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Creating Excellence talks small business in Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail article

 

Last month, Globe and Mail columnist Mia Pearson wrote an outstanding piece on the importance of knowing when it’s time to let things go as a small business. The article features an interview with me (Crystal Munro) and my work with client, Photos By Kathryn. I could go into the article in detail, but I would prefer you read Mia’s column for yourself.

I post this not as self-promotion, but because as I explain in the article, it is critical that small business owners realize that they may be holding their growth back by trying to do everything themselves. There is a certain point in every small business’ growth cycle where they need to evaluate strategies, put increased focus on what they are good at, and look to outsource the rest.

Following this article, her company High Road Communications, also listed outsourcing as one of their top resolutions in their blog.

Social media & marketing strategy: 5 things to consider for the new kid on the block

Social Media is at an interesting junction right now. People that are in it have jumped in with both feet and fully immerse themselves in it. They have arrived at the party and are busy networking, making connections and strengthening their brand and client relations through Social Media. Those that have not jumped in are, well, thinking about it. They often realize that it is an important part of their business, but they don’t know where to begin, and in many cases are intimidated to enter a party where it seems everyone already knows each other.

If you have thought about what Social Media can do for your business. Consider the following 5 points about how to be successful in your efforts:

1. Social Media is part of your marketing strategy, not independent of it.
Don’t let the hype scare you. Social media is simply another channel you can use in your marketing efforts. Beware of anyone that tries to sell you otherwise. Your marketing plan should include social media as part of your strategy and ensure that each channel is consistent with your brand messaging. Many firms out there deem themselves as social media experts. That they may be, but if they don’t spend the time to understand your brand or ask about your existing marketing mix, so social media can be integrated appropriately, then buyer beware. They may just be a predator for those intimidated by Web 2.0.

2. Wallflowers need not apply. Engagement is critical to success.
Our world has rapidly shifted from a push strategy to a pull strategy. Instead of the company controlling the message, most successful social media strategies are engaging conversation with the customer and using the client as a brand ambassador.

If you cannot commit the time to properly managing this side of your business then maybe now is not the right time for your company. Social media is about immediate connection. Replying to a tweet that is one day old in the social media world is like replying to a customer complaint a year from now in the offline world.

A report released April 2010 by Social Media Examiner reports that the more than half of the marketers using social media are spending on average 6 hours or more each week. Each company is different, but ensure before you jump on board that you have the resources to commit to this time.

3. Don’t dilute your brand. It is not an all or nothing channel.
One of the common mistakes when making the decision to come to the social media party is to sign up for everything. People come to me, so proud saying holding their Twitter handle, Facebook Page, Linked In account, blog and You Tube account. Not every channel is right for your company. In marketing we often say that the smaller the niche, the stronger the brand. It does not necessarily make sense for a company to be everywhere. Analyze your company’s building blocks*, what are your objectives? Presence, relationships, conversation, identity, groups, sharing or reputation? Each social media site can fulfill different needs. Make sure you have a need that needs to be fulfilled and that your niche market is an active participant there, before signing up.

4. Be real. Authenticity will take you far.
Twitter and Facebook are not the platform to post your latest press release. They are meant to create conversation with your customers. Educate, engage and inform, don’t preach. Corporate speak and buzzwords online can be a faux pas. Save those for your brochure.

The greatest thing about social media is how genuine and authentic it is. Ensure that whomever is representing your company understands and can properly communicate the brand. Whatever individual manages your social media is essentially one of the most important people in your organization. They have the power to respond as the voice of your organization. The main point here is to not delegate this to the summer intern. Whomever handles this should be able both online and offline properly communicate your brand message.

5. Bad things can happen to good companies. Plan for crisis management.
We can’t always assume that things are all rainbows and sunshine in the online world. A company is putting themselves out there for the world to potentially see all their dirty laundry. Ensure that you have a plan in place for crisis management.

Decide how much control you are going to give to the person handling your social media. What level of authority do they have to solve or resolve a complaint or problem? What will the steps be in this process? In speaking with one individual who handles the social media for a software company, he spoke to the fact that he is given all authority to do whatever takes immediately to make that customer happy since words written online can never be erased. He laughed saying, mail us your complaint it will sit in the pending file for months—online, immediate response.

Whenever or however you decide to embark into the world of social media know that there are plenty of resources out there to make sure that you can be successful in achieving your goals. Perhaps even reaching some of the 105 million Twitter users, 60 million LinkedIn users, or maybe even one of the 350 million Facebook users. Look forward to seeing you at the party!

Additional Reading & References:

The Building Blocks original list was assembled by Matt Webb (who was expanding on a list created by Stewart Butterfield).

HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy

2010 Social Media Examiner Report

Bar code marketing for small business

There is nothing more exciting than the feeling of possibility. I seem to be feeling that a lot lately, and when I started to analyze why, I realized that it is because I find myself always cheering for the underdog. Even when I moved to the consulting side I was very conscious of wanting to work for the little guy. All small businesses should have the possibilities that exist for mega corporations.

