While the rain poured outside, the mood inside was sunny as National Small Business Week kicked off in Washington D.C.  on May 5. Small Business Week is the Small Business Administration’s annual tribute to “entrepreneurship and innovation.”



During a panel discussion on the “Next Wave in Digital Commerce,” featuring Nate Smith (VISA), Courtney Robinson (Square) and Rishav Chopra (Intuit), the group identified how digital technology is changing the buying habits of businesses and consumers—and that small businesses need to act now so they don’t get lost in the digital wave.


Consumers today expect their online experiences to be simple and intuitive. Chopra said it’s important to be where consumers are—you can’t have a presence in just one channel—you need to be discoverable by phone, on the web, and in person. And, he added, “You need to eliminate any friction in the process.”


This underscores one of the main drivers of buying behavior—customer experience. If you want to attract buyers (whether B2B or B2C), you need to provide an excellent customer experience. To accomplish this Robinson advised the audience to “use data to drill down on who your best customers are, what they want and the best way to target them.”


Robinson said a common mistake small business owners make is “thinking your customer is everybody.” It’s not, she added, “You have to drill down to find your ideal customer.”


Chopra said the No. 1 pain point small businesses experience today is how to get customers in the door. “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one,” he said. And once you “get them” Smith added, “it’s about creating loyalty.” You have to be proactive—reach out to your customers and get to know them better.


The digital transformation of small business impacts so many parts of your company: marketing, sales, customer loyalty, even raising or borrowing money. Plus, implementing digital solutions in your business gives you more time to better serve your customers.


Social Media Part of Marketing Mix


Day two started with a panel discussion, “Social Media Tips for Your Small Business”, moderated by Betsy Dougert (SCORE) and featured Dave Charest (Constant Contact), Brandon Olson (AWeber), Julia Cabral (LinkedIn) and me. Our panel emphasized the importance of integrating social media into your overall marketing mix and budgeting for it appropriately. The consensus of thepanel was:


    • Pick one or two platforms to get started. Start where your customers and competitors are.
    • Take social media seriously—this is your reputation on the line. Don’t relegate the job to interns.
    • There is no secret sauce to social media. What works for one company will not necessarily work for another. Plan your social campaigns and establish a consistent tone and presence.
    • While social media marketing canbe free, the panel recommended incorporating paid ads in your marketing plans.


How much should you spend on social media marketing? Here’s a formula I shared from  WebStrategies to help you budget: 


First, determine how much you’re planning to spend on all your digital marketing efforts. Then, decide what percentage of that budget should go to social media. Most companies spend about 5 percent-15 percent of their annual revenues on marketing in general and 35 percent-45 percent of that on digital marketing. Social media marketing should get about 15 percent-25 percent of the digital spend. Once you’ve done these calculations you can allocate the appropriate amount to your social media marketing efforts.


Each Small Business week I learn something useful and new! Did you attend any events this year? If so, what did you learn about?



About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

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