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2012

B2BMarketing_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.


One of the most important questions in business-to-business—or B2B—marketing concerns tone. Should your marketing communications be purely fact-based and devoid of the emotional appeals typically found in consumer advertising? Or, should they recognize that people are people, even in a business setting, and acknowledge their personal concerns? This conflict underscores one of the many ways that selling to companies differs from selling to consumers. The answer, experts say, is to address both their personal and business concerns about buying your product or service. The first step is knowing as much as you can about your prospect.      

 

While a fair amount of business-to-consumer advertising involves brand building, B2B marketing is more concerned with generating leads, nurturing relationships, and educating the buyer until the sale is made. Building rapport begins with understanding how your target audience communicates with itself.

 

"You need to speak their language, to make sure you come across as someone who understands their industry," says Bob McCarthy, president of McCarthy & King Marketing, a Milford, Massachusetts-based marketing services firm. "But don't go overboard and make [your communications] incomprehensible."

 

B2BMarketing_PQ.jpgB2B marketing communications that make some kind of an offer—such as a white paper or webinar invitation—and then measure response are crucial for both online and direct mail efforts. The trick, McCarthy notes, is to come up with an incentive that moves them along the sales process. "It's always a tradeoff: I will give you my white paper if you give me your email address. Then I'll give you something else if you give me the best time I can call you," he says.

 

For example, McCarthy recalls a B2B lead generation campaign that he put together for an engineering manufacturer. He created a short survey that was mailed to approximately 20,000 prospects in order to identify the key decision makers, their upcoming needs for the manufacturer's products, and the best time to follow up. McCarthy tested two different premiums that were offered as incentives for completing the survey, and tracked the results. The campaign generated a 4.1 percent response—higher than the average rate for a typical direct mail campaign. The client was also able to use the survey results to customize future contacts with the prospects who responded.

 

Don't sellnurture.

Heavy-handed sales pitches, particularly in direct response B2B marketing, have fallen out of favor recently and been replaced with efforts that build relationships over time. "The more you know about your prospect and how to reach them, the more successful your marketing will be," says Steve Slaunwhite, an Ontario, Canada-based marketing coach and author.

 

As an example, Slaunwhite reports that professional speakers are information junkies who love to read and attend presentations. A special report—either about something they regularly speak on in their niche or an evergreen topic, such as time management—would be an appropriate way to grab their interest and demonstrate the value of your business's product or service. Speaking at events that they attend is another way to raise your visibility. You also have to inhabit those same spaces where your prospects and customers now live.

 

"These days, more and more business people in the corporate sector are relying on their mobile devices than ever before," Slaunwhite explains. In his own case, almost one-third of the people who visit his website are now accessing it through some kind of mobile device—a big change in just the last couple of years. 

 

If you're selling an expensive product or service, providing good content is also a smart way to keep prospects engaged until they decide to buy. Slaunwhite reports that case studies—essentially, success stories of your product or service—give you an advantage over your competition.

 

"Prospects love case studies because they tell how your product or service worked at another customer's location. It's an extended testimonial," he says. "They take a little more effort to create because it involves interviewing your customer and getting the story, but they're very, very powerful."

 

Face-to-face marketing still works

The strength of content marketing—such as white papers, webinars and case studies—as well as reaching prospects remotely by mail or online channels is undeniable. Some B2B-centric businesses, however, have also built relationships and coaxed sales through direct, person-to-person contact.

 

That's the case with Smockers, a San Antonio, Texas-based manufacturer and marketer of uniforms primarily for the beauty industry. Founded in 1994, Smockers has fewer than ten employees, but grossed around $1 million in sales in 2011.

 

Smockers uses a variety of marketing channels to drive sales. For example, they run ads in the trade publications read by their prospects, and they also have links to their homepage on the websites of related companies who sell non-competitive products. But their primary B2B marketing strategy is to make contact with potential buyers at trade shows.

 

"We attend trade shows and get information from the employees of the various corporations [who are also attending]," says Brian A. Rice, CEO of Smockers. "Then we follow up with telephone marketing and stay in contact both before and after the product is shipped."

 

In many cases, Smockers is able to get orders almost immediately by following up with a phone call after a trade show. Selling a uniform might not require much selling on first glance because of its relative simplicity, but the sputtering economy has complicated Rice's job.

 

"It's a discretionary, not an essential, item," he explains. "We have to educate the customer that our uniforms protect clothing and [prove] the value of our product for the length of time it lasts."

 

Rice attributes some of the company's success to minding the small details: following up, taking nothing for granted, tenacity, staying on top of who's buying what, and noting any personnel changes at his clients. "We're just a small company," he admits, "but we've made money every year, so we're doing something reasonably right."

 

B2B marketing communications that reflect a deep understanding of their target prospects increase the likelihood that they will be read and acted upon positively.

by Lou Dubois

 

The check-in giant recently relaunched their business page offerings, making it easier for local businesses, retail chains and individual brands to reap the benefits and retain customers.

 

Foursquare had 381,576,300 individual user check-ins, 6 million users and a 3400% growth in 2010 alone.  So it's safe to say that location-based services are no longer a fad. Just a few weeks ago, Foursquare announced their "Foursquare for Business" page, which existing businesses utilizing the service may not see as terribly different. But for companies yet to involve themselves with the service, this re-launch makes it much easier to become a part of the trendy crowd.

 

"We're not changing what we do with this launch," says Tristan Walker, Foursquare's director of business development. "It was just a revamping of the site and helping to explain in a little better detail exactly what we offer to businesses."

 

So how does the new offering change what Foursquare can do for small businesses? In this guide, we'll explore specifically why retention is so important to business and what the new business page offers that makes it so unique for businesses.

 

How to Best Utilize the New Foursquare for Business: Small Business Potential

Among the new offerings included in the relaunch, though, in addition to local merchants and national retailers being able to "claim their venue" (which can be done quite simply), was the ability for brands and businesses to utilize the badges recognition system.

 

A pretty impressive group of companies have already signed on to the project, ranging from traditional retail locations to brands themselves. Included in that impressive list from a merchant perspective are Starbucks, Sports Authority, and the Museum of Modern Art; and for those not tied to a physical location there is Bravo TV, MTV (which was the top brand on Foursquare in 2010), Louis Vuitton, Red Bull and more.

 

But while all of that is great for large brands and national retail chains, the real potential for Foursquare remains with small businesses, and according to Walker, that remains the core of the businesses that are best utilizing the service. "For merchants, there are two things that really matter: acquisition and retention," he says. " And really I think the goal for us, and we've said this from the beginning, is to bring back the nostalgic, remember-your-name kind of loyalty that consumers still want. We want to redefine what loyalty means at a retailer, merchant, or even to a brand, because that makes a difference."

 

How to Best Utilize the New Foursquare for Business: New Customers Cost More Than Retaining Existing Ones

As long as businesses have been around, loyalty has been the key to keeping customers. If you're a coffee shop or bar and you remember you're a customer's favorite drink and name, they're much more likely to come back. And in the social space, many consumers view businesses in this regard: if you're not on social networks and social media like I am, perhaps I'm not your target consumer. As a business, this is an old adage: be everywhere your consumers are.

 

The best thing about Foursquare for Business is that it is a completely free service (other than a minimal investment in time). So in the past, the only loyalty methods may have been the owner remembering a customer name. No more. Claiming a location/venue is made considerably easier with this relaunch.

 

To create a badge, there is a nominal fee that Foursquare determines varies based on your business. According to a statement from the company, "the amount that we charge for branded badges varies by partner. Sometimes there is a monetary value attached to badges, and sometimes we exchange badges for promotion through various channels. We evaluate partnerships on a case-by-case basis and try to form agreements that are mutually beneficial."

 

But why does retaining a customer matter so much? Dependent upon which statistics you are viewing, it can cost anywhere between five and nine times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. And as the Harvard Business Review states, 91% of small businesses do absolutely nothing to retain their existing clients (meaning only 9% understand this reality). Consider the following numbers:

 

•    According to John Coe, author of, The Fundamentals of Business To Business Sales and Marketing, "68% of long-term customers stop buying because they just don't feel loved."

•    The average American business loses 50% of its customer base every 5 years. – HBR

•    An existing customer spends an average of 67% more than new customers.  – HBR

 

If you take it a step further and consider that customer retention is influenced just as much by brand, product and service proposition, then customer experience is the primary factor in brand loyalty, acquisition and customer retention. All that being said, the average organizational expenditure still breaks down as follows (according to James Digby, marketing manager at TeleFaction):

 

• 55% is on new customer acquisition

• 33% is on brand awareness

• Only 12% is on customer retention

 

How to Best Utilize the New Foursquare for Business: What Does the New Foursquare For Business Do?

But what does all of this mean for small businesses? The new page offers up very simple and very visual step-by-step instructions for how merchants, venues and brands can use the Foursquare service to promote themselves, as opposed to the less user-friendly data they provided before. As Foursquare stated when the re-released the product, "It addresses some of businesses' biggest concerns like adding coupon codes for cashiers and shows what the unlock screen looks like so businesses can educate their employees."

 

Other than the ability for brands without physical locations to garner a presence on the new Foursquare, it also offers businesses a chance to toy around with their existing gaming and badge functions, which all goes back to that point of loyalty.

 

Furthermore, and specifically in terms of analytics, Foursquare will continue to offer very robust analytics for a great price (free): male to female ratio, who your regular customers are, when you get the most check-ins, how your customers checking in compares to the customers who are signed up for your loyalty program and more.

 

"At the end of the day, our goal is very simple," Walker says. "We want to redefine what loyalty means at a retailer or merchant. And we think that these changes make it considerably easier for businesses to do that."

 

The big looming question through all of this is the data beyond the original checkin. There are some aggregation services like the recently launched MomentFeed (still in beta), where businesses will be able to tell not just when the customer checks in to their establishment but where they were before, after and what their regular habits are through a simple dashboard. Foursquare is experimenting more in this space as well with their badge system, as their new gym badge will reveal the time of day you are working out (as Walker says, "if you workout in the morning you might get orange juice and oatmeal, or in the afternoon a Gatorade").  It takes the idea of the supermarket loyalty card that tracks when you visit and how much you spend and really takes it to the next level, which is where Foursquare and other location-based services are headed.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.

SocialMediaFears_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.

 

Does the thought of coming up with a 140-character snippet make your palms sweat? Does the idea of a Facebook page for your business have you crawling under your desk?

 

Whether you are Twitter-phobic or haunted by Pinterest, you are not alone. Fear of using social media is a common problem for many small business owners. Though daunting, these new online ways of connecting with—and attracting—customers are now mainstream marketing tools. Below, a step-by-step guide to conquering your social media fears.

 

Step 1: De-mystify it

When you don’t know a “like” from a “share” or a “board” from a “pin,” social media sites can seem like haunted houses, places you never dare to enter. But, remember, these platforms are just new ways to do an old thing. “Strip
 away the technology and the jargon. What you've got left is good old-fashioned, ‘tell
 your friends when you like something’ marketing,” says social media and SEO expert Suzi Istvan of Social Suzi. Switching up the way you think about them can make these social media sites less intimidating. Lori Riviere, marketing consultant and founder of Shortcuts to Fabulous, suggests, “Think of Twitter as your walkie-talkie and a conversation starter, Facebook as your diary or stream of consciousness for your new business, and Pinterest as your business's magazine.” Changing the way you view these tools can make them more inviting.

