Producing Useful Content Must Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

By: Debbie Page, www.debbiepage.com 

I hear it time and time again from small business owners, “Who am I to create content? I don’t have anything new to say. People are overwhelmed with information mine won’t cut through the noise.”

And here are my replies:

  • YOU have a unique perspective on your industry and it’s among the reasons people hire you and buy from you.
  • YOU have a LOT to say about your industry and why your clients get exceptional results when working with you. 
  • YOUR message will cut through the noise when it comes from a place of education, information and service. 

When you focus part of your marketing endeavors on quality, useful content you are helping your SEO in big and little ways. Focus on what your customers and clients want to know and tell the story in your own unique way. It’s ok if it doesn’t land with everyone. Your marketing isn’t supposed to, it’s only supposed to land with your ideal clients. 

Not sure where to start? Keep a log for the next week on the questions your current and prospective clients ask and note how you respond to them. This is the beginning of a content plan that you can turn into audio, video and written content that can be repurposed over multiple platforms from your website and blog to social media channels. 

Not only will this help you from an SEO perspective, it will build a library of resource information you can share with clients, colleagues and prospects adding value and deepening relationships.  

What will you do today to begin incorporating content as a key part of your marketing strategy?

Get more great marketing tips from Debbie at this year’s 23rd annual Biz Fair at the 2:30 p.m. Marketing Tips & Tricks seminar on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Renton Technical College.

Social Media Marketing Tips for the Small Business Owner

By: Megan V. Torgerson, Business Impact Northwest

Marketing is a frame of mind and it touches all aspects of your business.

Think about it, when you pitch an investor, that’s marketing. When you’re working on your customer acquisition strategy, that’s marketing. When you’re entering a cross-promotional partnership with your neighboring small business – you guessed it – that’s marketing. For some people, marketing puts a bad taste in their mouth, they think of it as a means of coercion or advertising. But when you reframe marketing as storytelling, relationship building and community sustaining, it becomes a posture we can choose to maintain as we navigate the choppy waters of business ownership. The best form of marketing is always word of mouth, but for life in the digital age, that could mean a friend sharing a Facebook post or tagging you on Instagram. If you’ve heard of the Rule of 7, or the magic number of touchpoints you need to have with a customer before they make a purchase or enroll in your services, then you know that you need to maintain your marketing posture in offline and online circles to stay top of mind in a crowded market.

Social media is one tool to engage your audience, and content marketing, a.k.a. storytelling is a strategy that can be used via social media. Centered on creating, publishing and distributing content, content marketing encompasses writing, audio, video and photography, that is shared mainly digitally via social media, blogs, newsletters and websites.

Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for all online marketing efforts that includes your business’s website, social media channels, newsletters, earned online coverage, content marketing, SEO, or search engine optimization and more. It also includes the promotion of programs or products through measured marketing campaigns that can be analyzed for ROI purposes.

A few things social media can be used for include:

  • Telling your organization’s story
  • Building awareness
  • Growing community
  • Driving traffic to your website

There are many digital marketing strategies and social media platforms out there. It depends on the demographics of your target audience which platforms you choose to engage. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind that are applicable to all social media channels.

Social Media Considerations:

  • Take the time to analyze each platform and the objective for each platform.
  • Ask yourself who you are hoping to reach with each platform.
  • Consider the “why” of your presence on each unique social media channel?
  • Build distinct brand standards for your voice or messaging (a.k.a brand voice) and visual brand identity.
  • Determine what type of content will be used on each platform.
  • Build a calendar of major events where social media will play an intricate role and schedule posts to bring awareness to your events.
  • Take the time to analyze your insights or analytics to determine who your audience is, the ideal time and day to post, and what posts result in the most (and the least) engagement.
  • Is your goal brand awareness, creating advocates, selling products, community building/ all of the above?
  • Define which metrics are most important to you. Is it comments, shares, likes?  Incorporate these metrics into your goals.
  • Go beyond, followers and shares for your goals. Figure out how that’s converting to new supporters/ sales by using Google Analytics.
  • Track time and budget.
  • Follow and engage with clients, partners, collaborators and competitors.
  • Use social media to tell your small business’s unique story!

