IMHO :) 6 Characteristics of Small Business Owners

Happiness is being a small business owner.

People ask why I only work with Small Businesses in the U.S.

“Why? Mostly because American Small Business owners are just as passionate and crazy about business as I am! I have worked for specialty/ franchise /department store / corporate franchise and other small businesses and love the passion that is always lurking behind small business owner energy. Not that there is anything wrong with working for a corporation, but there are just too many levels between the floor and the top, and you just really aren’t a part of what makes the business tick in an enterprise that large.

Small business is family. Small business is passion. It’s also about the thrill of succeeding with recognition – or despite the lack of!

(IMHO) Characteristics of Small Business Owners - including me:

  • OCD – Obsessed with their business
  • ADD – Simultaneously thinking of at least 12 things while still noticing something else – and sometimes missing the obvious around us
  • Narcoleptic – capable of falling asleep at a desk at any time (or even standing up) because of staying up the every night working on new ideas
  • Insatiable – can’t get enough of business-related reading
  • Clueless – unable to notice they haven’t eaten all day or taken a break or missed a family birthday
  • Annoyingly Happy – Friends and relatives don’t understand how they can work so many hours and be thrilled to do it

Despite being uncharacteristically successful despite these “faults,” there is nothing more contagious than the energy behind every small business owner! Right?

Mobile Email Opens at 41% and Rising.

THIS – is huge…

Mobile Email Opens Now 41% & On Pace To Surpass PC By End Of 2013

What does this mean to you as a Small Business owner or Non-Profit trying to market your business via email? If you are sending emails without checking the text version, your email messaging is becoming more and more likely to NOT be seen…

Make sure you view the text version of your emails before you send them out! If you are the kind who likes to create a “fit to block”  image that includes your messaging, mobile email recipients may miss it. On the go, glancing at emails, they are not always inclined to click the “display or show images” link, or the “click to view online.”

Yes, you can still use those large images, but you must also include the same messaging as text.

Always, Always, Always view your email in both the HTML and Text versions before you hit send! You must see what the recipient will see with and without images. Don’t risk your message not getting through!

AND always create alternate text for that image!!

Can you tell I think this is critical!!!!??!!

2012: Email Marketing is Dead; Now Email Marketing is King – HUH?

Keep Calm and Keep Emailing

All through 2012, the buzz was “E-Mail Marketing is Dead!”

Now, most articles are about why Email Marketing is Supreme for Small Business!

HUH?

Actually, Email marketing is perfect for small business.

But let’s discuss the why of the mixed messaging and why you, as a small business owner, need to pay attention.

1. Social Media platforms grew exponentially over the last few years.

Soooo, “they” assumed, that because the growth was so rapid, social media platforms would soon replace email and all other traditional forms of marketing and communications.

While that might be true in major metropolitan areas and college campuses, there is still a huge population out there that doesn’t own a SmartPhone or that  only accesses internet through a desktop.

But, email is universal.

Everyone sits down at home and work and checks their email…

Another assumption was that because Social Media platforms are “Free,” that it would be nonsense for anyone to ignore it as a marketing avenue. Again, you can pick up a hammer, but that ain’t gonna make ya a carpenter!

Sure you can create an account for free, but time is money, and it takes time to maintain a social media business page, not to mention at least basic marketing skills. Nothing wrong with that, – all marketing comes with a cost – but that has to be considered.

Then, when it comes to attracting fans, many of those fans are laggers in social media who only use it for sharing funny cat pictures and playing application games. So, getting fans to pursue your page is another form of investment – a good offer to like a page, the giveaway, someone to manage the comments and likes, someone to engage to grow fans… And don’t believe those hucksters claiming to bring you from 0 to 40,000 fans! Fake profiles = fake fans = no rise in insights or revenue.

Now, why was email getting badmouthed:

2. “Free” Email services were springing up all over the place.

Why pay for email service when you can get it for free? Again, because FREE is never really free! You pay a price eventually – think of the hidden cost to you when your email goes to a spam folder and never reaches your intended recipient?

So, if you were judging the effectiveness of free email vs free social media… neither one will bring results so that comparison is probably moot.

They are both an investment in Time and time costs money.

OK, so now what should you invest your time in? Social Media or Email Marketing?

If you are asking this question, it tells me you don’t know your customers or clients. Face it, most of you small business owners have poo-poo-ed SoMe and Email.

Why don’t you let your customers tell you where you should invest your time?

  • Have you noted whether your customer is tapping away on a mobile while they are waiting in line?
  • Have you asked them what platforms they use?
  • Have you invited them to join your email subscriber list?

Stop being an employee of your own business and market your business. How?

  • Find out which Social Media platforms are appropriate for your business and demographic – Start with one and do well, then move on to others.
  • Invest in an email service that fulfills your needs for marketing and has integrated social media tools for efficiency and broader distribution that will attract new subscribers. (want to play around with one for free for 60 days? Click here!
  • And pay Freaking attention to where your customers live online! ASK THEM. SURVEY THEM. TALK TO THEM.

