Why a Mentor is vital for New Start Ups

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As a new business start-up you’ve clearly demonstrated that you have entrepreneurial spirit and have the desire to go it alone in the world of business. STOP!

You’re making a critical error if you think you can do everything by yourself – you need support. This doesn’t make you weak or inadequate – it makes you sensible and practical.

Sensible and practical, yawn. Yes it sounds boring but you need to build solid foundations of your business otherwise you’ll experience catastrophic problems further down the line.

ISOLATION

New small business start-ups cite suffering from isolation as one of the main negatives of starting their own business. Late nights, long weekends and working alone will all start to take their toll if you don’t surround yourself with some form of support – both business and personal support.

You’re alone only if you choose to be so.

GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT

It’s empowering not to have a boss and to make all your business decisions autonomously – but are you making the right decisions? Don’t wait to learn from your own mistakes – it might be too late for your business.

Firstly admit to yourself that you need external support – a fresh set of eyes and way of thinking will highlight strengths and weaknesses you won’t be able to identify by yourself.

Scottish Institute for Enterprise and Business Gateway will offer you a mentor to guide you through the early stages of your business – but their support is fairly limited.

MY MENTOR

I’ve been lucky enough to have a business/personal mentor who has supported me from my transition from University into the scary and exciting world of running my own business.

Gordon Cairns has been a rock to me and my business in my early start-up stages who has prevented me from making many mistakes that I would otherwise have made blindly if I didn’t have his support to help guide me.

Most importantly Gordon is an excellent listener – a trait that all mentors should possess – but not all do. By simply listening to my ambitions and problems, Gordon has helped me to make difficult decisions – easily.

I owe much of my personal development to Gordon who provided me with practical advice which has benefited my business and me personally.

As part of the Employer mentoring scheme from Napier University, Gordon was only supposed to meet me 3 or 4 times – we’ve met at least double that and have maintained weekly email and phone communications. He’s put me in touch with lots of excellent contacts and even had his own family members phoning me with support to help give me an insight into the world of Marketing.

Gordon Cairns thank you for all your support, wisdom and guidance – it’s helped someone who really needed it at a critical time of their career. A murky future now seems a whole lot clearer 🙂

The Versatility of Social Media

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Social Media can be incorporated into a variety of different business functions – in fact it’s versatile enough to be used as a tool across ALL business functions.

Social Media can be used as a Tool for:

• Customer Service
• Market Research
• Networking
• HR
• Target Marketing
• Selling

Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Customers like to ask questions on Social Media about your company products, opening hours and even to complain. Their questions and complaints are public and this may scare some businesses – the key is to deal with all customer service issues promptly.

Turn any negative feedback into positive by resolving issues swiftly and demonstrating your ability to make improvements to your company. As a small business you have the advantage over larger competitors who struggle to deal with individual issues.

Social Media as a Market Research Tool

Ask questions and run polls on Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google + are all good platforms to gather market research. If you want to know what your customer wants – ask them and use Social Media as a tool to gather important statistics and opinions.

Ask your followers on Social Media their opinions on new products/services to meet their tastes and preferences. Involve your customers at R&D stages in a process called CO-CREATION.

Social Media as a Networking Tool

Use Social Media to network with peers and industry leaders to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your field.

Connect with people on Social Media before meeting them, I find this helps to break the ice a little as you know a little about the person before meeting them.

Network internationally too, you’ll enrich your own learning experience by understanding a variety of views, experiences and opinions from a variety of cultures and people.

Social Media as an HR Tool

Do your homework on Social Media to analyse potential employees – their Social Media profiles and activities often reveal more in depth information about people than a simple CV.

Create closed groups for your employees and use Social Media as a tool for internal communications. Gather feedback from your staff on new products/services and listen to their opinions on the strengths & weaknesses of your business.

Social Media as a Targeting Tool

Identify prospects and customers using the variety of search functions on each Social Media Platform. In particular the search bar on Facebook can be used to identify and target potential customers based on a wide range of variables.

Target people and companies based on your existing customer base.

Target based on Location, Demographics and Lifestyles.

Social Media as a Sales Tool

Selling is the primary objective of any business but on Social Media it should be the last in a series of stages. Always remember that people are on SOCIAL media for SOCIAL reasons and this should be respected.

