business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

4 Ways to Grow Your Business

sleeping giant

Nothing is truer about business!

Businesses that generate less than less than $5 million in revenue set aside between 7-8% for marketing.” -SBA.gov

What does that tell you? That most small business owners are not being realistic about the facts. Not having a marketing budget means you don’t have a marketing mindset and without marketing you cannot possibly grow to your potential.

It’s time that every small business accepts the new marketing world and start marketing!

And it doesn’t have to be hard, or painful or even complicated. It just needs to start, and start now. So let’s start with these four essential strategies of business growth:

#1 ATTRACT: Getting the right people in front of you is the first key to small business success. Start by identifying who they are—demographics, location, interest, and life-events. Knowing these things allows you to reach out to them through blogging, posting, advertising and web optimization. You need to be where your customers are—not where you are. Your customers are using social media, and most likely they are using it from their smartphones, so what does your website look like on mobile phone? When was the last time you changed your website? Your website is important. It is the single most important part of your marketing plan. Everything you do on social media–all the tweets and posts are intended to lead people back to your website. It’s the lobby of your business. It is what will attract people into your door.

#2 CONVERT: So once your customers find you, are attracted to you by all the awesome and relevant information on your website, there needs to be some kind of call to action so that you can welcome them into your business. Are they signing up for your newsletter that never gets written and sent? Are they filling out contact forms that never get responded too? Do they like your posts (assuming you are posting)? How do you keep track of all this contact data? Do you have an email list? Contact software? Hello, is anyone out there? How do you even know that customers are looking at your business to help them solve their problems or meet their needs?

#3 CLOSE: I know, you don’t have a sales department. Who does? The sales department of 1980 closed up in the 90’s, so its time small businesses understood that “closing the deal” is something customers control in the 21 Century. If they are calling you or stopping in for a visit, they are ready. Yes, they are ready to buy. Even aging baby boomers have smartphones and use the internet to get their information, so the days of visiting to get your brochure are over. Be ready to reach out, shake their hands, and sign them up

#4 DELIGHT: This is where most small businesses really fail, and it’s a shame because it is so easy to delight your customers today. You see, while you were cutting your costs by letting go the receptionist and the extra staff, you also lost a key part of customer service—oh yeah, it’s called CUSTOMER SERVICE. Who is thanking your customers? Who is welcoming them? Who is contacting them to see if they are happy and need anything else? I don’t care if you clean teeth, change diapers or sell pizza, customers want to be appreciated and given a reason to delight in their decision to come to you. What’s your plan? Are your employees trained on customer service? Do they know your mission statement? Are they happy and smiling, because if they are not, then your customers will not be happy and smiling either. And times have not changed, it is much easier to keep a customer happy than to find a new one. Delight them.

“Marketing is food, not medicine. It’s the regular, sustained nourishment that gets your business where you want it—and keeps it there.” James Archer, Forty.co

Marketing is not something you scramble to when the economy skids, or when you lose a top customer, or your enrollment is down. Marketing is the blood of your business. So avoid the need for a transfusion and keep it healthy and flowing 24/7 with a strategy and a plan. And the best part is that small businesses have the advantage. They can act quickly, test faster and quicker than the big guys—it is just a decision to start.

So let’s start a small business revolution and double that marketing budget from 7-10% to over 20%. What do you think would happen?

business, Marketing, Social Media

5 Social Media Facts For Small Business

inspiration-ahead

Did you know that there are over 1 billion smart-phone users?  Did you also know that 40% of mobile phone searches are for local businesses?  According to Eventuality, these two statistics are important reminders that everyone, yes, even you and your small business, must have a strong web presence if you want to be found by customers.

But it’s hard, right?  Finding time to understand social media, getting started, and being inspired to just consider it.  No matter how long you have been in business, or how small your business is, today if you are not using social media as your marketing strategy, you are not living up to your business potential.  And wouldn’t it be great to earn more money, double your enrollment?  How about attracting top teachers to your program?  Superstar employees who get what you are doing?  Social media offers the small business owner all of these wonderful benefits, so why then, are you still resisting it?

Here are 5 Social Media facts to remove the clouds around your head.  Facts help to remove all the glitzy headlines and clutter and offer a perspective, clear and focused to help put Social Media Marketing on the top of your To Do list:

Fact #1: Print is not dead…but if you are using materials that are not readable and legible, then your business will suffer. (Source: CMT Marketing) Technically, not a social media fact, but remember, social media is not just videos and pictures.  It is filled with written information. Small businesses make this mistake every day.  Multi-colored letters, curly, comic sans fonts, and lines and lines of text without a photo….these are forcing the eyes of your future customers off the page and right to your competitor. For every business: all of your materials should look crisp, clean, and branded (and all that means is that they must have a similar look and feel.)  If your materials are hard to read, then no one is reading them. Take the time to update everything: Stationary, business cards, brochures, handbooks, display signs, flyers, and anything printed that represents your program.  Then go to your website and make sure its the same. Use clean, readable fonts, with contrasting colors.  Add photos that are crisp and clear, and make sure everything written is simple and clear.

