small business owners

The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns

Recently Yodle released a report on the top list of worries for small business owners. The report was titled the First Annual Small Business Sentiment Survey and run last quarter of 2013, meaning the data was taken from owners as they prepared for the new year. Yodle drew samples for 306 Small Business Owners from throughout the U.S.

Here is a breakdown of the sampling (for more in-depth detail, please visit Yodle’s official report).

Small-Business-Marketing

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

As you can see the samples were taken from a reasonably wide variety of owners. Most were the sole proprietors of the business and the largest number of respondents had only 1-5 employees. What was surprising was the age demographic for those polled, with over 70% over the age of 50.

Despite some common concerns, most small business owners polled seemed to be genuinely happy with their careers:

“More than nine in 10 of respondents (91%) are happy that they became SMB owners including over half (55%) who are “extremely happy.”  A majority of SMB owners (59%) also shared that they would likely not consider selling their business over the next few years, indicating optimism and satisfaction.” – Yodle.com

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

On top of that, over 50% reported being satisfied with their work to personal life balance:

“52% of SMB owners work 40 hours or less and almost three in four (72%) take at least two weeks of vacation per year.  More than one in four (27%) SMB owners actually take four or more weeks of vacation per year.  However, almost four in 10 (39%) SMB owners work 41-60 hours per week and almost one in 10 (9%) work over 60 hours a week.  Additionally, just 11% of small business owners don’t take any vacation.”

However it wasn’t all positive and many owners reported growing concerns related to both personal and professional strain.

The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns.

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Each of the concerns listed above is very real and entirely valid to the small business community. Let’s look at each one independently for a moment.

1. Finding New Customers.

It makes sense that this would top the list. For any business to succeed and to grow, they need to increase their clientele. For many small businesses the question is just “how to do that?”. The obvious “boxed” answer is through marketing and advertising, but with so many options out there, how do they know which is best and how do they maximize the bang for their buck?

There are as many different options as there are businesses. Specific business types can profit from specific marketing tools. However there are a few tools in the marketing tool box that apply for every business, regardless of industry and market.

  • Websites: First are foremost. Every business needs a website. This is in-arguable. Everything is online and that is where the bulk of consumers find thins now.
  • Social Media: It creates dialogue. It generates exposure. It breeds loyalty. It builds brands. Oh and it’s free.
  • Signage / Outdoor Advertising: This can range from sandwich boards to vehicle decals, billboards to bumper stickers.
  • Radio: An often overlooked avenue, local radio is still very much a player in the advertising world.
  • Trade Shows: Great place to network, to pass on literature and to establish yourself as a professional voice within your industry.
  • Email: E-marketing can get a bad wrap (often for good reason). However establishing lines of communication with current customs or leads via email newsletters or other materials, can generate sales and customer loyalty.
  • Printed Advertising: (including brochures, sales catalogs, posters, business cards etc.). Print advertising is, and will remain a leading tool for small business marketing. It is everywhere you look. Consumers still use and rely on it for much of their info. It is a necessary component for a well-rounded marketing strategy.

2. Affording Employee Healthcare & Benefits.

More of an issue in the United States where this poll took place (and in light of the Affordable Care Act). This is still a very real concern for Canadian business owners. I have spoken with many owners who struggle to understand and properly facilitate these items. It can range from not understanding the proper deductions and methods to simply not knowing whether or not they have to offer them.

Understanding your obligations to your workers and how best to facilitate them is a necessary step to building a strong team of employees – and a strong team of employees is a necessary step towards business success.

Small Business owners can profit greatly by hiring a knowledgeable accountant with experience in these areas. Of course there are online resources as well to assist in understanding the processes. The Canadian Government provides several pages on their site relating to small business including:

That said, we do also recommend speaking with an accountant to ensure you fully understand business obligations.

3. Keeping Current Customers.

Customer loyalty is a tough one and directly relates to competition. Why should customers be loyal to your business? Why should they choose you over the guy across the road or the big box stores? What will breed loyalty?

