Importance of Social Media Marketing for Your Small Businesses

Social media marketing has gained popularity among small businesses and they are taking this kind of marketing as one of their important marketing strategies for their businesses. It is a helpful platform from where you can reach thousands of customers in a short time with less efforts. In this post, you will see the importance of social media marketing for your small businesses.

Cost-effective: Social media marketing is a cost-effective marketing strategy for your small businesses. This is because it is free to open your business account in these sites, but where you need to spend a little money for its maintenance is on content, graphic creation, and for further developments. It has the ability to reach thousands or millions of targeted audience within a short time and with a less efforts.

Take a look at the number of the users:

  • Facebook has 1.15 billion users.
  • Active Twitter users are about 200 million.
  • LinkedIn users are about 238 million.

A platform to educate and empower online community: Social media marketing is a powerful tool in educating and empowering your online community. Here what you need to do is – share educational to informational posts as these reveals your brand personality to the community followers.

Direct interaction with customers: Social media marketing is a two-way communication tool, by which, small businesses can engage their customers by conducting polls or surveys or by responding to the queries. By this, the businesses can know about the targeted audiences – what they like/dislike about your products/services, what their needs and wants and so on. Accordingly, you can make necessary adjustments to provide quality customer service. This will build trust customers’ trust. They will feel your business is credible.

Generates leads/sales: Social media marketing plays a critical role in generating leads/sales for your small businesses. According to the report – 2012 State of Inbound Marketing – it has 100% higher leads to close rate than outbound marketing. However, do not get overwhelmed with this feature, because you will not get instant results. Here you need to put consistent efforts in implementing and maintaining the marketing campaign. Over a period of time, you will get the best results.

Social media marketing helps in branding: This is a good platform to build branding. It depends on you in deciding how to position your organization in the minds of the organization. Here what you need to do is – put consistent efforts on creating and posting valuable content over these sites. This will build reputation for your brand.

Business Exposure: Social media marketing is a boon to professional employers who are willing to connect with the other professional in the same industry. This helps in building comprehensive network as well as you can gain referrals.

Social media site usage has grown manifold over the past few years. Therefore, it is an effective platform to promote your business.

The 5 Most Dangerous Marketing Mistakes Made by Small Business – How to Avoid Them

Many of the businesses I’ve worked with, usually have a singular issue that dominates their marketing woes. After a few years of doing this, I’ve figured out the most significant marketing areas that plague the majority of my clients.

An overview of the situation.

U.S. small businesses employ more than half of the private sector work force, produce more than half of private sector output, fill niche markets, innovate, and contribute to the competition in free markets. Small business drives the economy in most if not all of the developed countries in the world.

Small businesses are overrepresented in business turnover; that is, they have relatively high rates of company startups and closures. The life span of the average small business is still three to five years.

Small businesses give individuals the chance to achieve their own versions of the American Dream, and allow entry into employment by individuals and demographic groups who might otherwise be shut out of the labor market.

Small businesses pay a disproportionate amount of the taxes while receiving less than equitable state and federal support than larger businesses in the U.S.. Call me biased, but I think we need to fix that problem in my country.

Because the small business system is based on individual initiative, owners may not start with the right business education and experience. They most often start on a shoestring and do not market themselves adequately in the beginning.

When I tell startups that a good rule of thumb for them to follow is to invest up to 20% of their expected annual revenues in order to jump-start their business, many begin to realize the full implication of what they’re getting themselves into.

The danger signs.

Let’s take a look at the 5 most dangerous business trends to avoid. If you find that you’re currently making some of these errors, admit it, make a note of it and get ready to fix it.

Here are the top 5 reasons for business failure:

1. Incompetence (46%)

2. Unbalanced Experience (30%)

3. Complacency (12%)

4. Lack of Experience (11%)

5. Neglect, fraud, or Disaster. (1%)

It makes sense to avoid the usual pitfalls before working on improving your income. Because the biggest challenge to small businesses today is Incompetence. That does not mean the business owner is stupid, just that they don’t have the proper business education to keep themout of trouble.

Hard on the heels of Incompetence (46%), is Unbalanced Experience (30%), Complacency (12%), followed by Lack of Experience (11%), in the specified field of business, and finally, Neglect, Fraud, or Disaster (1%). These are the leading causes of failure in business today.

These five opponents to your profit margin must be carefully monitored if you want to do more than just make a living in your business.

Incompetence

Let’s start with incompetence. We aren’t saying that people who start businesses are dumb. We mean that they usually start with very little competence in business affairs. They might be experts in their field but not in the complexity of running a business.

The proof of that statement is that 46% of all business failures are caused by a basic misunderstanding about what it takes to run a business.

Take a look at this list and burn it in your memory. These are the leading causes of failure in businesses today. Notice that being stupid is not on that list.

The good news is that incompetence can be beaten out of you with knowledge and experience.

