The next question you need to be able to answer is “why should I care”? In other words, what can YOU do for ME.? That is the bottom line – period!
How you define yourself is your brand. Your branding strategy includes your company’s name, logo, website, and social media tools.
How your brand is perceived by your potential customers will define your reputation. Your branding strategy and reputation will be the key determining factors in your success.
Don’t jump into the internet or any marketing initiatives without a PLAN! If you proceed without a marketing strategy, you will more than likely end up lost on the World Wide Web in social media frenzy and your brand will be lost to your potential customers.
Marketing is no different than other important areas of our personal lives. You don’t just live day-by-day in the hopes that someone is going to knock on your door and hand you money to pay your bills. That is assuming you have a door and a home. Doctors don’t go to sleep one night and wake up the next day an MD. They plan their future by attending medical school, going through their residency and then they can start practicing medicine.
Give your business a fighting chance by giving it the same considerations you would other important areas of your life and P -L-A-N!
America’s Best Business Practices gives some very valuable suggestions on what areas to consider when developing your marketing plan in Four Steps to a Successful Marketing Plan.
Some companies have dedicated PR departments to handle all their PR needs. Many small business owners don't have the resources and handle their own PR.
No matter who is handling your PR, there are 2 pretty basic things to keep in mind. Those would be 1) Don't insult your customers and 2) mind your social manners and present yourself and your company in a professional way that is respectful of the public.
Nestle didn't keep those basic things in mind recently when they made a request to their Facebook fans simply asking them not to use an altered version of the company logo as their profile pic or they would delete their comments. Nestle's fans were not too pleased and expressed their displeasure openly and immediately.
The powers that be at Nestle who handle their social media sites, at least their Facebook fan page, didn't react very positively or politely to their fans' reactions.
Check it out for yourself at Nestle's Facebook Page: How a Company Can Really Screw Up Social Media and let us know what you think of how Nestle handled the situation and what you think the backlash might be.
John Antonios in his article Personal Branding – The 10 Commandments, discusses the importance of providing quality and value to others as part of your personal branding process.
It is an article well worth the read.
There are TONS of social networking sites on the web – so many that it can make one's head spin trying to keep up with them all. After being on each one for a bit, you can see which ones are the best fit for your specific needs and focus your attentions on those that add the most value.
You probably notice that some of the networks are wrought with people sending you emails about how you can earn 6 figures in 5-minutes. If this were true, why would any of us be working this hard trying to make a buck?
Then there are those that no matter what you do or how much you try to engage others by visiting their profiles and commenting on their posts, you just don't see the reciprocity. Like I said, put your energies where you will see the best return.
With that said, why are you networking? Are you a professional who is trying to get business? If so, be sure you don’t forget what your ultimate goal is – to make a sale.
It has been said that direct selling is frowned upon in the social spheres and this might be true. However, without a plan on how you are going to follow-up your networking with steps towards getting more customers, you will just find yourself spinning and stuck in the social network black hole.
Don’t get caught in the “numbers game”. Keep your eye on the target! Networking vs Selling? Selling is more lucrative by Michael Schuett discusses why as professionals, we shouldn’t forget about what our goal is when we network. Read Michael’s article here.
If your company makes widgets the widgets are what you want to sell right? Right. However, how does a widget participate and engage in social media marketing? How does one establish a relationship with a widget? How can a widget be an industry expert? How can a widget continue to provide valuable information about its industry to prospective customers? The answers are – it can't.
But you, as the small business owner, can and should. You are your brand. Your widget’s reputation has a direct correlation with YOUR reputation. You can’t manage a widget’s reputation but you can and should manage yours. In the article Build Your Brand So People Will Refer You, Dan Schawbel breaks down this process into 5 main areas:
- Be interesting
- Be valuable
- Be generous
- Be enabled
- Be networking
Read Dan’s full article here.
The marketing function within any business, especially small businesses, is probably one of the most important areas to pay attention to, yet it is often the most over-looked one. Why is it often overlooked? In small businesses there are usually only a few people who have the responsibility for the whole business. Sometimes it is only one person, if they are the sole proprietor. As marketing is not sales, some might focus their energies on trying to get more sales but this can be a costly mistake.
Marketing supports sales in that its purpose is to get your message in front of those who are in the position to benefit from it. In other words, marketing serves to promote your brand to potential customers. There are so many possible marketing avenues that one can pursue, thereby making it crucial for the small business owner to seriously consider the pros and cons of all the available options before taking the plunge into any particular marketing initiative.
As time and resources are at a premium for the small business owner, it is important to:
Analyze: What are you currently doing?
Evaluate: How is it working?
Compare: What are your competitors doing?
Strategize: Which marketing initiatives will bring you the most bang for your buck?
It is easy to get hung up in the technical and marketing jargon of today like SEO, PPC, social media marketing, etc., but if you take a look at your marketing strategy in basic, simple steps, what might normally be considered an overwhelming task, will become easier to get a handle on and move forward towards increased productivity.
What problem does your product/service solve?
Where are the people who need that problem solved located?
How will you communicate to these people that your product/service will solve their problem?
How can you create trust for your brand, invite participation and engagement with those whose problem you are going to solve?
What can you do to inspire customer loyalty and retain those customers you do get?
The above section is the 101 part of marketing. When you sit down to answer these questions, you will have gone beyond the introductory class level and entered graduate school.
Sometimes consumers might not realize they have a problem that needs to be solved. Creative marketing will create the need. A perfect example of creative marketing where there was no need is the Pet Rock. Who on earth needed a Pet Rock? Anyone could have gone into their backyard or to the nearest park and had their choice of dozens of rocks without having to pay for them. But Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock, convinced consumers otherwise. (Pet Rock That Made Man a Multi-Millionaire in 6 Months Lives On)
Where these people are located will take some time to answer. You will need to identify your target market as local, national, international, a mixture of all of them or all three. If local only, you will want to put forth a lot of effort in local marketing both on and offline. Consider joining local small business groups for more exposure and take advantage of the free online local advertising sites like Merchant Circle and Google Local. For national and international, the Internet is how you are going to find out where your potential customers are hanging out. Check out your niche social networking sites, forums and industry groups for starters.
How you communicate your message will be the strategy you devise after you analyze, evaluate, and compare.
The way to create trust is to establish yourself as your industry expert and deliver honest and consistent messages.
Inspiring customer loyalty and retention will be directly correlated with how you address your customer service issues. If you are responsive to your customers’ needs, listen to their concerns and show appreciation for their patronage, you will be on the right path to success.