Fact #2: 97% of all consumers search for local businesses online. (Source: Eventuality) That means that by the time they get to you– they have already made most of the decision based on your web presence.  So, what does that tell you? If you are not getting the people inquiring about your program or services, it is probably because your web information is not giving them what they want—information, expertise, and a social presence.  Having a social media strategy does not have to be hard or overwhelming, but it does have to be written out and implemented.  The biggest obstacle most programs make is that they leave social media off the line item budget.  New materials and products are great, but if you don’t have sales or enrollments to hire more qualified help then all of those new, shiny products and materials will just collect dust.  Social Media is a 60% time cost.  Time that will be taken away from your business, the classroom, or the front office.  Time needs to be in the budget! Think of it this way, would you not budget in a person to stand at the cash register?  Then why leave your social media unmanned?

Fact #3: 78% of small businesses attract new customers through social media. (Source: Eventuality)   That means that your competitors are full and growing because they understand that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogging, and Google+ are not going away.  They are doubling growth and enrollments every year.  Having a budget for the Yellow Pages and not one for social media is the kiss of death.  Take a look at what your competitors are doing.  What does their website look like?  What social platforms are they are on?  Do they have a Blog?  Now take a look at your internet presence.  Was your last Facebook post 8 months ago?  Is your website still displaying text and images from 2008?  You are on LinkedIn, right? Social media marketing needs a daily push to help your business become the thought leader it is in the community.  It’s time to be realistic.

Fact #4: Reviews are unavoidable.  If reviews are your reality then you should use them to your advantage.  Encouraging satisfied customers to use online review sites by giving them a hard copy survey right away, and include the relevant sites where they can post online reviews as well.  Ask your customers if you can use their survey comments to draft up a testimonial for your website.  Offer to send it to them first and then use their whole name and photo if possible. Be aware that most review sites also rate your staff, so the attitudes from your employees will impact your reviews.  And don’t tell me that you don’t have any reviews because you do, you just haven’t looked in the right places.

Fact #5:  61% of Generation Y checks social media before deciding where to go when “going out”. (Source: Eventuality)  Generation Y, or Millennials, are a growing target market.  If not today, then next year, and every year after that, so why would you alienate your most important customer?  Times change and you must change with them or be left behind.   It’s time to upgrade your flip phone and join the 21st century.

Some final thoughts:

  • Your programs need to focus on the needs of your customer.  It is these customers that read your materials, search for you online, and ultimately are called to action to buy, visit or enroll, so isn’t it time you were easily foundwhere they are? (and it’s not in the YP)
  • Use your expertise to become a thought leaderby posting updates and blog articles.  People are hungry for information.  Why shouldn’t your expertise be a part of the conversation?
  • Being penny-wise and pound-foolish about having an online marketing strategy will costyou in customers and free PR.  Hire a professional to help you set things up, get a social media policy in place, set up the sites, and get you rolling!  The hardest part is getting it off the ground.  It is never too late to be a part of the conversation.
  • Don’t make the mistake of being “too busy” to do social media. It is not optional any more.  On your staff is probably one or two people who would love to help you grow your marketing online.  Add their time to your budget to get the most bang for your buck.
  • Finally, embrace social media!This is what lets your customers and community know that you are current, relevant, and using social media will allow them to follow you and share all the information that are positing.  Become a thought leader in the industry, there are few out there now, so take the lead!

Photo Source: Depositphotos.com

For a free “social media” check-up of your web presence email me: maria@designbearmarketing.com  Getting a fresh perspective and then getting starting it all it takes.  I work with every budget, and specialize in small businesses and independent schools like yours.

 

business, customers, Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Media

Yelp Me: 6 Tips to Make Your Reviewers Happy

happiness

Have you ever left a bad review on Yelp?

I am not talking about the reviews about the snippy waitress, or the clothes piled high in the dressing room.  I am talking about the review that cannot be changed because you just plain didn’t like the place.  You know, the food had canned tomatoes–and you will never, ever, eat pizza with canned tomatoes; or the retail store with everything made out of cheap plastic—not gonna spend a cent in their either.  Sometimes you just know what you like and when you don’t get it, you don’t go back…but why then did you write that review on Yelp?  It is not going to change, it is their business and you don’t have to like it.  Why do we leave reviews?

Well, this is a dilemma in the social media realm.  We came, we shopped, we ate, we complained, and then we moved on, right? WRONG.

We don’t half-halfheartedly put these reviews on Yelp just to fill our time, in fact, we do it because it makes us feel good.  Whether its venting our frustration, or describing the awesome texture of the Creme Brule, we feel empowered and happy when we give our opinion of a business we just spent time in, so why is it so hard to get the business to notice us? And when they do notice us, why can’t they follow the rules?  (Er, there are rules for Yelp, right?)

