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Small Business Success Index 4

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Posts Tagged ‘small business marketing’

How Much Is Too Much to Pay for a Marketing Tool?

November 16th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

For some small business owners, it’s impossible to pay too much for marketing, provided that the marketing in question brings in at least a little more than you spent in the first place. For other companies, even spending a little more than a set percentage of their budget on marketing is out of the question.

For both of these viewpoints, the many new marketing tools that keep appearing on the scene can be a problem. There is software to help with social media, tools that will show you wherever your business is mentioned online, and so on — all of which can help you market your business. Some are free, some come with sizable price tags, and all of them require deciding how much you’re willing to invest in a marketing tool.

Costs Beyond Money

With a new marketing tool come costs far beyond what you pay to use it. You may need to pay a specialist to handle using the tool in question or to train you so you can manage it. You need to spend time on using the tool, which can easily take time away from other, revenue-producing work. Before you decide if paying for the use of a tool will help you with your marketing, you need to know what it will actually cost you to use. Take that a step further and determine what it will cost you on a monthly basis — many Web-based applications are priced as a monthly subscription, rather than one initial payment.

Once you’ve actually got some numbers in place that you can work with, you’ll be in a far better place to make the financial decision on any given tool.

The Marketing Decision

There’s a difference between the financial decision and the marketing decision, though. A business owner has to balance the marketing needs and the financial needs of the business. Depending on the business owner’s background, it may be harder to see the immediate usefulness of a given marketing tool. For that reason, it can be important to have someone in your business — whether a regular employee or a consultant brought in specially — who can make an effective argument for the different marketing tools you may be considering.

A marketing professional may be able to offer a more in-depth comparison of the different tools that are out there, going beyond what a couple of minutes of Internet research can turn up. There may be reasons for price differences between products that many not be immediately obvious, especially for a business owner who must focus more on management and operations.

There are other reasons to bring in a marketing specialist as early in the conversation as possible. When you’re trying to figure out your true costs for a tool, your marketing specialist is either going to be using the tool or training you to use it. That means his or her recommendation should carry weight, unless you also want to pay for the time that it takes that marketing pro to learn a new tool.

Image by Flickr User House Of Sims (Creative Commons)

Podcasting: The Underused Marketing Tool with Big Potential

August 2nd, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Jay BerkowitzI recently watched a video (online of course) that featured Jay Berkowitz, CEO of the internet marketing firm Ten Golden Rules.  He was talking about social media, which he is wont to do, and mentioned podcasting as a great online marketing tool simply because it is so underutilized.  I found this bit of information intriguing and decided to blog about podcasting for several reasons. 

  • First, as he pointed out, podcasting is a one way social media tool, unlike Facebook and Twitter (when they are used properly). 
  • Second, there are few competitors so it’s a relatively easy market to dominate once you pick your topic.
  • Third, I am sick and tired of hearing nothing but Facebook and Twitter this, Facebook and Twitter that.  At this point, articles on those social media platforms are redundant and boring. 
  • Fourth, podcasting is a creative medium and can be used in a variety of ways.
  • And fifth, a series of podcasts is a great way to position yourself as a thought leader on a specific topic and can really drive some traffic to your site (and hopefully convert some leads into clients).

 To quote Jay directly:

There are very few podcasts on any topic, but there are now millions of iPhones, iPods and iTouches – 25% of users download podcasts. It is a great way to build a following with an audience looking for this content, very few competitors are podcasting. You could also add the shows to your website.

Now, please forgive me if we have gotten this far and you’re scratching your head wondering what on Earth a podcast is.  It’s an audio broadcast, or, to put it another way, a song with no singing, only talking.  You can listen to it online or download it to listen to on your iPod or other MP3 player. A podcast can be short or long, include one person’s voice or a few people’s, and actually, it could include music if you’re so inclined.

Here’s how you could use a podcast: 

  • Distribute a weekly podcast that includes a secret word or phrase to receive a special discount on a product or service.
  • Create a series of educational podcasts on a specific topic that would be of interest to your target market.
  • Use podcasting for PR and release news in a more personal, immediate way.
  • Advertise new products or services using your most persuasive sales skills. 
  • Replace one blog post a week with a podcast. 

To create a podcast, you need some software.  I’ve certainly listened to podcasts, but I’ve never made one.  Google to the rescue!  A quick search on podcasting software resulted in this nice little list of 2010 Podcast Software Reviews, which is very comprehensive.  Underneath the long chart comparing the features of 10 podcast software programs is a tutorial on what to look for in podcast software.  Good information to have for a newbie. 