Unbalanced Experience

The second major cause of failure is unbalanced experience. If you just got out of dental school and are extremely talented in your craft, that’s great but if you don’t have a head for business, then you may not be ready to take on that challenge at this time.

Let’s look at a few of the causes of unbalanced experience.

These are usually caused by ad hoc business practices or inconsistent application of policies and procedures.

Complacency

Complacency usually occurs during the mid phase of the business cycle when owners and mangers are doing well but not keeping up with current trends and competitive measures. They are simply coasting. Usually these businesses are doing a marginal job at marketing but relying on their credibility and history for sales.

The entrepreneurial spirit is replaced with lethargy and mediocrity. Competition soon overtakes them and the marketplace makes them obsolete.

Lack of Experience

11% of the people who go into business do not know their market well enough to survive as a viable operation.

Neglect, Fraud, or Disaster

There is that small minority of businesses that suffer from fraud and disaster. A mere 1%.

Bonus Threats – Taxes and Inflation.

Another enemy of business is one that we rarely see coming. If you analyze your income and you’re growing by less than 10% a year, you’re going backward. Real inflation is usually higher than the government estimates. For obvious reasons. They have a vested interest in keeping the numbers slow. Your business has to live in the real world.

Along with inflation you’ll also deal with the various taxes and fees that have to be paid. These don’t seem to go down each year; just the opposite. They all take away from your bottom line.

Let’s look at the odds for a moment. The NFIB estimations are grim at first glance. Remember that the majority of small business owners do not get an education in business before they open their doors.

That is why they wake up one day to realize that they are making little or no money regardless of how much they bring in.

The bigger you are, the easier it is to succeed.

The fewer the employees, the greater your chances of failure! The facts lead to some interesting conclusions. Those businesses that can maintain a large staff tend to have systems in place to give direction and purpose to its employees. That in turn leads to greater income that does not rely on the business owner’s direct input. The business owner is now free to grow the business instead of working in the business.

So you see that the main cause of business failure is redeemable. We can, through proper education and planning, take care of this problem. If you are in trouble financially, you should seek immediate financial counseling. You may be able to get help from your local SCORE program or the SBA in your town.

If you take the time to study the mistakes of others you’ll have a greater chance of success.

Four Common Misconceptions on Social Media Marketing Among Small Business Owners

Marketing through Social media websites like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. is called social media marketing (SMM). It is gaining popularity these days and for many businesses, it has become a part of their marketing strategy. Despite the popularity, there are some misconceptions among small business owners on SMM and for this reason, many of them have not adopted it. In this article, we will discuss four common misconceptions on SMM among small business owners.

Misconception #1: Social media networking is only for teens
Most small business owners have a misconception that Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites are meant for fun and entertainment and mostly used by teenagers only. It is true that when these websites started, initially they were mostly used by teens. But slowly, the scenario changed. People of all age groups are using social media websites today. According to State of Search, users aged 45 to 54 years are the fastest growing segment. 55% of the Internet users in this age group have an account on at least one social media website.

Misconception #2: SMM is easy
Registering on websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. is easy. But, it takes time and effort to maintain profiles and be active. You need to invest time and effort in
• Creating and updating content, videos, graphics, inform developments in industry/products/services, etc.
• Interacting with customers and providing solutions whenever there are queries from customers

Misconception #3: SMM delivers immediate results
Having a good profile in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and posting blogs regularly doesn’t mean you will get immediate results in the form of sales/leads. It may take few months before you see the results. For that, you have to be patient and interested in building relationship with customers by effective SMM campaign. Over time, you will see the results.

Misconception #4: Social media is meant only for marketing
Another misconception in some small business owners on SMM is that it is meant only for marketing products/services. Though broadly the purpose is the same, it is more than just marketing. Social media also helps small businesses in following ways
• Acquire new customer and retain existing customers – It is one of the best methods to reach out large number of target audiences with less efforts and within less time. By posting informational content, you can attract and acquire new customers and by updating the developments in business and products/services, you can keep your existing customers informed. This helps in building relationship with customers.
• Finding hires and partners for your business – Small businesses can also find people to hire for their businesses on social media sites. For example, LinkedIn is ideal for B2B businesses to find candidates and business partners.
• Search engine ranking – It is believed that Google and Bing search engines consider social signals – shares, retweets, G+ posts, etc. while ranking websites. Businesses that are active on social media websites have chances of ranking on search engine result pages.
• Customer service – According to Social Media Today, 53% of small businesses are using SMM as a two-way communication tool to serve their customers. It enables one-to-one dialogue/conversation with the customers. This leads to building customer loyalty and trust with your service.

It is a good time to have the presence on social media websites and leverage the benefits they offer. We suggest you to hire professionals for monitoring and maintaining profiles on these websites as it is not that easy as it looks.

