Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Missing the Social Media Mark

Across the social media universe, it's as easy for your messages to get missed as it is for you, as an online connection, to be forgotten. I talk with so many people who steer clear of platforms like Twitter because they feel information flies too fast and furious for comfort, or they only connect on LinkedIn for that 'professional' contact but then never actually share posts or join groups.

I admit that sharing information without regard of who is on the receiving end can congest the internet super highway with meaningless data. This approach certainly has no hand in creating publicly beneficial knowledge - garbage in, garbage out negatively impacts all of us, everyday, in our personal and professional lives.

However, social media networking, when utilized in effective ways, can not only benefit you and your business, but it also has the potential of creating powerful change in your industry and the world we build together. So, how do we look at connecting with each other in a different light and what are some examples of relevant shared messages?

On the connection side, if I'm wanting to connect with you, it's because I want to get to know you better. Not because I feel I need to but because I genuinely feel we can benefit from each other. It's another step to further our relationship when we may not always (if ever) be able to connect in person.

This caring, connective ideology isn't true for everyone though. When you only post, share, comment, and 'like' information about yourself and your company then you are not only failing yourself but also your connections. And when you don't grow from shared knowledge, your customer doesn't grow.

Where sharing is concerned, talk about what others are doing. For example, if you sell vinyl windows, don't just post about that recent award your company received or the charity they supported. Share an article that addresses alternative materials that you don't currently have or manufacturing processes that you don't utilize but improve humanity's environmental footprint. Relay an interesting article about petroleum, since that's the core material for vinyl windows anyway. Or, and this may seem counter intuitive, post what your competitors are doing to overcome obstacles.

The point is, connecting and sharing individually on social media is never self-serving (or at least it shouldn't be). But when you share information from outside your company and immediate community, you create a meaningful dialogue of online social interactions that benefits you, your industry, and the world-at-large.

What message has social media taught you?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Social Media Teaches Us

In Marketing, it's important for business owners, small in particular, to integrate and aggregate ideas as much as possible, as soon as possible. Your time is valuable. And, since you can't avoid Social Media Marketing as a necessary business development tool, it's important to remember that Social Media teaches us to:


Deal with opinions:  You're going to have them and that's okay. How you express or respond to them is another story. Don't dismiss the bad in favor of the good, and always, always respond to everyone and every situation.

Call everyone out:  No one likes being called out, but we all need to be. There are plenty of examples of this thought but certainly nothing more comparable than being a parent. Managing a business is a lot like being a parent.

Recognize the youngest person in the room:  Well, young may be relative, so how about:  recognize the person with the freshest idea at the time - not necessarily the best idea, but certainly the newest & the boldest - even if it's as quickly dismissed as it is heard.

Most importantly, it's critical to stay on the innovative & early adoption side of technologies, tools, & resources. This is true even if you have a dedicated team managing marketing and influencing your brand. And all of this is just the start because Social Media Marketing never sleeps and never stops. 

What does Social Media teach you?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Online Engagement: A Brief Sales Perspective

I was recently asked how I leverage Linkedin as a sales tool. Since we all sell something, I realized that a lot of my thoughts could relate to most online engagement. Here are some highlights when leveraging online engagement as a sales tool: 

Feeling Comfortable Online
It's important to have a particular comfort level with both social media engagement and even social media marketing in general. I have been leveraging the finer attributes of many social media platforms for a few years now, and so I am able to easily stay up to speed as they evolve.

Transparency in the Marketplace
I believe you can be 100% transparent in your personal convictions while maintaining a positive professional demeanor. This is more of a delicate art on Linkedin than the often crude, unforgiving nature of facebook or the relentlessly rolling feeds on Twitter, but it can be done.

Creating New Relationships
With social media, it’s not about connecting with who you know that’s important - that’s the easy part. Developing new relationships is lot more challenging but unquestionably more rewarding when interacting with individuals, businesses, groups, and organizations on a professional level. 

I like to think that there is a road between Marketing and Business Development and Sales. Somedays, I just wear my Marketing hat, while other days I might start out in the Business Development land but end up in Sales city. But no matter where I start, online engagements help me travel between each.

How do you leverage online engagements to improve your sales strategies?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Clean Your Marketing!

