And you know what? That’s fair. I totally get it. As a small business owner, your sights are steadily fixed on keeping what you have happy and not so much on growth opportunities driven by methods that are (a) largely unfamiliar to you and (b) time-consuming to apply. You’ve got bills to pay, debts to manage, second and third mortgages and most importantly customers to keep happy. Your business is doing fine without the added labor burdens built in to socializing your company’s message using the likes of Facebook and Twitter. And Hell, blogging is something probably better suited to the young entrepreneur anyway.
If any of these excuses sound like you, then you have sold yourself a bill of goods my friend and your more adaptable, more socialized competitors are thrilled that you feel this way.
The truth is that the inflexible small business that thinks of social media marketing as smoke and mirrors or just too much to manage on top of everything else will likely slowly be squished under the weight of your evolving competition. And your business’s failure won’t necessarily occur because you weren’t the best at what you do, what you say or what you sell either. It may very well be because you remained silent during the social media revolution and your competitors, with less expertise and less knowledge, used social media channels to parlay their message.
Why should prospects deal with you?
Think of it this way: if you and I pitch precisely the same goods or services, to precisely the same segment, at precisely the same price point, but the prospect doesn’t know you or your brand’s personality, but knows mine well, who will get the sale? Wait. Yah know what, forget the guessing. Let me rephrase. Who would you buy from – someone you know and like or some stranger, with whom you have no emotional investment? Folks, we buy from people whose personalities we have affections for. We buy from those we have a rapport and an established chemistry with. We rarely just go and buy stuff from strangers.
Bottom line: if you are not engaged in the dialogue currently underway (and yes, as I type this post), your business is sadly primed for failure in this budding socialized climate.
Do you know you can successfully introduce your brand to a conversation being had by millions of consumers? 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology (Forrester, The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption, 2008). That’s a lot of potential customers. Would you pass on the chance for your business to get this kind of exposure? You absolutely can seize the attention of a percentage of some 500 million Facebook users and all you need to do is be great at the thing you do, sell or produce and add a clever and appealing twist to the packaging you use to pitch it. Once upon a time only the biggest brands laid claim to the lion share of the market. Coke and their enormous marketing budget ensured that their brand visibility was second to none. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer just decimated the competition using an ocean of advertising dollars to ward off any clever up and comers. But these days, in a growing communications democracy, small business owners rejoice in the chance to compete with giants of industry! Coke, Walmart and other huge names no longer control the conversation surrounding their brands or that of their competitors. Like you, the small fish in the big pond, they too are at the mercy of brand sentiment and that chatter is happening right now. Still skeptical about how brand sentiment can make or break your brand? Just ask BP (British Petroleum) how brand sentiment is a force impervious to deep marketing and advertising pockets.
And so it comes to this. Since many of small business owners prattle on about how there’s just no time for social media and worse no visible return for time spent on social media, I’ve comprised a list of 5 things you have even less time for in the hopes that some tough love might inspire you to put pen to paper or finger to touch screen and get busy engaging your target audience. Here goes.
5 – Remaining intimidated by technology
Just dive in gang. Two years ago I knew nothing about blogging and social media marketing. I read. Then I read some more. I shut my mouth, asked questions and listened to the experts. I paid strict attention to the people who carry the most sway in the areas that appeal to me most. I am an experienced systems administrator, Web designer and am even proficient in Web development too. But you could fill a warehouse with the stuff I don’t know much about. So don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Be afraid of what you won’t have a chance to learn if your business closes its doors because the guy or gal down the street did it smarter than you.
4 – Excuses
The people down the street are engaging their audience. In the end, your excuses will be heard only by you as the property owner padlocks the door. Set the trends with smart, fun and stimulating social media programs, such as a killer video series on your business’s Youtube channel. Stop explaining to us why you can’t or haven’t. No one’s interested in having that discussion with you, but the energy you’re applying to having it yourself or forcing it on me, you can repurpose on Youtube. So get going already!
3 – TV, when you’re not at the office/shop
Stop wasting time. Blog, tweet, post something interesting on Facebook about your industry or niche. Don’t talk about yourself or your products and services on these sites. That’s just flagrant self-promotion and no one cares. What we do care about, however, is what you think of the things we love. We’re passionate students of the thing you do, say and sell. We’re your audience; nice to meet you. We love what you love. But you’re a business owner selling what we love and that makes you an expert. So tell us what you think of the state of your industry or niche or tell us of an evolving trend or exciting news piece. Even better, invite us to participate in an approaching event. Talk about the things we are equally passionate about. Turn off the damn TV and write about it and then post it for us to consume.
2 – Guessing
What’s with all the speculation? Do you really know why social media won’t work? Do you honestly believe you do not have the time to give to it? If you answered yes to the first questions, please provide your data points to support your claim and if you answered yes to the second question, maybe this post and social media are not yet for you. For the balance of you I’ll add this, yippy! Here we are! One mind, one shared objective: to spread the word about our awesomeness and grow our own loyal, faithful tribe that celebrates it along with us.
I think the point of #2 is to simply stop thinking you know it all. My customers are terrific people. Each is an American business trailblazer fighting every day to remain a strong, viable brand for their consumers. What’s most impressive about them is that so many manage to succeed in a lethal global economy. But they guess an awful lot sometimes. No expertise in social media or content marketing, yet some insist that they know things that the rest of us have missed. I read once that the worst thing a CEO can do is assert that he or she knows their target audience. The writer, whose name I regret I cannot recall, went on to say that it is at the moment that we assert our mastery over a thing that the potential to learn dies. So avoid the urge to know more than you could know. If you guess you’re only assuming. If you place a glass to the door, you get every third word. But asking, polling and inviting your target audience to engage you becomes indisputable data that you can use to shape your message and the packaging you use to transmit it.
1 – Failure
“Whose going to do all of this stuff?” You are, that’s who. Do you know why you’re going to? Because if you don’t you will founder. Maybe you won’t close today and maybe not in a year either, but the internet moves in seconds and minutes. Businesses that are leveraging social media tools now will continue to enjoy access to the largest and fastest growing segments in the world – the socializing consumer. If your argument against social media marketing is the suspect ROI, please give Brian Solis’ post on the subject a second of your time. Regardless of your concerns about ROI though, consider what the ROI is for doing nothing. The longer you wait to begin the engagement process, the sooner and with increasing savvy, your competitors will do what you are too busy to do – connect with prospects and customers and in so doing, shape brand sentiment to their advantage.