After the webinar: Barry Moltz answers your questions
Thank you so much for attending the latest in our small business webinar series: “How to market your business on a shoestring budget”, featuring Barry Moltz. We hope you found it helpful and left with plenty of tips to help move your business forward.
Sadly, there’s not always enough time during the live webinar to answer all of your questions. So we’ve put your additional questions to Barry and here are his answers.
How do I start a customer referral program?
If customers say they’re happy with your product or service, ask them there and then for a referral. In my speaking contracts, I put, “the cost of this speech is $X plus one referral if you are delighted after my presentation.” And always encourage people to post reviews on social media.
What about a membership program?
I’ve always liked this idea. Offer customers substantial benefits for a minimum amount of money per month—it binds the customer to doing business with your company frequently.
What value can I generate from sharing/posting content from other experts compared to creating original content from my own knowledge?
You should produce at least 50% of the content yourself so customers see you as a resource as well as a curator of good ideas.
Do you think offering a discount to a customer if they refer someone to your company would be a good idea?
I think a thank you note, email or a very small gift is better.
What app/site helps you ask for testimonials automatically? Where should you have testimonials posted? Yelp, LinkedIn Facebook?
You can't expect a client to post on several sites. Instead, you want to provide a platform where they can easily share their feedback—here’s some good advice on how to do this. You can also use tools like Review Trigger.
Sometimes customers have unreasonable expectations and that can result in negative reviews. You want to be as empathetic and understanding as possible. Other customers realize that not everyone will be satisfied, but they want to see if, and how, you respond to concerns when there is a problem—this can be a big factor in whether they decide to do business with you.
What was the marketing tool that worked best for you when you first started out?
For me, the best marketing tools have always been email and social media.
How often do you post on different platforms daily (at a minimum)?
LinkedIn, 1; Twitter, 3; Facebook, 2; Instagram, 1; Pinterest, 1.
Other than yourself, who could we look to for impactful new small business practical advice?
With so many resources available for free on the internet today, it can be hard to find sources you can trust. That’s why Verizon is a great starting point—it brings together the best small business experts to offer you monthly guidance and ideas in its free, informative webinar series.
How do you deal with unsubstantiated negative reviews?
If by unsubstantiated reviews you mean fake ones by people who have never tried your product, then report them to the review site.
Are negative reviews by your competitor legal?
I’m not a lawyer, but I believe they are if they actually tried your product or service.
What platforms are out there that allow me to show my expertise?
Find out where your expertise can be valuable. Search on Google and social media sites where people are having discussions about problems you can help solve.
What was the name of the title generator link?
If you were unable to attend or want to refresh your memory on Barry Moltz’s webinar, “how to market your small business on a shoestring budget”, you can listen to the replay now.
by Karin Aviles, Creative and MarCom lead at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @Karin_MktgSmart
You have a great reputation with your regular customers. But how can you establish a wider customer base and cultivate even greater loyalty from those who already know you? And how can you do that when you have a limited marketing budget?
Organizations, large and small, are building new customer bases using the tools available to them online — many of which are inexpensive or even free. Digital marketing might seem like an obvious path if you’re an online business, but it’s also important for more traditional bricks and mortar or mail-order businesses. And it’s about much more than just building an attractive website. It’s about using all the channels available to you in a way that’s right for your business.
Five tips for improving your online visibility
When you’re trying to determine the right approach, a good place to start is by looking at what other organizations in your field are doing — check out their social media or even sign-up for their email newsletters. But here are some digital marketing pointers to get you started.
Many SMEs aren’t using social media at all to generate new customers and clients — and that means they’re missing a huge opportunity. Today, when people are looking for tips for a great local restaurant or a reliable plumber, they take to the web. For instance, parents often turn to social media or local online groups for recommendations on rainy-day family activities or child-friendly restaurants — if you’re not online and part of that conversation, you could be missing out.
People expect your business to be online. And when they find you, they expect you to interact with them. So if you’re going to get the most from being on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, don’t just post content regularly, ask your followers questions and answer their questions — get social with them and extend your reach. And be ready to reply to the negative comments as well as the good. Think of that 1-star TripAdvisor review for the hotel you were thinking of staying at. It really put you off until you saw the owner’s response, which put the complaint into context.