Springtime! While you're opening the windows, tightening the clothesline, and preparing the mop water, it's also a great time to clean up the cobwebs around your personal and business marketing strategies.

For many businesses, this time of year marks the end of a first quarter. As results are reviewed, it's also an ideal time to review and adjust your Marketing Plan. Here are just a few questions to consider:

  • Did the the marketing strategies help achieve the desired business goals? Finding the ROI in marketing is as critical to review as sales and profit reviews.
  • What strategies and activities need to be reconsidered or revised? Avoid the 'this is the way we've always done it' mindset and change the way the you do business
  • Are there new or additional marketing strategies to integrate? Marketing, like every other piece of a business model, is a process of continuous improvement.
  • Do staff & coworkers fully leverage social media? Encouraging others to engage is as important as ensuring content is relevant
This chore is equally important for your personal marketing deployment. Among other questions, ask yourself:
  • When was the last time I updated my social media personal profiles? Freshen up your online appearance and discover yourself all over again
  • Do I need to add or remove any personal connections? Keep or find the connections that add value to personal & career ambitions. Moreover, clicking 'Remove' is more meaningful than clicking 'Hide'.
  • Am I making the most of my online interactions? Remember: social media is about sharing, so . . . share
  • What platforms do I need to be more active on? Connecting across the social media universe is always better than only engaging on Linkedin.
Marketing defines us. It is a reflection of our personal endeavors and our professional engagements. So while you're finding the time to clean up the other parts of your life and business, why not take a moment to spring clean your marketing strategies?


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Marketing Starts With You!

Marketing all starts with you. You are the "who" and the "what" when people think of your business. You know "where" you want your business to go and "how" to get there. And, "when" you get down to it, you are your business’ best marketing resource!


Exploring all of the marketing options today may seem a formidable task, but there are some concepts that seem to rise to the top. As of 2013 (and looking into 2014), a lot of these trends revolve around:




If these particular trends tell us anything, it’s that we live in the digital landscape - at home, at work, and on the go. A good question for any business, organization, or cause then becomes:


What is the impact of life on the digital landscape?


The overall impact of marketing touches everyone, every day. Whether it’s a student opening a laptop for class, a sales person demonstrating their products on a tablet, or a busy mom demonstrating to her kiddo how she manages shopping on her smartphone with an app, the potential touch points for marketing are everywhere.


Still, each impactful marketing moment is both utilized and perceived differently by the individual versus a more collaborative, if not complete, whole. These marketing moments aren’t just good for promoting your business, they create a social good.

By sharing, individuals become better innovators and thought leaders, businesses collaborate more often, and markets come together as communities. And all of this creates a global social good in which industries work together to change the world.

So, are you ready to get started?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where Does Marketing Begin?




Whether you are a solopreneur, a start-up team with a new innovative concept, an existing business looking to revamp its business model, or an industry specific non-profit organization:


Marketing begins with the individual. Marketing is as much about the individual as it is about the collective whole. It all begins with ownership and executive leadership and touches every staff person, subcontractor, supplier, and, ultimately, customer.


Marketing requires planning. No matter the size of the business or organization, having a Marketing Plan is just as critical as a Business Plan. It is a supplemental piece that is a tool for monitoring & measuring Marketing both internally and externally.


Having a separate Social Media Marketing Plan can be a good supplemental component of the Marketing Plan.


Marketing weaves itself throughout every business, market, & industry. From Advertising & Business Development through Sales & Customer Service, Marketing plays a huge part of business growth. It touches each and every employee, customer, and business relation with satisfaction at the root of success.


Marketing is a process of Continuous Improvement. Just as a Business Plan sets long term goals that takes into consideration our ever-evolving world, so must the Marketing Strategies. It’s not enough to adopt in business, you have to adapt.


Do you want to be seen (or have your business seen) as an innovator, an adopter, or a laggard. This will impact your business growth as you are viewed through the lens of the customer’s, employee’s, and public’s perception.


The Takeaway: Marketing is responsible for breathing life and changing the direction of how every person, business, and organization grows.


