Can a Business have a Personality?

monopoly

People have personalities, not businesses – right? When people go to work they paint on their work faces, put on their work hats and become the consummate professional.  There’s a manner in which bosses and colleagues expect their employees to sound, look and act when in the workplace.

Yes there’s a need to be professional, yes customers demand a deservedly high level of attention, care and service – but is there a need to be so dull, stuffy and corporate about it?

The Business of People

Businesses consist of physical assets, products and services but it’s ultimately people who are the nucleus of a business. Owners, Directors and Managers set strategies and employees execute those strategies to the paying public. Employees and customers have individual personalities, morals and values – and so can a business.

All too often businesses assume a pre-programmed drone tone when dealing with customers. We’ve all experienced this whilst dealing with call centres or on Social Media – that scripted and overly cheery or politician-like response, delivered in true Stepford wife style.

Whatever sector your business operates in, the products & services you produce will be almost identical to your competitors. Therefore one of the few ways to create a genuine differentiation strategy is to focus on customer service by promoting your company values & culture.

Business Culture

The culture of a business should seep out of every pore and be consistent across all areas of a business – it’s called Branding. If customers identify your products/services with your company, it isn’t the pinnacle of Branding – you need to adopt a vision and set of values which resonate with the lifestyle of your customer base.

Create a mission statement so your employees buy-in to your company vision, providing a common purpose for all. Company values help to create a way of thinking consistent across all departments where guidelines are created to achieve an expected manner in which all employees should behave. With the creation of company values there’s a necessity to embed those values onto the daily processes and practices of your company – including posting on Social Media.

Social Media

One of my fundamental golden rules of Social Media is to BE SOCIAL. Minimise the use of one-way communications pushing your company products and services. Be creative in your approach to Social Media by devising a Content Marketing strategy offering a range of topics and material for your audience to enjoy and engage with.

The content you post and the manner in which you engage with your audience can help to define the values and culture of your company.  Send posts about the weather, your local community and even post something funny. Now humour is subjective, but as long as it’s light-hearted and family friendly humour then you won’t offend your audience. The reality is that customers won’t just follow posts from your company about product updates and special offers, provide them with more reasons to read, engage and share your content.

If you’re relevant, friendly and approachable on Social Media by exuding your company culture, then your personality will shine through and become synonymous with your Brand. So can a business have a personality? – Only if you want it to 🙂

Why Growth can Destroy your Small Business

Chart going through the floor

 

Small Businesses have a desire to grow – grow their sales, customer numbers and enter new markets. However unless you have adequate resources and a clearly defined strategy, then growth can lead to the demise of your small business.

There are many fine examples of small businesses that’ve exploded in size as they possess high growth potential. Angels invest, banks lend, crowds fund and external resources are ploughed into helping those companies achieve their growth potential – but not every small business has such significant growth potential. So before you contemplate growing your company, consider the following advice.

Resources

Resources are one of the key factors to consider when growing a small business which include:

  • Money
  • Manpower
  • Skills
  • Premises
  • Machinery & Technology

The obvious considerations are money, manpower, premises and equipment – but one factor often overlooked is the skills required to achieve growth. As a company grows the hierarchy, management and positions change so you need to consider if you have the staff with the right skill set to take on new roles. What skills do you need?  Can you train existing staff? Where can you find the staff with these skills and how much will it cost you?

Draw a list of all the above 5 key resource areas and calculate what resources you need if you achieve a certain level of growth – you’ll often find that right now you simply don’t have the resources available to facilitate your growth plans.

Existing Customers

Remember where you come from and who helped your company get to where it is – your existing customers. As a small business you can afford to dedicate more time and attention on each individual customer, but as you grow your time will be spent elsewhere.

To achieve growth you might want to explore new markets and offer new products in an attempt to grow your customer base. Stop and think about why you won those customers in the first place, what attracted them to you and why do they continue to be loyal customers?

Launching new products to new markets leads to a fundamental shift in your business model, so be mindful not to alienate your core customers at the expense of obtaining new ones.

Sustainable Growth

Grow too big too quick and you’re gone – you must grow sustainably. If that means it takes you longer to achieve your growth objectives then so be it.