To view Business Impact NW’s original post, please visit businessimpactnw.org/social-media-marketing-tips-for-the-small-business-owner.

You can find Business Impact Northwest at the Biz Fair Resource Center on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. to speak with business counselors and sign up for business workshops.

Build More Convincing Business Plans with Free Market Research from Google

By: Robbin Block, SCORE Mentor & Creative Marketing Strategist at Blockbeta Marketing

“Proving” your business model to investors relies on being able to back up your assumptions about your market. Data about how people search or discover products brings you one step closer to making your case. Now imagine if you could get that information easily, quickly and at no cost — and create good looking charts and graphs to use in business plans, presentations and on social media.

Going straight to a search engine for market research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine you’re creating a new line of products for pets, a highly competitive industry. A search for “pet products” yielded 3.5 billion results (yes, that’s a “b”).

Google makes it so much easier with a range of tools designed to mine their own mega-pile of information to understand what people are doing online. What better way for you to learn about your potential customers, than to go right to the place so many people start their buyer journey?

Three Market Research Resources in One 

PEWInternet is one of my go-to’s for robust and free market research for learning about online behavior, with a section devoted to “Internet and Technology.” Combined with Google’s Consumer Barometer, you’ll get an even clearer picture about how people use the Internet to discover and purchase products and services.

Consumer Barometer includes Trended Data, Audience Stories, Curated Insights and Graph Builder — saving the best for last.

Trended Data

Trended Data compares Internet usage over time.

Let’s say you were wondering how many in your target audience used their smartphone to access the Internet, filtering by country and demographics. Here’s the result of a search for US aged 25-34 vs. US aged 45-54:

While there are differences as of 2017, it becomes pretty clear that everything is pointing in a mobile direction with smartphone and Internet usage becoming ubiquitous across age groups very soon, if it hasn’t already. This is useful, whether you’re creating a mobile app or wondering how important mobile access is to your marketing strategy.

Audience Stories

With Audience Stories, Google segments Internet usage, exploring audience clusters like Brand Advocates, Digital Moms and Millennials.

For example, Google tells us the “how-to” video category is trending strongly. “1 in 10 internet users watch DIY or How-to videos in a typical session.” They go on to explain that, “23% of online videos are viewed in order to learn something new.” This means that educating customers and demonstrating your expertise can help you gain exposure, ultimately being a way to drive more traffic to your website.

When you’re wondering about a good length for your video, Google provides the answer, “How-to Video Viewers are also open to longer videos (5-10 minutes). As many as 75% of How-to Video users watched online videos longer than 5 minutes in the prior week, compared to just 60% among other users.”

Of course Google is in a great position to know what works and what doesn’t, since they own YouTube.

Curated Insights

With Curated Insights, Google displays its own research in charts and graphs, going into depth about shopper buying and media behavior. It can be parsed by country, but there’s demographic data presented as well. Here are some particularly interesting insights:

 

Graph Builder

The tools we’ve looked at give you Google’s point of view, but with Graph Builder, you can create your own graphs and charts based on their data. There’s a simple 6-step walk through to show you how to use it, which starts with selecting questions like these:

  • The Online and Multiscreen World —“How do people watch TV?”
  • The Smart Shopper —“How did people first hear about the product/offer they bought?”
  • The Smart Viewer — “What motivated people to watch their most recent online video session?”

Once you figure out which questions are most relevant to your research, you can drill down further by:

  • Country
  • Demographic
  • Internet Usage
  • Device Usage
  • Product Purchased
  • Most Recent Video Context

From there, you can investigate by a particular product category. You’d want to, because not every business is the same, and you’ll want data specific to your industry. Granted, the categories are pretty general, but selecting something even close can provide direction.

Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for my “pet products” example, since there’s no category for it — weird, not to offer information about such a huge industry. Oh well, even Google isn’t perfect. Stay tuned — their tools are always changing.

Another drawback is that product filters vary by the question being answered. It would be nice if you could choose your product category first, then apply the questions to it.

Moving on, let’s say you wanted to know if you should spend time using social media to promote hair care products to US consumers. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Online Information Sources, and then use the “product filter” link to select hair care under “most recent product purchased.”

