Social Media: The Intern’s Job

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As a small business, you’ve likely had the discussion about creating a presence on Social Media. You know it’s an important function, all your customers and competitors are on Social Media and you need to catch up.

Many small businesses don’t have the manpower or resources to adequately create and implement a Social Media strategy so your solution is often to allocate the responsibilities to the Intern. After all they’re young, they understand how Social Media works and using technology is second nature to them. If the Intern is your solution to Social Media, then you’re making a catastrophic error.

The Intern

Depending on your company and industry, an Intern can be employed to fulfil a number of roles – sales, marketing, customer service etc… The likelihood is that you employed them because they are young, tech-savvy people who can bring creativity with their youthful enthusiasm and ideas.

They’re also inexperienced, unfamiliar with your company culture, your products & services, your customers and suppliers. Many Interns are also paid little or no salary – yet this is the best person within your company to deal with the vital function of Social Media?

The Solution

Before your small business dives into the world of Social Media you must firstly devise a strategy which creates the foundation of a Social Media plan. Your Social Media plan needs to include:

Content Marketing

Devising a Content Marketing strategy starts with deciding on what content to post on Social Media. Create a balance between posting sales-related content and a mixture of content relevant to your industry, company ethos, local communities and information which your audience will find interesting and engaging.  This can be posts from news sources, bloggers, industry experts or market reports.

What time of the day do you post? – Testing, analysing and measuring will answer this question. Try altering the heading of your posts; alter the images used and the content of posts to determine the time of the day your audience engages with your content.

Responses

If your small business doesn’t have defined company values, a company vision and defined culture then create one and quick! Your employees need to share your company vision to act and think in a universal manner. Creating a company culture will result in a specific tone and language being used which will be the voice of your company.

Processes & Integration

Social Media is one of the most powerful Marketing tools available to small businesses, but is more successful when integrating a range of business functions including customer service, HR and strategic management.

Whoever you decide to lead Social Media within your company, part of their role should be to define the processes involved and to liaise with a range of departments. Hold weekly/monthly meetings with staff from different business functions and establish the processes required. Who deals with specific enquiries? How should your company respond to sales enquiries?

Identifying the people and processes required to manage Social Media is essential, and always ensure those processes result in the ability to respond quickly (within 24 hours) to any enquiries or queries. Although one single person is able to co-ordinate Social Media activities, it requires the involvement and commitment from the heads of the respective departments.

Employing an Intern to handle your companies Social Media activities can only be successful if adequate time, finance and manpower is committed.  Interns aren’t the solution, commitment and strategic thinking are 🙂

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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?

Building a Brand from Scratch

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Branding is an essential element in any Marketing strategy for any business in any industry. Your brand defines your company by encapsulating who you are, what you offer and what differentiates you from the competition.

Ask anyone to provide you with an example of a successful brand and you’ll hear the likes of Apple, Coca Cola and Microsoft. Branding isn’t monopolised by the big corporations as small businesses can also build a successful brand, here’s some guidance on how to build a brand from scratch.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Be consistent with all your branding efforts or don’t bother building a brand at all. Think about a Franchise like McDonalds or Starbucks, in every store you get the same coffee, same decor, get asked the same questions and you get this consistently. Here are 10 of the most important elements to consider when building your company brand:

1) Keep your LOGO prominent and consistent
2) Use the same LANGUAGE, TONE and level of FORMALITY
3) Keep COLOURS consistent
4) Use the same IMAGES, GRAPHICS & PICTURES in all Branding efforts
5) Use the same LAYOUT, FORMAT & TEXT
6) Display the same WEBSITE, EMAIL ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBERS
7) Keep CUSTOMER SERVICE consistent by having FROMALISED PRE & POST SALES FEEDBACK
8) Ensure ALL CUSTOMERS receive the same level of focus and service, regardless of their size of wallet
9) At all times apply the MISSION, VISION & VALUES of your company
10) Fully INTEGRATE all Social Media Channels with your company website, and vice versa

Lifestyle

When I was 1st taught about Branding I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people buy into the lifestyle of a particular brand. I was a salesman and you sell a product or service – not a lifestyle! However if you understand the lifestyle of your target market then you can relate your brand to the lifestyles they lead.