There are a slew of different answers and some will vary based on the type of business:

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

There are many ways to win your customers hearts, but you have to make the effort. Woo them. Treat them like a hot first date that you want to see again. Treat em right (more on “wooing” customers here).

4. Paying Business Bills.

Of course this is directly related to income, which is reliant on sales, which is reliant on customers, which goes back to 1. and 3.

Paying bills is on everyone’s mind but no one more so then the small business owner. Lease (or rent) payments, utility bills, telephone, internet, wages, stock, delivery…. it seems like a nearly non-stop flow of money leaving the coffers.

Knowing how to manage your expenses verses your income is crucial. It is about far more than keeping up to utilities. Small business owners need to plan and prepare at all times. Learning how to maintain and balance a budget on a ever-changing income is not easy (and does require a certain level of “sticking ones neck out”).

The small business owner must be continually considering:

  • Next Months Inventory: Do you have enough? what will be a big item next month? how many should you stock? how much can you afford?
  • Existing Inventory: What of the old items? Do you discount them? hold onto them? liquidate them? how much have you invested into them? will you sell them at a loss?
  • Necessary Expenditures VS Non-necessary: Gas bill and rent are important but do you need someone cleaning in the evening? Do you need that land line or is a cell phone good enough?
  • How Many Employees: Goes back to #2 understanding all of the expenditures related to having employees. Do you hire one? two? one and a half?
  • Planning In Advance: Last month you bought a new til but sales dropped this month and oops rent and utilities took it all. Now how will you pay for this months inventory?
  • The Unexpected: It happens. Water main breaks, laptop goes down, delivery van needs a new transmission, swarm of amazon moths eat your inventory. What then?

5. Hiring Good Employees.

Your employees can make or break your business. Consider the Pizza Hut manager who was recently caught on security tape urinating into the main sink in the kitchen. He obviously lost his job, but not before the video went viral online and did damage to the brand.

Your employees can work for you or against you. They can drive customer loyalty up… or into the ground. It is fair to say this is a real concern for small business owners. Hiring good employees is a challenge and when doing so one needs to consider:

  • Wages: Are they in line with what others are offering? are they fair? why or why not?
  • Benefits: Are you in a position to offer benefits or other bonuses to employees (discounts on products, flexible work schedule etc).
  • Getting The Word Out: How are you letting them know that you are hiring? Where are you putting the word out to? Who is seeing the job offer?
  • What Are You Looking For: And what type of people do you expect to apply?
  • What Is Your Business Rep: How is your business perceived in the community? Do people want to work for you?
  • Do You Know How To Hire: You may not immediately know what the tell tale signs are for a good or bad employee, learn how to filter them out.
  • Don’t Rush: Are you in a hurry to hire? How badly do you need someone? Is it worth hiring that guy with that insisted on wearing rubber gloves throughout the interview? Know when to say no.

We cover more on Employer / Employee relations in a post here.

6. Competition.

Surprisingly number six in the list, competition directly impacts almost every other concern listed her. The competition can steal your customers, your sales even your employees! 

But remember you are someone else’s competition and it goes both ways.

Competition will always exist… at least until such a time as you have enough money to pull a Time-Warner / Comcast deal to basically eliminate the concept of competition altogether. For now however competition is real.

Your ability to out-maneuver the competition is crucial and it hinges on a great number of things. You’ll notice that this list is very similar (ok it is identical) to the list we have for #3 “Keeping Current Customers”. At the end of the day, keeping customers and facing down the competition are mostly the same thing.

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

The edge you can get, is by knowing your competition. As Sun Tzu said “know your enemy and you will win 100 battles”. Understand what they offer, how they offer it and why. Reach out to those customers with better deals – with more value for their dollar – and with better service and they will give you their business.

It’s simple really. Give customers a reason to choose you. You will find it easier to do so if you know what others are offering them.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

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Target Marketing For Dummies

Target Marketing is all about zeroing in an a specific consumer demographic

Target Marketing is all about zeroing in an a specific consumer demographic

Target (Niche) Marketing Explained In Simplest Terms.