 

SocialMediaFears_PQ.jpgStep 2: Get educated

As G.I. Joe would say, “Knowing is half the battle.” Before you even sign up for a Twitter account, spend some time learning about it. Attending a local seminar at your library or reading articles galore on the Internet about how to maximize your Tweets is great, but sometimes you need someone sitting across from you to really become confident with social media. Sara Zamikoff, owner of the Coral Gables, Florida boutique Emporium, suggests finding a social media mentor. “Preferably one under the age of 25! It's a fact that the young people are dominating social media outlets,” says Zamikoff. Contact local universities or call your Facebook-obsessed, twenty-something niece and have her sit down with you over lunch and guide you through the basics.

 

Step 3: Study it

Tackle those fears by learning how social media works in action. “Set up a personal account first and learn the functions. Once you are comfortable navigating your own page, it gives you the confidence to start one for your business,” suggests Zamikoff, “[Also], follow similar businesses and see what they
are doing.”

 

Erika Penzer Kerekes,
 senior product manager for social media solutions at Deluxe Corporation, 
agrees, “Identify a dozen businesses similar to yours and see what they're doing on social media. Read everything they've posted for the past few months. What kinds of themes are they talking about? Which posts get the most comments or ‘likes’?” There is no right or wrong about social media, but by observing what others in your field are doing, you can get a handle on how it works and what you feel comfortable doing.

 

Step 4: Think of it as an off-line conversation

The idea of having to come up with something to say on Twitter or Facebook that hundreds or thousands of people may see is scary. Deluxe’s Penzer Kerekes 
suggests using a party analogy as a helpful guide. “Social media is just that—social—and two-way dialogue is what makes it different from every other marketing medium. Think of social media like a cocktail party or professional networking event. If you walked up to a group of people and only talked about yourself, they'd find a way to get rid of you very quickly,” Penzer Kerekes says. “Make sure everything you say is helpful, funny, and something your audience is likely to want to hear.”

 

Step 5: Take baby steps

To avoid being overwhelmed, start off slowly. “You don't have to be everywhere,” reminds Istvan, “Pick one (or two) platforms to invest your time in
rather than spreading yourself thin trying to be everywhere.” She suggests focusing where those possible consumers are and channeling your social media energy on those specific areas. “An interior designer with very visual 
content would be better served on Pinterest and Facebook, while an
accountant sharing financial management tips could easily grab the
 attention of the fast-movers on Twitter,” Istvan explains.

 

Step 6: Make it part of your daily routine

As a business owner, one common fear about social media is that it will take up too much time. But, it doesn’t have to—if you incorporate it into your daily routine and learn a few tricks. “You can spend 
as little as 20 minutes a day building your social media presence. I 
encourage all of my clients to create a social media content calendar at 
the beginning of the month,” says Istvan, She also suggests a time-saving trick: develop themes for various days of the week. “One fitness-related retail store I worked with 
developed ‘Monday Morning Motivation’ [that they tweeted] every Monday morning.” Little organizational tricks combined with online tools such as TweetDeck, which allows you to pre-load and schedule tweets, can be a treat for you—as well as your followers.

 

Dan Farkas, an Instructor of Strategic Communication at Ohio
University, encourages those wading into the social media pool to find a comfortable balance. “Social media is part of the [marketing] toolbox. It’s not the entire toolbox. You don’t have to publish something 10 
times a day. Find a pace that works for you.”



 

Step 7: Take a deep breath and relax

Ease those fears of Facebook and terrors of Twitter by reminding yourself that lots of other people are just starting out too. “Relax! Everyone is new to social media, and everyone is still experimenting. There's really very little way to make a complete fool of yourself,” says Penzer Kerekes. Likewise, Istvan encourages her clients to have fun with social media. “Your social media sites are a chance to share the fun you
 and your customers are having in your real-world location to all those who
 can't be there in that moment. Think of [social media] as a window to your business—don't feel like to you have to invent content. Have fun.”



by Marla Tabaka

 

Have you mastered your social media strategy? Do you know how to leverage the power of social media to create meaningful relationships, build your business and learn from your virtual mentors?


Ok, you can admit it. Social media is still somewhat of an enigma to most people and you may be one of them. Sure, we have our guru’s and a relatively small number of business owners who have experienced astounding success with their social media strategy, but the average entrepreneur remains baffled by the mystery of these communities.

 

Today I would like to introduce you to someone who you may want to know if you are serious about making the powerful social media engine work for you.

 

Eric Yaverbaum is the Best Selling Author of several books, including the famed Public Relations For Dummies. With more than 25 years of experience in public relations, Eric has earned a reputation for his unique expertise in strategic media relations, crisis communications, and media training. He co-founded Jericho Communications in 1985, the 11th ranked PR firm in the country to work for and served as its president before its successful merger in 2005. He then founded Ericho Communications in 2006 and has offices in New York City and White Plains.

 

And you’ll be pleased to know that this year, Eric joined forces with the top social media experts in the industry to launch four social media magazines (Tweeting & Business, FB & Business, LI & Business, The Big G & Business) which are projected to have a combined business circulation of 5 million readers. These magazines will deliver insights, strategies and powerful tips to assist you in your social media strategy. For today, Eric offers these “must know” tips to increase your social media savvy. Here’s what he has to say…

 

As John Bartlett once said, "I have gathered a posie of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own". If you pay close attention to some of the most successful people in social media today, you will get a great education every day. For free! I follow the absolute best in order to form my own opinions. People like Jeffrey Hayzlett, Mari Smith, Nathan Kievman and Larry Genkin are four I have learned the most from!


10 Things a Solopreneur Should Know About Social Media

1. All social media are not the same. LinkedIn should be treated differently than Facebook, which is different from Twitter, which is different from Google+.

 

2. It takes time and frequency to build trust in any social media, just as in any relationship. Social media is a tool, not a destination.

 

3. Use all of your communities as a Business Development tool to source highly targeted potential clients/customers.

 

4. Use LinkedIn to establish Thought Leadership through the growth of a community of highly passionate and engaged people. You can even write a blog that is linked into Facebook, Twitter & Google+.

 

5. You should join groups in all of your social networks. There are also some terrific resources out there for free. You can freely subscribe to any of mine. www.socialmediamags.com

 

6. Your posts will and should reflect the personality of your company. If you are not genuine, you won't last very long. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to sell you something.

 

7. It is okay for your customers to disagree with you on Twitter. That's why they call it "social" media and not "one kind" media. Best practice: Have a policy for how you deal with negative comments and reach out to those who support you. They are your brand ambassadors! This is true for all of your communities,not just Twitter.

 

8. If you choose to schedule your Tweets, timing is everything. The life of a Tweet is about one hour; schedule several times throughout the day. Make your presence consistent and meaningful. Hootsuite might make that easier. Follow suit in your other communities.

 

9. Make sure you are listening to communities on Twitter and any community you participate in! Make no mistake; consumers are in charge now more than ever. Pay attention to what they say. Some of the best product ideas, feedback and problems will come to you from your Twitter communities.

 

10. Use all your communities to cultivate business leads.


Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.

Inc.

How to Monetize Social Media

Posted by Inc. Oct 23, 2012

by Carolyn M. Brown

Companies are not only getting the word out about their brands using social media such as Facebook and Twitter but are also making money.

 

Many business executives have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace, and Linkedin useful in making money. Building genuine online relationships that are also good for the bottom line is not so easy. There is a lot of trial and error. But while monetizing social media is difficult it is not impossible. There are companies that are getting the word out about their brands using social media and are turning a profit.

 

Take The New York Jets. The NFL team launched their Ultimate Fan social game in September 2010, which was the first revenue generating Facebook app to be backed by a pro sports team. The application lets football fans do online what they would normally do at home and in stadiums—root for their favorite teams and players, predict game scores, and hold a virtual tailgate party with other fans from across the globe. Ultimate Fan has since lured four major sponsors integrating their brands: MetLife, Motorola, SNY and HotelPlanner.com. This year, 10 percent of Jets sponsorships include a social media component; the team is planning to bump it up to 50 percent by next year, according to a spokesperson.

 

The Jets also communicate regularly on Twitter. They even advertised a Twitter-based contest to win tickets to their 2011 AFC playoff championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets are able to engage with their fans and make them feel like they are part of the team. They are leveraging social medial to capitalize on their fans' passion for the team and their willingness to share that fervor.

 

Like many companies, your social media efforts have started small and grew organically. To capitalize on those efforts to generate sales and revenues you need to have a team of people dedicated to your social media presence. You also will need a deep understanding of your audience, a creative vision, and a way to measure results in order to execute a successful strategy, says industry experts.

 

Here are some ways your social media can be monetized.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Build Brand Awareness

The first step is to use traditional media or word-of-mouth advertising to drive awareness and traffic to your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin or Myspace pages, says Jamie Turner, author of How to Make Money with Social Media. Unless you already have a recognizable brand like Nike or Apple, your brand needs to develop social media magnetism before you can look to make any money. You also need to create circular momentum across many platforms when designing your social media campaign, says Turner. By providing multiple channels for users to talk with you, you let customers choose the channel that they are most comfortable with, he adds; and by doing that you increase the likelihood that they'll connect with your brand in any number of ways.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Engage Your Audience

Social media is about having a dialogue. When you have a dialogue with a customer or prospect, the communication is much more fulfilling and much more profitable, says Turner. The PETCO brand has developed a strong presence in social media. The pet store chain has a YouTube channel, its Facebook page generates a lot of discussions among pet owners, and there's lots of activity on its PETCO Scoop blog, which has received hundreds of 'likes' and comments. PETCO's customers are true pet lovers and treat their pets as part of the family. The company tries to keep conversation going by aiming Facebook and Twitter posts so that there's an explicit question to answer, or at least a specific piece of information to which people can react. Industry experts stress that you have to know your community and know how to take part within that community and through that create great content or conversation that will raise awareness and increase sales.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Offer Special Promotions

Dell Computers exemplifies a company that is selling products using social media. Its Twitter page, @DellOutlet, offers discounts exclusively to followers. Dell might tweet 15 percent off any Dell Outlet laptop or desktop with a special coupon code entered at checkout so they'll know which tweet you are seeing. @DellOutlet also points you to a specific web page. There is some interaction in terms of chats with tweeters. @DellOutlet has garnered more than 1.6 million followers and generated more than $2 million in incremental revenues for Dell. Traditionally, Dell would have spent a lot of money running print ads. Today, they can write a 140-character promotion to reach customers.

 

PETCO is yet another example. The company provided a promo code to their customers for $40 in free shipping. The person who shared their code with the most people won a $500 PETCO gift card. About 40 percent of the sales that resulted from this promotional push came from new consumers. The desire to save a few bucks drove loyal PETCO customers to connect with the larger pet owner community and spread the word about the store via social media.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Use Media Advertising

Many companies have used display advertising (banners) and contextual advertising such as Google Ad Words. Many bloggers use Google Adsense to make money. There are plugins to help; you make money from clicks. There are also ad networks that you can join that pool several advertisers. You get a code and banner ads rotate from their network. This is an item that you will want to include in your advertising rate sheet. Major advertisers who buy display ads are finally beginning to figure out how to reach audiences through social networks, and have begun to shift significant dollars into Facebook. Research firm eMarketer estimates Facebook display advertising revenues will grow 80.9 percent this year to $2.19 billion.