The impact of technology and innovation changes too rapidly for anyone to boast a solid solution to Marketing know-how. The best anyone can offer for marketing solutions guidance is an outline of where marketing is today and, more importantly, to encourage you to always ask:

Where is marketing going tomorrow?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Marketing Classes: Leveraging Marketing for You & Your Business

Market Integrations offers customized Marketing Classes can be offered at your office, a local venue, or even virtually. 

Class Description
The overall intent for these classes is to demonstrate effective Marketing actions & strategies to create and develop a business’ Marketing Plan for future business growth. The course will address current marketing trends & options, integrative marketing communication methods, and tools & resources to analyze and manage marketing efforts, and strategies for continuous improvement. Small business owners and individuals interested in improving their general marketing acumen will benefit the most from these classes.

About the Instructor

Stirling Morris, is Owner and Marketing Executive for Market Integrationswww.marketintegrations.com, a Marketing firm based in Dallas, Texas. For over the last decade, Stirling has been involved in Business Development, Sales, & Marketing. Stirling has also worked as an Educator as well as holding a few key Management and Senior Management positions for multi-million revenue generating businesses. Market Integrations provides Marketing Development & Marketing Management strategies that can be applied in any market and any industry.

Each class can be designed for your personal, business, or organizational needs including content, personnel considerations, and scheduled time and dates. Here are a few class ideas to help you improve your Marketing know-how:

  • An Introduction to Marketing Today 
  • Marketing Your Business Starts with Marketing You 
  • Reinforcing Marketing with Social Media Business Pages 
  • Developing & Integrating an Effective Marketing Plan 
  • Great Marketing is a Process of Continuous Improvement 

Contact Market Integrations today to arrange for your customized Marketing Class!

stirlingmorris@marketintegrations.com

972-786-2004

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Better Marketing Through Change

In Marketing, if you're not changing everyday, you're failing yourself and the business or organization you represent. Marketing is about sharing, internally and externally, to help your business grow. And the best way to share is to adapt and change with the ever-evolving Marketing landscape.

This type of change might seem expensive or daunting to think about with everything that's out there (and on the horizon). However, changing with Marketing trends in today's business climate is not only necessary but also unavoidable. Adopting newer technological tools & resources will help ensure Marketing success by:

  • Streamlining employee happiness, nurturing the desire to stay and grow with the business or organization.
  • Providing worthwhile resources for all employees to better the overall business model, processes, and practices.
  • Letting the customer know you care about the products and / or services you provide and that you are leveraging all of the Marketing resources you can to better their experience.
So how do you stay on the cutting edge of marketing yourself and your business or organization? Here are just a few ideas:

Be an innovator. Be on the innovative and early adoptive side of technology to help gain market share. Be the person, be the business, that represents the best of what's out there and shares in the effort of what is yet to come to make the market better.

Stay in tune with Marketing trends. Read daily about Marketing trends and write about your take on incorporating newer Marketing tools and resources as they relate to your market or industry. When was the last time you commented or shared a blog or news story that had nothing to do with your market or wrote a white paper that has everything to do with your industry?

Be a beta user. You don't have to take on every new Marketing resource out there. There isn't one perfect CRM (Customer Relationship Management) resource or smartphone or tablet that fits every business in every market in every industry. But there's no harm or misspent time in being a beta tester of multiple options to see which one(s) fit you best.

Change is not a burden; it's a gateway to our future. What technological tools and Marketing resources do you find most useful today and which ones are you excited about integrating tomorrow?

Friday, July 5, 2013

The First Rule of Marketing Is...

Unlike Fight Club, the first rule of Social Media is:

You do talk about marketing.

The second rule of Social Media is:

You DO talk about marketing!

She, he, I . . . no matter what your pronoun may be, Social Media revolves around one core concept: interpersonal communication.

From the moment it became a mainstream, daily focus, Social Media opened a doorway to how we interact online. It's about sharing your thoughts, opinions, and experiences on an interpersonal level, personally and even professionally. Social Media has become the 21st century poster child for defining who you are, who you're connected with, and why anyone would want to connect with you.

Add the word Marketing at the end of "Social Media" and suddenly things becomes a lot more volatile. Whether it's a retail giant channeling their latest holiday sale, a world recognized non-profit looking for your donation, or a professional organization looking to gain your membership, Social Media Marketing is the underground advertising and marketing syndicate fighting for your loyalty; because when it comes to the marketable actions of Social Media for businesses and organizations, it's not about who they know, it's about who you know and how they can reach out to your contacts.