“Targeted (or Niche) Marketing is all about specifically and purposefully marketing to a distinct consumer base. Whether a specific age, gender, race or other profile, it is all about zeroing in on a specific type of customer. As big box stores continue to increase the array of goods they offer, it is becoming necessary for small businesses to appeal to “specifics”. By finding a “niche” they can then build their business supplying goods and services that big box stores simply do not offer.”

So how does one do that? Below we will examine just that by using a simple example – The sandwich board!

Now take the lowly sandwich board. Here is a tool that just decades ago was an esteemed part of any business’s marketing plan. Yet in this era of technology, instant sharing and online commerce, one must ask themselves… does the sandwich board still have a place in our marketing tool box and specifically for use in targeted marketing?

We are here to tell you that yes, yes it does.

In fact simple tools – like the humble sandwich board – can be some of the most effective tools available. What is more, they are ridiculously cost efficient.

“Simple tools are the most practical for small businesses. Small business cannot afford to advertise to EVERYONE via carpet bomb tactics and targeted marketing means nothing if it is off target or if their specific niche consumer base never sees the message. It is crucial for small business owners to understand what works and how to specifically address their target market. How do you do that? by understanding your consumer base.” – Miles Gunnar

Small businesses don’t have the budget to mass-market. Instead they must develop “smart-bomb” (targeted/niche) marketing by creating marketing content that targets the consumers of greatest potential. To do so they must first ascertain WHO those targets are by asking:

  1. WHO are the customers you want to target? (age, demographic, location etc).
  2. WHERE are they that they can be targeted? (where will they see the marketing).
  3. WHEN will they be available to be targeted (when is their attention available).
  4. WHAT is the most effective message to target them with? (what matters to them?).

Essentially you are determining where you need to be, what you need to do and what you need to say to get their attention (a lot like dating actually), then building your marketing content based on that.

“All marketing success is determined by the content and content is determined by knowing the target and specifically addressing them.”

Take this excellent example of a small business using the simplest of marketing tools (a sandwich board) effectively and specifically.

Some of the most effective marketing tools available, are also the simplest.

Some of the most effective marketing tools available, are also the simplest.

For those of you not in the know, this sandwich board has been creatively rendered to portray a slightly modified battle scene from the best-selling and wildly popular Pokemon series of games (which has a massive cult following). Anyone familiar with these games will instantly recognize this image. The sheer popularity of this game within the last 15-20 years of pop-culture makes it easily recognizable with a specific (and wide) demographic.

Let’s examine it’s target:

  1. Because of its “Pokemon” based image, it will likely resonate very positively with a consumer base that spans both genders, most races and predominantly an age group of 8-30 years old.
  2. Being an isolated board on the street outside the shop, it then narrows that targeted audience down to those passing by, which is precisely the consumer base most likely to immediately make a purchase here.

This little sandwich board, with an estimated cost of $100-$150+the artistic labour (likely volunteered by staff), has just addressed all of the necessary target parameters to effectively engage this specific demographic. As outlined above, its content was determined by taking into consideration:

  1. WHO? It knows who it is addressing (specifically those with a knowledge and affection for a widely popular series).
  2. WHERE? On the street outside of the very business it promotes. This means those impacted by this marketing, can instantly follow through with a purchase (as opposed to ad’s found online, on television, in magazine etc).
  3. WHEN? Likely during the lunch or dinner hours, when hungry people are more prone to purchase a taco.
  4. WHAT? The message clearly indicates that taco’s are on the menu, but does so via a creative, fun and insightful means.

This meager sandwich board is going to grab the attention of a specific demographic, one that is in position to immediately make a purchase. Would it be as effective on a website, or social media? YES! However it would then be addressing a slightly different demographic.

Why? is it because sandwich boards are truly that awesome?

No. The sandwich board is no more than the medium, it is carrying the message and in this case the message is what is so effective (Note that the Medium can impact and change the Message and vice versa. The relationship between Medium and Message is a complicated one. For more on that we recommend reading our post here and also familiarizing yourself with Marshall McLuhan and his writings here).

