Showing posts with label small business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label small business. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marketing Habits I Learned from Writers

It seems everyone threatens to write a book at one point or another, and self-publishing a book seems to be the talk of the town lately.  From newcomers with a story they're itching to get off of their chests, to more suggestive non-fiction pieces like Guy Kawasaki's, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur - How to Publish a Book, the writing world is changing. To quote Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords: "We're in the early stages of a full scale publishing renaissance."

My wife, Dannie M Olguin, has been writing her whole life and within the last year, started publishing short story ebooks under a pen name. Dannie is also almost done with one of her life-long ambitions of writing at least one novel and having it published.  She's still trying to decide whether to pursue traditional publishing or follow the route of self-publishing.

This whole experience with Dannie has taught me a lot about self-publishing. Even more importantly, as a marketer, the experience has taught me about the writing process. There are many lessons I picked up from the writing process, but two that stand out in comparing and contrasting Writing & Marketing are:

Building a Plan
The best marketing lesson I gleaned was from the outlining process. Outlining a story and outlining a Marketing Plan hold similar concepts.  Both help get the ideas flowing and the balls rolling. And, eventually, the story's outline & the Marketing Plan outline develop a life of their own.

All About the Numbers
One of the more interesting writing habits revolved around accounting. I'm not referring to the revenue generation, although, let's face it, even writers love to get checks. I'm referring to the daily word counting and total word count that writers use to gauge productivity. It is uncanny how this compares to budget planning versus profits from actual revenue.

In two industries where content is king, it is amazing just how similar a path marketing and writing follow. Both morph through a process of continuous improvement, and the result of the final product must be masterfully creative enough to engage an audience.

What marketing strategies have you improved by comparing your business to other industries?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finding the Value in Marketing for Small Businesses

The end of the year is a great time to assess your marketing efforts for the past year and map out your plans for the new year. For small businesses this can be a struggle, especially if you don't have a Marketing Plan already in place to get you there. Since having a Marketing Plan is critical component of developing a successful Business Plan, what are some steps to put one in place?


Know Thyself

An initial consideration in developing marketing strategies is to appreciate that there are no quick fixes. Cheap and fast is the mantra of the online marketing world, but it will not satisfy your long term marketing needs.  Finding the time and money to develop an effective Marketing Plan can be an obstacle easily overcome by understanding your business' value proposition.  

A value proposition is a unique selling point that doesn't compromise quality for price. Your value proposition is the inherent, not necessarily the monetary, worth of the product or service you offer. Once you know your business' Value Proposition, your ROI (return on investment) from your marketing efforts will be all the more meaningful.

What is your business' value proposition?

Help Wanted

Assuming you don't possess the marketing know-how to do your own marketing, another important consideration is who you contract with or hire to help with your marketing.  

It may seem like a cheap solution to hire college kids or young adults to help with your marketing because they presumably possess social media "skills”, but this will only hurt the customer and ultimately your business. The young person you hire will likely lack the business acumen that will make your marketing successful.  

Unless you hire a person with experience in marketing, sales, or business development, hiring a consulting firm to develop and manage your marketing is a must.

The better marketing consultant or firm is the one that focuses on marketing and nothing else. 

Plan Ahead

A small business will benefit from having a simplified Marketing Plan. As your business grows, you can add on more marketing efforts. Initially, you will have more success in mapping out your marketing strategies by:
  • Building a Marketing Plan: even if it's just an outline, put a model into action; you can't possibly know where you're going if you don't map out the route
  • Having all of your staff contribute to marketing efforts: each of your staff members brings a different perspective to the table; if you are your only employee then this should be easy
  • Regular monitoring and analyzing: monitoring your marketing efforts can be a daily activity, but you should be reviewing and revamping your Marketing Plan as often as your Business Plan - no less than once yearly
Can you function without a formalized Marketing Plan? Yes. Will you have more success with one? Unquestionably.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Connecting Across the Social Media Universe

A majority of the people I work with are small business owners. One of the most common concerns I hear about revolves around how to manage all of their social media marketing efforts in the most time efficient manner.  

My response typically involves explaining the difference between Social Media Marketing and Social Media networking. Both involve relationship building, and both are crucial to business success. However, Social Media Marketing is about helping the business as a whole grow, whereas Social Media networking is more about helping the individual grow.  

Focusing on Social Media networking is a great place for small business owners to start. It sets the stage for personal growth, but it can also lead to establishing the individual as a thought leader. So how does an individual make the most of Social Media networking? 

Be Accessible

Recently, I communicated with a friend of a friend through facebook messaging. She is applying for a position that requires knowledge of social media marketing, and she wanted to know if I had suggestions in how to show the employer that she possesses solid Marketing acumen. I looked for her Linkedin profile and couldn't find her. I then asked if she could forward me the link for her Linkedin profile; she never responded. Additionally, I sent a facebook connect request. She told me that she didn't like to connect with people she didn't know online.

The first step of effective Social Media networking is being accessible. Employers, customers, professional acquaintances - anyone and everyone should be able to see your personal and professional profiles across social media platforms. As a small business owner, you are your business' first and best marketing resource. Chris Brogan & Julien Smith refer to this concept in their collaborative book and now coined phrase, "Trust Agents". Other terms exist as well including "thought leader" and "expert", but what is most important is that this is how others perceive you and not how you should refer to yourself.

Participate

Years ago, when I first became actively involved in construction, I started noticing CSI and other initials behind various people's names. As it turned out, being a CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) member was held in high regard by construction industry professionals. Moreover, other certifications one could get through CSI were held in even higher regard because they demonstrated a person's knowledge of the construction industry and a thorough understanding of the construction documents.

I also started seeing that people (including an ex-employer) were paying dues to be able to use the initials but then never participating. Yeah, sure, they might show up at an event or two throughout the year, but they would never volunteer to be on committees or boards.

Social Media, like industry specific groups, isn't just about connections; it's about how you engage with other social media participants. With social media, the old adage, "if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem" holds true. If you only have social media profiles because everyone does, then you're only creating online clutter. Why would anyone want to connect with someone who only wants to friend, circle, or follow other people to build up their contact list but then not engage on any level?

There are various ways to actively participate online: posting questions and articles that you think others might glean knowledge from, joining groups and giving insightful perspectives, writing white papers / technical papers for your industry and sharing them, and blogging are all great ways to stay engaged and involved. 

Building Relationships

Whenever I connect or am asked to connect with a person on one social media platform, I always cross reference their name across other platforms. There are several reasons to cross reference, not the least of which is determining if they are spammers or a real person or business entity. I also do it to see how innovative they are. Lately, my measurement tool has been Google+, the largest, newest social media platform. If a person is on facebook but not Google+ and they claim to be a progressive thinker, I have to wonder if they're being truthful.

Not all social media platforms function the same way or serve the participants in the same ways, but all of them can be used to build meaningful relationships. Additionally, there's no reason you can't have business messages on facebook and playful banter on Linkedin. And now, with smartphones and tablets, there's definitely no reason that concise communications can't be achieved through instant messaging on social media platforms as opposed to, say, emails.

Connecting across the social media universe is a rewarding and life-enriching experience.  It has become just as important as networking face-to-face; not more important, just another great step to successful relationships. Whether you're a student looking to learn from a business professional in your field of study, a product representative looking to connect with an architect across the country, or a follower of a blog from someone on the other side of the world, online connections set new bearings for relationships.