Since the formation of our company we’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of small business owners and discuss their businesses with them. These are all smart, driven business owners who are experts in their respective businesses but are so razor focused on running their business they neglect the need to grow their business. Usually one of the first questions we are asked is, “I’m a small business how can marketing help my business?” The answer is almost every consumer business can benefit from a marketing plan that is tailored to your specific business, budget and available time.
A website and / or social media presence are not a marketing plan
In fact, depending on the quality of the site and moderation of the social media site it could actually be a hindrance to your business. Consumers today are better web educated and more discretionary about where they spend their time and money. This means your website or social media site could be the first and only impression they get about your business to determine if they wish to purchase goods or services from you.
We make these types of decisions subconsciously all the time. Have you ever driven by a store, salon or restaurant that looked neglected, old and dirty, and said to yourself, what a dump, I’d never walk in there? The same goes for websites, an outdated, difficult to navigate, non responsive website is not very inviting to potential customers. Ten years ago, the presence of a plain, text based website was adequate but today people want and expect more. Consumers want to see pictures, videos and if applicable the ability to purchase the goods and services they are interested in online to save them time. Websites must now focus on education and convenience if they wish to attract new customers to the business.
In terms of social media, customers are looking for interaction, do the owners and employees of the business interact with their customers, do they respond quickly and are they well liked. Most small businesses create a page on a social media site and forget they exist which likely means their customers will forget them as well, or even worse post complaints and poor reviews about the company there. We had a client that created a Yelp account because they were told it would help their business but they soon forgot about it and stopped checking it. The new client was shocked when we showed them a report we ran that included negative comments some of their customers had posted on their Yelp page. In this case, the business’s social media presence was a complete hindrance to the business due to their lack of response to the poor reviews and was likely discouraging viewers from doing business with our client.
Understand who your competitors are and track them online
Not every business needs a 20 page website with hundreds of pictures and videos but you should be conscious of how your website and social media presence stacks up against your competitors. Review your competitors web sites and social media content as a potential customer, does their site look better, does it provide more information and details about the products and services they sell, is their social media content more active and do they have more followers? Ask friends of family to do the same so you can get even more objective input to ensure you have every opportunity to convert a person that views your website into a customer.
As a service, SMB Marketing monitors our clients competitors websites, keywords and social media activity weekly to ensure our clients are appear favorable to their competitors. We will often make suggestions to our clients on how we could add content or features to the site to make it better for their existing customers and more attractive to potential customers. In one instance, we suggested a client adds on-line ordering to their site to make it more convenient for their customers to order their products, it was an immediate success for our client as they received close to 200 web orders in the first month it was offered and are on pace to hit 3,000 online orders this year.
With regards to social media, interact with your customers, don’t sell to them. People hate to be sold to, but they do like to learn new things and gain insight from experts. As a small business owner you likely have a bulk of knowledge about your business that others would willingly follow or like your social media site to learn more about. Your demonstrated expertise and the interactions you have with your social media followers will eventually turn them into customers, so long as you don’t scare them away by trying to sell them something first. We recommend that business owners dedicate 30 minutes a day to social media for their business and keep the content, fresh and interactive so your followers will respond.
What about those small-business owners who don’t have the time or aren’t very computer savvy?
If you don’t have the time or desire to handle your own marketing initiatives locate a marketing firm that will customize a plan for your company that meets your objectives and budget. A good marketing firm will take the time to learn about your business and industry and be prepared to provide you with tiers of services that you can choose from.
Your first priority should be your website, ask them to review your existing web site (if you have one) and provide insight to what changes they would suggest be made to the site. Next month, we will go into more details about websites and what are they key areas you should be focused on.