The more people any one particular person is connected with, the more potential that viral or word of mouth marketing will be operating at it's finest. This assumes that the business or organization practicing Social Media Marketing has implemented a marketing plan and a marketing management person or team to facilitate the effort. The more you and I, as Social Media users, interact with said businesses' and organizations' established marketing plans, the more opportunities that those businesses or organizations stand to gain grows exponentially.

Additionally, most brand recognized Social Media platforms have, at least, some simple analytical tools. These tools measure Social Media Marketing efforts with specific outreach information, but there are other, and in some cases better, third party resources. In order for businesses and organizations to grow through effective Social Media Marketing, integrating these tools into the Marketing Plan is essential.

Not sure what Marketing tools and resources you might want to integrate into your business' or organization's efforts? Maybe it's time to ask.

What Social Media Marketing tools and resources do you find most useful to measure your marketing success?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Delicate Art of Getting Things Done

Whether you're following your regular work calendar or having an impromptu meeting about the recent lack of ROI from your marketing team, today you will break up your schedule into the smallest units of time to get things done. You'll find yourself saying things like:

"I can have that to you by next week."
"Give me five minutes."
". . . just a second"

All of which you might be saying to others, yourself, or even your computer which is always slow to process whatever you're working on at the most inopportune moment. This process never ends as you map and plan out tomorrow's schedule.

And planning is, of course, a good thing.  In fact it's completely necessary - especially when it concerns our professional lives.  But when our professional lives become so dependent on time that we have to make time for family and friends, maybe it's time to stop and reevaluate how you spend your time. 

When reappropriating your time, consider:
  • Time for yourself:  topping the charts, this may or may not include time with family and friends, but it definitely excludes anything even remotely work related.  Stopping to smell the roses not only rejuvenates the body and mind, but it also allows you to reboot and take fresh perspectives for work, family, and personal activities.  This also includes mandatory physical exercise of the body and mind nourishment such as reading books and listening to music OUTSIDE OF YOUR CAR!
  • Time for your relationships:  from the family and friend side, this is ensures that you're not a negative topic that others roll their eyes at or hide your posts in facebook.  From the work perspective, your interpersonal relationships need to be nurtured to cultivate new ideas and conversation and not just talk about shared projects and upcoming meetings.  If you're going to play golf for example, play golf; but just play golf.
  • Time for work:  this has less to do with filling in your Google calendar and more to do with following your passion.  If you spend more time worrying about gaining or retaining clients and less time about the process of why your working with or for them, then you're wasting your time.  Work should always be pleasurable, and if it isn't, then it's definitely time to find work that you can feel passionate about.
Filling in a calendar can be easy enough, but realizing the delicate art of getting things done is more challenging and more rewarding.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Social Media: A Sales Perspective

I originally wrote this piece from Market Integration's website as:

Social Media - A Salesperson Perspective

posted Aug 23, 2011, 3:51 PM by Stirling Morris   [ updated Dec 12, 2011, 3:12 PM ]


We're all salespeople.  Whether you're a mom trying to explain to your child why practicing good hygiene is important or you're a CEO out to lunch with a new investor prospect, we all have something to sell.  Some of us are really good at it and some of us aren't.  But most of us don't even realize we're selling until our client (or child) agrees or disagrees with whatever we've pitched.

No matter who you are or what you do, social media is a not only a tool for networking but for selling.  Unfortunately, not every company has learned this lesson.  I actually had a General Manager of a sales company in the construction industry once tell me, “Networking must be limited to assure it does not take any time away from selling.”  I don't think he realized the power of social media in sales and networking.

