As we edge into a new year filled with continued COVID fears and ever-changing protocols, it's hard for small businesses to feel optimistic about the coming months. Some have shuttered their doors forever. That's the very reason why we MUST create our own destiny and figure out how we can solve a problem for our customers and clients during this extended pandemic. Employees learned how to work remotely, fighting through new technology platforms. Students and teachers learned how to adapt to online learning.
While COVID has hurt many small businesses, it has also helped many discover how resilient and creative they can be. Small businesses took leaps of faith to retain their loyal customers by tracking ever-changing state and local protocols, embracing technology and thinking outside the box to serve their customers. Website overhauls now included e-commerce options as online shopping became necessary. Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, Shopify, Ebay stores and other auction sites replaced brick and mortar shopping. In-person workshops and events moved online using FaceTime, Zoom and other platforms.
I came across a social media timeline that brought back memories of joining LinkedIn shortly after it launched in 2003, then Facebook in 2005, Twitter in 2007, and Pinterest (still my favorite) in 2010. I joined Google+, but never liked it. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who lost interest in the platform as it was shut down for good in 2019. New platforms emerged - Snapchat, Periscope, Vine, and now TikTok. Two of these have already been shut down. An alternative platform to Facebook called Parler launched in 2019 and was forced offline by Amazon and Google.
So, what can small business learn from this ever-changing and fickle marketplace?
I spent many years facilitating educational workshops on social media and email marketing. At the beginning of most classes I showed a slide that featured a wheel. The hub of the wheel represented what we, as small business owners, controlled -- our website and our mailing list. The end of the spokes included all the various social media platforms. These are areas we cannot control and don't own. Now, more than ever, it's important to rely less on what we cannot control and bolster our relationships with our customers using our mailing lists which continually point back to our hubs - our websites.
I wish you much success in 2021.
The holidays will be upon us before you can change your clock back! As a small business owner, this is an important time of year for many reasons. Although we think of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday as big shopping days for retail stores, the holiday season impacts service related businesses and non-profits as well. Many small businesses make much of their income during the holidays. Non-profits rely on Giving Tuesday and holiday events that focus on the generosity of donors. It's also a time to thank our customers for their loyalty.
I was an Authorized Local Expert speaker for Constant Contact for many years and the workshops I facilitated during the holiday season were always very popular. Attendees learned about the types of promotions and special events they could offer, how to time the promotions, harnessing email and social media to connect and expand their reach with customers.
This year I am happy to offer you, as a valued reader of my blog and newsletter, the Holiday Marketing 101 Guide, published by Constant Contact that you can read in the comfort of your office, your living room, or even in bed in your jammies. You will find a comprehensive approach to planning and executing your marketing plan, as well as ways to carry your efforts into the new year. Take a deep, cleansing breath. You don't have to do it all. Pick what feels right to you and your customers. Just click the button to download the guide here:
P.S. If you are not currently using email marketing, or are frustrated with the service you've chosen, I encourage you to take Constant Contact for a FREE spin using my direct link. If you decide to purchase I will give you a promotional code to use as my gift. Try Constant Contact today.
The digital world doesn't stand still and finding ways for our businesses to be found online can be challenging. Google announced in December that Google+ is shutting down on March 7th following a data breach and low consumer usage. Each social media channel has a different appeal and demographic but among the top platforms based on usage are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of all the channels, Facebook still has the broadest usage and widest demographic. However, small businesses are often frustrated with Facebook's algorithm which continually makes it harder to be seen in a crowded marketplace. The push to a "pay to play" model has made it difficult to use the platform without paying for Facebook advertising. Still, having a presence on Facebook makes sense for most small businesses in order to create brand awareness and relationships with potential users of our products and services. The good news is that Facebook is a quality not quantity network. Posting 2 or 3 times a week can be sufficient as long as the content is relevant to your audience.
Here are 5 ways to harness the power of Facebook for your business:
It's easy to let the lure of summer let us kick back a little, slow down, unplug, maybe take a well deserved vacation. This is a good thing, assuming we've let our marketing continue on auto-pilot, as I wrote about in my last post.
September is right around the corner, which means that the last quarter of the year also looms on the horizon. What you do NOW to create and maintain your marketing strategy and campaign execution can make a profound difference in your end of year numbers.
So, what can you do in the middle of August to prepare to hit the ground running when it's "back to business" in September?
The first thing to do is create a visual roadmap for September - December. This calendar will allow you to map out everything that may affect your business and marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season.
Begin by adding special dates (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (if you sell online), Giving Tuesday (non-profit giving), etc. Look for special recognition days, weeks or months that are important to your industry and could be used in social media.
Will you be planning any special events, ie. customer appreciation day, a sales event, workshop, pop-up shopping day? If so, look at your calendar to strategize a date that is far enough in advance to be able to market sufficiently.
Once you know what event you will hold, break out the tasks that need to be done. You can do this on paper now and add it to a digital task list later, or an excel or Google sheet which can be shared with others. What is the task, who is responsible, when is it due? If you're depending on others to create print material, update your website or create a campaign online, be aware that they may be busier as well. Don't wait until the last minute to place the work order.
