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Online Shopping Goes Mobile – Is Your SMB Ready?

The holiday season often stirs two different emotions in people. On one hand, they enjoy spending time with their families, but on the other hand, shopping at malls and stores becomes a nightmare.

Online shopping has made buying presents much easier, and more Canadians now prefer to buy their presents online. In fact, a recent Ipsos Holiday Statistical Predictions survey showed that 73% of Canadians will shop for presents online this year.

What is more surprising is that Google Canada says 12% of Canadian smartphone users will buy their holiday gifts from their phone, and at least 53% will use a mobile device just to look up information about a purchase.

SMBs need to be aware that the future of shopping is heavily intertwined in the mobile market, and they need to adjust their marketing strategies to include mobile engagement. The infographic below from Mobstac looks at mobile shopping trends, and how smartphone usage is changing the way brands engage consumers during the holiday.

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For SMB owners, this means that the world of mobile can’t be ignored. Just because you don’t feel that your business isn’t large enough to have a mobile website or app, doesn’t mean that your customers won’t be searching for your products or services from their smartphones.

Is your SMB’s website optimized for smartphones? Have you considered an app for your SMB? I look forward to discussing this topic in the comments below.

The Best Ideas Aren’t Always In The Box

When thinking about branding, we all know that large brands tend to have the financial resources to produce innovative and creative advertising while smaller brands and budgets often have difficulties getting noticed.

With this in mind, I wanted to showcase how with some creative, out of the box thinking, a small brand (Queensland Board of Tourism) made a real impact with a low cost approach!

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This extraordinary campaign relied on the “Jobs” section of newspapers to get noticed. The result: the Board received over 7 million visitors, 34,000 applicants from 200 countries, and 500,000 votes for this once-in-a-lifetime job.

My take away for all SMBs is that you can make a difference and leave an impact with great results if you risk a little, and work with non-traditional marketing channels.

Has your SMB ever had success with an out of the box campaign? Or has a radically different campaign backfired for you? Have you wanted to try a risky campaign, but been held back by fear? I look forward to hearing your stories in the comments below.

Cut Through Information Overload With Effective Storytelling (infographic)

Did you know that on average, it’s estimated that people see 5,000 marketing messages per day?  This means getting your message heard is a very challenging task indeed.

As SMB owners, building brand recognition takes time and dedication, and what this infographic from LookBookHQ & Beutler Ink indicates is that there’s no better way to do this than with a story!

An effective story not only cuts through the noise that every day advertisements deliver, but it also makes your brand more memorable to your target audience.  This infographic discusses how you can make your brand stand out with effective story telling.

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While the infographic says it is for B2B marketing, the lessons learned from it apply to all audiences. The art of storytelling can be tricky, but learning to tell a compelling story is the foundation for building strong social relationships and, more importantly, brand recognition and advocacy.

Do you try to tell a story when you talk about your brand? Have you had success or failure when trying to tie a compelling story about your SMB? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments.

How Social Media Influences Businesses (Infographic)

Social media has proven to be more than just a fad – it is a part of almost everyone’s day-to-day lives and more importantly, influences the world of business in ways we may have never expected!

The statistics speak for themselves. With 85% of Internet users on Facebook, it is no surprise that the medium is one of the best ways to reach your audience. The social network seems to be powerful beyond measure, with 81% of Facebookers being influenced by their friend’s posts on social media.

This infographic from Go-Gulf.com shows just how influential social media can be to your business, and why it’s important that your business has a strong social media presence.

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We know that social media does wonders for business exposure and increasing site traffic, which is why we want our clients to understand social media and all its benefits. We offer Social Media 101 workshops to help clients better understand the online medium and decide which social media platform best suits their needs.

Does your SMB use any social media platforms? If you do, how many do you use? If you don’t use any, why not? I look forward to discussing with you in the comments.

“You Like Me… You Really Like Me!”

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Coined by Sally Field in 1985, the infamous (and actually misquoted) “like me” line was delivered when she won an academy award for her performance in Places in the Heart. This saying is also true for many SMB owners who tell me that their customers choose them “because they like our amazing customer service”, or “our quick response times” or “our knowledge of the business”.

It’s not surprising that no matter how long a SMB has been in business, the business owner feels they know their customers well.  However, what is surprising is that many of these business owners will defend how well they know their customers based on a “gut” feeling or “years dealing with their customers”, but only a few of them can actually validate their claims. When there are literally thousands of choices for customers to choose from, your company really needs to understand not just who they are, but who your customers are and why they would choose to buy from you versus your competitors.