I recently left a two-star review to a chain restaurant I was dragged too by a coworker.  I left my thoughts, including a glowing review of the waitress who went beyond to be attentive and nice.  A few weeks later the manager sends me a message:

“Dear Yelp Reviewer:  I am so sorry to read about your experience. I would love to touch base with you about your visit. You can reach me at my email xx or at the restaurant #. Tim”

I should have been thrilled, right?  This guy is most definitely going to offer me some coupon, but is that really what I was asking for? In this case there really wasn’t anything he could do to change my mind, there was nothing to fix or amend, but when I got the message, I totally freaked out.  “Tim?  Really?  He wants me to call and write him a note?”

I think there needs to be an etiquette to Yelp owners/managers.  Here is my list of ways to make reviewers happy:

  1. Respond within the first 24 hours of your normal business.  That is a fair process.  I once had a business respond six months after I left a seething review about cold food and a waitress who thought I was being picky. When I got the message from the owner, he was shocked and wanted me to come back and get a free meal.  I wrote him back and said that six months is too long for me to ever consider coming back–because if it takes him that long to pay attention to his business then it was no wonder the food was cold and his employees were inconsiderate.  If your business relies on reviews, then reviews are something you need to “review” daily.  Any response is a good response because it tells your customers you are proactive and caring about their needs.
  2. When you respond, keep your distance.  Tim had the best intentions of making things up to me, but asking me to call or write?  Hmmm, that is a bit to close for comfort.  If I had wanted a personal interaction I would have asked for the manager and complained about the soggy salad, in fact I told the perky waitress it was horrible and left it uneaten, my guess is that she should have offered to give me my money back right there, but that is a whole other story about training and empowering employees.  It’s too much of you Tim to ask me to contact you!  You got my “number”  say your peace, right there, in public so everyone else can see how you respond. Not everyone is looking for a Gift Card.
  3. When you respond, get to the point.  I had one owner send me a ten paragraph response about her personal life tragedy.  I had complained that the Groupon she was offering was misleading and that her employees didn’t understand what was being offered.  First,  it took her 2 months to respond, but worse than that, she gave me every detail of her divorce, the kids, moving, bla bla bla.  Really?  Just apologize like a professional and then tell me I can come back to meet her and straighten it out.  That is what I am owed, not a life story.
  4. Compliments are Nice.  Seriously, they are really, really nice. I left a review for a coffee shop that I loved near my home, and mentioned in the review how much I missed one of the baristas.  One week later I got a compliment from the barista, who had moved away for school, thanking me for being a loyal customer to the shop and to look out for her over the summer.  *sigh. Warm fuzzy feeling for the shop who hires the best people ever, and also for the barista who cares enough to read the reviews of her employer and can respond on their behalf.  That is truly Yelp at its best!
  5. Check-In’s Should Be Encouraged.  There are some places I check in just so my followers know I am there, again! I know, it’s a bit narcissistic, but I love the place so much that I think everyone should get with the program and come over.  Why then does the business not notice my excellent attendance?  Sure at first I was looking for coupons and a free appetizer, but after that I am your loyal fan.  I am proud of my visits and want the world to know I am in a serious relationship….why don’t you acknowledge my love and support?  Start a check-in Fan Club and offer me a free cookie on my next visit?  Put my Yelp Name up on your wall as Yelper of the Week and then take a picture and post it?  Encourage me, please.
  6. Respond. Respond. Respond. There should be some penalty for a business that doesn’t respond to their Yelp followers.  Social Media has given you, business owners, the perfect system for gauging how your business is doing and yet you do not even care to take notice of it.  Sure some people are just pissed off and give you a one star, but what about all the other people who love you? Anyone can tell you that when you use Yelp to make decisions, you read most of the reviews, and look at the reviewer.  If there is someone on there with two reviews, no profile photo and they slammed both businesses….well we don’t take it serious, but the super star with 600 reviews?  Their word is a serious contender for truth.  So it takes you one hour a week to hit compliment, or say thanks… is it worth it? YES!!!  We want to be heard, and if you are a serious business, you want to hear what people have to say so you can adjust the menu, or change staff, or just know that you are on the right track.

And what about Tim, the good-hearted manager?  Well, its sad really, because I felt like I was breaking up with him when I sent off an email. In this particular case, no matter what he offered me I just wasn’t going to accept canned tomatoes on a pizza and I thought that if they knew that, they might just change their menu, not just for me, but for all the pizza aficionados who want real ingredients.

So reach out and shake the virtual hands of your customers!  Thank them, enlighten them, amuse them, gently stroke their egos…we are the customer and we genuinely want you to succeed, that’s why we write reviews.  Have a Yelp Club of your own and offer us fun little thank-you when we check in over five times. But mostly, just acknowledge that we are out there!

Why do you leave Yelp reviews?  Come on, share something….