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.
This post is from members of Verizon’s small business team.
Whether it’s your friends sharing pictures on Facebook or watching that new viral hit on YouTube, it seems like you can’t go a day without hearing about some sort of social media. As a small business owner, you probably wonder how you can utilize these sites to improve your business. Fortunately, Twitter has become an extremely beneficial tool for small business owners. Businesses like The Coffee Groundz in Houston saw their sales double after three months of strong user engagement on Twitter. Even with all the potential benefits, as of last November only 10% of small businesses have made the micro-blogging platform a part of their social media marketing strategy. So if you follow these tips, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.
Find New Customers
As this article from Search Engine Land recommends, using Twitter’s search bar can help you locate potential customers.
The key is in knowing what to search for. Let’s say you own a Thai restaurant in Seattle and you’re looking for some hungry people. You could type in words like “hungry,” “starving” or “lunch” but the results are likely to be completely unrelated. You’re much more likely to get better search results if you type in phrases like “anyone know.”
People use this phrase all the time to get their fellow Twitter users’ opinions. Now if you make that search something more like “‘anyone know’ Thai Seattle,” you’re much more likely to pull up a tweet that says “Anyone know any good Thai restaurants in Seattle?” That’s your opportunity for engagement and let them know you exist with a friendly tweet. Then you can start a conversation and let them know where you are and maybe offer a discount to entice them to stop by.
If you want to go even more in depth, you can use Twitter’s Advanced Search. This search tool enables you to get extremely specific, allowing you to pick what phrasing to include and/or eliminate the location of the tweets, and even their sentiment (i.e. negative or positive).
Improve Customer Relations
Twitter is a fantastic forum for managing relationships with your customers. These days, customers expect a response almost immediately, but if you’re a small business owner, you probably can’t afford to have people manage the phone lines 24/7. You might not even need to. It might just be an infrequent request or complaint after hours. But you don’t want to wait to address it until you’re back at the office. That just gives them more time to complain about you to their friends.
Twitter is always on (apart from instances where the fail whale pops up, but those are getting more and more rare) and you can access it anywhere you have an Internet connection. Respond in a quick and friendly manner and you might turn complaints into praise.
Tell People Where You Are and Who You Are
Having a mobile business has its own set of challenges and for food trucks everywhere, Twitter is just as essential as the tasty treats they serve up. In fact, last summer, Mashable posted an article about 16 Different Food Trucks using Twitter. Not only are they able to let all of their followers know where they are at any given time, they can also tell them about specials and new items on the menu. The freedom of Twitter also allows you to add some personality, which makes following your business – you – a much more enjoyable experience too!
So, there you have it. Not as scary or difficult as you may have thought. Remember, this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other ways to use Twitter to grow your small business. The key is to be friendly, persistent and creative. The biggest pitfall novice social media users fall into is when it doesn’t work for them immediately, they throw up their hands and quit. Don’t give up! Use these methods and stick with it and Twitter can be an excellent complement to your existing marketing strategy.
For more tips go to our free on-demand library of webinars presented by the Verizon Small Business Center. John Jantsch, small business owner, marketing consultant and expert offered some great tips to search for potential customers on Twitter, click here (http://bit.ly/KbPdfX) to see this webinar.
Now go to Twitter and follow us http://www.twitter.com/VZSmallBiz) then tell us if this article was helpful.
Stocks were down, then up, then down again this week, but your small business doesn’t have to run with the same yo-yo effect. Read on to learn how to make the most of these turbulent times with this roundup from the Web:
- How 3 Entrepreneurs Used Failure To Successfully Launch New Businesses
- Do Online Social Networks Make Us Better Social Beings?
- The Upside of Economic Constraints
- How Checklists Can Save Lives -- & Your Business
Are you in LA-LA Land?
If you’re in the Los Angeles, California area this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the LA Convention Center for the West Coast Expo (today through Sunday). The exposition and trade show is for small, medium, and large businesses with goods, products, and services to market on the West Coast.
Author Series Wrap-Up
For tips on how to join our LIVE Twitter chats, check out this past post or check out this short video tutorial (just go about 59 minutes into this webcast). Of course, don’t hesitate to post your questions below.
This week's articles are compiled by Ryan Morris, social media manager for Verizon.
Have a great weekend!
I had a wonderful experience yesterday at the events taking place in Washington D.C. during National Small Business Week. The Social Media Forum: Get Your Business Connected offered great tips to the many small – and medium-sized businesses in the audience. I even learned about a few businesses using very creative and low-cost tactics to market their business and creating that buzz -- that everyone wants -- online. Bottom-line, you have to have great content. I (@VZSmallBiz) tweeted insights during the forum as did many just search in Twitter for #sbw2011 to read all about it.