 

Instead of a typical banner ad, consider offering a micro site, which would be equivalent to a paid supplement. For example, you could devote one page (a link on your website) specifically to an advertiser's products and services. Or you can become an affiliate. With affiliate marketing you get paid to refer people to another business.

 

Consider combining rich media advertising with display advertising. Video advertising and promotional material can be quickly and easily streamed to your social community. Another consideration is charging for sponsorship on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Of course, attention needs to be paid between balancing the delivery of the rich media advertising against the comfort level of your customer base.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Brand Within Applications

The best way to use apps is to create something that is functional such as a calculator, entertaining such as a game, or provides some sort of social connection such as an app just for your community. Your app can be fee based or you can give it away to build a relationship with customers. A number of well-known company brands use mobile apps to interact with their loyal customers, including Target, Coca-Cola, Nike and Gucci.

 

The fashion designer touts a luxury lifestyle application that is a quintessential example of branded mobile marketing. Through "Gucci Connect" users were able use their mobile devises, such as iPhone or iPad, for virtual access of a Milan fashion show, watch live runway and behind the scenes video coupled with live chat between virtual guests through Facebook and Twitter. Exclusive also to iPhone app subscribers are interactive games. The "Gucci Live" section features a music channel. Subscribers stay "in the know" with a calendar of upcoming brand events and feature articles. The Gucci "Little Black Book" provides recommendations to the hottest restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels in various cities throughout the world.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Set Up Shop on Facebook

Facebook fan pages are another way to generate sales and enthusiasm especially if you have loyal fans that follow your updates. You can list your products on your Facebook page for fans to easily share with their own friends and essentially allow your product offerings to go viral.

 

Businesses are increasingly selling their goods on Facebook. There are various e-commerce solutions available. One is 8thBridge which is helping companies like 1-800-Flowers and HuateLook sell from Facebook. A special deal 8thBridge ran for the designer brands retailer HauteLook along with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg generated more than $100,000 in sales in one day, 40 percent of which came from new customers. Users were given a $10 coupon for every new member that they brought in. Using 8thBridge, 1-800-Flowers is drawing people into buying flowers and other gifts for friends and family while they are already thinking about them on Facebook.

 

Payvment is another storefront option that provides online stores for companies to sell on Facebook. It has a network of more than 60,000 merchants using its self-serve technology. Payvment generally serves smaller clients while 8thBridge caters to small- and medium-sized businesses. According to a study released by Forrester Research, Facebook is more suitable for small retailers, niche products, or steeply discounted items. Most of the benefit that big retailers get from Facebook is branding their company but not actual purchases, Forrester further reports. Moreover, some products are inherently social such as books, DVDs, and event tickets, which have been successful because they are easy to buy and sell online.

 

How to Monetize Social Media: Use as a Retention Tool

Companies don't always need to use social media as a sales tool or to acquire news customers, says Turner; they can use it as a customer retention tool. If someone likes or follows your business, it's because they're interested in hearing from you on some regular basis. It's important that you have a routine schedule for your blogs, tweets, and postings. Keeping your fans and followers up to date on what's new and happening with your business or industry will keep them engaged with you and keep your brand top-of-mind.


Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

You probably are familiar with Magic Johnson’s tenure as one of the greatest basketball players in the NBA. And, you most likely also know that he has become, since his retirement, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our age.  Opening movie theatres and Starbucks stores in inner-city neighborhoods, Magic found a unique niche and has made both a big difference— and fortune— in the process.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png
But have you ever been in one of his Magic 32 retail stores? No? Why not? Here’s why, in Magic’s own words from his 2008 book titled 32 Ways to be a Champion in Business:

 

"We never made it past the first store. Looking back, I can give you a whole list of reasons why this startup flopped. The major factor was our crazy main buyer, who ordered clothing he liked rather than stocking up on what our customers might buy.”


Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


So who was this main buyer? It was Magic himself. He goes on to say:

 

“I knew what I liked in sportswear, yet I didn’t have a clue what our customers would or could buy.” Like many business owners, Johnson learned the hard way that market research, or getting to know your customer base, is essential for business success.

 

Market research is essential, and it doesn’t have to be expensive! Here are some easy and affordable ways for you to get the feedback you need on your next big idea:

 

Trade Associations: Every industry has a trade association connected to it, and these groups offer a wealth of information. Find groups associated with your business or idea and contact them— explain what you are doing and ask about survey data and research reports that are available. Get copies of their publications. Many will even have a start-up resource kit available.

 

Trade Shows: Consider attending some of the above mentioned associations’ specific trade shows. These shows will put you in touch with hundreds of like-minded individuals— people who are already successfully doing what you want to do.

 

Trade Magazines: Each industry also usually has one or more trade magazines. Find the main magazine for your industry and get several back copies. You should be able to notice industry trends, mistakes to avoid, potential costs and much more.

 

Websites:  In addition to what you might find with a simple Google search, check out these sites: 

 

  • www.census.gov: The U.S. Census Bureau offers a lot of free demographic data that you can use.
  • www.hoovers.com: Hoover’s offers business and industry data, as well as sales, marketing, business development and other information on public and private companies.
  • www.marketresearch.com: This site offers over 300,000 market research articles from more than 700 publishers, categorized by industry.


Social Media: Social media is a fantastic tool for conducting free market research. On LinkedIn or Facebook, you can join groups related to your prospective business, meet people who already own businesses like the one you want to open and learn from people already succeeding in that industry.

 

Interviews and Experiential Research: Reading is great, but nothing beats actually talking with people who are associated with your potential business. There are two groups of people you need to meet and interview when conducting your market research:

  • Potential customers. You need to find and meet people who would be willing to pay for the products or services that you want to provide. Find out what they like and dislike about their present provider and what would cause them to switch— lower prices, a better location, more personal service, etc.
  • The competition. No one knows your potential business better than people who are already running similar businesses. Become their customer, shop at their store, or use their service. Analyze their strengths, weaknesses, and profit potential.


Libraries: Of course, librarians are and always have been the keepers of the research key, and they can show you where to find plenty of free information. But here is something extra: The Internet-Plus Directory of Express Library Services: Research and Document Delivery for Hire, by editors Steve Coffman, CiOcto 16 Pull Quote.pngndy Kehoe and Pat Wiedensohler, lists 500 libraries nationwide that provide low-cost research services that you can tap into.


Online Focus Groups: How do Fortune 500 companies and presidential candidates know which commercials to run, products to pitch, or ideas to share? They use focus groups. You can too. Find an online discussion group or forum for your industry and ask questions. And again, as I mentioned above, you can do the same thing using social media. All you have to do is ask your networks. Another option would be to post a poll to various online groups and tally the results.


After conducting all of this research, you must remember to take the time needed to sit down, sift through and analyze the data. You need to get a clear idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your plan. Either you will conclude that there indeed is a market for your proposed business, or you will find there is not. Either way, the information will be, well, magic.


Have you found other ways to conduct market research for your business on the cheap? Share them with us below.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Recently, Steve Strauss (the community’s resident Small Business Expert) conducted a live Twitter event titled “The Power of Networking”.  We thought the rest of the Small Business Community would find this information useful and informative as well, so below is the complete transcripts from this live Twitter event.  Enjoy!

 

 

Steve-Strauss-in-article.jpgTWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

The Power of Networking #smallbiz chat is starting now w/ #BofA and @stevestrauss. Use #sbcommunity to participate

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Welcome to the Power of Networking Twitter chat brought to you by Bank of America’s Small Business Community #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I’m Steve Strauss, a contributor to #BofA’s Small Business Community and small business subject matter expert #Spon #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

My co-host today is Mary Bintz who will be tweeting from the @BofA_News handle #sbcommunity #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Hello @SteveStrauss! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Great to see you Joel @franchiseking! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Excited to be joining the #sbcommunity chat with @stevestrauss & @bofA_news starting NOW.

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

I am now on the #sbcommunity chat with @stevestrauss & @bofA_news starting NOW. Use hashtag #sbcommunity to join!

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Hi @Rieva - Great to see you #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Over the next hour we’ll discuss how networking amongst small business owners can help your small business succeed #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Hello @barrymoltz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

Hi everyone. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

In addition we will talk a bit about the new Small Business Community bought to you by @BofA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Hello @Rieva ! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Welcome @rieva @franchiseking @barrymoltz - thanks for joining the chat #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

Im tweeting from my office at Whitaker's Landscaping http://t.co/15jGmzyM

#sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

@FranchiseKing hey Joel. Steve #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@BofA_News great to be here, thanks for having me #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

We’ll also share networking best practices and tips for what might help your business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

And hello also to my pal @BarryMoltz - thanks for joining us today

#sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss thanks for having me Steve #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

You got it. I'm now an active member on your community site. Answering #franchise questions @BofA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

To interact with us during this chat – and to answer questions that we are asking – please use the hashtag #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Hey @ramonray #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

@BofA_News Thanks. glad to be here today #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Additionally Mary, tweeting from, @BofA_News and I will be happy to answer any small business-related questions #sbcommunity #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@FranchiseKing good to see we have the best for #franchise questions #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

  1. Great......always looking for great ideas to help our business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

And hello also to @RamonRay #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Let’s get started with our first topic – understanding your current networking practices!

#sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

@barrymoltz can you call me after the chat? See we're networking #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Let’s get started! Take it away @stevestrauss with our first topic – understanding your current networking practices! #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

Hello Everyone! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Question #1 – Do you currently network with other small business owners to share share/offer industry best practices? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I really think that networking is a skill you and your business can’t afford to be without. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

A peer group can act as an informal board of directors and an opportunity for real-world experience sharing. #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss A1. yes, I think social media makes it easy to share best practice info links and ideas #1 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@BofA_News A lot of people have formal or informal mastermind groups #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Since so many things are online now, there's "virtually" no excuse to not network, @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Social media has changed so many things, including best practices #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@FranchiseKing I agree Joel #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Barry - you have a mastermind group as I recal, is that right? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Q#1 I think networking is so important. both on a local, national & global basis #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@barrymoltz Yes. 87% of SMBs say SoMe is somewhat or very helpful to their org. @Vocus @ducttape study #sbcommunity

 

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@Hoovers yes so easy to network with SHARE buttons everywhere #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Welcome @ramonray - thanks for joining #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

The thing is - no longer is networking just handing 1 business card to 1 person - its handing 1tweet to 1000 people #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

.@SteveStrauss Social media does make it easier, but some use that as an excuse to not GO somewhere #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LENNTV

#sbcommunity virtual networking is great, but in my experience it's just as important to meet your clients face to face whenever possible.