I’m curious to know if any of you have used podcasts for marketing purposes, and if they’ve been successful.  Leave a comment and let me know!

Women in Business: Marketing Strategy For Everyone! Part 1

July 22nd, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Emily RichardsEmily Richards is the smart, funny, and energetic owner of Drew Consulting, a full-service marketing consulting firm based in Falls Church, VA. We were introduced at a BNI meeting (neither of us belongs) by a mutual business associate last winter.  When we finally got together for lunch in May, we had such a good time that I realized I’d found not only a new partner and referral source (and vice versa), but a friend.  Nice when that happens.

Because of Emily’s deep experience in marketing, I thought she’d have some useful information on marketing strategy to pass along to all of us small business owners.  She had so much to say, I’m dividing this blog post into two. Enjoy!

Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?  How long have you been in business?

Owning my own business has always been my dream. I began consulting on a freelance basis while still in corporate America. It was something I enjoyed and decided to pursue full time. I’ve consulted for 4 years.

What areas of marketing strategy do you specialize in/most enjoy?

I specialize in the actual development of marketing strategies; business development strategies (companies either in start up phase or expansion of an existing company); and market research. Typically all of the above mentioned areas go hand in hand. In order to develop new business, a business strategy, marketing strategy and market research are all necessary components. Market Research provides quantifiable data that supports my recommendations for marketing strategies. Marketing strategies are a driver in the success in new business development and ultimately, positive impact to the bottom line.  These specialties are also what I enjoy most. It’s a nice perk in small business ownership to align your specialties with what you most enjoy.

What are the biggest marketing challenges your clients face?  How do you help them overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenges my clients face are depressed economic conditions and a rapidly changing marketing landscape. While these are cliché challenges, they present obstacles I have to overcome on a daily basis. In a recessive economy, it takes more time and creativity to achieve the same results that came much easier in a thriving economy. My clients don’t necessarily have the allocation in their budget for the additional time and efforts. They spent less and earned more in past years. It’s a difficult concept for them to overcome. Secondly, technology is evolving at lightning speed. There are times when I simply do not have the answer as to the impact of a rising social media or interactive trend. I don’t enjoy not having the answer any more than they do. The positive spin to both of these challenges is the benefits of our global communication. There are many opportunities to create a strategy with grassroots focus at a minimal cost thanks to existing social media platforms.

Proving the ROI of marketing is not always easy.  How do you help your clients quantify the effectiveness of their marketing programs?

As I mentioned before, I feel proving the ROI of many marketing efforts today are significantly more difficult to quantify. I am very adamant [with clients] that there be some form of capture method to measure the impact of our efforts. It helps tremendously when there is a database that can capture leads, lead sources and sales. But there are many creative metrics [apart from databases] to capture this information ranging from analyzing Google analytics (to determine if a marketing material with a unique URL generated traffic to a site) to analyzing the click-through of an e-blast to monitoring the number of fans to your facebook (before and after a month long posting campaign). I like to measure leads, number of sales and the lead conversion ratio. It provides us the ability to determine how many targeted leads we need to obtain in order to reach the desired lead conversion rate and ultimately revenue goals.

Read Part 2 here.

10 Cost Effective Ways to Market Your Business, Part 1

July 12th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

As all of us small business owners know, marketing need not be expensive, but it does take some time and effort.  About 6 weeks ago, I signed up for yet another great webinar sponsored by the American Marketing Association called 10 Cost Effective Ways to Market Your Business.  It was so packed with great information that it’s going to take me two blog posts to write about what was included. 

Before I share what I learned, keep in mind this standard rule of thumb when marketing your business: 80% of the information you publish should be valuable content, while 20% can be pure promotion.

10. Tie Your Company’s Promotions Into Daily or Monthly Events

Ever hear of Chase’s Calendar of Events?  It is really cool and a very useful tool for marketers.  For 42 years, they’ve been publishing a yearly calendar that lists everything from celebrity birthdays to monthly celebrations (think National Black History Month).  From the truly obscure (July 1—the day I’m writing this post—is Midyear Day in Thailand) to the historic (the Battle of Gettysburg took place on July1 in 1863), there are several items listed every day of the year that, if you get creative and think ahead, you could base a promotion on.   

9. Tap Into Your Network

The companies and people you work with are great sources of information and shouldn’t be ignored.  Share leads with partners and solicit feedback from vendors, especially for new products or services. Don’t forget your customers, either.  Use feedback from them as the basis for a research study.  Publish and share the study with them (and potential customers).