Now, let’s say you’re thinking of offering a discount to encourage people to make a purchase. Here’s a relative comparison of how a discount influences a purchase by category. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Motivation for Purchase. Filter by product, as described previously. Then, you’ll need to hide all the other motivations to create this graph.

Unfortunately, there’s no information about services or B2B “business to business.” However, the tool allows you can compare filtered segments in one chart by selecting more than one at a time.

Now Put Your Information to Good Use

This is just a taste of what you can do with Graph Builder. Once you’ve created the charts you want, you can export as a CSV or png, or share, by selecting the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the graphic. That sharing option may be especially useful for creating a post to a social network.

No matter what product or service you plan to offer, the marketing of that product should be based on a good understanding of the industry and consumer behavior — and the Internet is a good place to start if you know where to look. These free market research tools are a good start, providing valuable insights you may not be able to find elsewhere. Plus, they can help you create and share some compelling graphics, whether that’s for a business plan, presentation or social media marketing.

Visit our website to learn more market research shortcuts.

Robbin’s unique perspective and extensive experience has been put to good use solving her client’s stickiest marketing problems. Not to be missed, she’s presenting Slay the Social Media Dragon and Do It Yourself Websites at this year’s BizFair.

 

Find the Missing Link in Your Social Media Strategy

By: Robbin Block, Blockbeta Marketing

An effective social media strategy depends on finding the right sites to reach your audience. Beyond the major social networks, which attract a large, generalized audience, there are plenty of niche sites which will help you build exposure and website traffic.

Benefits of Niche Sites

  • More targeted: Relevance trumps size
  • Buyers, not browsers: Leads to more qualified, convertible traffic
  • Big fish, smaller pond: Less clutter and noise, more chance to get noticed
  • More meaningful sharing and engagement

Be Where They Are

The point of using social media for business is to get in front of potential customers, which means you want to be where they are hanging out. Whether you choose major or niche sites, define your audience using the following and then match it to the sites that meet your criteria:

Geography: Neighborhood, city, regional, national, international.

Interest: Consider the site’s focus: i.e., design, games, business, etc. Drill down as much as possible to match your target audience.

Demographic: Easily identifiable stuff about participants, like age, income, education. For data about social sites, start your research at PEWInternet.org. For small sites, you may have to find out from the site itself. Look for advertising information in the footer (just for info, not to advertise).

Activity: What people do at the site, i.e., simply commenting vs. watching videos. Think about the kind of content that fits with what your business is about, i.e., if you have a visual business, Instagram and Pinterest may be a good fit.

Affinity: What participants have in common, i.e., people planning a wedding or those that like to invent things with Legos.

Many people participate in both major and niche sites, so select a balance of each. If you choose a major, join subgroups that match your audience, ie., a food related business in Seattle could join the Seattle Foodies group on Facebook.

Where to Find Niche Sites

The more sites seek to create interactivity and engagement, the more they’re likely to offer social opportunities to participate in. Start with the associations and groups your audience belongs to (ask them), then look for social opportunities in the following places:

  • Search Google like a customer looking for a product like yours and see what social sites come up.
  • Industry Associations
  • Online Publications
  • Social site directories
  • Check competitors’ sites for their social badges
  • Look at your own referral traffic data
  • Vendors sometimes have their own social networks too
  • Search Google for “niche social sites” + your area of interest
  • Go local (websites, blogs, publications, etc. in your geographic area)

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of niche sites, finding the best match you can, prioritize them by highest amount of traffic. Then, start using them and track the referral traffic to your site, using something like Google Analytics to see if all that effort is paying off.

Learn more about social media marketing.

Robbin is presenting “Slay the Social Media Dragon” at this year’s Bizfair.

Your Fortune Is In The Follow Up

By: Debbie Page

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Your fortune is in the follow up,” which is then immediately followed by,

“Yeah but I don’t want to be sales-y.” Brace yourself friends, I need to tell you something straight and it might sting.

Get over yourself.

One of my great business colleagues says, “Sales is an act of love,” and if you are passionate about what you do and know that it provides great value to your ideal client then it is your obligation to follow up.