The best method I recommend SMB owners use to help them better understand their customers is to create a customer survey. It shouldn’t be more than 10 questions that your customer can easily answer, and it will help you determine why they have chosen your service/product. Here are a few tips on what should be on your survey to help your business get the best insights and results:

  1. Type of Questions – The questions should be mostly open-ended. You are looking for as much data as you can get, so you don’t want a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
  2. Professionalism – The survey needs to be professionally written and laid-out.
  3. Delivery – Offer this survey online via a private landing page, or as a direct email to clients as an interactive PDF. If your customer base is small, make personal calls or better yet, make the survey part of your client meetings.
  4. Incentive – Depending on how difficult you feel it may be to get customers to fill out your survey, you may want to offer some sort of incentive, such as the first 15 customers to reply will win a $25 gift certificate.
  5. Appreciation – Once you know a customer has filled in the survey, you need to establish a mechanism for saying thank you.
  6. End Date – Make sure you provide an end date for the survey so you can analyze the results.
  7. Provide Timely Feedback and Actionable Items – Once you have analyzed the results of the survey, share the top-level results with your clients in a timely manner. Make a point to note how their input has helped you better serve them by outlining some actionable items.
  8. Communicate – As the actionable items are completed, make a point to communicate it to your customers so they feel “heard”. This communication validates that you care about their opinion, which in turn builds loyalty.

In marketing, if you want them to “like you”, you need to spend the time to find out why they do, so you can build marketing strategies that target their needs.

Do you feel it is critical to your marketing success to understand your customer? Have you ever conducted a formal customer survey?  If so, what advantage did this give you in the marketplace? If not, what other methods do you use to ascertain what your customers want?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Is Marketing More Than a Good Ad?

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Marketing is an ad. Marketing is a brochure. Marketing is a press release. And more recently, Marketing is a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, or a Twitter stream. At least, that is what many SMB owners think. But in reality marketing is strategic, not tactical.

Marketing sits at the intersection of the business and the customer, so it makes sense that most businesses seek out new and innovative ways to attract customers. Although some tactics like a new website, online marketing, videos, and brochures may initially attract customers to your business, resulting in a “boost” in the short term sales, I can guarantee that ad hoc, reactive tactics do not have long-term growth results.

Let’s face it, customers are fickle and with thousands of options and competitors out there, businesses today not only have to attract the customer, but build loyalty to keep that customer coming back.  Brochures and even websites alone do not build customer loyalty, your brand and brand values build loyalty.  Branding is part of the process involved in a marketing strategy.

Sometimes a business owner understands that they need a more permanent solution to their marketing and sales growth, but they are not exactly sure what they need. In the world of marketing there is only one true answer to increased growth and that is to have a marketing strategy.

A good marketing strategy will:

  1. Begin with a competitive analysis – The primary goal is to analyze your competitors to find out their strengths and weaknesses so that you can make knowledgeable decisions about your marketing strategies and set the stage for creating your unique selling proposition. Understanding customer needs, wants, buying habits and future industry trends may also be included in the analysis.
  2. Define your audiences – Clearly identify whom you will be targeting with your product/service.
  3. Define your unique selling proposition (USP) – The primary goal is to clearly define what makes your product/service unique and stand out from your competitors.
  4. Create a brand identity – The goals here is to outline what value your brand has in the market place, what values it provides to your customers and what colours, tone and overall look your brand should have that best reflect your USP.  This is much more than a logo.
  5. Create a tagline to support the brand. The new tag will reflect the direction of the brand and emphasize the expertise of the business. This tag along with the logo will effectively position the brand in the minds of the target market by creating a unique identity.

 As you can see, there is a lot of thinking and planning that goes into the development of a marketing strategy and none of it involves creating a brochure or website. Like building a house, your marketing strategy is your foundation, and we all know what happens to a house without a solid foundation!

Do you feel that you need a marketing strategy, or have you built your marketing without one? Have you ever hired a marketing company to create a marketing strategy? If not, why and if so, how was it helpful? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Poll Says SMBs Should Try Online Marketing

As the final installment in our five week series on the results from our online poll published on April 15th, we asked what the best piece of advice a SMB owner needs to help them grow their business and the last piece of advice was “Try online marketing”.

To answer this question, I wanted to share with you a fantastic article entitled
3 Internet Marketing Tips by Debra Murphy of Masterful Marketing, in which she interviews Susanne Morreale Leeber, the President of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. The article outlines a few Internet marketing tips for small businesses that I think provides a great starting point for SMB owners:

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1. Internet marketing is not a business model or a replacement for marketing basics

There’s a certain amount of confusion around this what Internet marketing really is. For some, Internet marketing is a business model – i.e. you have built an Internet based business. But for most small businesses, the Internet is a new media channel that can be used to reach your target market.

If you view Internet Marketing as another tool in your toolbox, then your mindset changes and you can apply basic marketing concepts to your efforts – that is who is my target audience, where can I find them and why would they want to connect and do business with my company?

2. Internet marketing is not a quest for the most likes, followers and friends

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Internet marketing is about building relationships and gaining visibility within your target market. Unfortunately there is something inherently important about fan counts, and it is human nature for people to check out your company profile on Facebook or Twitter and instantly judge them based on the metric of followers, friends or fans. But having many fake or uninterested followers does not help your business. So although growing your Facebook fans or Twitter followers organically seems tedious, those who follow you may actually care about and support your business. Using a service to quickly add 2000 fans only hurts you in the long run if you plan to do anything to market to these fans or followers.