If you want to understand the lifestyle of your customers then you need to collect, store and utilise data about them – building a database is critical otherwise you’re fumbling around in the dark.

Building a database with names and addresses will reveal nothing about the lifestyle of your customers, you need to understand:

• Opinions
• Trends
• Hobbies & Interests
• Occupations
• Family
• Culture

Build relationships with your customers and gather feedback at every opportunity, ask them what they do in their spare time – Now you understand their lifestyles you can relate your brand to the very people you serve.

Positioning

The positioning of your brand is all about how the consumer perceives your brand in relation to your competitors, the keyword here is PERCEPTION. The brand you create will result in people forming an opinion on your company – the quality of your product/service, the value of your brand and if you’re high, medium or low quality.

Get outside that little world of your company and think like your customer. What makes you similar/different from your competitors? What’s your USP? How is my brand viewed in the minds of my customers? – Just remember it’s the customer’s perception of your brand that’s important not yours.

As with all strategies you must formalise your goals and objectives, create a plan and implement it successfully – Always have a plan.

What do you think a brand means?

Why Content isn’t King!

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If “Content is King” then Marketing and Advertising is dead. Consumers may be suffering from advertising saturation on our TV’s, Radio, the internet, newspapers and social media sites but I truly believe that good Marketing can make Advertising & Marketing relevant and appealing.

Research Findings

I base my opinion on facts learned from researching small business owners on the subject of their Marketing and social media usage for business purposes. The majority of small business owners don’t know what Content Marketing is and therefore don’t apply the concepts and practices. Research findings from small business owners highlighted that posting mainly sales-related content to the correct target market that have shown an interest in a particular company/products/services resulted in increased sales and enquiries for those companies.
Now not all companies will experience success by posting mainly sales related content as the research findings determined that B2C and product-based companies experienced the most success. However the importance of segmentation and accurate targeting must not be ignored or undervalued. If you know who your customers are, where they are, what media channels they use and what interests them, then it’s possible to achieve success in your Marketing activities.

Sometimes you don’t need Content

I’ll use an example from Groupon who posted an offer for a Spa day at a luxury resort near Edinburgh to one of my female friends. The advert offered 60% off usual prices which was an excellent deal. My friend passed on the advert to all of her female friends on Facebook which resulted in 8 ladies all booking a day out at the spa. The significance of this example is that not a single piece of “Content” apart from the offer was promoted. If your offer is appealing enough and targeted to the right audience then it is possible to achieve success without believing that “Content is King”.

Content Marketing is Still Important

Content Marketing is an important element of a company’s Marketing strategy and it is a good way to raise awareness of your brand and gain new followers, but for small businesses they need to tread carefully. Posting industry articles, sharing content and writing a blog require sweat equity and time-starved small businesses often cannot afford to dedicate their time to content Marketing. A balance needs to be reached to ensure a mixture of quality content and sales-related material is implemented into any Marketing strategy. Just don’t overuse and abuse the now cliché “Content is King” – that’s nonsense, the customer is King.

LISTEN!

As marketers we should be listening to what consumers want and what form of Marketing actually works rather than what we perceive to work! A recent article entitled The Digital Gap between Consumer and Marketer by Jacey Gulden on Social Media Today highlighted the gap in perceptions of consumers and Marketers. Jacey writes about the benefits that smaller businesses have when personalizing communications with consumers, which I agree with when targeting the correct target market.

Yes Content Marketing is important and yes content should be designed to engage your audience but people are interested in companies, brands, products and services and what they have to offer. Good Marketing practices should be focused on the customer and provide them with what they want, when they want, we just need to listen.
My previous blog Is Content Really King offers more on this subject.

The Importance of a Database in Marketing for Micro-Businesses

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Who exactly is your customer? This is one question many small businesses struggle to answer. What age are they? Where do they come from? What are their characteristics & lifestyles? These are all fairly easy questions to answer, if you have a database.