Research shows that 80% of sales are made after the 5th follow up. How many times do you follow up? Once? Twice? You are losing money if you do not have a documented and repeatable system to follow up 5 times or more, with people who have expressed interest in your products/services.

You also need to have more in your follow up than, “Are you ready to buy?” This is where the documented follow up system fits in.

Here are 5 steps to include in your sales follow up process:

  1. It’s totally appropriate to make your first follow up about checking in to see if the prospect has any questions or is ready to move ahead.
  2. The second time you follow up reference what they mention they need to attend to before they start working with you.
  3. The third time share something they might find valuable as it relates to their business, an article a blog post (written by you is fine or by someone else)  or a tool that you think they or their clients might find useful.
  4. The fourth time, send them a handwritten note with a $5 coffee card inside and a note that says, “I know you have been working hard, take a break today – coffee is on me.
  5. The fifth time call them. Yes, I said call them. No need to schedule an appointment. Just pick up the phone and give them a ring. “Hi Jack, Liz Lemon here. I was just thinking of you and ratings season and wanted to wish you the best. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you get that Emmy this year.”

Any of this seem sales-y? Not at all.

Keeping yourself top of mind will keep you in line when your ideal customer is ready to invest with you.

Create a documented sales follow up system and plan that you and everyone on your team follows EVERY time a prospect enters into conversation with you. Having a documented plan that is executed can increase your revenue by 50% or more.

What would an additional 50% in revenue do for you and your business? 

Learn more marketing tips from Debbie at Biz Fair on September 30.

3 Ways the Public Library Helps Entrepreneurs

By: The Seattle Public Library

Whether you are exploring a new business idea or are trying to grow an existing small business, your public library can be an important ally in helping you create a viable plan. The Seattle Public Library (SPL), King County Library System (KCLS), and Pierce County Library System (PCLS) offer access to an extensive selection of free resources for entrepreneurs at any stage.

Here are three great ways you can take advantage of your public library:

1: Conduct Market and Industry Research

Business databases accessible through your library’s website can help you locate valuable research and data that is not available on the open web. With your library card, you can access these tools 24/7 without having to visit the library. You’ll find:

Information about other companies:
Enhanced business directories will help you identify competitors, prospects, suppliers or partners, and they are searchable by type of business and geography. These directories also include detailed information for private companies that can be difficult to find elsewhere, like estimates on revenue and number of employees. Look for: ReferenceUSA (SPL, KCLS) and Mergent Intellect (PCLS, KCLS)

Information about consumers:
Demographics databases are useful for choosing a business location, locating target customers, and sizing your market. These tools go beyond basic census data and dive deeper into consumer spending and psychographics. Look for: DemographicsNow (SPL, PCLS) and Social Explorer (KCLS)

Information about your industry:
Industry reports available through business databases will include your industry’s trends, opportunities, challenges, regional highlights, financial benchmarks, and more. Look for: ABI/Inform Trade and Industry (SPL, KCLS) and Business Source Complete (PCLS)

2: Build Your Technology and Business Skills

Web classes:
Brush up on business and tech skills with online courses you can take at home, at any time, and on your own schedule. Classes range from beginner to advanced level, and include a wide range of courses like social media marketing and Microsoft Access. Look for: lynda.com (SPL, PCLS, KCLS), Microsoft Imagine Academy (all libraries)

Books & eBooks:
Library collections include up-to-date guides on starting a business, writing a business plan, marketing, business tech skills, and more – available in print or as eBooks. Look for: Safari Tech Books (SPL) for its vast collection of up-to-date tech and business eBooks that are always available.

Library events:
Attend free library workshops and events to get expert advice and ask your own questions on topics like marketing, operations, funding, opening a food business, and more. Meet representatives of local agencies at library-hosted open houses. Check your library’s calendar to find out what’s happening soon!

3: Get Research Help

Locating the best business resources for your needs and then learning how to use them can be time consuming and frustrating. Librarians are available to make this process a little less painful! All libraries can help in person, over the phone, and by email; Seattle Public Library also offers one-on-one business research appointments.

Find The Seattle Public Library and Pierce County Library System at the Biz Fair to learn more!