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

SBOs can use #BofA’s Small Business Community to learn how to improve their biz from other SBOs http://t.co/mdFvhPhj #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

@Rieva Completely agree. I fall into that same habit or mindset. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss so does it mean that our networking has to be more deliberate cuz its amplified by SoMe? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

That is an interesting statistic @Hoovers. Where did you get that? 87% is high, and great #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

a firm hand shake or more is the best way for genuine - know, like, trust #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Social Media has made it possible to have folks like @Rieva @BarryMoltz @RamonRay IN my network. Important- we've met in person #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Nope nothing replaces this! RT @Lenntv: #sbcommunity virtual networking is great, but it's as important to meet your clients face to face

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@Rieva Interestingly enough, SMBs aiming to build a large but unengaged audience think SoMe is most helpful. @Vocus @ducttape #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I think the power of networking online is that you can meet people you would not normally meet. @Rieva taught me that! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Easy mistake RT @Hoovers: @Rieva SMBs aiming to build a large but unengaged audience think SoMe is helpful. @Vocus @ducttape #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

We all do. It's hard to drag yourself to an event, but it's really important. Face 2 face counts @BrandonSonofOle #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

but networking and social media is a great way to get your name out to so many more people #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Nothing replaces face to face RT @tomfrancoeur: RT @ramonray: a firm hand shake is the best way for genuine - know, like, trust #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

And the thing is, another important thing is to turn that online biz connection to a business relationship - as @RamonRay says #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

then when you get to have a face to face with the customer #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Topic/Question #2 – Do you find more success when networking with SBOs locally or on a national/international scale? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Yes, THAT was fun @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

#BofA’s SBC can connect you with SBOs nationwide – it’s a great way to expand your daily face-to-face networking #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss A2 I think the best success is using SoMe or email to start or extend the relationship #2 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@SteveStrauss: Link to @Vocus @ducttape #SMB social media study: http://t.co/rexjahYt #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Networking used to be 85% local. Now, it's only 10%. My clients are all over the US and Canada #2 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

Why are most small business owners reluctant to network, market and promote? How do we change this? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@FranchiseKing yes, with @SmallTownRules geography is meaningless ! #2 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Yes @adelewhit, in the end, you have to meet face to face, although I didnt meet my editor at usatoday for 5 years #sbcommunity

 

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Linking up with other SBOs willing to offer advice, no matter where they are, is important when sourcing new opportunities #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss after a relationship is started, it really can be strengthened IRL #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss SBOs and all of us are afraid of rejection! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

And, meeting the @USAToday editor in person still worked out? LOL @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LPT

@barrymoltz @rieva @ramonray @shashib - ditto on the #sbcommunity chat comments about F2F. Met all of you online 1st, but mtg offline was +1

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I think for many SB owners, they do what they do and it takes time to network or learn something new, what do you think? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

for me natl works best but it depends on what you do, where your customers are @SteveStrauss #2 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Welcome to this powerful chat, @shashib #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

Gr8 question! RT @Ogoing: Why are most small business owners reluctant to network, market and promote? How do we change this? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Welcome to the chat. Thanks for your support, @TheWindowGenie #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Don’t forget to think about networking locally before you network nationally & globally – take care of your base! #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@LPT I rmember the great food in Austin with you! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I saw a statistic from the B of A Small Business Owner Report that said that 75% of SBOs find networking as their best tool #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A2: In today's economy, people prefer local IF they are gonig to get the best product/service. Can't forget where you started. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

and word of mouth too. Word of mouth is so different these days - a retweet is word of mouth today #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@SteveStrauss @Ogoing SMB owners wear a lot of hats--it's hard to find time to network. The reason for increased SoMe interest? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

I think part of it is making the time. @SteveStrauss @barrymoltz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

@FranchiseKing Yes as soon as I saw my bulb glowing without switching on I knew #sbcommunity is a powerful chat

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Yes @Hoovers, online networking can save a lot of time - OR waste a lot of time! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Very True!@ RT @SocialSiteMedia: A2: people prefer local IF they are going to get the best product. Can't forget where u start. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

@LPT Greetings! Hope you are doing well #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SteveStrauss Yup. Busy running their business. But few realize that they have to grow. May be they are content with profits? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Good one! #green @shashib #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

I find many small biz are focused on the NEXT SALE they don't think of long term relationships - #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@Ogoing they get trapped in doing the work, but not having a systematic marketing strategy #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@barrymoltz How do we change their thinking? Many consider marketing as an unnecessary expense, and are not willing to spend. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Its like the e-myth wisdom - you need to work ON your business not just IN your business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Truthat @ramonray #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Some people are shy too #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

They need to get unstuck #barrymoltz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

"systematic marketing strategy" - that is the key @ducttape and @Infusionsoft preach this all the time #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss yes, I call it Breaking the Double Helix Trap #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

True that! RT @SteveStrauss: Its like the e-myth wisdom - you need to work ON your business not just IN your business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss yes, we all get stuck now and then! #barrymoltz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Joel -is this true for franchisees too? @franchiseking #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Franchisees need to focus on local. Period. @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@FranchiseKing interesting how some people are more shy online than IRL #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Topic/Question #3 – Having a business mentor is a great way to get ahead. Who do you turn to for mentorship? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LPT

@Hoovers @SteveStrauss @Ogoing - just used that "lots of hats" analogy in my post earlier today! http://t.co/nCS6yevn #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Mentors have made a huge difference in my business. Some of the folks here have mentored me in fact #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: GETHOOPLA

So true! RT @ramonray: I find many small biz are focused on the NEXT SALE they don't think of long term relationships - #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss If you talk to folks about your biz, mentors I believe come forward to help! #3 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

In my experience, mentoring through #BofA’s SBC has proven effective and rewarding. http://t.co/SkU8dpkG #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I have had different mentors at different times. but it alsways seemed organic. I never planned it. You? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

times have changed and if we don't adapt we will disappear. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Source: twitter.com, Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 06:25 PM by barrymoltz

A3 I am lucky to have @Rieva as one of my mentors! @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

MENTORS: @normbrodsky @yacovw - they have helped me grow - one by reading him the other by frequent meetings #sbcommunity

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

A3: A great mentor teaches us to ask all the right questions. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

But I also know that finding a mentor can also come by having the chutzpah to ask someone whom you admire to mentor you #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

There is a difference between MENTORS and PEERS - both are important yet different - #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@Hoovers a mentor helps us also question our answers #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A3: Mentor(s) are everywhere...you need just one. Reading industry blogs are a great way to find knowledgeable info. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@ramonray can a mentor be a peer? I think so #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

How did you get those mentors @RamonRay? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Aw shucks. RT @FranchiseKing: RT @barrymoltz: A3 I am lucky to have @Rieva as one of my mentors! @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

@SteveStrauss I agree a good mentor opens your eyes to many possibilities

#sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A3: **don't need just one. Oops! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I know someone who uses LinkedIn to find both mentors and business. All you have to do is ask sometimes #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

Here's a small business owner, an experienced Los Angeles Tax Attorney, who is networking and growing. http://t.co/Shqf0oXX #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

"A mentor is someone who sees more talent & ability within you, than you see in yourself, & helps bring it out." ~ Bob Proctor #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

+10 RT @barrymoltz: @Hoovers a mentor helps us also question our answers #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@Rieva @FranchiseKing @barrymoltz @SteveStrauss Cool! Rieva rocks #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

Would you say that's cuz they're truly interested in our success? MT @barrymoltz: A mentor helps us also question our answers #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

Source: twitter.com, Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 06:29 PM by adelewhit

does anyone use the sight http://t.co/Ph2CZbew? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

How have mentors helped you? For me it was both how to look at things AND introductions/advice #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@BrandonSonofOle mentors question us because it is hard for us to do it honestly ourselves #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

  1. Thanks. I so appreciate that @Ogoing #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

welcome @LN_Bikes to our chat! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

He knows me well RT @FranchiseKing: RT @Rieva: Some people are shy too - Like @shashib #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss mentors help me look at things I am uncomfortable looking at #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Mentors have helped me by offering suggestions that are way, way, out of box. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SteveStrauss @BrandonSonofOle @barrymoltz @Hoovers How do you find that really good one mentor? It's hard to find that person. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

@shashib you are the LEAST shy person #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

That sounds like my wife! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A3: Mentors are so important to SB owners. It's scary out there and mine has always done a good job of keeping me focused. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@ramonray I am a fan of @Normbrodsky #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: TOMFRANCOEUR

@stevestrauss Strategy. That's where I've gotten the most help from mentors. #sbcommunity.

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I also find that mentors open doors #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

or nag RT @barrymoltz: @BrandonSonofOle mentors question us because it is hard for us to do it honestly ourselves #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

Mentors helped me realize that I have good ideas and helped keep me focused

#sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@Ogoing Determine what you're looking for in a mentor (expertise, geo, experience, influence), research candidates on LinkedIn. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Question #4 – Do you use social media sites to network and learn from other small businesses? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Don't be shy about asking someone you respect to be your mentor. You can also consider using SM to connect, ie LinkedIn #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss A4 yes all the time, SoMe opens up access that would not otherwise be there #4 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Among other things social networks can help you find the proper talent for your small business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

#sbcommunity Having a Small Business Advisory Board is also a good idea for a small business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@BofA_News yes, but you have to get the free vs fee thing straight with a mentor early on #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

yes and it has opened my customer base #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

The recent Small Biz Owner Report showed only 28% of SBOs used social media to connect w/ other small biz #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Check out @Aileron_org RT @shashib: #sbcommunity Having a Small Business Advisory Board is also a good idea #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Yes, Twitter is my personal favorite @SteveStrauss #4 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

@BofA that is crazy #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A4: @SteveStrauss Everyday! That's the beauty of social media; it's one big, open community just waiting for you to interact. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

The recent Small Biz Owner Report showed only 28%of SBOs used social media to connect w/ other small biz #sbcommunity ^MB #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LPT

@SteveStrauss - even advice I disagreed with from a mentor was helpful once. helped me solidify my own career philosophy. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SteveStrauss Our business is social media. We use it for networking, marketing, learning and growing! It works! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

A4: Currently, there are 6,874,850 small-business professionals networking on LinkedIn. (LinkedIn data) #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

28%? Wow that's shocking--and stupid. C'mon biz owners--social media is key to so much @BofA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

I'll listen to anyone that wants to be a mentor-if they're ethical people. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

Right on! RT @Rieva: 28%? Wow thats shocking--and stupid. Cmon biz owners--social media is key to so much @BofA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

@adelewhit May be surprising, but true. We expect that number will rise in the future. #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I know of a woman who started a biz, joined LinkedIn, participated a lot, and got 50 people to volunteer for her Bd of Advisors #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

I would hope it increases, what a waste of resources.