The Importance of a Database

When someone enquires about your products/services via email, Facebook, your website or any other channel you’ll naturally respond to those people using the channel they made the enquiry from. You’re correct to respond to your customers using the channel they use, but it’s also important to collect as much information as possible about each individual person or company. If they phone you then ask for their email address, if they email you ask for their Facebook profiles. If you want to know who your customers are, then you must collect as much relevant details as possible so you can begin to understand exactly who your target market is. When I see an advert with only a phone number, it’s dead. Unless I need to call that company immediately their potential to sell to me has been lost. If that advert had a Facebook page, a website or email address then I can make an enquiry in my own time.

Database Benefits

The importance of capturing as much information as possible about your customers is essential to ensure future marketing activities are more relevant to the people who’re receiving them. With a richly populated database you will be able to understand:

• How much it’s cost you to generate a lead (Cost Per Lead)
• Cost Per Sale
• Conversion Ratios – Enquiries to Sales
• Customer trends & habits
• Your typical customer location
• Your typical customer demographics
• The typical lifestyles your customers share

Measurement & Segmentation

Measuring the effectiveness & ROI of your marketing efforts cannot be achieved unless you capture, store and utilise the information from your database. There’s no point in having details about your customers in a range of locations like a diary, email list, pieces of paper and social media accounts. Your customer details must be in one place so they’re easily accessible for speed and accuracy with the ability to collate and measure that data. From here you can target smaller segments of customers based on a range of variables and tailor marketing communications to those smaller more unique groups of people. See – Why Small Is Good in Segmentation.

What Database?

What database do I use? Good question to ask. There are a multitude of database options available for small businesses and using Microsoft Excel or Access is a good place to start. Once your database and company begins to grow then you might consider upgrading to paying for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems which will incorporate all your back office processes. CRM systems are advantageous over the likes of Excel & Access with superior capabilities, but it would be advisable to use simple free databases in the early stages of your business and reconsider your database options as you experience growth.

Don’t underestimate the importance and power of the database to your business, because from here you will truly be able to understand exactly who your customers are and how to reach them.

How to Create an Advert for Marketing

Creating an advert need not involved expensive creative agencies or take up much time if you attempt to put one together yourself. Small businesses have little to no advertising budget, so there’s no point in wasting your money if you follow the simple ADIA formula and D.I.Y.

AIDA = Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

When creating an advert on your Social Media site such as LinkedIn or Facebook or the multitude of sites available, you should be aiming to guide the reader to your main website. Some companies may not have their own website, and it’s common to sell solely on a Facebook Business Page where it’s easy to upload images onto your product list. Facebook recently introduced new guidelines for the images you include in a Facebook cover page, specifying that text should take up no more than 20% of the entire cover photo. Follow the AIDA formula and you can’t go wrong, so here’s an explanation of how it’s implemented:

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ATTENTION!
Grab the reader’s attention using IMAGES, COLOURS, AMINATIONS or VIDEOS. Use BOLD HEADINGS or STATISTICS and don’t be afraid to be slightly controversial and bold in your approach. Think about whom your target market is and exactly what product/service you’re promoting. Grabbing the reader’s attention should take up the largest portion of the advert or creative area. Now you have their attention, it’s time to gain their interest.

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INTEREST
The fewer words you use the better, summarise and think about using no more than 140 characters as you do in Twitter. Create mystery if possible, tease the reader and make the message relevant to your product/service and to your audience. As you attempt to interest the reader, be mindful that you’re at a stage of educating the reader so don’t get too technical, use jargon or feature-blast.

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DESIRE
What problem has your product/service solved? Why is your solution unique and different from your competitors? Now you communicate the unique benefits, and again try to use no more than 140 characters in doing so. Create some urgency by promoting a special offer or discounts and ensure the offer has a time limit or is only available to the first 100 responses. You’ve grabbed the attention of the audience and educated them by making your product/service interesting and now you’ve created a desire by promoting something unique which the customer MUST HAVE.

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ACTION
If the reader has read this far then they’re definitely interested, so don’t let the sale slip away. Here you should display a link directly to your website, provide a phone number, text number or leave their email address to subscribe and declare their interest, time to get the customer to take ACTION and buy. Use the contact method which is suitable to your business and your target audience.

Play around with the AIDA formula a little and tweak your adverts according to the type of media channel you are using. Test a small volume initially to allow you to measure the level of response, if it’s not working change one feature at a time and you’ll soon devise a winning formula.