by Rob Lightbody
I’m casting my net in person as well as online. Knocking on doors. Old School! Here’s my report – I’m hearing frustration in the voices of small business owners here in Michigan regarding the current state of affairs in the world of advertising and marketing. Of course, the old methods aren’t working out so well for them. For many, the new methods might as well be from another galaxy. As I research many local small businesses (and some that are NOT so small), I find that very few are utilizing Google, Bing, and the social networks in any meaningful way. Most have a static website. Some have started a Facebook page or Twitter account, posted once or twice and have apparently walked away. Others don’t have ANY presence except a phone book ad or a map on Facebook (that Facebook generated). I have to say – I find that surprising. Really.
Small business people out there, let’s step back and start from square one.
The three basic goals of any marketing plan are:
- Attract new customers
- Engage previous customers to buy again
- Generate referrals from customers
It’s as simple as that. That’s how we try to make money, whether through an ad in the phonebook, a coupon in the weekly shopper’s mailing, a spot on the local radio station, or any number of other techniques. Where I live, the pizza shops hire guys to walk the neighborhoods and put flyers on everyone’s front door – doesn’t seem like a very effective way to spend the advertising dollar.
Participating in the social Internet is critical today. The three goals outlined above are efficiently met through the careful outlining of your marketing plan – online and off, regardless of the type of business that you operate.
When consumers are looking for products of services to satisfy their needs, the phone book is no longer the first place they will check. . . unless you’re my Mom. Her phone book is six years old. But even my Mom is learning how to Google.
I know, I can’t believe it either, but it’s true. You can bet that if my Mom is heading to the Internet to find a phone number, or a restaurant’s hours of operation, or the nearest place for yoga class, then more savvy people are using the network in many other ways to answer their needs. Folks – Google, Bing, Yahoo – these are your friends. Make sure that they are serving your business in the best way possible. I can help you to make sure that your company appears near the top of the list.
Facebook and Twitter are excellent tools to get you connected to your existing customers. Most of them are already using these services.This is where your community building begins. Search Facebook and Twitter for the names of some of your most enthusiastic customers (you should be gathering their names and email addresses now. List building is important) and ask them to help you put out the news about your awesome new page. You also need to reach out through conventional means to let your people know about your online presence. This can be done by simply putting up some signs in your business, and making sure that your Facebook and Twitter addresses are right there next to your phone number and address on your usual marketing materials. It will take some time to accumulate your base of followers, but as you provide value and content on a regular basis, you’ll be seeing new faces on your pages and then if you play it right, coming through your front door. THAT’s what I’m talking about!
There are other avenues of social networking to explore and exploit that are at least, if not more important than using just Facebook and Twitter. I’ll explain some of those social marketing tools in my next article. Thanks for spending your precious time with me. I hope you can see the value in these methods. If you have any questions or would like to set up a meeting to discuss the best strategy for your particular situation, please jump over to my contact page and shoot me an email or phone call. Thank you, Rob