Posts Tagged ‘small business’
One of the classic quotes from the world of business is attributed to John Wanamaker:
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.
I’m guessing this is a familiar refrain for many business owners. It’s easy to spend money on advertising, whether it’s in the community paper, the local daily, radio, or online. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gauge that you could use to measure the effectiveness of that advertising?
But before I give you a few tips, a couple of theoretical points to address. First, it can take multiple exposures to a message before people will act on it — or even notice it. This is called, in the business, “effective frequency.” So don’t think that you can simply run an ad, and based on that one exposure, people will flock to your business.
Second, advertising plays a different role for businesses at different stages of their lives. Al Ries, a renowned brand strategist, characterizes it this way: “PR creates brands; advertising defends brands.” So if you’re a new business, you might be focusing your efforts more on the PR side. If you’re an established, mature business, advertising may be taking a more prominent role.
So once you have a strategy in place and understand the role advertising plays in it… how can you tell if you’re wasting your money? There are some simple things you can do:
- Track online. QR (Quick Response) codes are those square barcodes you see on ads, posters, and the like. If you use QR codes in your advertising, you can track how many times those codes are scanned. Even if you don’t use the QR codes, utilities like bit.ly offer similar abilities to track clicks (By the way, bit.ly will generate QR codes that you can use too). And plan out what your call to action will be. Don’t just send people to your website — create a specific page to point them to. Then you will know by traffic if your message is getting through.
- A/B testing is your friend. This may sound a bit intimidating. But the concept is simple. Don’t just run one ad. Run two, with a variation in imagery, copy, and the like. Then use the tracking tools mentioned in tip 1 to look at which one is performing better. The easiest place to do this is online, using platforms like Facebook Adverts or Google Adwords, but you can do similar things with other forms of media, like print or direct mail. And it’s particularly important to do this when using Facebook ads, which according to online marketing smart guy Brian Carter, “burn out” far more quickly than other forms of advertising.
- USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. All of this stuff is only cool if you use it. Tracking the impact of your ads, measuring A/B results — you need to dedicate the time necessary to understand what the numbers are telling you.
It’s not hard to find evidence that video is a huge part of social media life, and that it can have massive impact on businesses. There are tons of case studies, from Caine’s Arcade to “Will it Blend?” to Dynomighty to “The man your man could smell like.”
All this buzz may have you thinking you need to use video for your small business. I don’t want to tell you NOT to, but video is a tough nut to crack at the best of times. So before you go and buy a camera or hire the local Cecil B. deMille, think about the following. First, before you start a video initiative:
- Where does this fit into your overall marketing and communications strategy? (If you have one. You DO have one, right?)
- Sure, everything in the world has a camera in it that can be used to shoot video, and computers come with free video editing programs. But that doesn’t mean that your smartphone and off-the-shelf computer will make quality images and videos.
- Whether you’re hiring someone to do production or going full DIY, ALLOW FOR TIME. Yes, it takes only a few minutes to upload a video to Youtube. But it’s all the steps BEFORE the upload that take time.
- The tools don’t help you tell stories. Telling stories via video is not always easy, and it takes a particular kind of thinking. If you can’t afford someone to help you with the process of prepping for a video production, then practice on your own time. Turn your vacation videos into development opportunities before you do a business video.
Once you’ve made a video, your work is done? NO WAY. You still have lots of work left to do.
- Tag and categorize your videos on YouTube or on whatever video host you use.
- Track your stats. See that little icon next to the view count? If you click on that for any Youtube video, you’ll see lots of statistical information. USE IT.
- Share your videos and integrate them into your other marketing and communications work. See that Share button in the screenshot? USE IT to embed your video on your website, and encourage others to do the same. Have a promotional strategy in place for your video BEFORE you upload it.
(This is post number six in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)
There’s no doubt that being the owner of a small business puts you in the exalted / cursed position of being asked for stuff. A lot.
The local food bank. A friend who’s doing a fundraiser. A loyal customer who is hosting a silent auction. The business improvement association or chamber of commerce. An arts event. There will always be someone who will find you and ask for your help with their event. Usually by providing either money or stuff. Or possibly both.
In this (delinquent, but hopefully still useful) SMB 101 edition, how to sift through the endless list of requests, and how to help yourself while you’re helping others.
Question #1: “How do I deal with all these requests???”