It is enough for now to say that the success of the example above is found in the specific, direct manner and the content being used.

It is true what they say: “Content is King” and it is the specific TARGETED content of your marketing that will make or break your efforts.

This rule applies for advanced marketing tools as well. All marketing success is determined by the content and content is determined by knowing the target and specifically addressing them.

Summary.

Whether you call it “Target”, “Niche” or “Smart-Bomb” Marketing, the philosophy is the same. Build your marketing and advertising content to address a SPECIFIC set of consumers. Don’t try to reach everyone, you will either run out of money, or build flimsy, ineffective marketing. Discern WHO the BEST consumer base is for your business and then apply yourself to getting their attention.

For more on HOW TO DISCERN YOUR TARGET MARKET we recommend reading this post.

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Employees Engaging Customers – A Look At Customer Service

When Employees Can Be Themselves.

Here is a question. How well do you inspire your employees? Are they happy? Are they comfortable? Are they permitted to be human or to engage on your businesses behalf?

Many brands spend a fortune attempting to “humanize” their brands, but spend little money on developing the front lines of their brand – their service employees.

Customer accidentally asked for a "Mapkin" and this is what he got.

Customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” and this is what he got.

The story behind this photo: A customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” (probably had a mouthful of food). The waiter brought this back.

Almost every customer appreciates this type of extra effort from their service providers.

It’s humourous, engaging and human. In fact this customer enjoyed this so much it made it to one of the largest online content sites available!

Free exposure and advertising simply because the minimum wage worker took the time to enjoy their job.

What can we all learn from this?

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. At Transition Marketing, we have made it our priority to know specialized marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

A “Want To” – The Hidden Propellant of Small Business Success

Small-Business

Start-Up and Shut-Down

Too many small businesses start-up only to falter after a year. Some of this is related to budget, some of it is related to economics, some of it is completely out of our control. However, there is an even more common reason behind this failure.

Lack of “Want To“.

Lack of passion.

The fact is that many entrepreneurs start their small businesses because they want to own a business, however they are not necessarily interested in the industry that they are starting up in. They do not want to do what the business CONSISTS of.

I recently chatted with a coffee shop owner whose partnership is dissolving as a result of this very thing.

Her partner in the business was interested in business ownership, however was not interested in the least, in coffee shops or any of the atmosphere that goes with it (good coffee beans, conversations, art, baking) or any of the other elements related to coffee shop success. They wanted to own a business, to be self-employed, but they hated coffee shop routines.

FACT: You can be self-employed and not want to go to work.

And that is a serious issue.

“Want To” is almost always hinged on “Passion”. If you want to start a business, ensure that it is in an industry you are passionate about, then your desire to succeed will be propelled by your natural enthusiasm and reinforced by your need to stay in the business you love.

Start a business, but start one you are passionate about, and be wary of partnerships with people who do not share that “want to”.

Okanagan-Small-Business-Marketing.jpg

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

 

6 Facebook Pages Blunders To AVOID.

6 Major Facebook Blunders To AVOID.

Recent studies, including this one by Mashable, indicate that Facebook pages are considered MORE valuable by up to 50% of consumers. Even if this study is embellished a little, the fact remains that Facebook pages are considered to be a HIGH-VALUE ADDITION to brand marketing.

Consider these stats:

  1. Facebook now has over 300 million registered users.
  2. 87% of people like brands on Facebook.
  3. Of those people, 82% state that Facebook is a good means of interacting with those brands.
  4. Of those people, 35% feel that brands listen to them more on Facebook than on a website.
  5. 75% of people state they feel more connected to a brand via Facebook.
  6. 69% of people have “Liked” a brand because their friend has.

Whether studies like this are impacting their decisions or not, it has been our experience that many small-business owners beginning to explore Facebook pages.

Facebook offers an inexpensive means to garner brand exposure, market research and customer engagement and the price point for exposure is incredibly accessible to businesses with little or no budget.

