real presence on Social Media themselves – how many followers or connections do they have? Can they give you examples of Social Media campaigns they have created & managed? Are they providing you with statistics that show the results of their past campaigns? Most importantly, what percentage of their business comes from social media?

Marketing on Social Media is NOT the same as running an ad campaign; it’s like speaking an entirely different language than traditional advertising. The language you use should be developed in collaboration with your marketer – one size does not fit all. Now of course you do not have to hire an outside marketing company to handle your Social Media, but someone in your organization needs to dedicate some serious time learning about how to do it effectively – there are lots of great companies doing it well that you can watch – and also spend time consistently implementing your plan. If you don’t have the right creative employee to do so, hiring an outside company may be the right answer…. just make sure you do your homework on them, and more importantly that they do their homework on you.

I Don’t Care How Many Faceboook Fans You Have

Because for once, size doesn’t matter.

I have 2 clients I am helping with Social Media. One has been accruing fans like it’s his life mission – within a few weeks he had over 2000 fans without paying a penny for Facebook Ads. He was very impressed with himself and constantly compared his “progress”to friends & competitors.

Does Size Matter?

Another client took a different approach and built her fan base from the online relationships she already had and with existing customers. It took her almost 6 months to get to the 600 mark.

Which of these customers is collecting fans the “right way?” To answer that you’d need to look at the page Insights, and there you would find that the 2000+ Fan Page had about 95 active monthly users. The smaller page? 104 active monthly users.

Years ago an old friend told me that if you die with enough true friends that you can count them on one hand you were far luckier than the person with tons of ‘friends’ who wouldn’t be there for them when it counted. Again, the world of Social Media fails or succeeds by the same rules as life: Fans who are not engaged, dedicated, or truly interested in your page but simply accepted your request to join as you trolled Facebook looking to gather a large number of them means far less than the fan you or your company has built a relationship with.

Focus not on simply accruing large numbers of followers, but on providing them with ‘remarkable content’ and giving them a reason not just to click “Like,” but to return on a regular basis because they find something of value on your page.

Marketing on $0 Budget

So you own a small business and you love working for yourself, but you need to make more money.  You have to grow your business but you don’t have enough money for consistent Print/Radio/TV advertising.  Every couple of months you pull the cash together to buy a few month’s worth of Newspaper or Billboard advertising, but it’s  hit or miss and you’re lucky if you make enough to pay for the ads.  If only more people knew about your business you know you could really be a success.

My Marketing Advice: STOP ADVERTISING.  It may sound counterintuitve, but I can guarantee you that if you aren’t running those print/radio/billboard ads constistently for 6 months or more, you are throwing your money in the garbage.  If you have ZERO marketing dollars here’s what you should do:

1.  Get your internet presence in order: have a proper (not a free template) website that is built correctly, optimized, and immediately hits your customer in the face as soon as they enter with how you will benefit THEM.  Spend the money now on a good website that you would have blown over the next 6 months on that sporadic advertising and it will pay dividends for a long time to come.

2.  Get  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Merchant Circle accounts set up for your business  and linked together (this is just the start).  Take a Social Media Marketing Class or read up as much as you can on how to market on these platforms (Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs  by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah  is a must read).  Spend 10 minutes 4 times a week marketing your business on line.  Be patient, it will take some time but it will pay off and cost you nothing but sweat equity.

2.  Get involved in networking groups  (BNI  www.bni.com , your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary etc.)  Notice, I didn’t say “join” these groups – get involved – work on committees, volunteer for leadership or planning committees – put yourself in a position to get to know the other movers and shakers.  The old adage that people buy from people they know has never been more true.

The twin engines of Small Business Marketing are NETWORKING & Social Media Marketing. Both are intended to build relationships, which then lead to referrals – a far better gift for a small business than a “lead.”  Your time is your most precious resource, so instead of throwing your money at advertising, spend your time building relationships and creating your own buzz.

www.arielmarketinggroup.com offers Social Media Marketing classes specifically for small businesses.

How to get more business from seminars, and how NOT to

Getting out in front of people and speaking with passion about something useful to them is a tremendous way to build relationships, gain a following, and get new business. Obviously it is essential that you are an engaging speaker and know your stuff; it is of key importance that you don’t try to sell yourself or your product. I’ll say it a million times before I die: WE ARE ALL SICK OF BEING SOLD TO. “Educational Seminars” that are simply selling sessions in disguise will fail.

Sure, you may get them in the door, and you may even get a few to convert to customers, but gaining long term ‘clients’ with whom you will have mutually fulfilling relationships with cannot be done using slight of hand, outdated techniques. A speaking engagement or seminar is your opportunity to GIVE AWAY your knowledge. That’s right, give it away. Only then will your audience understand why and how they can use your services. And don’t worry, you won’t be able to give away all of your knowledge in 30 – 60 minutes. Giving away the right information will leave them wanting more, which is the entire point of all the marketing we do.

Of course being great at all of the above isn’t good enough if the seats aren’t full, so the PR proceeding your event is absolutely essential. Getting the word out through your website, newsletter, social media platforms and traditional media at the right time to hit your target audience is key. Both parts of the plan have to be enacted perfectly, but when done so speaking live to an interested audience is one of the most powerful ways to build your business.