Platforms like FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, have all given the sideline player a chance to really get in the game. If that is not exciting in and of itself, the newest game changer comes in the form of 2D Barcodes (QR Codes). While QR Codes have been in play for sometime, Vancouver based company Mobio Identity takes it up a notch, by allowing consumers and merchants to purchase/sell using your iphone. They are set to expand to include Blackberry and Google Android clients in the fall. Each payment transaction contains unique “one-time” data that verifies the user but does not expose actual identity information to fraudsters.

If you are like some of my clients, who glazed over, right after I said Twitter. Let me give you a couple examples of how QR Codes and 2D Codes can be integrated into your marketing strategies and plans.

I have used a basic QR Code to generate the code pictured above. If have an (FREE) app like Mobio Identity on your phone, you simply open the app, select scan and hold the camera as if you were taking a photo of the code. It will ask you want to open the following URL in your browser. It will immediately bring you to the home page of my website so you can obtain further information. This is a basic way of how you can use QR codes in your advertising to drive web-traffic and provide information that maybe too lengthy or complicated to communicate in a traditional advertisement.

For the example of the 2D Barcode to facilitate a transaction, let’s say that you are a small business that sells a unique baby product. For this purpose we’ll use the example of a baby bottle. You have created a niche for your product and find that most of your sales come from word of mouth referrals. The problem is how to turn every interaction a prospect has with your product into a potential sale. Well, what if on your bottle, on the bottom you add the Mobio Barcode. Now, at the next playdate, when all the moms and dads are raving about your cool bottle, you simply flip over the bottle and show them the code. They hold their phone up, scan the code, and are instantly taken to the website to purchase one.

For non-profits the possibilities truly are endless. I had enough knowledge of the product going into my meeting with Mobio Identity today that I invited along someone I knew from a non-profit. This individual had a hard time containing their poker-face when discussions surrounding how easy facilitating donations can be with this technology. Typical example would be when sending out any communication, newsletter, and business card etc, your barcode is on the back. A donor just has to scan with their phone and can instantly make a donation. There is no downtime between evoking that emotion into an action.

Regardless of your business platform, one thing is certain; the analytics that will be present from this type of technology are endless. A company is not limited by the number of barcodes it has, which translates into accurate tracking of individual campaigns and strategies. Since your data can be pushed to you daily, the opportunity to adjust in real time is another key feature of the barcode.

One of the largest opportunities, I believe, lies in loyalty programs. Platforms likeFoursquare with over 600,000 users, needs a way to create the connection between the business and the user. There is an interesting article by Jack Aaronson that discusses just that and the foursquare business model.

It will be exciting to watch this company grow and see just where this technology can take us. Perhaps it will give an opportunity for your small business or non-profit to have your “Rudy” underdog momen

7 tips for charity & community marketing

Today, we finalized all the details for my client, Photos By Kathryn who is graciously donating a packaging to the Unite with Art, an exciting event that supports the UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign.

This had me thinking that although many people donate, sponsor or provide services to charities or their communities with good intentions, the impact is lost by simple oversights. Marketing to your community or to charities still needs to be approached with a marketing strategy in place.

Consider these few factors in your community marketing strategy:

1) Less is more
It is great to support charities, and the more you can spread the wealth the better, but, keep in mind that you and your community or charity will get more out of your relationship if your don’t spread yourself too thin. This will allow you to provide more resources to your selection(s) and therefore leverage the relationship.

2) Where is your target market?
Consider who your target market is. If your target market is seniors, it probably does not make strategic marketing sense to support the junior softball team.

3) What can you both gain out of the relationship?
Whether you can obtain a tax receipt for your donation of goods and services or receive publicity for your support, ensure that there is something to be gained by both parties. Too often, companies feel bad about discussing this openly with their community partner and that means missed opportunities. Remember that you are both looking to get something out of the relationship.

4) Does the charity mean something to you personally or professionally?
You have now narrowed down options for a community partner, but how do you make the final decision? Choose a group that means something to you personally or professionally. It will make a better story, ensure that you are more driven to perform for them, and people will be able to tell your authenticity which will strengthen your brand.

5) Give careful consideration before choosing something that may be sensitive in nature
You may be a huge political supporter, but give careful consideration before choosing topics that may offend your clients. Not everyone may be as passionate or share the same views and the idea is to give your company brand awareness not give customers an excuse to talk negatively or worse yet withdraw business.

6) Establish goals
Thought the hard part was over? As with any marketing initiative you must have goals. Those goals should be measurable and attainable. What do you want out of the relationship? What do they want out of the relationship? The more clarity you can provide the easier #7 will be.

7) Evaluate annually
Just because you have always done something, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it. Evaluate annually and review the ROI. Is the relationship worth continuing or is your time and resources better spent elsewhere?

Charitable giving is an excellent opportunity to build business, generate exposure, and to boost your corporate karma!