My colleague, Terrie Howard, Verizon’s small business marketing manager, and I met the very lovely Rieva Lesonsky, president and founder of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. Rieva was also one of the speakers at the Social Media Forum. Terrie and I asked Rieva to share some highlights from the forum – see the video below. I won’t say, ‘I told you so,’ but do consider reading this previous post if your business still does not have a website.
As always, let us know how you like our content.
It’s the last Friday in March – I can’t believe April is around the corner! What have you done for your business in the first quarter of the year? Made any changes? Improvements? Cut cost? Increased productivity? Did you get your business more exposure? If you need some ideas, do check out the free webinars presented by the Verizon Small Business Center. There’s a large collection of topics that have been covered by industry experts like Anita Campbell, John Jantsch, Henry Blodget and Scott Belsky – to name drop a few – that may help grow your business.
Could your business use Foursquare to attract customers? Read what these businesses are doing and see if it’ll work for your business too.
If you have a business partner and all is not going well… it may be time to find a new partner.
Is your business incorporated or are you looking to form a LLC? Check out this video about a business helping small businesses.
This study shows that getting credit will remain a hurdle for prospective and existing franchisees; however the U.S. franchising industry is still poised for growth this year.
And this just in… the U.S. economy grew more quickly than previous estimated in the fourth quarter.
Do share stories that have captured your interest below or let me know how you like the new logo for the Weekly Roundup. Have a wonderful weekend!
- Everyone's Tags:
- small business cost social media
Guest blog post from John Jantsch, a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.
How to Build a Social Media Conversion System
The names, technologies, and tools of the Social Media world may seem foreign to some, but the fundamentals behind them are the same as every day marketing systems.
Marketing is about building trust through engagement. The trick is to create value or reason so when someone encounters your business, they want to know more. Social media can be a time drain if gone about in the wrong way, just like any type of marketing.
In this Wednesday’s webinar I will cover the following steps on how to create your own small business social media conversion system; so, instead of wasting time, you will create a valuable lead generation and conversation platform.
Put out strategic content
Produce quality content and dispersing the information on Facebook, YouTube, Slideshare, Flicker or other social communities is the first step.
Landing pages for all choices
Build unique landing pages for each community. Create a page for your Twitter call to action, your Facebook call to action, your LinkedIn call to action and so on.
Messages must match
Personalize your landing pages so they match some element on how the visitor arrived there.
Create a ‘get to know more’ call to action
The main point of your landing page is to offer more information to your reader. For example, offer more information in exchange for an email address or simply get them to follow you on Twitter
There are many reasons why someone click on a link or fills out a form. You must test elements such as headlines, video use and call to action button to see where you can improve conversion.
Make sharing easy
Make sure people are able to tweet that they received valuable information from your landing page or they “Like” your page.
Learn how to make your CRM more social so that can create customized follow up based on a prospect’s social habits.
Setting up this system may take a bit of time but once the initial work is completed, it will allow you to create both an inbound and outbound lead generation and conversation platform. Join us this Wednesday at Verizon’s live webinar to learn how this conversion system can work for your own small business. If you haven’t registered, click here (http://bit.ly/gZxp9R).
- Everyone's Tags:
- social media new leads new business
- Who isn’t interested in free business tools? Steve Strauss on AOL Small Business has four ways you can use Google to help your business… at no cost.
- Over at Biznik, Morton Patterson outlines Seven Tips for Developing an Effective Team and provides three action exercises to get you started.
- Sarah Needleman at the Wall Street Journal looks at balancing the benefits of partnership with the allure of independence.
- After tackling social media last week, this week, Small Business Trends takes a look at common SEO mistakes and how to recover from them.
- ReadWriteWeb has the scoop on upcoming “must-attend” small business tech conferences across the country.
- Are you focused or frenzied? Carol Tice at Entreprenur.com explains why aggressive streamlining could be the right approach.
It’s Friday! Here are some articles I found this week that I think you may find of interest. Feel free to leave a comment or suggest an article you’ve read that’ll be of interest to other small businesses. Happy reading!
- While many feel the economy is getting better, the fact is that more work is still needed. Entrepreneur’s Carol Tice details a new study capturing bankruptcy rates in cities across the country.
- We continue to hear about the influence social media sites have on small businesses. As an owner, Yelp is one that carries a good deal of influence and AOL’s Small Business Julia Rodgers provides five things you must know about the site.
- We all work hard, but there must be some time factored in for your personal lives! Biznik’s Stacy Karacostas offers ten simple rules to help you unchain yourself from your business.
- Are you aware of the 404 error page? If you are or are not, ReadWriteWeb’s John Paul Titlow provides some great insight on what this is and why it should matter to the small business owner.
- Small Business Trends’ Wendy Lowe compiled ten tips to factor into your email campaigns. Great ideas here!