 

TWEET FROM: THEWINDOWGENIE

#sbcommunity A great mentor does not have all the answers, they challenge you to find them or create your own and apply that

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

Also EVERY business owner should himself/herself be a mentor to others - #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@Hoovers Ogoing is trying to grow the social media network. It's very hard! We are up to 5K members now. 10K barrier is huge #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

It’s important when pressed for time to remember that social media helps keep your networking alive #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

I overheard a young man tell someone else I was HIS mentor and I did not even know it - #sbcommunity (and I almost started crying)

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

Of course! If you have @FranchiseKing as a mentor you run the danger of expanding your business #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@FranchiseKing Agreed! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Interesting b/c 75% of business owners have been

‘put off’ by a company due to their poor use of social #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

true RT @ramonray: Also EVERY business owner should himself/herself be a mentor to others - #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

@SteveStrauss Thanks Steve. Great insights in your tweets and articles #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@ramonray yes pay it forward! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Given that networking and word of mouth are key for SB marketing, one would think that the online option would be higher #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Thank you so much @shashib You are truly a Royal Subject #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@Ogoing I hear you...When you do social media, leave your longing for instant gratification at the door. Keep on keepin' on. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

  1. Shocking. RT @BofA_News: The recent SB Owner Report showed only 28%

of SBOs used social media to connect w/ other small biz #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@shashib yes, @SteveStrauss literally wrote the bible on #smallbiz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

Sometimes mentors don't even give you ADVICE per say but they open their network to you aka @shashib a true GIVER #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: THEWINDOWGENIE

@ramonray Everyone has something to offer to another person. If teamwork is strong the end result will be #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: CLICKBRAND

@Hoovers @Ogoing social media is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.. it takes time #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

And, 28,455 of them follow you on #in @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

SOCIAL JERKS only share their own (or their own company's) content - SOCIAL GIVERS share all relevant content #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@Ogoing Also remember you don't have to be active on all platforms. Go where your audience is--where they want to engage w/you. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@Clickbrand yes unfortunately most #smallbiz owners have a short term view #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

@barrymoltz I actually won the Small Business Bible by @SteveStrauss as a prize at an event and still cherish it #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Topic/Question #5 – Tell us your story – when has networking helped elevate the visibility of your company’s brand? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

I looks like @BrianMoran has entered the room #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@Hoovers Ogoing has created a dedicated social network for small business. http://t.co/XXPb0yWW This is taking long to grow! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

Plus, despite wealth of resources to turn to for support, majority of SBOs say they feel alone: http://t.co/yrgbKSqd #emp #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Business networking is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting tools you can use to grow your business #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I know that for me, networking has taken my brand to a whole new level #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss A5 My relationships with many corporations started on Twitter #5 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Hi @BrianMoran - great to see you #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRIANMORAN

@barrymoltz @franchiseking Just a quick drive by to retweet some very smart #smallbiz people. #sbcommunity. Off to a meeting now.

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

#5 I have met people from all over the world that I never would have met by networking-on @Twitter #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

A5: Online networking earned me my very first client in 2009. Taught me a great deal about how important an online presence is. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

networking helped me tell people who we are, what we do and let people get comftorable with who they are dealing with #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Networking and branding go hand in hand because you never know what connection leads to what opportunity #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Welcome @brianmoran thanks for joining #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

for us an important this is all our employees are DOJ background checked, it help us sell ourselves before we even meet. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

The SBC is an opportunity to make connections that can potentially elevate a brand. http://t.co/mdFvhPhj #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

@SteveStrauss I never knew how true that was before. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I bet you have made some great connections for your biz and brand via networking @franchiseking - true for many people here #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss A5 I am meeting @BofA_News for the first time today even though I have followed their #smallbiz work for awhile #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

Ogoing members primarily join through networking and engagement on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook & Google+ Social Media rocks! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Networking, esp. online, extends your name to a vast, whole new group of people #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

I got my column at USATODAY via networking, and that changed everything #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

@SteveStrauss agreed #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

Source: twitter.com, Posted on: Sep 20, 2012 06:52 PM by barrymoltz

@SteveStrauss A6 I owe my entire business as a result of networking #6 #sbcommunity

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Topic/Question #6 – Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when has networking benefited your business’s bottom line? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SHASHIB

Have you heard @RamonRay speak? You don't have to eat for a year after - you will get that much energy #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: TDSBIZ

@SteveStrauss that's great! It's nice to hear the #SBcommunity can help out!

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

It is so easy to spend time online and not see an effect on the bottom line - keeping your ROI in mind is critical #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Networking benefits our bottom line every day. Clients, connections & firends @SteveStrauss #6 #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

How do you develop and establish trust when you network online? There is a bit of unease for most small business owners. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RAMONRAY

@Ogoing I think TRUST can only be established over time - #sbcommunity - people have a mask online

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Take baby steps at first. @Ogoing #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@ramonray Don't rush trust! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

"How do you develop and establish trust when you network online?" - send folks to your site where you post testimonials #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

it's like marketing it's exposure. people will get more comfortable w. you the more you interact @Ogoing #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

A6 every day I am benefited by networking. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: PEOPLEFUNDATX

Peoplefund owes a lot of its grants to relationships built from networking. @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

@SteveStrauss testimonials have been a big part of new customers. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@ramonray True! Most online networkers are quick to jump the gun though #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

the 80-20 rule applies here too - post 80% of your content about THEM. 20% about you #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@Ogoing To establish online trust, be consistently honest & sincere. Build your reputation by helping others build theirs. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SteveStrauss Agreed. Objective testimonials always help. On the website or on reviews sites. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

when a potential customer can read a testimonial from another client it establishes a sense of comfort #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Share your tips and best practices with the members of the Small Business Community http://t.co/mdFvhPhj #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

agreed 80-20 if you share so will others #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

@SteveStrauss That's what I tell my franchisees #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@barrymoltz @ramonray Couldn't agree more! This is the essence of social media and networking. To know when to close #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Testimonials are key to establishing credibility online. People know zip about you when they go 2 your site the 1st time #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@SteveStrauss Interesting that sharing news about org/products is the most popular way SMBs use SoMe. Inside-out promo. @Vocus #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Agreed, testimonials create a comfort and trust level #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

Great advice! @Hoovers: @Ogoing To establish trust, be honest & sincere. Build your reputation by helping others build theirs. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss yes no one wants to be the first! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

exactly and testimonials make you more credible to potential customers #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

@tdsbiz @SteveStrauss We'd love to have you check out the Small Business Community http://t.co/mdFvhPhj #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Well, that's about it #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Thank you everyone for participating in our conversation today and thank you to chat co-hosts @BofA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

We hope that you picked up a few tips on how networking can be beneficial for your #smallbiz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss @BofA_News thanks for having me! Great #tweetchat #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Please tweet me directly, using the hashtag #sbcommunity, to let me know about the connections you made today! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: ADELEWHIT

thank you all #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BARRYMOLTZ

@SteveStrauss great to be in the same room with @ramonray @Rieva @FranchiseKing #smallbiz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Thank you everyone for participating in our conversation today and thank you to our co-host @stevestrauss #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SocialSiteMedia @Hoovers What a great advice indeed! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

@SteveStrauss Will #sbcommunity be a regular chat? Do you have another one on the calendar? #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: RIEVA

Thanks @SteveStrauss #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

And please join the #BofA Small Business Community to continue to network with other SBOs! the URL Is #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: SOCIALSITEMEDIA

Thanks @SteveStrauss and @bofa_news! Great chat. #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

http://t.co/DUBRhzJK #sbcommunity #smallbiz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: HOOVERS

Glad to connect with all of you! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, questions, and honesty with me! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

The Small Business Communityu URL is http://t.co/DUBRhzJK #sbcommunity #smallbiz #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: FRANCHISEKING

Lots of tips. Thanks for having me @SteveStrauss @BOFA_News #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: STEVESTRAUSS

Thanks so much to everyone who participated today. Great info and tips! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BOFA_NEWS

Thanks everyone, enjoyed the chat! #sbcommunity ^MB

 

TWEET FROM: OGOING

@SteveStrauss @ramonray @Rieva @FranchiseKing @Hoovers @barrymoltz @tomfrancoeur @SocialSiteMedia @Ogoing @BofA_News

@adelewhit #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: BRANDONSONOFOLE

@SteveStrauss Thanks for hosting a great chat. Lots of great advice! #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LN_BIKES

@SteveStrauss Thanks! such great info #sbcommunity

 

TWEET FROM: LPT

Thanks for RTs @FranchiseKing @Rieva @barrymoltz - good conversation today on #sbcommunity @BofA_News!



About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.


DefendingRep_Body.jpgBy Iris Dorbian.

 

Having a solid and sterling reputation can be a small business’ greatest currency. A good word-of-mouth can invest a company with credibility and cachet. Who needs a retinue of expensive PR flacks when you have glowing reviews on Yelp?

 

And yet, as quickly as a reputation can be built, it can be destroyed. The ubiquity of social media has upped the ante so much that even a single online negative review or rant on a site such as Twitter or Facebook can do immeasurable harm to a brand, be it a Fortune 500 company or a small mom-and-pop shop. But while the former might have a platoon of spin-doctors at its disposal to clean up the smears, a small business with limited resources may not be so lucky. How then can a small business perform damage control when it’s being slammed on the Internet?

 

Be proactive when dealing with complaints

Don’t be passive or silent. The sage advice that your grandmother once told you, to ignore attacks, is not applicable to Internet protocol, which in many ways, is reminiscent of the Wild, Wild West, except that back then, at least, you knew who your gun-toting antagonists were. That’s not an advantage afforded in the sometimes anarchic wilderness of cyberspace, where consumers can cloak their identities in anonymity while freely slinging mud about your company on myriad sites.

 

Andrew Dale, CEO of The Pin People, a 12-year-old lapel pin manufacturer based in New York City, knows all too well the devastating effect a negative Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating can have on a small business, particularly if you don’t respond to complaints within a certain timeframe. Recently, Dale’s company lost a lucrative order after the client performed some due diligence and discovered that The Pin People had an F rating, according to the BBB.

 

DefendingRep_PQ.jpgEmbarrassed, Dale, a retired cop and former Marine, went into damage control mode. He contacted the BBB and found out that his company received the F rating because it had never responded to two outstanding customer complaints, which surprised Dale as he was unaware of them. Turns out that out his company never received the complaints because the BBB sent them to an old mailing address it had on file.

 

“Since we never responded, they accepted both complaints and also penalized us for not responding!” recalls Dale, incredulously.

 

But fortunately, all was not lost. “The BBB explained that they could reopen the complaints and as long as my company responded to the two customers making the complaints and showed good faith, the complaints would be resolved,” he explains.

 

Dale offered the two customers in question an option to either redo the order or a complete refund. Following Dale’s response to the parties, The Pin People’s BBB F rating was removed and changed to no rating, which Dale admits was a much better scenario than a flunking grade.

 

“One party contacted me and we redid their order, and the other party never contacted us—as that complaint was over two years old,” relates Dale. “The BBB has since given us an A+ rating and we were just approved to be accredited by the BBB.”

 

Practice transparency and admit wrongdoing

Transparency, which in contemporary public relations parlance means telling the truth, has become synonymous with “authenticity,” another term frequently cited by top-tier PR professionals as a necessary tactic for companies to use when engaging with customers. The pros are obvious: By reaching out to consumers with transparent messaging, you will be able to win their confidence more easily as opposed to countering complaints with insincere sound bites and recrimination. The cons of leveraging this tactic is that you, as a small business owner, may learn some hard truths about your company directly from consumers who may not use polite language to express their dissatisfaction.

 

“The only way to resolve issues in today's social economy and protect the brand as well as sustain growth is to be authentic,” contends Mark Zhang, marketing director of Slip Stopper, a startup manufacturer of protective cases for smartphones. “That means admitting the problem, acting quickly to fix it, and apologizing for screwing up.”

 

Zhang learned this lesson firsthand recently after his company’s initial product launch encountered some “quality issues” when customers received their orders—apparently the adhesive on the back of the skin case was faulty, causing it to fall off the user's phone. “After we noticed our screw-up, we immediately reached out to customers and sent them replacement units,” he relates. “In some cases, we even doubled the order for free.”

 

But what if customer complaints are posted on popular review sites like Yelp? What then is the proper way for a small business to interface with disgruntled consumers?

 

“When your business is attacked through social media, get involved in the conversation,” advises Steve Wyer, managing director of the Franklin, Tennessee-based The Reputation Advocate, a crisis PR firm that works with small businesses to restore their online reputation. “Do not get into a war of words, be respectful, and present your perspective. Unreasonable claims, statements, and comments will be exposed for what they are if you present a rational dialogue.”