Post new products/services, special offers and discounts on Social Media but limit this to around 20% of your overall posts. Try to understand the demographics of the users on each Social Media platform and tailor your messages to suit each audience.

Have I missed out any business functions? How do you use Social Media?

Which Social Media Platform do I choose?

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A good place to start is to ask your prospects and customers what Social Media platform they use – but this won’t always give you the exact answer you’re looking for.

Often conducting market research provides a low level of response so you should learn a little about some of the most popular Social Media platform available so you can make an informed choice.

We’ll explore 5 main features of 5 main Social Media Platforms to help you make those informed decisions on what Social Media platform your company should use.

Facebook

1) Over 1 Billion Users

The most widely used Social Media Platform in the world

2) Fastest Growing Demographic 55-64 Age Group

Teen Market using Facebook less than previously

3) Build a Business Page Separate from your Personal Profile

Recommended to set up a personal profile and NOT a Business only page

4) Excellent Targeted Advertising features

Good for local small business targeting local consumers
Aim for likes & turn them into regular followers
Use the Insights Feature to measure the demographics of people who like and share your posts

5) Suggested methods of Marketing = Competitions, Events & of course Relationship Building

Twitter

1) Over 500 Million Users

2) Micro-Blogging site Using only 140 Characters to Communicate your message

This helps businesses be more concise in how they Communicate on Twitter
Short bursts of information are ideal for Time-starved consumers
Your message has around 10 seconds to make an impact on readers

3) Excellent Customer Service Tool

Respond in real-time – Consumers expect a quick response
Respond quickly to negative comments – turn into a positive

4) Post Regularly

Several times a day
Establish optimum times of the day to post – Morning, Afternoon or Evening

5) Target Customers & Connect with Industry Peers

Follow & be Followed
Share & Be Shared – Share posts from other people/companies
Target customers based on location, industry & interests

LinkedIn

1) 225 Million Users

2) Ideal B2B Platform

LinkedIn provides a Transparency to your small business & personal skills, specialities, credibility & experience – Individual & Company Profile
Excellent Platform for Networking with Peers & Prospects
A must for any Small Business operating in the B2B Market

3) Join LinkedIn Groups

Estimated 1.5 Million LinkedIn Groups
Permitted to join up to 50 Groups
Recommended to join no more than 20-30 initially to ensure you’re contributing to those groups
Adhere to Group Rules

4) A Business Page is required for Paid Marketing

Target B2B Market
Small Businesses may experience a relatively low Volume of Clicks but the Conversion Rate will be Higher

5) The 3 C’s of LinkedIn

*Community
Treat each Group like small Communities
You’re simply one person who’s part of a wider community with shared interests

*Contribute
Distribute your Small Business Blog – Make sure the Content is Relevant to the Group & Discussion
Share external articles from News & Information sources – Share & Be Shared

*Comment
Answer Questions from your fellow Professionals, Customers & Prospects
Ask Questions – Utilise LinkedIn to Conduct Market Research
Finish your Group Posts with a Question to encourage others to Comment

Pinterest

1) 70 Million Users Worldwide

2) 75% Female Demographic

Highest Percentage of Users access Pinterest from people using Tablets & in particular the iPad
Women use Pinterest to get ideas & inspiration
Men use Pinterest when they Plan to Buy

3) Ideal Platform Creative Industries:

Most popular Pins shared are Recipes
Use Images, Graphics & Infographics
Pinterest is like Online Window Shopping

4) Easy to Use – Pin It Button

Pin It Desktop Button to Share Interesting finds from the Internet
Pin It Button on your Company Blogs & Website – Make it easy for people to share your Pins

5) Create Pinterest Boards

Showcase your products
Create Boards based on the Specialist Areas of your Small Business
Other People will follow your Boards

Google +

1) 500 Million Users Worldwide

You need a Google Account (Gmail) to have a Google+ Account
Google + can be used in a Personal Context or Business

2) Links to other Google Products

SEO Benefits
Google Adwords
Good for Content Marketing

3) Google Circles & Hangouts

*Google + Circles
Share Content with Selected Individuals
Be alerted and have people in your Circles alerted when you post any fresh content
Be as Broad or as Narrow as you wish

*Google + Hangouts
Voice & Video Chat
Host Live Webinars
Hang out with friends & colleagues in a Group Setting – Have a Group Discussion

4) Join Google+ Communities

Similar to Groups on LinkedIn
Join Google + Communities relevant to your Target Market
Join Google + Communities Relevant to your Industry

5) Plus Ones +1’s

Similar to Likes on Facebook
Quick & Easy way for people to share your posts

Check out your competitors and see what Social Media platforms they use which will also help to establish the platforms used by your customer-base.