Your social media, email, and traditional marketing campaigns need to support your seasonal "offer". Timing is everything. Don't overlook the time needed to produce, print and ship marketing collateral. What can you pre-schedule and what must you do manually? Inboxes are inundated with offers at this time of year. Do you have a strategy for resending an email to your subscribers who did not open your offer?
It may feel a bit overwhelming now to think about fall and holiday marketing, but with a little planning now, you can reap the benefit of a fatter bottom line on December 31st. You can do this!!!
If you are a solo-preneur, finding time to do everything you need to do on a daily basis to market your business can feel daunting. When it's time to take a few days off, have you thought of how you will keep your business "running" while you're away? Ask yourself these questions.
How "unplugged" will you be?
1. Create a vacation auto-reply for your email.
You can use a basic out of office message, but why not toss in a little marketing when you have the opportunity. An out of office message that includes marketing goes something like this:
Hello and thanks for your email. I’m currently away until mm/dd with limited / no access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [NAME] at [EMAIL or PHONE]. In the meantime, did you know I have a monthly e-newsletter? Yep, you heard that right! A monthly dose of all your favorite [COMPANY] content sent right to your inbox. To ensure you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, sign up for my newsletter here. [insert email sign up link] I’ll be sure to get back to you when I return on mm/dd. Thanks,
2. Create a voicemail greeting for your work phone.
If you use the same phone for work and pleasure, being away from the office can be a bit tricky. The best advice is to NOT pick up the phone and encourage callers to leave a voice mail.
3. Send an email to your mailing list subscribers.
The timing of this email may depend on your type of business. If you let people know you're on vacation in 5 days, you may get last minute requests for service just when you're trying to lighten your work load. I prefer to send this shortly before I will be unavailable for a period of time. The content for this message can be similar to a voice mail out of office greeting, Consider including support service contacts.
4. Pre-schedule social media content.
Just because you're away, doesn't mean that you can't be marketing. There are apps available to help. Here's a pretty comprehensive list of free and paid apps you might want to consider: sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-scheduling-tools/
If you are only posting to Facebook, did you know that you can schedule posts directly from Facebook? Just create a post, but instead of clicking on Publish, click the down arrow beside it and choose Schedule. You can choose the date and time you want the post to appear. All your scheduled posts will show up in Activity.
5. Pack the essentials.
There are times when you may want flexibility to do a little work. Be sure to pack your wall charger, solar charger, laptop or tablet. If you need wi-fi, know where hotspots are available, or better yet, avoid the public wi-fi network altogether and add tethering to your mobile phone plan.
Last summer I celebrated my birthday by getting back to my creative roots. I always wanted to learn to paint watercolors. I think I may have posted something on Facebook about my idea and shortly after found myself walking out of Valley Art Supplies in Easthampton with my first watercolor painting kit. A friend of mine invited me to her art studio to "play" with my newly acquired paints and we spent a relaxing, fun afternoon together while she taught me how to prepare my paper, lay down a wash and plan my painting. Watercolor must be applied from light to dark, so before the first brush stroke is laid, you really need to plan the entire project.
What does this have to do with marketing, you may ask? Well, whether you're creating a watercolor painting or marketing your business, both require careful planning.
Here are some signs that you may be in need of a strategic digital marketing plan:
noun - the action of delaying or postponing something.
We all do it. Psychologists study it. There's even a National Procrastinators week! I usually procrastinate about sending invoices. It's not that I don't like to get paid for my work, it's that I don't ENJOY the task. I put the chore in the same category as filing or shredding paper.
I've asked many small business owners what they liked least about running a business and often I'm told, "Marketing. I don't feel comfortable doing it and I don't know what to say, so I put it off." Sometimes we procrastinate when things feel out of balance, or when we don't have an efficient system in place.
The problem with putting off your marketing is that you are missing opportunities to grow your business by creating strong, lasting relationships with your customers.
Start with your mailing list.
You have people who already want to hear from you and you've promised them that you'd stay in touch regularly. There ARE ways to help avoid procrastination. Here are just a few tips to help you get past the urge to put off doing what feels hard.
According to a February 2015 study by Radicati Group, there are about 2.5 billion email users worldwide. Almost one in every three persons use email on the earth. By the end of 2017, they predict that 132 billion emails will be sent and received per day. No matter the email client, Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Aol, on average, we get about 121 messages in our inboxes every day.
So why are all these stats important?
What if I told you that every email you send could help grow your business naturally, and it wouldn't cost you a dime? Here's how:
At the bottom of any email message you have the opportunity to add a custom signature. A professional email signature should always include the basics - full name, title (optional), company, address, phone(s), fax (optional), hyperlinked email address, and hyperlinked website address.
Everything below that is FREE marketing space.
I add a link to Join My Mailing List.
You can also add a message, maybe a mention of a special event you have coming up, or a discount you're offering on a product or service. You can even create multiple custom signatures with different messages.
PRO TIP: If you have staff, make sure that all signatures contain the same information.
If you need help, here are a few support sites. You can also Google "create custom email signature with hyperlink Outlook 2013" (include which version you use).
Outlook support: support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-a-return-e-mail-address-link-to-a-message-aa26c703-5c94-4be8-82cd-1839f3cd8934
Gmail support: https://support.google.com/a/answer/176652?hl=en
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.