3. Internet marketing is not about chasing the next new shiny object

Internet marketing is about creating a solid marketing plan, staying the course, evaluating your results and then modifying your activities as needed. I advise small business owners to create a marketing plan that’s flexible, can adapt to changes as the Internet evolves and fits your specific needs and overall marketing strategy. Not every new and improved online tool will be right for your business.

How does a small business owner effectively market their business online when they are trying to run their business on a day-to-day basis?

For many small businesses, it may seem that marketing gets more complicated and more confusing by the day, with constant changes to the technology and new platforms claiming help your business become more visible in the search engines.

The good news is that Internet marketing has transformed into a more sensible activity for small businesses, incorporating content marketing, search engine marketing including local search and social media marketing as the primary activities. The key is to find someone who you can work with who is knowledgeable about marketing and keeps up with the latest in this space. Doing so can help you focus on your base business, which is what you do best as a local business owner.

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With all of the pieces of advice we covered in our poll, I hope that you have a better understanding of what tools you need to get your marketing in order. Were these poll results useful to you? Did they provide the advice needed to grow your business? I look forward to engaging with you in the comments.

#3 Piece of Advice For SMBs is Hire a Professional Marketing Agency

In our online poll of a few weeks ago, we asked what the best piece of advice a SMB owner needs to help them grow their business and the third highest response was “hire a professional marketing agency”.

As the owner of a professional marketing agency, I feel a little biased writing an article about this topic from my perspective, so I decided to let a third party address this week’s topic and found this fantastic article from Brianna Smith at Fpweb.net. 

In this article entitled “The Modern Marketer”, she outlines, in what I feel is a humourous way, just exactly what it takes to be successful marketer today:

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Want to be a marketer? Well, make sure you know what it truly means. To become a successful marketer it is no longer about developing a catchy ad campaign that you will shout from the roof tops. Marketing has evolved into a combination of artistry and science. The modern marketer must have a strategic and analytical mind dedicated to measurable metrics but that is always craving a creative outlet.

Take a look at what you need to be a successful modern marketer in the infographic below. A marketer must:

  • Be a creative writer
  • Have an eye for great visual content
  • Understand the power of social media for engaging with consumers
  • Live by the rules and best practices of email marketing
  • Be Dedicated to tracking and measuring all marketing efforts
  • Enjoy using analytics tools to understand data and visualize trends
  • Be a budgeting maven
  • Never stop looking for new tools and resources to understand consumers

But, even though being a modern marketer means not thinking like the advertising minds of the Mad Men characters, it does not mean you can’t dress like them!

6a00e54ee3905b8833017d428025a6970c With all that is involved in being a successful marketer today, it is no wonder why hiring a professional agency is top of mind and solid advice for SMB owners.

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Do you have a marketing agency working for you?  Would you ever consider hiring one and if so, what aspects of your marketing do you feel an agency could help you with?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

#1 Piece of Advice For SMBs… a Marketing Strategy

Marketing-Strategy-851x400As a follow up on last weeks poll when I asked you for the most valuable piece of advice for SMB owners, we received the highest number of votes on – create a marketing strategy.

In the next few weeks, I will focus my blog posts on providing some insights and advice on the top answers resulting from this online poll.

A marketing strategy is your road map to help you obtain your business results, and it is shaped by your overall business goals. It includes a competitive analysis, a profile of your target audiences, development of your unique selling proposition (who you are and why you are unique), description of your products or services, and an outline of possible strategies to help obtain your business goals.  As a result of a strategy, you’ll have a map telling you who you are, why you are different (based on research), who your target audience is and how you can engage this audience.

If you are not comfortable writing your own marketing strategy, or feel overwhelmed or under resourced with the amount of information required, you may want to consult a marketing agency to help you create your strategy.  These are skilled professionals who not only bring insights and experience, they’re also dedicated to helping businesses realize their goals through the creation of successful marketing strategies.

To get started in developing your marketing strategy, you’ll need to do a little homework. Here are my top 10 questions I feel you need to answer before developing a marketing strategy:

  1. How would you define your business?
  2. Have you conducted a competitive analysis? If not, why?
  3. What is your unique selling proposition versus the competition? (The answer should not revolve around pricing)
  4. Why is this unique selling proposition compelling to your audience?
  5. Who is your target audience for each of your services or products?
  6. Is your pricing inline with your competitors or at parity?
  7. How do you promote or advertise your product or service?
  8. What is the ROI for your marketing tactics (advertising, posters, website, etc) to date?
  9. How have you measured the success of your marketing activities?
  10. Do you have any client testimonials or conducted client surveys?

Your marketing strategy will help get you to where you want to be. It is often the case that a client has a fabulous idea for a product or service, but without going through the steps of a strategy, they go to market only to find that there is no interest or the marketing tactic they are using is not engaging their audience.

Do you agree with having a strategy first? Have you run a business without a strategy and if so, what were your results?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.