Great digital marketing requires great content. A well-written post, blog or even an email can help drive potential customers to your site. If someone’s in the market for a new stereo, your online review of the latest models could send them your way. Your point of view on current market conditions could help develop their trust in you as a financial adviser. Your regular emails mean your dealership is in their mind when they come to upgrade their car. And of course, sending emails means you need addresses to send them to. A customer email list is critical to your digital marketing strategy and could be key to a wave of new business.
Be eye catching
Engaging people isn’t just about the quality of your writing. Paying a little bit of money to promote your post on Facebook, for example, can help you expand your reach and communicate with more potential customers.
And remember, pictures tell a thousand words. Rather than writing detailed customer case studies, some organizations are telling their stories with photographs on Instagram. If you want your post to stand out, accompany it with a graphic.
You should also consider the use of video. Improved mobile connectivity means that people are increasingly consuming short video content. And you don’t need a studio to shoot one — you can record an HD video from your smartphone. So instead of writing how-to guides or product reviews, why not produce videos instead. Many guitar shops are doing just that to promote the latest kit. And the best bit is that Facebook now prioritizes video content above posts with just images or text, so you’d be nearer the top of people’s feeds.
If you want to keep people engaged, you need to post regularly. But don’t overdo it. Providing a regular flow of helpful and insightful content will have more impact than overloading people with banal comments. They’re likely to switch off if all they ever see in their social feeds are posts from you.
Ideally, you’d know exactly when someone was planning to buy a new waffle maker or to book their next holiday. While mind reading is impossible, there are solutions that can analyze data such as customer behavior and purchase patterns to trigger notifications at the best possible time. They also enable greater personalization of content.
You’re using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But where are you sending your customers? What’s the state of your website? You don’t necessarily need an e-commerce solution. Your website might be informative and drive enquiries your way. And you don’t need all the bells and whistles — your site just needs to be easy to use and navigate. But what you do need is to be mobile friendly. Your new potential customer could be checking you out on their smartphone, and they’re going to lose interest pretty quickly if your site is difficult to use on a small screen.
You could grow from local to global
Don’t expect to see immediate returns from your efforts. Even the largest enterprises struggle to link downloads of their latest white papers to sales. But use the tools available to you and digital marketing could help you improve the visibility of your business and boost your customer base. That could even see you grow from a local business to a global one.
QR codes have been around for quite some time. In case you didn’t know, QR stands for “quick response.” The QR code looks like a barcode that you can scan using a smartphone equipped with a camera and some QR code-scanning software (I’m using the app called QR Droid on my Android (Bionic) smartphone).
QR codes have been around since the 1990s but are just now becoming popular, spurred on by the growing proliferation of smartphones. When you scan a QR code that you find on a product, a brochure, a shop window, a billboard or other place, you are automatically connected to a web page that gives you more information. The information ranges from discounts, to product specs, invitations to events, exclusive content and more.
Recently a number of stories came out about the wonders of the QR code.
The New York Times ran an in-depth feature about the different uses that businesses, individuals and organizations have made of QR codes. From Fashion Week promotions to department store makeup demonstrations, charitable donation solicitations and museum displays, QR codes are connecting people with information quickly and easily, wherever they are. According to the Times, they’re even being used in place of business cards or bar napkins by people who want to make business … or personal … connections.
Blogger Maegan Carberry at Mashable speculated that QR codes could become integral parts of presidential candidates’ 2012 campaigns in the same way President Obama leveraged You Tube, Facebook and Twitter in 2008. The Deseret News reveals how QR codes are even being used on tombstones to link mourners to web sites with videos, photos and other records that document and celebrate a person’s life.
Earlier this year Fast Company offered 13 creative ways to use QR codes for marketing.
Check out the QR code I just made, there are many websites that will allow you to make one for free.
Does your business use QR codes? If yes, please share how you are using it to drive sales or to engage with your customers.
Check out this QR code below to get a free Amex gift card, supplies limited.
As always, these days, there’s mixed news about the economy and what’s happening on Main Street. There are reports and more reports but at the end of any day, it’s what worked for you this week. Yesterday I was on a TweetUp, aka Twitter Chat sponsored by FedEx that asked 10 questions about what you can do to better market your business – it featured Small Business Trends publisher and business consultant Anita Campbell.
The comments from small businesses and the recommendations on the chat are worth reading – learn how to market on a shoestring and more – just go to Twitter and enter the hashtag #fedexsmallbiz in the search field and catch the conversation. Speaking of Twitter, check out these 5 facts about Twitter followers and how they interact with brands and businesses.
