How to get started and be successful in social media

The importance of social media for a small business is well-known. We bet you’ve heard so many things about why you should join any given social network. Maybe you have a few social networks you like for your small business. Maybe you’re unsure.

A recent article titled A Guide To Building Your Business Through Social Networks helps to clear up some confusion. It lays out facts about social media in small business, offers useful advice for getting started in social media, and how to interact with and satisfy your followers once you have them. Don’t forget, your followers in social media are also customers for your small business, so keeping them engaged and happy is key!

From the article:

Things that once seemed intangible, such as Facebook likes, Yelp reviews, and tweets, are now proof that customers respond to your brand. In turn, these same customers reward your business with public approval and open ended discussions of your business. Not only can you put this direct input into practice, your potential customers can turn to the resources and quickly get what your business is all about.

You can check out the full article here.

Do you have any small business social media tips you’d like to share?

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Blog post round-up: All about marketing

You’ve got a great new product or service that you’ve done lots of market research on, and you know it’s going to be a hit with your customers. This is where marketing comes in. A good marketing strategy will let your customers know you exist and why you’re the perfect business to meet their needs. Marketing is a many-faceted thing, and so we want to share some blog posts we’ve written on the topic over the years. We hope you enjoy, and let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to cover in the future!

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Four big marketing mistakes in small business

Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing for any small business. In fact, we bet you’ve tried or mulled over several different marketing techniques and strategies to help you grow your business. How many of them worked? Have you wondered what you could be doing differently?

In our experience, there are some marketing mistakes that are quite common among entrepreneurs. Don’t feel badly if your latest idea is on this list! Entrepreneurship is ever-evolving.

Not knowing your market

Although you may think you want to market your product or service to everyone, we all have different needs and experiences. Instead, narrow down one to four specific customer groups that will be most profitable and accessible to target. Consider these major elements when dividing up your segments:

  • Demographics: Age, income, gender, education, family status, income level, occupation, social class, ethnicity.
  • Geographics: Cultural, climate, regional and national differences, population density, population growth rate.
  • Psychographics: Lifestyle, personalities, attitudes, opinions, behaviours, values.
  • Behaviours: Buying patterns, usage rate, price sensitivity, brand loyalty, benefits wanted.

Porsche and Ferrari clearly target those in high social classes that have high incomes as well as lots of money to spend. Lifestyles of this target market are very luxurious and probably value products that demonstrate status. On the other hand, who does Wal-Mart target? This segment is very different – probably middle-aged parents who are cost-conscious or not concerned with status symbols.

Take some time to draw out what your typical customer would look like and where their lifestyle, age and social class fit in to their buying patterns. All this research will really show in your marketing. Your customers will feel that they are understood and their needs catered to.

Not making a marketing plan

A sound, clear marketing plan is necessary for small business success. How well have your family vacations worked without a map, or a daily set of goals and outcomes? Small business is no different. Your marketing plan can evolve, but setting your strategy down is a vital step that mustn’t be overlooked. Who do you want to market to? How? When? Why? Are your marketing ideas cohesive with your company’s values? Is a blog really a good marketing tool for your business, or is Facebook better? You may have all the great marketing ideas in the world, but putting them into a plan will help you find holes and better ideas you may not have previously thought of.

Once you have developed a clear plan for the branding and marketing of your company, it’s important to implement it correctly. Be sure that your marketing plan is clear and understood by all of your staff so that it’s properly used through all activities. Monitor and track your plan to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Have your plan written out and refer back to it frequently.

Being seduced by the latest marketing trend

Social media is here to stay, and it seems like a new outlet is making headlines all the time. But what’s the signal to noise ratio? We mentioned Facebook earlier, and many small businesses are also turning to Twitter for marketing. There’s also LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Google+ – we could go on. I’s enough to make your head spin. And that doesn’t even cover marketing trends outside the social space.

We have all been dazzled by a new marketing idea, one that seems perfect and guaranteed to increase sales; especially if it appears that everyone else is doing it. But what if the new marketing trend is actually terrible for your business? Let’s look at Facebook again. It’s great for engaging customers, sharing news and having conversations. But what if your business is very “niche” or provides a service that doesn’t often get repeat business (like a paving company)? You may never have enough people on your Facebook page to talk to, or you may have nothing to talk about on a regular basis. Here, Facebook may not be the best marketing idea for you. Instead, offering educational tools for free on your website, such as white papers, may be a better marketing tactic.

We love new ideas as much as the next person, but it’s important to keep your wits about you in the midst of all the hype. Otherwise, your marketing focus can be stretched too thin, making it seem to customers that you have no focus at all.

Not getting marketing help once it’s necessary

You don’t have to tell us twice – your small business is your baby. Entrepreneurs are nothing if not tenacious, and that applies to our marketing as well. You probably created the marketing plan, researched all the social media outlets and maybe even had a hand in designing your business’ logo. And all your work has paid off. Your sales are increasing in leaps and bounds and your to-do list is as long as your arm. Great! That’s the sign of a successful small business.

Except, when was the last time you looked at what your customers were asking you on Twitter? Or updated the menu on your website? Maybe it’s time to release your grip on your marketing and delegate to someone who can really concentrate on it. Now, this person doesn’t need to do marketing full-time, but he or she should be able to focus on moving your marketing plan forward seamlessly, aligning with your business’ goals, vision and culture. We know that delegating can sometimes be very difficult for entrepreneurs, but it’s a sign of business growth. And anyway, all babies become teenagers eventually, right?

Do you have experience with these four marketing mistakes? Do you know of one we didn’t include here? Let us know!


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Creating your small business’ brand pillars

All of us can likely list off a number of brand names off the top of our head, whether world-famous or locally renowned. Brands are seen everywhere, within every industry. A brand represents the emotional and logical associations that you make with a certain company, product or service. The interesting thing about branding is that it reflects internal and personal interpretations, which may differ between people and cultures.

So how do you design a brand for your small business that customers will react to positively? Creating brand pillars is one way.

What are brand pillars?

Brand pillars as the most important values and characteristics of your small business that you want to communicate in your branding. Your small business can have as many brand pillars as you like, but you should focus on the ones most important to your business’ image and values – for example, “Accountability” may be more important to your business than “Community Involvement.” And deciding not to include “Community Involvement” doesn’t mean you don’t care about the community your small business operates in – it just means it’s less critical to your image than other brand pillars.

When planning your small business’ marketing strategy, identify your brand pillars very early in the process, and empower all your employees to keep your brand pillars in mind with everything they do for your small business. You don’t have to expressly outline your brand pillars word-for-word in your marketing, but use them to guide your actions. If one of your brand pillars is “Community Involvement,” for example, you probably will want to partner with local associations to sponsor events. This consistency and dedication will help maintain a positive association in the mind of your customer.

Check out our article, Defining Your Brand Pillars, for more information on creating and using brand pillars for small business.


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How to sell and negotiate – even if you don’t think you can

Not all of us are born salespeople, even if our small businesses are focused on selling. However, what you’re not born with, you can still learn.

Many entrepreneurs just like you have asked us all kinds of questions about improving selling skills, becoming better negotiators and the best people to talk to when making a sale. And we answered!

Check out what our GoForth Expert Marty Park had to say to entrepreneurs asking the following sales questions:

Do you have a question about small business sales and negotiation? Ask our GoForth Experts here!

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