To borrow or not to borrow? I have this romantic notion that commerce would be far more sustainable if companies didn’t borrow, but the reality of the situation often slaps me in the face. Borrowing is often the only way small businesses can fund new machinery, employ new talent or make essential repairs. However if you can avoid borrowing and achieve the finances you need over a longer time period, always choose sustainable organic growth.

You need to pay interest – every month and on time which increases the overall amount you pay to achieve the same results. An element of borrowing is outside your control. Interest rates may be at a record low but they will increase in the next year or 2 – yet again increasing the risk and cost of borrowing.

Do you think my advice hinders or helps growth?

4 Reasons Why Social Media is Perfect for Competitions

sm contest

Small businesses can choose to spend their small Marketing budgets in a number of areas – Print, Digital, Radio, Advertising, Directories, Outdoor and many more. It can be a confusing web of options. Which method reaps the highest return on my investment? – Discard all those options and organise a competition.

Social Media is a perfect platform for running competitions – your competition is the magic bean and Social Media is the beanstalk. With careful organising you can get the competition entrants to grow your company’s Marketing, boost brand visibility and increase sales – here’s 4 ways your Small Business can leverage the benefits running a successful competition.

1)      Free Marketing

Firstly ensure that the topic of the competition compliments your own strategy – If you’re a hairdresser, then offer a pair of GHD straighteners, if you’re an Accountant offer a year’s free advice and so on. And of course you’ll need to promote the competition to the relevant audience – just make sure your prize is appealing.

Once you’ve decided on the finalists, run a voting system then watch Social Media explode! It’s amazing to see finalists of a competition embark on their own campaigns to get votes from their followers, meaning your company can leverage ALL connections from ALL their Social Media networks. Every time a finalist posts on Social Media – your company is included in the links resulting in driving traffic to your website. Once they’re on your website, enquiries and sales are a cert.

2)      Build a Database

When collecting votes for the finalists of the competition – make the voters enter their email addresses so you can build a database of relevant prospects.  Once you have built the email list you then need to align this with collecting Social Media details to build a complete profile of prospects.

Run a special voting day on Facebook, whereby people can simply click LIKE to place their votes. Now you can match the names and email addresses collected earlier to the Social Media profiles. With access to more in depth information about individuals you can build a picture of your ideal customer profile resulting in improved segmentation and targeting.

3)      Build Authority

Running a competition with a reasonably high cash value (or cash) will help to build credibility in your field allowing you to become a trusted company in your field.  Linking back to my initial advice, ensure you align the competition with your own company strategy. For example if you’re an Accountant who specialises in small business, then run a competition for the “UK’s Best Small Business” or something similar.

By making your company synonymous with a specialist area, you can build authority and become trusted and credible in your area of expertise.

4)      Integrate

When you launch your competition a key element in your strategy needs to be integration. Although Social Media is the key channel, ensure you adopt a multi-channel strategy. Place ads in relevant newspapers, advertise digitally and raise awareness of your competition – you need to lead people toward Social Media by integration.

Therefore by integrating your competition marketing and integrating the way you collect information from entrants and voters you can build a fully comprehensive database of prospective clients. Only 1 company can win your competition, so everyone else is a potential sale.

Have you ever run a competition on Social Media? Any horror or success stories?

Pinterest for Small Business

Pinterest smallbiz

What’s the next big thing on Social Media? Google+, Instagram and Snapchat are all being tipped to become the platforms to watch in 2014, but for me I’m tipping Pinterest. Visually stimulating, easy to use and highly effective for generating sales – here’s why Pinterest should be included in your Small Business Social Media strategy.

It’s all about the Visuals

Social Media is full of passers by who are all potential shoppers for your small business products. In the blink of an eye you can be lost or found, depending on how visually appealing you make your company and products.

Posting on Twitter is all about the text in the Heading, with Pinterest it’s all about the visuals. Headings are important, but it’s the visuals you use which are more important to succeed on Pinterest.

You can search for free images on Google images, make sure you select “advanced search” from the settings menu then select “usage rights” to ensure you can legally use the images you wish to use.

Pinterest Gets Results

Statistics show that Pinerest drives 50% more traffic than other Social Media sites. This figure may be a wee bit excessive and vary from country to country, but the fact remains that Pinterest leads to sales – If you have a strategy and commit your time to it.