 

Regularly monitor your company’s online reputation

Whether it’s setting up a Google Alert or outfitting your computer software with a social media-monitoring tool such as Radian6, it behooves you to find out what consumers are saying about your company to safeguard its online reputation. It’s a pre-emptive defense, but also an imperative because if a complaint is not immediately addressed or resolved online, then “customers can tweet or post on Facebook and instantly tell hundreds of people,” notes Zhang. “If one of these messages gets retweeted, the negative message could reach thousands.”

 

Consider the source of the complaint(s)

Is the complaint from a legitimately irate customer or from what is commonly known in Internet slang as a “troll,” meaning someone who posts inflammatory or provocative rhetoric online for the sole purpose of riling up others? Bobby Zafarnia, president of Praecere a small business PR and media consulting firm in Washington, DC, says if it’s the former, then the “small business must respond carefully and do so in a way that satisfies the complainer and preserves the business's good name. However, if the complainer is a gadfly, someone who clearly is making unreasonable demands or just trying to push buttons, a simple “We appreciate your comment.” may suffice.”

 

But even if the complaint is unwarranted and unreasonable, it will still demand a response. “If you stay silent, it'll look like no one is in charge,” adds Zafarnia.

 

Prior to the digital age, a small business had little recourse when it came to defending its reputation against public customer complaints. If the company had the good fortune (and funds) to hire a savvy PR professional, then it could mount a counterattack via press releases and a news conference on a local TV or radio station. Given the current climate of instantaneous communication fostered by the Internet, however, such measures might be too little too late.. Accepting responsibility graciously and facing detractors with calm and reason will go a long way toward burnishing a tarnished reputation rather than feigning indifference and hoping the matter will magically clear itself up.

Inc.

Poised for Growth

Posted by Inc. Oct 10, 2012

How investing time and resources effectively pays off in the long run


Business “overnight success” stories—the venture that skyrockets from a kitchen table project to millions in short order—seem to be everywhere. However, the truth is usually that fast growth is the result of excellent strategy, constant re-evaluation of core business areas, and careful reinvestment for growth.


“Specifically, business owners need to understand what I call their ‘Best and Highest Use.’ It’s a concept that effectively says, ‘Figure out what your company is best at doing, what they like doing, and what the marketplace has previously valued them for doing,’” says business growth consultant Andy Birol, founder of Birol Growth Consulting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then, he adds, focus your investment of time and resources on those areas to accelerate the growth of your business.

 

The first step, says Terry Mackin, managing director of Generational Equity, a Dallas, Texas-based mergers and acquisitions consultancy, is to closely monitor cash flow and control costs, especially in areas that don’t contribute to the core functions of your business. Many companies have failed during times of economic downturn and uncertainty because they were not vigilant in cutting and controlling costs in proportion to the downturn in their businesses. As your business grows, you may find that some departments or sectors are duplicating efforts or that streamlining some functions may yield savings and efficiency, adds Birol. For example, moving all print production efforts through one central location can help your company negotiate better volume discounts than having varied accounts from different departments. As you determine which areas of your business are most profitable or yield the greatest results, adjust your annual budgets to support those key areas.

 

As they emerge from a difficult economic climate, businesses should also be looking at capital investments they have been delaying, says Robert S. Lee, business banking equipment finance executive at Leasing & Capital, LLC. Many companies have been conservative about making such investments or taking on new debt. However, he adds, strategic acquisition or leasing of equipment and assets that can improve efficiency and maximize productivity often yield significant savings, which can then be reinvested into the business for further growth. Lee helps guide his clients through the process of choosing whether to lease or purchase equipment, based on the long-term objectives of the business and the most cost-effective choice. That is often a carefully considered matrix of industry, business size and market, equipment type, and other factors.


“It is time to look at what your business needs to take advantage of growth opportunities as economic conditions improve. Investments made now can give your business an edge over companies that further delay capital investments,” he notes.

 

Most businesses need to make their technology and equipment investment a strategic part of their growth plan, says Mackin. Technology can be an important factor in preserving resources, managing inventory and materials, automating processes to reduce waste and enhance productivity, and it can even help bolster a business’s valuation. Automating as many functions as possible allows the time and salaries once spent on those areas to be redirected to other areas that will enhance the product or service, increase sales, or improve customer satisfaction—all areas that will further the business’ expansion.


“One of the first things buyers do when they come in and look at a business is to look at the technology,” he says.

 

Birol says other key investments include market research and customer service. Having a true, objective understanding of the marketplace and what your customers value about your business is essential in order to discover your business’s Best and Highest Use, he says. However, growing businesses may lose sight of their levels of service or the reasons customers rely on them. Investing time and resources into a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) system, and evaluating sales and market data to uncover trends are critical as businesses grow. This data mining can predict market opportunities and help the business find areas that customers dislike, providing key information for the business to improve and become stronger. In addition, investing in the people and resources you need to provide top-notch customer service is essential, since keeping customers happy and engaged with your business costs far less, in most cases, than acquiring a new customer, he says.

By focusing on the core of the business, cutting non-essential expenses, and reinvesting in core functions, businesses can position themselves for growth even in difficult economic times, says Birol. And that repositioning will make them better able than their competition to seize upon growth opportunities when market conditions improve.

 

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

by April Joyner

 

Wading into the fast-moving flow of social media can be daunting to a small business owner with very little time on his hands. Here's Inc.'s comprehensive social media cheat sheet for the time-strapped entrepreneur.

 

White-in-article.jpg1. Offer a peek behind the scenes. Offering a sneak preview of new products, services, or features online can help build demand and provide critical feedback to help smooth the launch. For instance, John Doyle, founder of chocolate company John and Kira's in Philadelphia, posts photos of new products on Flickr and invites comments from customers.

 

2. Harness your expertise. Chances are your company's white paper won't go viral. But sharing knowledge you've gathered through your trade can go a long way toward boosting your brand. Ford Models, for instance, became a YouTube sensation through a series of videos that featured its models giving beauty and fashion tips.

 

3. Demonstrate what your company does. Because multimedia is so integral to social media, getting connected allows you to express your company's value proposition beyond words. To show just how powerful his company's blenders were, Blendtec's head of marketing, George Wright, created a series of videos showing the appliances churning up such diverse items as a rotisserie chicken, a Rubik's Cube, and an iPhone. The series' 100 million combined views helped boost Blendtec's sales by 700 percent.

 

4. Put your website's content to work. Want to draw more traffic to your website? Help spread the word by encouraging visitors to share content they enjoy. GotCast, a website that connects television casting directors with aspiring actors, draws new visitors by posting audition videos on Digg and allowing others to share video links on the site. One way to promote the sharing of your site's content is to install a widget, such as AddThis, that automates linking to popular sites.

 

5. Be candid. In unsure economic times, transparency goes a long way toward retaining and attracting customers. Giving readers the scoop on your company blog is an easy way to keep the lines of communication open. Giacomo Guilizzoni, the founder of San Francisco software company Balsamiq, even posts sales and profit figures to show that his company is on solid financial footing.

 

6. But be careful what you say about others. When Leslie Richard, owner of a North Carolina clothing company, described Vision Media Television as a "scam," she was slapped with a $20 million lawsuit. While recounting negative experiences with others won't necessarily lead to a court battle, it's best to steer clear of name-calling.

 

7. Interact with visitorsreally. Just putting up a blog or a Facebook fan page won't do much good if visitors sense the flow of conversation only goes one way. In fact, Matt Mullenweg, founder of blogging platform Wordpress, lists not participating in comments as a surefire way to kill a community. Mullenweg and his team field the many suggestions users have for Wordpress through his blog.

 

8. Don't try to create a stand-in for yourself. With all the other tasks required within your company, it's tempting to outsource managing your social media or even to try automating the process. That can easily backfire, as Joe Pulizzi, founder of Cleveland marketing firm Junta42, learned when he tried sending automated welcome messages to new followers on Twitter. His online contacts quickly called him out for sending out what they perceived to be spam.

 

9. Don't pretend to be someone else. Thanks to IP address tracking, observers can also quickly tell when company figureheads adopt fake identities for the sake of fluffing up their reputation. Not only can the practice hurt your company's reputation, it could also land you in legal trouble. The plastic surgery Lifestyle Lift had to pay $300,000 in settlement costs to the state of New York for having its employees post flattering reviews of the company without disclosing their affiliation.

 

10. Help employees bond. Corporations such as IBM have built in-house networks—even virtual worlds reminiscent of Second Life—to link employees working in different locations. Small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of readily available tools to facilitate collaboration. The Hoffman Agency, a public relations firm, uses Ning, which enables users to build custom social networks, to connect its U.S. staff with employees in Europe and Asia.

 

11. Reward customer loyalty. Through social media, companies can not only run promotions more frequently than coupons in the mail will permit but also devise more whimsical and engaging campaigns. Sprinkles Cupcakes, a bakery chain based in Beverly Hills, California, uses Twitter to send out daily promotional offers. The tweets, which ask customers to whisper a "password" to receive a free treat, have helped the company draw more than 17,000 followers.

 

12. See what people are saying about you. A quick search for mentions of your company on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can yield a goldmine of information concerning your reputation. Several users on Yelp, for instance, suggested that employees at Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago were less than welcoming. After reading the comments, owner Eric Kirsammer focused on improving customer service. Applications such as monitter and Trackur can help you keep track of the conversation across the Web.

 

13. Make amends with dissatisfied customers, quickly. Andy Carlson, owner of an Ace Hardware store in Denver, once came across an angry Twitter update from a customer who had bought a tool that broke after one use. He resolved the issue in a matter of minutes by referring the customer to an area store and notified him of Ace's lifetime guarantee. Best of all, he was able to catch the complaint after store hours—and prevent negative word of mouth.

 

14. Don't go on the defensive. A harsh rebuke of your business on sites like Yelp can not only bruise your ego but also hurt your livelihood. But resist the temptation to lash out in public. Sarah Dunbar, owner of Oakland vintage boutique Pretty Penny, privately responds to less-than-flattering reviewers and encourages them to visit her in person. And keep in mind that you can't please everyone. After Dunbar wrote to one dissatisfied customer, the reviewer accused her of conducting "shady business" by trying to sway opinions.

 

15. Keep customers in the loop. Frequently on the go? Twitter can help your customers keep track of your latest destination. Kogi Korean BBQ, which operates a food cart in Los Angeles, keeps its Twitter followers constantly informed of its location on the street. The real-time updates help Kogi keep up demand, as customers line up in advance at the broadcasted locations.

 

16. Find potential customers. A quick keyword search can help you find prospective customers who may not be aware of your company but could nonetheless benefit from your product or service. Bob Scaglion, a senior managing director at New York real-estate management company Rose Associates, generates 100 leads per month on Twitter for his company simply by replying to users whose tweets include phrases such as "moving to New York City" and "no-fee rentals."

 

17. Reach more markets. Social media can help your company reach multiple markets at a time. Restaurant chain Boloco focuses most of its advertising on Boston, which houses 13 out of its 16 locations. But as an experiment, CEO John Pepper decided to post a copy of a coupon from a local newspaper on Twitter in order to reach customers in Vermont and New Hampshire. Coupon redemptions increased by more than 150 percent as a result.

 

18. Target your online advertising. Both Facebook and MySpace allow businesses to run ads that attract specific groups of users based on what information they include in their profiles. By running Facebook ads targeted at students at specific colleges, StorQuest Self Storage, which has locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Hawaii, increased its number of rentals by more than half.