What Social Media platforms do you use and why?

10 Steps to Social Media Sales Success

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Can Social Media Marketing lead to Sales? – YES!

Unlike traditional/online advertising where an immediate sale is sought, Social Media Marketing requires the commitment of time and the ability to nurture relationships with individuals.

Social Media can be used like a “sales funnel” to help guide prospects from initial contact to the end sale by following these 10 simple steps:

1) Identify

Build up a list of potential targets by using the search functions in the various Social Media platforms. Target people based on their location, age and interests to help build an audience of relevant and interested followers.

2) Post

Refrain from posting only sales-orientated content by sharing blogs and articles from external sources that provide rich content which adds value in some way to your audience – Give them something for free – Interesting, Relevant & Engaging Content.

3) Like/Follow

Follow & be followed. If you’ve implemented steps 1&2 correctly then people will follow you because you’re relevant to their needs & interests. Once prospects have liked or are following your company you’ve got them – Don’t let them go!

4) Ask Questions

If your company is able to solve problems experienced by your audience then you have a higher chance of converting the sale by satisfying their needs & demands.

Ask your audience questions – ask them what problems they experience, what they like/dislike about certain products/services. How do you know what your customers want if you don’t ask them?

5) Engage

This is where the magic of Social Media happens – 2 parties engaging and being social. Ensure that any communications are 2-way – people are tired of 1-way Marketing communications. Keep asking questions and seek clarity where customers have sought answers from you. Be friendly, approachable & social.

6) Offer

You’ve engaged with your customer, established what their needs are and overcame their uncertainties – Now it’s time to introduce your own products/services.

Never make an offer generic, make your offer relevant and personal and make the customer feel like you understand them and their needs.

7) Signpost

To facilitate the sale it is recommended to lead the customer away from the Social Media platform and to your main company website. On your website you’re in more control and can start to signpost your customer towards their preferred sales channel – Do they want to buy online, by telephone or in your shop? Signpost customers to the sales channel of their preference.

8) Enquiry

You’ve made a relevant offer to the customer, lead them to your website – but they won’t buy just yet.

The customer will want to know more information about your products/services – How much does this cost? Does the offer fit my exact needs?

9) Inform

One of the most common reasons for failing to convert an enquiry into a sale is the customer has doubts or unanswered questions.

You know this individual so tell them the benefits of your products/services according to their needs. Don’t tell them about the wonderful features or technical aspects – tell them how your offer can BENEFIT them.

10) Convert – SALE!

So many people are scared to sell, you don’t want to be seen as pushy – but all you need to do is ask for the sale.

Do you want to buy 1 egg or 2?

That’s £500 in total – Do you want to go ahead?

Simple questions – Just ask.

If the customer doesn’t commit then return to step 9 and overcome their objections.

And there you have it 10 simple steps to Social Media Sales Success.

What problems has your business encountered when trying to sell on Social Media?

7 Key Elements in a Social Media Strategy

SocialMedia Strategy

Social Media is a fantastic Marketing & Communications tool for business but the truth is – Social Media won’t work for your Small Business unless you have a strategy.

Many Small Businesses set up Social Media accounts, send sales-related posts and expect the magic to happen. Fumbling in the dark isn’t a good strategy so here’s a guide on the 7 most important strategic elements in Social Media:

1) Be Social – The Golden Rule

People communicate on Social Media for one simple reason – to be social with their friends and family. Make Social Media a 2-way communication channel and engage in conversation – if you apply the golden rule of being social then building credibility & trust will follow.

2) Set SMART Objectives & Measure Results

As with any strategy setting objectives is the 1st place to start, set objectives using the SMART framework:

SPECIFIC MEASURABLE ACHIEVABLE REALISTIC TIMEBOUND

Setting Objectives is the easy part – achieving them is the real challenge.