We’ve often heard it said that content is king and – not to harp – but it is definitely that in marketing these days. B2B marketing, in particular is being driven by this. Why? Because that’s what businesses are looking for from one another – original content that can help them!
One of the best ways that you can up your marketing game is with a powerful tool that could get you better results than a Groupon deal – a mobile app. Believe it or not, developers are all over the mobile app market and your upfront costs are minimal.
Finally, this week, be sure to check out this video trailer on security – we’ll be posting more shortly on security measures you need to take to keep your business secure while it gets growing!
On July 13 at 2:00pm Eastern time, join me for a free one-hour webinar presented by the Verizon Small Business Center. The topic is marketing on a shoestring budget.
When I first started my business some years ago, like many of you, I started from scratch, with no clients and no revenue. During the time it took me to develop a clientele and start bringing money in the door (almost 6 months to see significant revenue), I had to market my business, of course. At first I used my savings. It can be discouraging, even frightening, to see your bank balance dwindling every month, with little coming in.
Out of necessity, I had to get good at marketing by spending very little or nothing. It’s times like those that tax you to be creative. You realize that elbow grease, knowledge and creative ideas can go a long way to fill in the gaps in your marketing budget.
Luckily the business grew. But for years afterward – even up to the present time – we have continued with our frugal marketing. Deeply ingrained habits die hard. Besides, I get a real charge out of seeing how much we can do and the new things we can try, that don’t involve spending a lot of money. Marketing on a shoestring has become a challenge my team and I enjoy – and a way of doing business. Later I started teaching a class at the local university on marketing on a shoestring, to share my knowledge.
The techniques we learned out of necessity to grow Small Business Trendsare the same kinds of techniques I will be sharing with you in tomorrow’s webinar.
Marketing is a wide topic. To narrow it down, we’re going to focus 80% on three key areas: online marketing; referrals; and public relations. Why these three specific areas? Because they are the lowest-cost forms of marketing, with the highest return on the dollar, for the majority of small businesses.
We will also spend a bit of time on how to hire and manage outside marketing agencies and service providers to help you with your marketing – and still stick within a budget. We will also touch on other areas briefly, such as tradeshows, direct marketing, offline advertising and other forms of marketing.
At the end, I am going to allow 15 minutes for your questions. So if you want to know the return on investment (ROI) for a certain marketing technique, or have detailed questions about the cheapest way to do something, bring them on! My brain will be there to be picked. It is my hope that you will leave the session with at least a couple of ideas and resources to market frugally.
As some of you know, I’ve done about ten webinars for the Verizon Small Business Center (and loved every one of them!). This time we’re using a new (to Verizon) webinar platform, BrightTALK. Be sure to allow a few extra minutes to register ahead of time if you’ve never used BrightTALK before. And of course, the session will be archived if you can’t make it live. With BrightTALK, my webinar will be available for replay in a matter of minutes!
Feel free to post your questions here too (below). And for those who are Tweeting, please use #vzsmb if you’ll “tweet” during my webinar .
Guest blog post by Phil Simon, author of “The New Small”. Phil is a recognized technology expert, he consults with companies on how to optimize their use of technology. His contributions have been featured on The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, ZDNet, abcnews.com, forbes.com, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites.
Customer Service: Learning from Amazon
Back in the mid-1990s, customer service was very different than it is today. I should know because I was there. You see, I used to work in customer service for a large consumer products company. Angry folks called 1-800 numbers, told friend, and wrote letters. If the mid-1990s seem like a much simpler time, you're right. You could build a call center and hire people to read letters.
Well, that time isn't returning anytime soon. Welcome to 2011. Those simple days seem quaint in comparison to the bevy of tools at customers' disposal today. Today, in additional to old standbys, customers can share their grievances on myriad forums: Facebook; Yelp; Blogs; Phone; Email; Twitter; and many other emerging websites and platforms.
This begs the question: Where should small businesses be monitoring conversations about their companies?
The answer: Everywhere.
Consider Twitter http://www.Twitter.com, for example. Now, no one is claiming that Twitter ought to be the primary means for a company to deal with its customers for a bunch of reasons. First, not everyone is on Twitter. Second, that aside for a moment, a direct message of no more than 140 characters is probably too restrictive to resolve an even moderately complex customer issue. Finally, it’s so easy to retweet that companies would (probably justifiably) fear making certain responses public–at least so easily.