 

19. See where your customers are. A growing number of social networks are designed specifically for users on the go, and some, such as the mobile application Foursquare, offer tools specifically for businesses. Frozen dessert chain Tasti D-Lite, for instance, uses Foursquare to gather data on how many people visit its locations and send promotional offers to frequent customers.

 

20. Let customers help each other out. Including a customer forum on your website or social network profile can help enhance your customer service while building a sense of community. At Poolcenter.com, a swimming pool equipment retailer based in Arlington, Virginia, customers often field each other's inquiries on swimming pool equipment before they reach customer service reps. Get Satisfaction and Fixya are two sites that offer dedicated spaces for customer service forums.

 

21. Build a community beyond your business. Photo hosting site SmugMug has established itself as a resource for skilled photographers in part by operating a forum, Digital Grin, where members trade advice on topics such as the best techniques for taking photos at night and capturing wedding scenes. With the exception of a support section at the very bottom, the forum is devoted to photography at large, rather than the company's own services.

 

22. Let customers contribute. FrontPoint Security, a home security provider in McLean, Virginia, began collecting video testimonials from its customers, who filmed themselves with Flip cameras. The videos are posted on FrontPoint's site and on YouTube, and even some customers' personal blogs. FrontPoint's video efforts have helped the company more than triple its sales leads.

 

23. Help others promote you. Social media can help you find passionate customers who are more than willing to spread the word about your company. Crafts supplies manufacturer Fiskars reached out to scrapbookers by inviting four avid users to blog. Its crafts community, called Fiskateers, has since attracted 5,000 users who serve as brand evangelists.

 

24. Cultivate relationships that lead to sales. Soon after he joined Twitter, J.R. Cohen, manager of The Coffee Groundz, a Houston coffee shop, began encouraging his followers to visit him in his shop. He began getting to know customers so well that they not only initiated conversations with him through Twitter—they began tweeting orders through the site as well. Now Cohen periodically fields menu requests through Twitter, though he doesn't use the page primarily for that purpose.

 

25. But don't promote too aggressively. While social network users have proven to be open to marketing—especially if it involves a discount—they're not flocking to Facebook or MySpace to hear sales pitches. If your profile or blog reads like an ad, it will turn visitors away. Kent Lewis, founder of Portland online marketing firm Anvil Media, encourages Twitter users, for instance, to pass along industry news and retweet interesting items from others along with their own promotions.

 

26. Find ways to engage visitors offline. In March, Cinda Baxter, a retail consultant in Minneapolis, ended a blog post on local business with one simple idea: choose three businesses to support, and spend a combined amount of $50 per month. The post spurred hundreds of inquiries—enough for Baxter to build a standalone website, which has since attracted the support of more than 12,000 businesses. Baxter has used the publicity to bolster her consulting business: she now travels nationwide to advise retailers on building support within their communities.

 

27. Find influential people in your industry. In addition to maintaining your blog, make sure to keep your eyes open to what others in the industry are buzzing about online. Reading independent blogs and joining industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn is a good way to join the larger conversation. Spoonflower, a fabric design site based in Mebane, North Carolina, has built its community of more than 40,000 users primarily through word of mouth on crafts blogs.

 

28. Boost your credibility by helping others. For service providers, establishing yourself as an expert in the field can bring in a steady stream of business. LinkedIn's Answers feature enables business owners to do just that. Heidi Cool, a Web design consultant in Cleveland, browses LinkedIn Answers for inquiries related to her industry and spends one to two hours per week answering them. In one month, she generated 29 leads for her services directly from her responses.

 

29. Look for talent off the beaten path. While LinkedIn is specifically geared toward professional use, some companies have found other social networks to be effective recruiting tools as well. Jason Averbrook, CEO of the management-consulting firm Knowledge Infusion, found 19 candidates in two days for an open position simply by writing about his search in status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, which aggregates contact information from social networks.

 

30. Connect with potential partners. Because LinkedIn is designed specifically for professional networking, businesses can find a host of valuable contacts there. Josh Steinitz, CEO of NileGuide, a trip planning website based in San Francisco, used LinkedIn to find business partners by identifying companies of interest and then asking his existing contacts to provide introductions. A third of the company's inquiries resulted in eventual partnerships.

 

 

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

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by Geoffrey James

 

It's easy to burn through a budget with these big-ticket items. There's a better way to spend your cash.

 

There are a dozen ways to spending a marketing budget unwisely, but the following three line items are probably the worst offenders. Steer clear of all three--or, better yet, make a tweak to transform them from money-wasters into moneymakers,

 

1. Vendor-Focused Trade Shows

There are only two reasons to attend a trade show: 1) to generate sales leads or 2) to close existing opportunities. Both goals are impossible to achieve if neither customers nor potential customers attend the trade show.

 

For example, I know a guy who spent $100,000 for a booth at a trade show and got only 132 "sales leads." And all but 22 of those "leads" were people from other vendors who were looking for a new job.

 

In order to convince companies to pay for booth space, trade show companies tend to provide misleading Waste-moneyl.pngattendee statistics--and sometimes threaten to make your non-attendance into a PR disaster.

  • Smarter strategy: Insist that every trade show investment be matched by a reasonable financial return, in the form of sales leads that eventually generate revenue. If you're not confident the trade show will more than pay for itself, don't attend.

 

2. Brand Awareness Campaigns

Your brand is important.  However, unless you're selling a mass-market consumer product and willing to spend many millions on advertising, it is your products and services that will create your brand--not your marketing activity.

I once watched a company spend $1 billion in brand marketing over a five-year period, while continuing to make products that fewer people wanted to buy. Their marketing collateral was gorgeous, but they went out of business.

 

The truth is that brochures, websites, videos, and advertisements aimed at raising "brand awareness" are usually a waste of money.  There's just too much "brand spam" floating around for anyone to take notice.

  • Smarter strategy: Set goals for and measure every marketing activity by whether (and how well) it creates sales leads or shortens the sales cycle. In other words, treat marketing activity as tactical, rather than strategic.


3. Bogus Market Research

Market research can give you an accurate snapshot of what your customers are thinking and feeling, providing that research is quantitative, statistically valid, and independent of a hidden agenda.

 

Unfortunately, most market research is qualitative, statistically invalid, and/or skewed to a foregone conclusion. "Focus groups," for instance, tell you nothing except what a small group of people think.

 

Similarly, most polls only test people who have already shown enough interest to agree to take the poll.  Furthermore, "independent" research firms, when hired by vendors, usually know ahead of time what findings are desired and adjust the research to fit.

  • Smarter strategy: Rather than waste money on custom market research, compile and contrast publicly available data that's gathered without a specific agenda--such as government statistics or market research aimed at a broader vendor audience.

 

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

QAradioexpert_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

In the rush to integrate new tools like blogging, mobile marketing, and online video into the marketing mix, small businesses often dismiss radio as dead or irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to a recent report from Arbitron, the audience for radio has grown in almost every demographic group over the last year. This comes as no surprise to Buck Robinson, president and CEO of Robinson Radio, a Virginia-based radio advertising agency. Since 2004, his agency has created campaigns for companies like iContact, CustomInk.com, and Oragenics, and has made Inc. magazine's list of the fastest growing privately held companies in the U.S. for three years in a row.

 

RL: Radio possesses an enormous staying power that only seems to be growing. What are some of the advantages for small business advertisers?

BR: One of the best things about radio is that the costs associated with production and running a viable media test are still low enough that smaller businesses or entrepreneurs can afford to play. Second, there is a great deal of targeting capabilities, so it's more efficient—but it's also a mass medium. The Internet is made up of so many smaller players, but radio has both the economies of scale as well as the targetability. You can get into it in a way that allows you to reach a large number of people cost effectively with a message that's very well targeted. It's the best of both worlds.

 

RL: So even though it's a mass medium, you can target your ads to a particular audience?

BR: Correct. In radio, you don't need to come up with one ad [as you might for a print publication]. You can try a lot of different messages. You can come up with an ad that works on country stations, conservative talk stations, urban stations—and having all those very targeted, very customized messages is going to cost you a few hundred dollars per new commercial.

 

QAradioexpert_PQ.jpgRL: Radio has become a bit more crowded with things like Internet radio and satellite radio. How does this changing landscape affect small business advertisers?

BR: All of the new iterations are not meant to destroy the traditional AM/FM radio, but to supplement it. These are extensions of radio as a larger concept—not competitors in the truest sense. People who consume AM/FM radio still have SiriusXM in their cars. They still sit at their desk and listen to Pandora. It's not that one has replaced the other. As this universe of potential advertising vehicles has grown, we look at it—and advertisers should look at it—as good.

 

RL: How do you navigate all these options?

BR: The challenge lies in figuring out how to truly coordinate and orchestrate them. How are they similar? How are they different? And more importantly, how do they feed into one another in order for the marketer to use one as a doorway into the next, into the next, into the next?

 

RL: For example?

BR: When you look at the overall universe of listeners for something like Pandora, it's still very small compared to traditional AM/FM radio. [But] we can apply what we learn there to the even larger universe on AM/FM radio. It's a great [way] for learning, testing, trying different messages, and seeing how to optimize a campaign before you move into a larger medium.

 

RL: What are some of the first steps a small business should take in considering radio advertising?

BR: There are a lot of agencies where radio is kind of this adjunct appendix on the end [of their services]. What that typically means is, they could do radio if you really wanted it, but it's not where their focus is. A lot of those other larger multichannel agencies outsource their radio business to us because all we do is radio, we do it better than they do, and it's cheaper for them than having to staff people for a medium that's not their core specialty.

 

RL: What else?

BR: Before you do anything, get some expert advice to validate [your belief] that radio could be a good

medium for you. To me, an expert is someone who is buying radio on a consistent basis (52 weeks a year) and has a depth of experience—preferably both positive and negative, so that they are truly seasoned. Second, some clients who come to us think they know who their customers are or who they would like them to be, but they don't really know. They have a lot of assumptions and no real data to tell them. [It's smarter to] go out with a broader approach and see where they're getting the best response and ROI. In a lot of cases, that's an eye-opening experience for clients.

 

RL: What are some common mistakes that small businesses make with radio advertising?

BR: The biggest black eye that I see is [when an advertiser says] that they tried radio and it didn't work. Typically, one of two scenarios is at play. One, a radio station called them and said they should be on the radio, sold them a $50,000 buy, and it didn't work. Or two, the advertiser wanted to do radio, but their agency [didn't know] what they were doing and it ended up being a very bad buy. Then, the advertiser looks at it as radio's fault. It's a matter of going in smart, not just bullheadedly spending money and seeing what happens.

 

RL: What are some costs for advertising with radio?

BR: Every campaign is a little different. To launch a national campaign, we normally tell our clients they need to spend a minimum of about $30,000. That will get you enough different pieces of creative on enough different, well-targeted outlets to determine what's working and what isn't. You need to try enough things to figure out what does work and build from that. The costs will be different for a regional or local campaign.

 

RL: When you say different, you mean they would be much less than a national campaign?

BR: Not necessarily. You could pay as much for a "local" test in markets like New York City or Los Angeles as you would for a national test.

 

RL: Could you give me a ballpark figure on what a modest local radio campaign might cost in some of the smaller markets?