There are a couple of things you can do. First off, you can set yourself a budget for both money and product sponsorships or giveaways. Then, keep track of what you’re doing with requesters, so you don’t find yourself wondering how you spent THAT much at the end of the year. This also gives you a great and reasonable way to turn people down. “I’m sorry, but we only have so much we can do, and we’ve done it.”
Second, you can ask people to submit requests in writing, so you can track those requests.
Third, you can set out some guidelines before you start accepting requests. Are you a believer in children’s charities? Maybe a Ronald McDonald House. Are you a cancer survivor (a cause close to my heart, or perhaps bladder)? Then perhaps you have a charity like Ottawa’s Maplesoft Centre you could help. What causes or issues resonate with you? Set out guidelines for people so they can understand what you’re interested in. You can be as restrictive or as free as you like. But when you have guidelines, you can point to those.
Finally, keep an eye on what your competitors are doing in the community. If an organization already has multiple supporters in your sector, maybe it’s time you struck out into a new segment and carved out your own niche.
Question #2: “What’s in this for me?”
Philanthropy is good, period. But there’s nothing wrong with helping yourself out while helping others, and there’s also nothing wrong with talking about your support of community events, causes, or charities.
So first, think about what sort of benefits you would like to see for your business from a donation or sponsorship. Is it a full sponsorship? Are you providing coffee and cookies for an event? Be fair, reasonable, and assertive in telling the organization asking for help that you’d like to get a little something too.
Second, don’t be shy. Talk about your supportive activities on your web site, your Facebook page, on Twitter — your social media activities can help the organizations you’re helping, and people ought to know that you’re a generous member of the community too.
Finally, if you are a business with physical visitors — retail or wholesale — think about some sort of display to celebrate your corporate generosity and your pride in associating with worthy causes.
What this all comes down to? You already know that you are going to be asked. So wouldn’t it make sense to think strategically about what you want to support and to what extent?
(Image cc licenced by Flickr user Meddygarnet)
(This is post number five in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)
NOTE: This is post #1 in a weekly series I’m calling SMB101. SMB can stand for a few things: Social Media in Business, Small and Medium Business… it’s up to you. Whatever the acronym, when you see it and the 101 logo at right, you’ll know it’s a short, (hopefully) pithy and useful post designed to help smaller organizations get a handle on social media.
The rollout of new social media tools seems neverending. And it pretty much is.Even a relatively short time ago, social media options seemed limited. Do a blog. Maybe a podcast.
Then social networks like Facebook became ubiquitous, the cost of creating video decreased, smartphones flooded the Western world, Twitter was everywhere, and the hits just kept on coming. If you don’t feel overwhelmed yet, check out this listing of over 400 networks and sites.
It’s natural to want to jump on board. Everybody talks about the advantages of being the first adopter, of being ahead of the curve. And there are advantages.
If you’re working for or own a business that has a communications, public relations, or social media team, you have the relative luxury of relying on them to lead the adoption of new media tools. Alternatively, larger businesses or not-for-profits might have a PR, advertising, or social media agency on retainer to be the leader. Even having a community manager or dedicated social media person is great.
But if you’re a small business with limited time to “do” social media, it might be wise for you to resist the temptation to jump on every bandwagon you see someone else riding on. Why? I’ll give you a number of reasons:
- Tools aren’t strategies. If you jump from tool to tool, you increase the risk of forgetting WHY you’re doing social media in the first place. Social media should be like every other part of your business — informed by a solid strategy. It’s a powerful form of communications and public relations. And that power can translate into greatness, or awfulness.
- If you’re a small business, you need to budget your time carefully. And each tool has a learning curve. Better to do three things well than 10 things poorly.
- There’s no guarantee that the latest new gadget, site, utility, etc. will be around for long. Remember Google Wave? Exactly.
- There’s no guarantee your audience is looking for you on a given tool, or that they’re even there. A furniture store near me prominently displays a LinkedIn logo. Why?
If you’re the sort of person who loves to know about new things, that’s great. Play with shiny toys on your own time and in your own spaces. But don’t experiment with them for your business on your business’s site and on your business’s time. Your time is too precious to be spent on efforts that aren’t well-thought-out and supportive of your business goals.
If your small business needs some help choosing from the nearly infinite set of social media options, get in touch. I’d be happy to help. I love finding ways of helping small business that are affordable and effective for you and profitable and rewarding for me.