How to Do Better Next Year! (pt.1)

Balloon (aircraft)
Balloon (aircraft) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says: “Yes, you’re in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field.”

“You must be an engineer” says the balloonist.

“I am” replies the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”

The man below says “you must be in management.”

“I am” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” says the man, “you don’t know where you are, or where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.” Read Quote of Jason Heinrichs’s answer to Jokes: What are some of the most profound jokes ever? on Quora

Does the joke resonate? If the two worked together, the end result might be more positive.

Marketing

I explain marketing to many small business owners and non-profit organizations in my presentations and conversations with clients.  What I have noticed is that a lack of time and understanding for marketing may stem in the denial of a necessary collaborative effort.

You can silo out non-customer oriented positions, but anyone that may “touch” a customer must work together to be the most effective and deliver the most positive ROI.

Can you just delegate every role?

  • Salespeople should understand the goals of marketing and follow the company mission.
  • Owners/Management must train sales to optimize customer satisfaction.
  • Marketing needs sales and management feedback to determine marketing effectiveness.
  • Sales should provide customer feedback to owner/management and marketing
  • Owners/Management should provide product and sales input to marketing to promote consistency in messaging both on the floor and in marketing.

In other words, silo-ing will always lead to failure of some kind.

How to improve your success rate?

As for any small business or organization, a perceived lack of time is a primary factor inhibiting productivity and growth. I have 3 suggestions for using modern technology to facilitate success. See my next post for the suggestions…

Social Media Marketing is Not Traditional Marketing

Social CRM

Misunderstood

A friend of mine, a Small Business Owner, helps customers with foot pain through healthy, supportive shoes, arch supports, and other remedies. He told me had given social media a try and it didn’t work because  “who wants to have an affinity with someone who reminds them of foot pain?” Of course, his point is who would want to be constantly reminded of a negative condition? While I agree no one would, it is a moot point in respect to Social Media.

Social Media is not primarily a platform for marketing.

Period. It was not created to be such, it isn’t now. What did occur over time within this casual platform was an evolution from social relationships into a natural discussion with customers. But somehow, that got lost in the translation when it was named Social Media Marketing. But, it must be understood that the focus is on relationships, not marketing.

Fans and followers don’t really want to hear much about your business.

When you meet someone, you provide your name, and most likely, your profession. But once you have met and they know what you do for a living, do you bring it up EVERY future conversation with them? I hope not! 

This concept is the basis of Social Media. People want to know who and what they might be doing business with, they already know what you do. They would rather hear more about what has been happening in your store – esp anything involving customer response.

I think it boggles the mind of business owners to refrain from promoting themselves in social media marketing.

The problem lies in the term ‘marketing.’

Traditional marketing works to convince people to buy your product. Social Media works to create relationships with followers. Recognize the platforms are not the same.

Perhaps we should call a Social Media Business Page a “Customer Relationship Building Page” – in other words, Social Customer Relationship Management!

When you understand that, you will know what to do on Social Media.

DIY Marketing? No such thing unless you don’t care about results…

You’re a small business owner or non-profit. You are successful because you know your business inside out and eat, drink, and breathe it. You’re a busy person and your success is a result of being immersed in your business.

Wouldn’t that be true of other professionals as well? It took time for you to understand your business to the degree you became successful. The same goes for other professionals.

You don’t let distractions keep you from your business and when there are problems, you could fix them yourself, but understand that paying someone else to do it properly and efficiently actually costs less than you taking yourself away from your business.

Therefore:

  • Your roof has a bad leak, you call a roofer.
  • Your toilets clog, you call a plumber.
  • Your carpet’s dirty, you call a carpet cleaner.
  • You need an airtight contract for your biz, you call a lawyer.
  • You’re paying too much in taxes, you call a CPA.
  • …But when you finally get on board with social media, you DIY.

HUH?

I was chatting with one of the VPs of a National Non-Profit and when he found out I was a Social Media Consultant, he says he couldn’t believe how many Facebook business pages he goes to that haven’t posted in months. He then says, “There’s no excuse. All you have to do is go to Hootsuite and schedule posts and you’re done!”

He’s wrong! And I told him so – politely :)

That’s not the right strategy and that’s not engagement and your insights and analytics will reflect it. After some conversation about it, he did have to agree and had to admit he had no idea of the different strategies, the purposes each avenue held for different businesses, and more. He said, “I guess that’s why we need consultants like you to help us figure it all out.”  Well, yeah?

You wouldn’t ask a lawyer to do your accounting, would you? A Social Media Marketing Consultant (worth their salt – there are always bad apples in any professional bunch) can point you to which of the many Social Media venues is best for your type of business, and what kind of strategies to use to attract customers and build awareness.

How well did it work when you tried to do your own newspaper ads? Pretty good? How good could it have been? You don’t know what you don’t know – period.

You didn’t just open a book on your type of business and successfully open shop the next day. Do you have time for the Social Media learning curve that professionals have already spent?

Since I couldn’t say it better myself, I am giving you a link to an excellent blog post by Joellyn Sargent on How Much Does Marketing Cost?

Thanks for listening!