Certain industries perform very well on Pinterest such as Food, Interior Design, Fashion and any physical product which is visually appealing.

Let your product do the talking by posting high quality images onto Pinterest and always include a URL link back to your company website – make sure it’s the full URL and not a shortened one as Pinterest will flag your posts as spam otherwise.

Be Yourself

Tread this line very carefully, be yourself and reveal your and your company’s personality – but always remain professional. Customers have been exposed to decades of corporate stiffness, politician-like smarminess and advertising saturation – they want something more REAL.

As a sole trader, when people buy my services they’re also buying into me – my way of thinking and my personality. There are hundreds of thousands of other competitors around the world all offering very similar services me – your small business is exactly the same. Products and services in any industry are becoming homogenised, there’s very little difference between the end product the customer receives – but you can make that difference by showing customers the real you.

Create boards and post pictures of places you’ve visited, cars and clothes you like, your favourite food or even some cute kittens and bunnies. Not only will you become more approachable but you have the opportunity to open up dialogue with potential customers by leveraging your interests to forge 1:2:1 relationships.

Remember that people buy from people.

As the masses flock away from Facebook (especially teenagers) and customers become more proficient in using multiple Social Media platforms, Pinterest is one to watch in 2014.

Is Pinterest just for fun or do you think that you can generate sales from it?

Social Media: Heaven for Market Research

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Whatever industry you operate in Market Research is an essential element to help understand who your customers are and what they want. Once you truly comprehend your target market and their demands, then you are poised to become a genuinely customer-centric company.

Conducting Market Research via traditional channels can be expensive and time consuming, but Social Media provides your small business with a platform to reach a vast audience and best of all it’s free – apart from your time.

Co-Creation

As a small business your ideas, strategies and approach to your company is limited to your internal culture and way of thinking – why limit yourself?

Co-creation is basically as it sounds – the process of creating products & services with your customers to enrich customer experience.

In a world of homogenisation and same same same, co-creation can help set you apart from your competitors big and small. The level of involvement is dependent on your industry and company and you can choose to co-create with customers at a very basic level or collaborate with your most creative and talented customers to help shape your future products and services. Having your most talented customers design your products/services is also an excellent method of recruitment.

For those customers who aren’t involved in the co-creation process, they’ll see you connecting and collaborating with people just like them and identify you as a creative company who cares about what customers want. So many brands nowadays are capitalist driven managed by power hungry egomaniacs – the exact opposite of innovative co-creation.

Ask your Customers

How do you know what your customers like and dislike if you don’t ask them? Asking questions is the easy part, it’s how you listen that’s important.

Joining groups on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook will enable you to conduct Market Research by asking direct questions to your customer base. Be creative and create polls to gather feedback, they’re easy to set up and quantify into useable statistics – this is known as Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research is the process of understanding the opinions and experiences of your customers which can be collected by asking more open questions. Groups and forums are ideal platforms, but also consider using something like Google Hangouts which can be used much like a focus group.

Explore & Discover

Market Research doesn’t just have to include asking direct questions, running polls and facilitating focus groups. The beauty of Social Media is the ability to listen to your prospects, customers and close competitors.

Groups are an ideal way to engage in Social Listening, but you can dig a little deeper into their comments with friends, family and other brands. Determine their likes/dislikes and attempt to identify any patterns common to your type of customer.

Spy on your competitors too, especially the larger companies as there’s a ton of conversations which will allow you to understand trends and provides a higher level insight into your industry. Local competitors should also be monitored so you can identify any gaps in the market where you can tailor your products/services to fill that gap.

How have you conducted Market Research on Social Media and what successes/failures have you experienced?

What do I post on Social Media?

fresh-content

A common problem with small businesses and Social Media newbies is deciding what type of content you should be posting.

How do you find enough fresh material to post on your Social Media sites every single day?
The 1st question you should be asking is: What does my audience want to read?

Ask and Answer Questions

Social Media isn’t about you or your company, it’s a platform to connect and engage with your audience. If you want to know what your followers want to read, ask them.

Conduct some basic market research on Social Media by running a poll which lists a variety of topics, it can be something simple like:

What Social Media platform do you want to know more about?