8. Syndicate Your Content

Blog syndication is really underutilized, so tap into it.  (Syndication means something is published in more than one place—think advice columns that appear in newspapers nationwide.)  First get a Creative Commons license to ensure you retain the copyright of your content when it is re-published.  Then look up blogs where the subject you want to write about fits in and that also accept non-original content.

7. Get Yourself Some User-Generated Content

Adding user-generated content to your website takes some organizing but is a relatively easy way to goose inbound marketing. Three ideas: Ask vendors, customers, and partners to guest blog for you.  Add a forum to your website; topics could include help/support, news, info, industry gossip, product or service ideas, etc.  Put together a blog series written by experts in your field.

6. Don’t Forget Outbound Marketing

Posting on other sites is important, too.  Write a review on for a book written about your industry, answer questions related to your field on LinkedIn, post on companies’ Facebook walls, and be sure to share all of the content you are creating on social media sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Continue reading by checking out the next blog post on this topic here.

Guys in Business: Transforming a Seasonal Business Into a Year-Round Business

June 28th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

When people find out my brother, Nikolas Pattantyus, is a massage therapist, they exclaim, “Wow, you’re so lucky!”  Yes, I tell them, I would be lucky if he lived nearby.  Nik owns and operates a massage therapy practice based in the beach resort of Avalon, NJ.  He also, as my mom and I like to say, lives the life.  Upon graduating from high school, he knew himself well enough to have the wisdom and audacity to skip college.  He traveled to surf and snowboard (he even lived in Samoa for 5 months), and he worked when he could, mostly during the summer at restaurants in Avalon and Stone Harbor, which share a barrier island. 

Nik lived a frugal, free-spirited life, but he also knew he needed to get serious and find a career.  Six years after kissing academia goodbye, Nik enrolled at the highly regarded Utah School of Massage Therapy in Salt Lake City.  He had found his calling, and he set up his business, 7 Mile Island Massage, in the summer of 2001. 

From the end of May through October, Nik works up to 10 hours a day.  Since most of his clients live 1 ½ to 2 hours away in and around Philadelphia, he has decided to cut back on the off-season travel, live in Philadelphia during the winter, and focus on growing his business into a year-round enterprise. Here’s how he’s doing just that.

Nikolas Pattantyus

Nikolas Pattantyus

Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?  How long have you been in business?

The decision was easy.  I like being independent and doing things on my own terms.  I started the business when I was still in massage school ten years ago.  When I began doing market research on the South Jersey shore (Avalon, NJ to be more exact), I found a niche in the market; there wasn’t a single massage therapy business in the county providing outcalls

Operating a seasonal business means intense work for a short period of time.  How do you balance the need to work a lot with not exhausting yourself?

I make a point of scheduling time for myself each week to stay in top physical condition.  I try to get to the gym at least 3 times a week, surf as often as possible, and get a massage every two weeks.  It’s a physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding job, so I need to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.

What have been the benefits and drawbacks of owning a seasonal business?

Having the time and flexibility to do what I want in the offseason is both a benefit and a drawback.  Another big drawback is finding skilled therapists to work with me.  Competent and knowledgeable therapists are difficult to find, especially those willing to do house calls at the beach for only a few months a year.

How have you transitioned to owning a business that operates year-round? 

Most of my clientele live in the Philadelphia metro area, so I have started sending text messages or calling my clients to let them know I’ll be working in their town or neighborhood that day. 

What outreach/advertising methods have you/do you use to grow your business?

The only paid advertising I do now is the Cape May County phone book.  Most of my business is repeat business, but I also generate business through word of mouth and my website, which is optimized for search engines.  I do some networking but I don’t have a Facebook page or use Twitter. 

Thinking back on the lean winters, would you have done anything differently?

Yeah, for sure.  I used to fill my head with different places I wanted to travel to during the winter; I had no intention of being in the Mid-Atlantic area at all.  My clients would always ask me if I was going to be around Philly during the offseason, and I would always say no.  I set myself back taking that approach but I’ve learned that by making myself available all year and staying in touch with my clients throughout the year has increased my summer business with my regulars.

What are your goals?  Where do you see your company headed? 

I plan on finding dependable, quality therapists I can employ during the summer and growing my offseason business to the point where I can keep them busy in the winters, either in Philly or at the Shore or both.

If you could give one piece of advice to a burgeoning entrepreneur/small business owner, what would it be? 

Explore as many different advertising mediums as possible and track them to see which works best.   Do what you can to get new clients without selling yourself short and do whatever it takes to accommodate existing clients because positive experiences will generate good word of mouth traffic.