On the other hand, why not have that club in the bag? Use it when needed. This would be like my rarely-used three iron on the golf course. I don’t use it often, but when I need it, I’m sure glad that I have it. (Yes, I am an avid--if relatively poor--golfer.)
Effective Customer Service: A Matter of Priorities, Not Technology
I don’t buy into the notion that small businesses cannot provide state-of-the-art customer service. That's bunk. It all begins with small businesses recognizing the cardinal importance of customer service. That is, it is a matter of priorities and will. There’s no business or technology limitation to being able to take care of the people who take care of you.
Once you've done that. Get serious. Consider sites like FiveAnHour (http://www.FiveAnHour.com) that provide an inexpensive means for companies to outsource parts of their customer service. Use Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). Follow mentions of your company on Twitter.
On one of my favorite episodes of the Charlie Rose Show (www.charlierose.com), features Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who talked about the company’s relentless focus on the customer from day one. During the dot-com boom, many Amazon detractors derided it as a “cute little company.” Experts believed that, once heavyweights like Wal-Mart embraced e-commerce, they would crush the Amazons of the world. Bezos laughs now about the “Amazon.toast” (http://www.internet-story.com/amazon.htm) references from the mid-1990s.
Who's laughing now?
Reports of Amazon’s demise were premature. Today, to say that the company merely pleases its customers is a vast understatement. Companies of all sizes can learn a great deal from Amazon.
Look, when a company of any size makes a customer service error, the aggrieved customer is going to tell people about it. Lots of people. No company can control everything that its customers say or do after that point. This is a far cry, though, from claiming that businesses are helpless against constant streams of negative feedback via tweets, emails, blog posts, discussion boards, and the like. Embrace technology.
What say you?
To learn how embracing technology can help your business, read my book. The first 50 to send an email to email@example.com will get a copy of The New Small, which will showcase a handful of small businesses and how they are harnessing the power of emerging technology for their business.
Today's guest blog post is from John Jantsch of Ducttape Marketing. He joins the Verizon Small Business
Webinar Series tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET with his presentation, "A Marketing Driven Culture." Below is a brief synopsis of what he'll cover in more detail.
Any good marketing strategy requires people to pull it off and in the case of a deeply embedded and purpose filled approach, strategy becomes culture. The marketing strategy is delivered to and through the staff to the ultimate delight and inspiration of the customer.
In fact, I've said it many times; your staff is likely delivering the same experience to your customers as they are receiving from you. You can make all the grand plans you like about delivering an entertaining, inspiring, simple, surprising or mission filled marketing strategy, but you won't make it happen unless it comes from within - at the hands of fun, inspired, motivated, surprised and connected employees.
To that end, it starts with a culture filled marketing strategy.
I'm going to talk about this idea if great detail as part of the Verizon Small Business Series Wednesday June 8th at 2pm ET - you can Register here
I believe there is an intentional path to installing a culture that breeds a stronger marketing strategy and, while I don't believe it's as simple as saying it's so, it starts with series of purposeful practices explored and expanded in ways that serve.
For now, you'll have to join me for the free online seminar to hear more about this topic, but below are the points we'll explore.
- The epic story
- Hire for fit
- Staff as customer
- Value creation
- Fail in favor
- Results review
- Touch point maps
- Cross function
- Marketing classroom
- Strategy scorecard
The first week of the month always brings news about jobs created and unemployment levels. It appears that May was a weak month for both and the NFIB says that small business hiring stalled. Perhaps the good news is that only 8% of small businesses plan to reduce their workforce.
We talk about small business financing and loans here on the Small Biz Blog and there is, potentially, a silver lining. According to the Thomson Reuters/Paynet small business lending index, small business borrowing surged in April.
But it isn’t always sweetness and light when it comes to borrowing. A 110-year-old bike shop in Princeton, N.J. is probably not atypical of what any small business faces when getting a loan for operating capital. Small business entrepreneurs are realists and keeping their doors open is a good sign for the economy.
Staying in the game and moving forward requires small business owners to keep asking themselves many of the same questions they would when starting up – What kind of business do I want to be in? Where can I get capital? How do I put social media to use? What do I need to do to incorporate (or take my business to another organizational level)?
Keep asking those questions and stay focused on your customer – success is a series of small steps that can turn into a giant leap forward!
Let us know what your successes are.