Focus, focus, focus
It’s the mantra of many involved in small business marketing and is important to those of us who need to deliver client projects while continuing to market our businesses. What marketing should your small business consistently execute that will deliver proven results? Here are my recommendations for where you should focus over the next year.
Make sure your online presence is the best it can be. Don’t take short cuts in this important area as people still judge your business by what they see online. Consider some or all of the following depending on your business and how much time you can spend.
- Build your site using WordPress (on a hosted platform, not WordPress.com) to benefit from the wealth of powerful plugins that make complex features easy to implement.
- Make sure you are in control of all the accounts that make up your web presence, including your domain, your website hosting provider and the owner of your local business listings. Do not let someone create them under their personal accounts. If your relationship with them falters, you will need to start all over again which will affect your business success.
- Provide up-to-date content that appeals to your target audience. If you blog, set a schedule and try to stick with it. If you need help with blogging, check out the Blogging Success Summit 2011 from the Social Media Examiner. There’s an early bird rate that expires soon.
- Create a comment strategy to drive awareness and develop credibility.
- Build your email list with an offer that encourages visitors to join. Having a strong list available when you have some special offer can be the difference in the success of a new program.
- Select your social media platforms based on where your customers hang out. Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or some combination of the three in conjunction with your blog can create a powerful information network that makes it much easier for you to be found. Not all businesses will benefit from social media, but those who will, should implement a social media strategy.
- Create your local business listings on Google, Yahoo, Bing and on the directories that make sense to your industry. According to a Local Customer Review Survey from BrightLocal.com, 70% of people surveyed have used the Internet to find a local business. When it comes to the directories, research them and ask questions before you spend any money with them. Some are reputable directories, others are not. Unless you feel your time is better spent elsewhere, you do not have to hire someone to set these up for you. But if you do, make sure they are creating these listings under your Google, Yahoo or Microsoft Windows Live accounts, not their own.
- Investigate location based marketing if your business has a storefront. Retail businesses with a brick and mortar location benefit from using location based services like FourSquare, Yelp and Facebook Places for driving consumers to their stores. With the explosion of the adoption of smart phones, many consumers are now interacting with brands via these mobile devices, providing more opportunities for you to connect with them in ways that were previously unavailable.
Those who already do business with you should be one of your prime focus areas. Communicate with your customers and offer them special deals using social media where appropriate. Provide awesome customer service and quick responses to their questions so they can only brag about how wonderful you are. Happy and satisfied customers who understand the value you offer will not hesitate to refer new customers to you.
Word of Mouth / Referrals / Networking
Every small business should include word of mouth marketing activities as one of their focused areas because it will deliver results in the long run. With so much noise in the market, people don’t trust messages coming from your company directly. Notice how many sites encourage you to review your experiences and in fact, according to that same BrightLocal.com survey, 67% of local consumers have consulted online customer reviews of local businesses, influencing whether they contact your business.
The power of word-of-mouth marketing, both online and offline, is valuable for small businesses because it helps you develop your credibility and expert reputation. Through networking events and social media sites, you can establish a quality reputation by having your happy customers provide reviews and testimonials.
At this point, our online and social media strategies should go beyond the experimentation phase and become the foundation for our marketing action plan. You still need to stay aware of what’s new and test those that appear to be of value to your small business, but these tests should not replace any of your ongoing efforts until they have proven themselves.
Theses are my choices for this year’s marketing plan. Where are you focusing your marketing efforts this year?