Yet it’s not as simple as it sounds, we have seen many businesses clamber aboard the Social-Marketing trend wagon, only to fall promptly off. The first thing to understand is that Social Media Marketing (IE Marketing on Facebook Pages) requires an understanding of BRANDING and MARKETING.

Simply put, it is one thing to have a Facebook page, it is another to use it properly.

A Brand / Business Facebook page is demanding. It requires time, effort and hard work. Simply “BEING ON FACEBOOK” is not enough to achieve social media and branding goals. Brand representation requires care, planning and dedication, and caution must be taken when avoid misrepresenting the brand, or damaging its reputation.

For an example consider the Chick-Fil-A fiasco from earlier this year (HERE).

If one is going to take their small business to the Social Media air waves one should make all effort to avoid these six blunders.

1. Not Updating Regularly & Consistently.

STAY ACTIVE. Establishing a presence on Facebook requires continual updates with fresh content. Achieving Social Media goals demands this. Facebook pages must be updated a minimum of once a day – although preferably two or more. Failing to keep a page updated, positions your brand or business as DISINTERESTED and will negatively impact it’s image. The rule of thumb for any and all marketing is this: Content Is King

Content Is King, means that the fresher, more consistent content being posted, the more impact (brand exposure) is being made.

When taking a brand or business to Facebook pages, be prepared to allot a specific amount of time EVERY DAY for updating and replying to comments. Social Media Marketing is all about “SOCIAL” and Social is all about “ENGAGING”. What this means, is providing content that engages your consumer audience and leads to “CONVERSATION” (thereby leading to “CONVERSION”)

To recap: Social Marketing means SOCIAL which is about ENGAGING, which leads to CONVERSATION, which ends with CONVERSION.

2. Not Reviewing Comments.

A. Comments & Conversations:

The beautiful (and challenging) thing about Facebook Pages, is that it allows anyone to comment, and to comment just about whatever they like. Why is this a beautiful thing? It allows a brand / business to engage customers in an entirely new way.

The ability to develop these dialogues directly with consumers is the “HOLY GRAIL” of Social Media Marketing.

It is crucially important to respond to comments, answer questions and take part in discussions. This requires time, dedication and a great deal of creativity. Again we reiterate that it is about SOCIALLY ENGAGING, so find ways to create conversations. Content is key to starting conversations, however ENTERING existing conversations, or keeping them moving requires diligence, creativity and passion.

Remember that Facebook Fans can be a brands single greatest champions. Their word-of-mouth referrals can do more for a brand than thousands of marketing dollars.

(69% of people have “Liked” a brand because their friend has).

B. Negative Comments:

It is important to note that a brand / business will not always receive the comments they want. Taking a brand / business to Social Media opens it up to negative feedback, comments and conversations. One must enter prepared for a certain level of criticism and remember to always respond in a positive manner.

Remember that conversations on Facebook are PUBLIC and this is NOT a place to get into heated discussions.

Instead engage the customer elsewhere, by email, phone or private message and work the situation out. Only once that customer is happy should the conversation then be revisited publicly.

Every brand / business is going to face these challenges. Take care to remember that the customer is indeed ALWAYS RIGHT. It is not worth bad brand exposure to win one little battle. Use these situations as opportunities to be the GOOD GUY or the “bigger man” and wow your audience with your response.

It is in a brand / businesses best interest to NOT delete negative comments.

Instead the brand / business can use them to their advantage. When a critic is converted to a fan via public discussion on Social Media, it drastically impacts the viewing audience. Taking time to convert critics will lead to even more fans to follow. It is difficult but one of the most effective means to position the brand.

When dealing with upset customers, always take the high road.

C. Dealing With Spam

Spam happens, but it is easy to deal with. It can appear as either a comment or a post:

  1. Comment Form: It will simply be a spam message attached to an existing post.
  2. Post Form: It will appear as an actual post to the Facebook page itself.