Freelancers and Small Business Owners: What to Look for in a Chamber of Commerce

In a previous article, Why Every Freelance Writer Should Join a Chamber of Commerce, I advised that every freelancer should join a Chamber of Commerce. However, not all chambers are effective.

Here I will outline what every freelancer and/or small business owner should look for before joining.

1. Dedicated Leads Meetings: What are these? Simply put, a time set aside just for passing/getting leads – no hobnobbing, no meet and greet, no speakers – a time just for getting and passing leads.

In my previous article, I outlined how this works, but a quick recap is as follows:

Members are given a specified time (usually 30-45 seconds) to give a short commercial about their product/service. Mine usually goes something like:

My name is Yuwanda Black and I am a freelance copywriter. I write/produce web copy, newsletters, sales letters, brochures and other marketing materials for small business owners. I work quickly and cost-consciously.

Recently, I provided a newly licensed realtor with all the copy for her website in just two days. A good lead for me today is a web designer, printer and/or communications manager.

NOTE: The reason I highlight the word today is that sometimes, as a business owner, you may be targeting a different market. For example, I do a lot of work with realtors and mortgage brokers.

However, I also write resumes. So, the next week, I may target recruiters at staffing agencies. Why? They often need resumes written, rewritten, edited and/or copy edited before they send them to clients.

As this example illustrates, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to say during your presentation – because, as I stated in my last article, people listen peripherally UNTIL they hear something that strikes a chord for them.

After all members have completed their commercial, leads/referrals are then passed (hence, the need to be highly specific in your message).

2. Dedicated Leads Meetings – ON A REGULAR BASIS: One chamber I belong to offers networking events on an irregular basis. In my opinion, this is not effective, for the following reasons:

a) People do business with people they know, like and trust: If you don’t see prospects on a regular basis, there is no chance to build a rapport. So, you never get to build any of these sentiments.

b) No chance to imprint your brand: If you can’t get in front of prospects on a regular basis, there is no chance to imprint what you do on a prospect’s brain. Most people have to meet you 3-4 times before they will remember your name, never mind what you do.

c) No chance to get a pulse of the community: Chambers of Commerce are the local business community – eg, realtors, bankers, web design companies, staffing agencies, physicians, etc.

Via this network, a wealth of information is often gleaned about the local economy – eg, how new zoning laws affect x, which companies are closing, which are expanding, types of industries projected to do well in the next 5, 10 years. It is a readily available research vehicle to learn a ton about what you can do to increase your business’s bottom line.

For all of the above reasons, it is critical to know HOW OFTEN your chamber meets. In my opinion, it should be at least weekly. One of the chambers I belong to has dedicated leads meetings twice a week – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This allows everyone – no matter their schedule – to attend at least one.

3. Responsive Chamber Representative: As a new member, you are likely to be intimidated meeting other members. Even if this is not the case, you may not know anyone.

A good chamber will have a representative who literally takes you by the hand and introduces you to other members. S/he probably won’t introduce you to everyone – but will at least make 2-3 introductions to get you started. It will usually go something like:

“Mary, this is Yuwanda Black. She owns Inkwell Editorial, an editorial services firm in the area. Yuwanda, Mary here has been a chamber member for the last three years. She owns the local print shop. I thought it would be good for you two to get to know each other.”

Usually “Mary” will converse with “Yuwanda” about what she does and will introduce her to a couple of more people. Any savvy business owner can take it from there.

NOTE: It can be intimidating to walk into a room full of people you don’t know and tell them what you do. But, and you will just have to trust me on this – chamber members are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

They are usually hardworking small business owners just like you – and most will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and at ease. AND, once you get a foothold in the organization, most members really do work to give you qualified referrals.

4. Lunch & Learns: Most chambers have enhancement seminars on a variety of topics of interest to small business owners – how to hire the right sales person, how to live a balanced life, the ethics of business, etc.

These are offered free or for a reduced fee to chamber members. Many times, the seminar presenters are chamber members themselves. Why is this important? It’s an excellent chance for you to get your product/service in front of a group of interested prospects.

This also builds your presentation skills – and could ostensibly add another revenue stream to your business. Many times after a seminar I’ve had attendees approach me about doing some type of work for their firm – ie, an in-house seminar, produce a sales letter, an employee manual, etc.

5. Advertising: The final tip I have is that any chamber you join should have some way for you to get the word out about your business via more than just the networking. Eg, via an e-blasted press release, a job posting board, an online member directory, etc.

One of the chambers I belong to offers all of this. It’s usually in some type of limited capacity, eg, no more than one press release per quarter, but is highly effective.

In summary, I was in business for years before I joined a chamber. My thinking was that they were just another organization that wanted a fee and would serve no real benefit. Boy was I wrong!

Building relationships via your local chamber will take some time (remember, prospects have to get to know, like and trust you), but the long-term benefits are beyond immeasurable.