A. Facebook
B. Twitter
C. LinkedIn
D. Google+

A poll is a quick and easy method for people to respond to, and once you establish the results you can then post content relevant to your audience.

Provide tips and advice relevant to your industry. You’re the expert in your field, not your customers so become a useful source of information and offer your skills and knowledge for free. Once you become a credible and trusted source of information, you can engage with individuals and tailor your products/services to suit their needs.

Share

Share content from sources outside your company that are relevant to your industry and specialist areas. By sharing external content you’re providing a richness and depth to the content you share with your audience.

Some examples of the types of external content you can share on Social Media are:

• Newspaper articles
• Articles & links to industry associations & trade bodies
• Competitors blogs (not your immediate competitors)
• Videos
• Industry Experts
• Academic & Industry Research

When you share content from external sources, you’ll experience an increase in followers and your own content will also be shared. Share and be shared.

Post about your Company

When posting information about your company, their products and services it is essential to create a balance. Too much information on your company and people will very quickly disengage, too little and people will simply be using you as a source of free information.

As a rule of thumb apply the 80:20 rule, posting 80% of content NOT related to your company and 20% about your company. Use this as a guide and alter according to the level of response and feedback you receive.

When posting about your company, consider posting:

• Offers & Discounts
• New product/service launch
• Awards & Achievements
• Client testimonials
• Specialist/niche areas

Be Social

This is THE golden rule of Social Media – BE SOCIAL.

Honestly Social Media isn’t complicated; it’s simply about 2 parties communicating. Respond when people have shared your content and respond promptly to every single comment, like and new follower.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger competitors if you take the time to connect and engage with your audience. Provide a truly customised level of service that larger competitors will struggle to replicate due to the scale of their customer base.

You might not have a big Marketing budget or thousands of employees, but you can offer personalised 1:2:1 customer service earning you a competitive advantage.

What approach do you have to posting content on Social Media?

6 Tips on how to Integrate your Social Media Strategy

Strategy-Small

If your Small Business is active or considering being active on Social Media, then start by ensuring you integrate your strategy. Embed Social Media into wider organisational strategies, business functions and processes.

By integrating your Social Media strategy you can connect with your prospects & customers across a variety of touch points in the customer journey.

1) Integrate Social Media with wider Marketing & Organisational Strategies

Social Media should not be used as a stand-alone strategy and must be integrated with your wider Marketing and organisational objectives.

Involve employees from all levels to use Social Media across a range of business departments to help achieve wider organisational objectives.

2) Integrate Social Media Accounts

Link all your Social Media accounts to each other to suit the individual preferences of your market. Let your customers find you on the Social Media platform they prefer to use – be part of their journey.

3) Integrate Offline & Online Marketing

Include your Social Media details on all forms of offline Marketing such as:

• Magazine & Newspaper advertising
• Leaflets, Brochures, Flyers
• Business Cards
• Direct Mail
• Radio advertising

All offline Marketing must include your main website and main Social Media accounts, leverage the Facebook or Twitter brand to appeal to your customers.

By integrating Social Media with other digital and offline Marketing you are able to connect with customers at a variety of touch points gaining maximum exposure and brand awareness.

4) Integrate Social Media with company Processes

Make Social Media a daily activity – Spend at least 45-60 minutes a day checking your comments, new followers, engaging and posting fresh material. If possible dedicate as much time as possible to Social Media activities – it’s addictive and time-consuming.

By dedicating time in your daily schedule you’ll reap more rewards than merely playing around for 10 minutes a day.

5) Integrate Social Media with email Communications

Add Social Media buttons or links into your company email signature. For those people who prefer not to communicate frequently by email, Social Media may be their preferred choice of communicating – make it easy for your company to be found.

6) Integrate Social Media with your Website

People will spend more time on Social Media than they do browsing your website. Include Social Media buttons and/or widgets making it easy for people to follow your company.

Also include a link to your website on every single Social Media platform you have an account with. By directing people back to your website, you’ll be more in control to lead the customer from interest to sale.

It’s important to integrate your Social Media strategy otherwise it’ll lack direction and is fundamentally flawed. Realise the full potential of Social Media by embedding your strategy into different departments, processes and wider strategies.

Do you feel like you’re just bumbling along with your approach to Social Media?