This is another solid reason to keep tabs on comments and posts. Here are two ways to quickly dispatch spam:

  1. For spam comments, (which appear below existing posts) hover the mouse over the right side of the comment until an “X” appears. Clicking the X will cause the comment to be hidden.
  2. For Spam posts, click “see all” on the right side of the page below recent comments. Hover the mouse over the right side of the comment and click the “X”. This will provide four options: “Highlight it”, “Allow it to be seen”, “Hide it”, “Delete it and ban that person from commenting on your page again”.

3. Breaking Facebook Rules.

Facebook Pages need to be treated seriously. a brand cannot act willy-nilly, doing whatever it likes. Every Social Media platform has specific “Terms and Conditions” that are agreed to when signing up. If a business is intent on Marketing & Branding themselves via Social Media, then these terms must be adhered to. Violating these rules, can result in Facebook either deleting or suspending the account. Common breaches can include:

  1. User name: Attempting to use trademarked or obscene names.
  2. Spamming other pages. This can include abusive messages OR sales pitches.
  3. Hosting contests that do not follow the specific terms outlined by Facebook.
  4. Cursing or threatening other users.

When a brand/ business page is shutdown, it is sends a very negative message to the customer base. Brand image drives success, ANYTIME this image is tarnished, it is impeding success.

4. Not Understanding Brand Image.

A Facebook page is a direct relay for BRAND IMAGE. Brand Image is all about how the consumer views a business.

Successful branding may position a business as a “Leader in quality” – such as BMW in the automobile world or a “Leader in Innovation” such as Apple in the techie world. When we as customers come to EXPECT a specific something from a brand, that is a direct result of a brand image that has been achieved via successful brand campaigning (branding).

Once a brand image is established, EVERY medium on which the brand is presented must now convey that same image.

That is what it means when they say that in Branding, CONSISTENCY IS EVERYTHING.

A Facebook page is no exception as it will place a brand in front of the consumer audience. Put in other terms, consider a Facebook page as a storefront of sorts. Not only is it displaying the brand image, it will portray the brand or businesses position in relation to a specific set of products and services.

The question this all leads to is this: What type of image do you want to project?

Whatever that image may be, that is what Facebook should show as well.

A brand should NEVER position themselves as arrogant and obnoxious, constantly bragging about great products or discounts. Consider it this way, if an individual spends an entire night at a party, boasting and on-upping others, they will likely not be invited back. No one wants to hear it. Instead a brand / business should focus on the consumer.

The key to Social Marketing Communications, is not simply in speaking effectively, but in listening and learning to ask the correct questions.

  1. Asking the right questions places the customer first.
  2. It positions the brand as one that cares, and is engaged with consumers needs.
  3. It leads the conversation to a place where the customer themselves points to the quality products and services.

The best party host is the one that makes the party about the guests. Social Media Marketing is similar. Make the brand page about listening to the consumers and then adjust the content to capitalize on that.

5. Spamming.

This ties in to brand image well. Spamming others is a very negative addition to brand image. It does not matter if the brand feels their products are amazing, or that their new big offer is exciting – others may not share that and it is not worth the risk. The brand / business should always keep their content on their page. Let the customer base share it outwards, they are a trusted source to their family and friends, the brand however is not.

Do not use Facebook to SELL, SELL, SELL. Social Media Marketing is not about making sales.

It is about generating brand exposure and sales leads. It is about engaging customers and drawing them to the brand. It is not about spamming people. Pushy Sales tactics are not suited for Social Media. Don’t use them.

  • Feel free to communicate the “Personality” and “Humanness” of the brand – But Don’t Spam.
  • Educate, share knowledge, insights, tips and news. But Don’t Spam.
  • Post new sales or discount information on the brand page – BUT DON’T SPAM!
  • Broadcast new products and services on the brand page – but seriously please, do not spam.

Never abuse, Never Spam.

People are being sold to every second of their lives. Television, magazines, online, on the road. No matter where we look there are advertisements and calls to action. People do not want to be inundated by that on Facebook as well. Take the higher road. Generate customer interest without being the obnoxious pushy salesman.

6. Page Administration Is A Privilege, Not A Right.

When developing a brand / business Facebook page do not make the mistake of underestimating its importance. Facebook may have started out with teenagers, but they should NOT be representing a brand to a global audience.