I was asked by a Retail Sales Manager within the same company for advice regarding networking; particularly through social media.  After spending years as a sales / product representative in the construction industry, here are some of the finer points I offered:
  • In addition to joining professional organizations, social media is the key to business relationships for tomorrow to keep you informed when you can't be present or just to stay up-to-date with industry activities
  • Connecting and engaging with individuals and businesses on facebookLinkedin, Google+, and Twitter is vital to a successful, long-term relationship with tomorrow’s customers.
  • Most importantly, actively participating (e.g. joining groups, asking questions and giving answers) is the best way to make social media successful and you potentially seen as a Thought Leader. You can’t just create a social media profile / page and expect customers to come knocking. If people don’t see you engaged, they won’t follow back. And, if you only promote yourself, your business, or your services, you are committing sales suicide and will often be hidden or blocked by your customer's (or potential customer's) social media feeds.
Social Media helps us grow as people by creating interactive dialogue when a phone call or in-person visit or meeting isn't feasible.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Be Engaged, Be Social, & Be a Leader


Spending time at work, with family & friends, and volunteer efforts makes up a big portion of our lives and are often intertwined.  We're all busy, but we're never too busy to be a leader.  Leaders have an unrelenting desire to look past personal agendas and into the heart of the collective whole - humanity.

We are all capable of being leaders. So, how do we hone our leadership skills and become the leader we're destined to be?


When we interact with each other through our career, our family & friends, or volunteer efforts, we do it to feel a part of the collective whole.  Whether we engage others in-person or through social mediums, our engagements help us grow as people.  Leaders realize that none of us are alone, and that everything we do is for each other.  

Being Social vs. Being Engaged


Being engaged is a critical component of being a leader, but being socially recognized through our engagements is quite another.  It's been said in various ways by various people, but if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem.  Becoming part of a group with a specific mission and vision is a great first step, but, for a leader, it's not enough.  A leader actively participates to make the vision a reality.

Everyone is a Leader  

Even a leader needs a break every now and again.  Since no one is born a leader, and we are all capable of being a leader, we should all strive to carry the torch for the collective whole - humanity.  Act well your part.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Don't Underestimate the Marketing Value of Volunteers

Have you ever volunteered for an event, or cause?  Did you feel underappreciated or that your effort and time were abused?  You're not alone.

While I must admit that this thought stems from experiences in my life from community and industry led volunteer efforts, I'm sure you have your own war stories.  When your volunteerism is devalued, it creates unnecessary drama and heartache for both you and the organization, business, or group you're working with.  And who needs drama in their lives . . . unless, of course, you're watching a good movie or live theatrical performance.  

For the organizations, groups, and businesses leading a cause or event, volunteers can be some of your greatest marketing assets.  By treating volunteers respectfully, everyone wins:  the leading organization, group or business, the cause or event itself, and even the volunteers.  Volunteers help the marketing effort primarily through viral marketing, spreading the word about your cause or event to people you might not otherwise reach.  But if you abuse their time you lose them and the people they know.

Here are some considerations to show appreciation for volunteers (or for volunteers to look for in a volunteer-driven cause or event):
  • Some volunteers are okay with casual or even formal word-of-mouth or paper certificate recognition (and some are fine with nothing), but most appreciate those little (or big) extra perks.  In my experiences, community organizations often put limitations on the perks or rewards because they feel they will get a better ROI; don't do this.
  • Just because a volunteer runs a business and has expertise in a specific area that they might otherwise charge for, doesn't mean that the business, group or organization asking for volunteerism should expect they'll get everything for free.  I have found this unfortunately and primarily true for industry led and business partnership volunteer efforts.
  • Organizational and (especially) business leaders sometimes automatically expect that the volunteers should be as professional as they are and should devote countless hours toward the volunteer effort; this is simply not true.  Let the volunteer arrange for their time and effort.  In my experiences, this is more often a problem for community organizations holding events requiring hours and hours and volunteer preparation time.
Asking a lot from a volunteer is also asking a lot from their own personal and business relationships.  This a consideration never to be abused.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

We Are All Children on facebook

The recent social media frenzy of people taking opposing positions on gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre reminded me of something I've been thinking about for quite some time. We are all children on facebook. All of us. This is true for social media across the board, but facebook (perhaps because it has over 1 billion users as of 2012), brings out the worst in our interpersonal communication skills.

We are all having to relearn how to communicate with each other through social media.  Personal networking, on facebook in particular, is like being in an elementary school yard playground.  There are different attitudes, cliques, and social perspectives.  All of them impact our interactions online and sometimes even in person.