BR: Trying to ballpark "local" is extremely relative, but it's likely to be in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. Anything less will likely be ineffective and anything more is likely overkill. The key is not to spend all that money on only one station for a long time, which is typically what station reps try to sell.

 

RL: What should you do?

BR: A much better testing protocol would be to buy at least two stations that reach the same target demographic and then to run them concurrently for approximately 30 days, testing at least two different

creative messages. That's going to provide a far more valid read of the medium and its potential.

 

RL: What about the timeframe for a campaign?

BR: You can't run something for a day and try to make a determination [of its effectiveness]. But at the same time, you don't need to run it for 13 weeks. If it's not working within the first 30 days, it's not going to work. Be patient. Come up with a strategy and enact it. Then, after you have data that tells you what direction to go in, re-do the strategy and continue forward.

 

RL: Final advice?

BR: Other media may generate more volume, but radio generates more quality. The leads that come off of radio are actually harder leads to get—we had to make them remember a website or remember a phone number—but when they buy, they buy a lot more of your product, assuming it has real value.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VidMarketing_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Online video is fast becoming the preferred advertising channel for business. According to a recent study by Break Media, U.S. advertisers are predicted to spend $5.4 billion on video ads in 2016, up from $2.0 billion in 2011.

 

In yet a different study from Invodo and the e-tailing group, product videos on websites were watched 60 percent of the time by consumers, and almost two-thirds of respondents said they would spend at least two minutes watching videos before deciding on a purchase. Videos take full advantage of the web's capabilities, allowing you to tell your story with sound, action, and immediacy to convey messages with an emotional appeal that text-based formats simply can't match.

          

Film it yourself?

"Almost anyone can make a video today to communicate either an aspect of their business or to demonstrate how something is done," says Lou Amico, president of L.A. Management Company, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based strategic marketing firm.

 

VidMarketing_PQ.jpgA small business can either do an entire production in-house—using their own crew, equipment, and software—or rely on a professional outside agency to coordinate the myriad production details. While cameras and editing software make it relatively easy for a do-it-yourself shoot, Amico points out that technical considerations can hamper a production helmed by an inexperienced team. In particular, the lighting and audio can pose unforeseen problems. For example, filming a person in front of a light source puts their face in shadow, and a mike that is too far away makes the person sound like they're in a tunnel.

 

You also need someone in your marketing department who understands how to construct a narrative that holds customers' attention. "Anyone with a camera is a videographer. The question is, are they storytellers?" Amico says. "Do they appreciate and understand what needs to be included to make a compelling video?"

 

Many businesses waste too much time with bland or self-indulgent openings in their videos. "You've got to cut to the chase," Amico explains. "We do a lot of work in the elective medicine field. Nobody wants to hear a minute-and-a-half intros about doctors and their background before they get into the procedure."

 

In a video for ProSpec building products, Amico turned a simple shower installation into an engrossing how-to demonstration that was viewed over 75,000 times with almost no drop off in viewership.

 

Now that Google is reporting more videos in its results, putting keywords in the title of your video can give you a higher ranking. Be sure to include your company website as the first thing in the video description. "If you put the link in at the end, oftentimes [customers] won't see it," Amico explains. "But if you put it at the beginning, the link will easily bring people to your website."

 

Tell them a story

Telling compelling stories has helped fuel the growth of PrintingForLess.com, an online commercial printer specializing in small business accounts across the country. Starting as a local print shop in 1996 before launching as a nationwide e-commerce company in 1999, the Livingston, Montana-based business racked up $21 million in sales in 2011 and has a 150-person workforce in a town with 7,000 residents.

 

Beginning around 2005, PrintingForLess.com started using videos in their marketing mix to assure customers that they were a "real" company, to explain the services they offered, and to put a human face on the different teams that worked on particular orders. To dramatize their story in an engaging way, they produced a video titled "The Life of An Order" that walks the customer through the entire process, from placing an order to actual production and quality control to the time it arrives in the hands of the customer. In one version or another, the video has been seen over 4,000 times.

 

"We always hear from people that they watched that video and that's why they chose us over a competitor," says Daniel Gaugler, vice president of marketing at PrintingForLess.com. "People pick out different reasons why that video converted them. That's why it's on our homepage."

 

When Gaugler's team first experimented with videos, they polished them and tried to make them perfect, making employees recite a script from memory and read it on camera—but no one was happy with the results. But when they spoke naturally about the work they did, the videos clicked.

 

"Nobody wants to see a marketing message," Gaugler notes. "They're already on your website. What they want is answers to their questions, and they want to be partially entertained."

 

Another phase in their video marketing involved asking their customers over the phone if they would consider sending in a video testimonial. To speed things up, PrintingForLess.com sent out Flip cameras with simple step-by-step instructions for recording. More than 75 video testimonials are now on the company's website. "A video comes across as extremely authentic," Gaugler says. "We couldn't come up with [the kind of] videos that our customers do."

 

Throw them a curve ball

For businesses that don't need to be convinced of the power of online video, the next questions to be addressed are: Where will the video fit into the marketing mix? How might it be used best?

 

"Video, just like text, could be used in a manner of ways," says Dane Frederiksen, owner and principal of Digital Accomplice, a Northern California-based brand content developer. "It could be used for sales, branding, education, internal training videos, recruitment, even a holiday video."

 

To promote his own business, Frederiksen took his own advice—conceiving, shooting, and editing a clever brand content video called "Just A Kid." The 80-second video features a kid of about ten telling marketers that the age of video marketing is here and they need to be part of it—delivered in a charming but effective style.

 

"I did get the message across in a way that engaged people," Frederiksen admits. "It kind of came as a curveball. You see this kid and you're curious. It’s fun. There's fun music. You've got a wide variety of interesting shots, but there's also a respect for the audience. I know they're busy and I have a high bar reach to impress them."

 

For "Stir," a brand content video Frederiksen created for Sherwin Williams, the name of the company is mentioned only on a title card at the beginning and the end of the video. The remainder of the video tells the story of the excitement that comes from redecorating—not about the paint itself.

 

"If you use story and then use emotion, both in the performance and the elements around what the subject matter is, you're selling in a different way," Frederiksen says. "The first rule of branded content is, don't hit them in the face with what you care about."

 

There is disagreement about the ideal length for a video, but Frederiksen thinks between 30 seconds and three minutes is a good average. The longer a video plays, he says, the more chance there is for a drop off in audience attention.

 

Online videos that present stories from your business in engaging, tightly edited ways are likely to keep customers and prospects glued to their screens for many years to come.

SettingGoals_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

It seems like almost everyone has something to say about setting goals, and coming up with their own way for achieving them. Books by the late Stephen Covey and organizational tools such as Day-Timers and online file sharing solutions like Dropbox have made a lasting impression on the way we organize our lives. In a much-cited paper from 2006, two researchers found that establishing specific goals was more likely to lead to better results and improved performance than simply encouraging workers to "do their best." 

 

SettingGoals_PQ.jpgGoals that challenged workers to stretch, the paper concludes, "lead to greater effort, focus and persistence than moderately difficult or easy goals." Workers who rose to the occasion also felt a greater sense of purpose, self-fulfillment, and value to the company.

 

Here are the experiences of three owners in setting goals for their business for next year.

 

Giving everyone a say

Founded in 2006, Savvy Rest in Charlottesville, Virginia, makes organic mattresses and bedding accessories made from natural, non-toxic materials. Gross sales were $4.5 million last year, up 55 percent since 2008, according to Michael Penny, president and sole owner. "There's more competition now than there was five years ago because [bigger manufacturers] see that you can be profitable doing what we do and so they want to get in," he says.

 

Penny holds a two-day meeting every September with his marketing, operations, production, and recruiting departments. The five-member team sets goals for the coming year by performing a SWOT analysis—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—that uncovers and addresses critical issues affecting profitability.

 

To keep on track, they'll also meet twice a month, either for a couple of hours or sometimes for a whole day if a big decision needs to be made. Because the five-member team is representative of Savvy Rest's entire 20-person workforce, they can modify their goals more nimbly, make sure everyone is on board, and move forward.

 

Case in point: At their meeting last March, they realized that they would soon run out of room in their 23,000-square foot production facility. They had the chance to buy a small parcel of land with a tenant on it at an affordable monthly payment, so they authorized Penny to make the deal. "I could have done it anyway—I own the company—but I want everybody's buy in," he recalls. "They help me act on the good ideas and refrain from acting on the bad ones."

 

Improving the business for the long-term

The recession and sputtering economy upended the plans of thousands of small businesses including The Queensboro Shirt Company, a Wilmington, North Carolina-based online seller of custom logo apparel and promotional products primarily for small- and medium-sized businesses. As a result, adjusting to the challenging climate was their first goal.

 

Like Savvy Rest, the key players at Queensboro met at the end of the summer to evaluate their marketing programs, map out customer acquisition targets, and model retention revenue. Based on this, they'll put together a plan for the first half of 2013. In March or April of next year, they'll go back and refine their projections for the second half.

 

To give the 115-person workforce a concrete appreciation of the company's progress, Queensboro invested in a web-based order processing system several years ago that has had a profound impact.

 

"Everybody in our business has a real-time display on their desktops of orders that were received by the hour, broken up by new and existing customers," explains Fred Meyers, who founded the company in 1982. "We adjust in real time as we see the results come in. If it looks like our projections are off for that

month, we reevaluate what we projected going forward." Sales for the company reached about $13 million in 2011.

 

Meyers is executing two new goals for the fourth quarter holiday season. First, a customer referral program that rewards existing customers with a merchandise credit for referring a friend. Second, a sampling program that allows new customers to buy a quality shirt with their custom embroidered logo on it for just 99 cents. "It's a real aggressive deal," Meyers admits. "We find that when a customer tries us out, they tend to spend several hundred dollars with us over three or four or five years. It's worth it to us to invest in establishing a relationship with that customer."

 

Meyers emphasizes that focusing on the long-term goal of improving the organization is more important than just daily, weekly, or monthly sales figures. "I want this business to be the absolute best at what it does," he says. "That's the biggest goal that we have."

 

Limited goals, clearly expressed

SeekingSitters, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based on-demand referral service that extensively screens and supplies qualified babysitters, has licensed franchises in 15 states since its founding in 2004. The growth of the business can be traced, in part, to accountability, achievable goals, and clear communication.

 

The initiatives for the week are spelled out during a short meeting every Monday with the entire office team. Then, on Friday, another meeting reviews that week's accomplishments and identifies the actions that need to be taken the following week. "It shows everybody what you're moving towards and what you've been able to get through," explains Adrienne Kallweit, the company's founder. Based on a review of past projects and how they've moved forward, monthly and quarterly goals are also developed.

 

Kallweit thinks that small business owners make a mistake when they push their office team to attempt big, multiple goals at the same time. She directs her team to concentrate on two or three specific goals instead. "If you're trying to have the entire office team look at the big picture, it's really hard for them to stay focused," she explains. "It's important to present limited tasks and focus in on these, [like] our Monday morning initiatives."

 

Communicating those goals so that they will be acted on is the third part of her strategy. Kallweit's team tries to deliver messages in three different ways to accommodate different learning styles. To impart a big-picture message, for example, they'll deliver it in person, over the phone, and also through email.

 

In its simplest form, setting a goal takes only three things: a realistic objective, a clear plan for how and when to accomplish it, and the will to do it. You can map out a strategy using pen and paper, or check out these free online tools:

 

 

 

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