When assigning this responsibility, treat it as you would any sales or marketing position. Do not put your 15-year-old nephew in charge. He may know Facebook, but he does not know what it means to drive a business and brand image forward. Would you want him doing your sales calls?

What makes a good Facebook page admin?

  1. Page managers must be familiar with Facebook and its available tools.
  2. Be familiar with the brand / business being represented.
  3. Be familiar with the concept of branding and brand image.
  4. Be personable and possess customer service skills.
  5. Be able to articulate well – specifically in written communications.
  6. Be thick-skinned – criticism will come, flying of the handle is not allowed.
  7. Be creative and have a passion for content development and sharing.

When assigning this role, the brand / business in question should provide the following:

  1. An outline of company communication policies, including privacy policies.
  2. Any existing Social Media policies.
  3. An outline of the existing brand image.
  4. An outline of any current Social Media Strategies, including current goals and previous achievements.

Facebook pages do allow for more than one administrator, however keep in mind that the more voices representing a brand, the more possibility for INCONSISTENCY – the enemy of branding.

To truly succeed on this area, everyone needs to be on board with what the brand image is. If the Facebook page manager is posting one thing, but the Service Rep or the Salesman is saying another, this creates brand inconsistencies and can heavily damage the brand image.

It must be made clear to the page manager, what the brand image is, and that this must not be contradicted in any way.

In Summary.

Facebook pages are a formidable resource for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds, to broadcast their brand image and engage their customers. Facebook at a business brand level is not a toy, however, anytime a business is being representing to the public, proper planning and responsibility is necessary.

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing & Branding Specialists.

16 Tips For Marketing On A Budget

Image Source: smallbiztrends.com

Clever Marketing Does Not Need To Always Be Expensive.

Small Business owners seldom have the budget for glitzy or high profile marketing and advertising. Small Business marketing often needs to be as unique and specialized as the business it represents. Here are a few tips for Marketing on a budget.

1. Get On Board With Your Local Press. Most local news outlets have resources available for the local small business community:

  • 1. You can go with a standard ad.
  • 2. A classified ad (billed per word).
  • 3. Issue a press release. A press release is a great way to get free exposure in the local media.

Check with your local papers and see what they have in place.

2. Support A Local Charity Or Campaign. This is something businesses should do either way, however by getting on board with community initiatives you can get a great deal of (positive) free exposure.

You gain terrific PR, build relationships within the local community and lend support to those in need. This is the type of Marketing that truly builds a brand.

3. Sponsor A Local Sports Team. This refers back to supporting local charities or campaigns. It is an excellent way to boost community relations and branding. Just about any amateur team would be glad to don your logo for the cost of a jersey.

It can be a great way to build contacts and good will with parents, athletes and athletics supporters.

4. Local & Online Business Directories. The Yellow Pages are still a consistent resource for most local consumers. Many communities will also have their own local business directory. These can be inexpensive means with which to ensure consistent exposure, primarily to people looking for local and specific services.

There is an slew of online directories available as well, however these should be researched and explored according to their relevance for your industry, your geographic region and their results in search engines.

Bulletin Boards are a free place to post your advertising. They should be utilized with thought towards how they will portray your brand.

5. Use Free Cork/Bulletin Boards. The one caution with this, is to be mindful of how an ad and its placement portrays a business and brand. One can place a printed ad on almost any community cork board – typically free of charge – however they need to be mindful of how it represents the company.

  • Make sure it is a professional and clean ad – it should portray professionalism and associate the business with experience.
  • Place it nicely – square it up, fasten the corners, keep it neat. Don’t slap a thumbtack off centre and call it a day – that looks shoddy.
  • Make it catchy – corkboards fill up fast and typically wind up cluttered. The ad needs to stand out and grab attention.
  • Monitor it – It will eventually wind up behind other posts and ad’s. If this happens it will look dated. Cycle it out with new ad’s to keep it fresh and ensure it is at the top. Many billboard owners like a date placed somewhere on the ad to indicate it’s age (this enables them to clear dated posts) work with them and help them maintain the board.