Measure ROI – But consider other factors such as engagement, virility, credibility, trust and long-term added value which are all difficult to measure in a monetary context.

3) Build 1:2:1 Long-Term Relationships

Small Businesses have the potential to compete with larger rivals if you focus on this element of your Social Media Strategy. Give customers the focus and attention that larger rivals will struggle to replicate such a bond.

Converting a Social Media prospect into a sale takes time to come to fruition, so if you’re looking for a quick fix – Social Media isn’t for you.

4) Dedicate Time

Sorry, but there’s no avoiding this – You MUST dedicate time to Social Media to make it a successful strategy. Checking your accounts for 10 minutes in the morning & evening is enough to maintain your Social Media presence only at a very basic level. You really need a minimum of 1-2 hours a day and more if possible.

Get your employees involved in your Social Media strategy and if you can’t dedicate the time then outsource and get outside professional help.

Jenn Herman wrote an excellent article on this very topic, check it out at – The Cold Hard Truth: Social Media Takes Time

5) Match the Platform to your Target Market

Who are your customers? What is their typical age, location, interests and habits?

Ask your prospects and customers what Social Media channels they use then establish a presence on the channels most likely to be used by your target market.

6) Share and be Shared

If you want other people and companies to share your posts then you must share others in return. Sharing other sources of information provides richness to the content you provide your audience and will encourage others to also share your material.

7) Follow and be Followed

If you follow the 1st 6 steps then people will want to engage with your company and follow you back in kind. Like it or not vanity plays a large part in Social Media and people (me included) want to have a high volume of followers. Just make sure quantity does not overshadow quality of followers.

The main takeaway here is to always have a formal strategy in place before embarking on your Social Media journey.
What works for you on Social Media or what problems do you encounter?

Perceptions in Social Media

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Your own perception of you and your company aren’t important – What truly matters is how other people perceive you.
Social Media is your window to the world where people can freely window shop all day long. What do they see when looking at your personal & company profiles on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn?

There are 3 core elements to apply when considering how you’re perceived on Social Media:

1) Volume
2) Image
3) Ambiguity

What perception do you portray VIA Social Media?

1) Volume

How many likes & followers do you have? – This is one of the 1st areas people will see when they view your Social Media profile.

Achieving likes & followers should always be based on achieving quality connections – But do not dilute that quality by over-emphasising on achieving a higher volume.

To build the volume of likes & followers – Build slowly and sustainably. Make sure you give each like & follow the individual care and attention they deserve.

Do NOT buy likes & follows – It’s easy to spot based on your post/followers ratio. Build organically to be perceived as honest and transparent.

2) Image

You’ve got about 10 seconds to make an impact on Social Media which all depends on the Image you portray.

Your personal/business profile is the very 1st point of contact you’ll have with your Social Media audience. Keep your Friday night party pictures for your friends and ensure you have a professional picture on all your profiles.

Use keywords in your profiles to help briefly describe your company and any specialist areas – This is your chance to differentiate your company from your competitors.

Be Yourself – Inject a little humour and your own personality. People connect with people and you’re more likely to build trust by being yourself and not just a cold corporate face.

What you post on Social Media is there for all to see – Think before you post. Try not to be too salesy in your posts – Aim to be genuine, professional & approachable.

3)Ambiguity

I recently sent a post to my Twitter followers asking “What’s the biggest problem you experience when using Social Media?”

One of the responses was “Not sure exactly who reads your Tweets”

What I read was “who reads your tweets” and was a little insulted to say the least! But how I was wrong. I perceived the response to be directed at me personally when in fact the lady was kind enough to answer my question – She wanted to know which of her followers had been reading her Tweets.

Communicating in 140 characters means people shorten their words which can result in ambiguity. As I learned you must consider what you perceive may be different from what other people actually mean.

If in doubt seek clarification and learn to STOP before you send posts and think about how others perceive your words.

Remember to think about how people perceive you VIA Social Media –

Volume
Image
Ambiguity

I’d like to thank Janis Cornwall from the Southern Reporter for inspiring me to write this blog.

Have you experienced a misunderstanding on Social Media?