Facebook is like a toy.  Perhaps what you call a toy is called a tool by some. It can be a tool to learn from, but a tool becomes a toy when it becomes a distraction.  When was the last time you let a week or even a day go by without logging into, reading about, or hearing someone talking about facebook.  

Perhaps it's because we all have different reasons for using facebook.  For most of us, it is about making and maintaining personal connections with new and long forgotten relationships.  But, just like our face-to-face relationships, we have to learn (or re-learn) why we want to connect or even stay connected.  So, what are some ways we can improve our facebook interpersonal communication skills?

Be transparent
Say (comment, post, share) thoughts you would also say in person.  Since thought is nested in speech (and our written communications), there is nothing wrong with speaking (or writing) what's on your mind.  It's easy to be a social media lurker or hide behind snide comments and smiley faces. But if you are transparent, you will soon learn who your online friends really are. 

Take time to read
If you see a comment from someone that relates to an article, read the article before formulating a response.  Comments and quotes taken out of context demonstrate a desire to share but not necessarily a complete depiction of someone's thoughts or intent.

Take time to write
Don't be a victim of the texting mindset.  Facebook offers you a place to form complete thoughts that aren't limited by characters or time.  Even if you're a lousy speller, use punctuation and capitalization correctly to avoid misinterpretations.

Spam happens
No one likes spam in their inbox, so why would you want it in your facebook feed?  By writing, "Touchdown!" you're assuming one, we're watching the same football game, and, two, that we even care about football.  It's okay to say what you feel on facebook; just make sure the rest of us know what it is you're talking about.

Your wall vs your friend's wall

How would you like it if I showed up to your house for dinner, and, while you were cooking, told you how stupid it was to be cooking the way you were?  It's one thing to voice an opinion on your own wall (and expect that others will disagree), but it's quite another to berate people on their own wall. 

Don't take it personally
Unfriending on facebook is not the end of the world just as friending on facebook doesn't create (or re-create long lost) friendships. I have developed many wonderful, meaningful online relationships with people I've never met. Conversely, I've connected online with people I've met in person and ultimately unfriended them.  

You can't possibly predict how others will react to what you say on facebook. But, if you are transparent and true to yourself in your thoughts and actions, you'll soon learn who your real friends are. 

What interpersonal communication skills have you learned from facebook?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Social Good of Young Innovators

A while back I was attending a professional organization meeting where there were about 60 or so attendees; primarily members and some guests. The chapter leader asked everyone to stand. He then proceeded to ask everyone that had been a chapter member for a year or less to sit; a small portion sat down. He asked for people that had been in three years or less to sit; a slightly larger portion sat down. He proceeded to ask about 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and so forth up to 50 years.

After the 20 year mark there were only a few people standing. These were older folks that had been with the organization for some time, and the chapter leader asked that the chapter commend these folks.  This particular organization has an average member age of 55+ and is diligently working to bring in younger members. And, while I do applaud showing gratitude for so many years of service for one organization and its efforts, I couldn't help but think whether the chapter leader shouldn't have gone the other direction and started at 50 years.

Why are we, as nations and as a world, obsessed with celebrating the past through events and figure heads? Shouldn't we be celebrating the young, our future, with every waking moment?

To quote a brilliant person, and a man my family adores (particularly my son):
“Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.” 
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

I am, by no means, implying that we should discount the tremendous efforts of individuals or specific monumental achievements & events. But I do think we need to spend more time, money, and attention on younger generations. Whatever concepts or actions a previous generation creates, it is inevitably up to younger generations to advance them or even start anew.  This is true for every aspect our lives including our:
  • Personal & familial relationships
  • Business & organizational relationships
  • Communities, Markets, & Industries
  • Global relationships
With each facet of life, we stand on the shoulders of giants and reach ever higher. But we also find new ways to support each other; new ways to grow & evolve that may not include the past. In fact, we may flat out dismiss the past in favor of a better way. This is the nature of innovation. And with technology at the heart, and with the internet in particular, progressive thinkers can connect, engage, & collaborate like never before.  

I say this as a father, an organizational leader, a business person, a global citizen and an advocate for the Social Good. We should embrace young minds in our communities and industries. We should work to create one human voice celebrating the young & the innovative spirit for the Social Good of all.

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.