6. Hand Out Business Cards To Everyone. In the age of online and social media, printed mediums are still highly relevant and nothing reinforces your word-of-mouth campaign like business cards. They are inexpensive and easy to keep on your person at all times.

Typically they print in groups of 250, 500, 1000, 2000 – with costs being reduced with each increase in quantity. Keep in mind that 250 cards can last a long time, so do not be afraid to hand them out and hand out more than one. When we meet with clients we will typically hand them three or four cards, this provides for their misplacing them or handing them out to colleagues.

Business cards are one of those items you want to revise every once in awhile. Hand them out while they are fresh and you will not have a bunch of obsolete cards when you revise your information.

7. Let Fly The Flyers! Going back to the relevance of printed materials, a flyer is a great (inexpensive) way to draw attention from the local community. Included in papers, door to door, or exchanged with other businesses along with business cards – they can increase brand awareness and draw attention to your services.

This ties in nicely with posting free Corkboard ad’s as flyer’s can be utilized also for this purpose.

8. Product Placement / Venue Exchanges. Brand yourself publicly at events and venues with product and logo placement.

Example: If you are a DJ make sure you have a banner, flyers, business cards and wear a shirt with your logo – brand yourself to the public. The amount of business that can be procured at a wedding, by a good photographer or DJ is incredible. Don’t ruin the wedding by networking, but be prepared if guests come to you for information.

9. Hand Out Branded Swag! Whatever your budget may be, there is a Merchandising manufacturer out there that can accommodate, so get some merch’ and hand it out! Useful items like pens, shirts, hats, mugs etc. will get used and make their way around.

As with all other materials, put some thought into type of “swag” that matters to your industry and have some fun making it. The more creative and relevant the merchandise, the more likely it will see use.

People love gifts, it is a great way to establish relations and create a positive experience for your clients. As with business cards, hand them out frequently and freely.

(Hint: Make sure the pens are decent quality – shoddy pens quickly find their way to the bottom of the bin)

Drive your marketing! Vehicle decals and wraps are cost effective and guarantee exposure. Image Source: indepthwraps.com

10. Decal Your Vehicle. Hank Yarbo of late Corner Gas fame exemplifies this concept in a rather unique way with his “Hank Board

A personal vehicle is literally a moving canvas. Brand it with decals and graphics and it effectively becomes a billboard wherever you find yourself. There are a number of businesses that offer this service – the price versus the advertising exposure makes this a top value option.

11. Advertising On Public Transit. Depending on the communities mass transit infrastructure, there can be many advertising spaces available in buses, taxis and trains. Check with your local transit authorities, these spaces can be surprisingly inexpensive.

12. Join Online Networking Communities. LinkedIn is likely the top source for these type of groups. By connecting with groups relevant to specific industries and the local community, one can gain both, an audience and dialogue opportunities.

13. Trade Shows. Local trade shows can be a great way to boost both, customer awareness and client engagement. For the price of a booth or table, one gains the opportunity to network with relevant, and local, small business groups and individuals.

14. Socialize With Media (Social Media). Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, there are numerous online avenues that (at no charge) provide the opportunity to increase online presence and engage customers, both current and potential.

(Hint: Visit blog posts on “Social Media Engagement” or “How To Find A Good Social Media Specialist” for more information on this)

15. Reward Your Current Customers. Build goodwill with the current customer base and the word of mouth campaign will pay back the efforts a thousand times over. Offer incentives, “swag” (see tip 9) and insider info.

16. Web Updates. Basic web updates can be a great, cost effective way to keep customers interested and coming back. Fresh content, news and designs are the means for consistent engagement. One should never underestimate the value of increasing online traffic and engaging the online audience.

No matter what size the business, customers need to be communicated with. There are many inexpensive and effective marketing avenues available – if you know where to look.

Small Businesses have several key advantages over their larger competitors. Recognizing and leveraging them can drastically impact success.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.