Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marketing Your Business in 2013

In small business, you can’t charge into the fray without a plan. From budget to production, efficiency and success depend on careful consideration. Marketing your business is no exception. 

You need to put together a plan, lay it out clearly and follow-through. Creating and committing to a proactive marketing strategy will keep your efforts on track and produce the best results for your company.

Creating and Understanding ‘Content’
If you’ve tested the waters of in-house marketing, you’ve probably encountered mass repetition of the term “content.” Content is a vaguely stated but loaded word, falling under the massive umbrella of any materials used in selling your products. Types of content include…

  • Blogs
  • Facebook posts
  • Tweets
  • Newsletters
  • YouTube videos
  • Website text
  • Postcards
  • Brochures
  • Email Marketing
  • Sell Sheets

Any and all information that promotes your products or showcases your expertise is content.

Great ideas can come from anywhere
There is no limit to the number of great marketing ideas out there. Don’t leave any stone unturned in your search for marketing content that could bring in customers.

1.    To create your own content, start with an old-fashioned brainstorming session. Pool ideas with your employees or co-workers and collaborate on the messages you want to push in the coming calendar period. Build your content plan around company milestones and business cycles. 

2.    Look ahead to holidays; is there any kind of marketing you can create to correlate your products with Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas? Tie “minor” holidays into your marketing efforts. You can have an Early Spring Online Sale on Groundhog Day or Mardi Gras Fat Savings Tuesday. Have some fun with it! 

3.    Look to your clients and their needs. What challenges or changes do they face? What have you heard in phone calls or read in email exchanges? Your voicemail and inbox are treasure troves of blog post and tweet ideas.

4.    Which industry trends are on the rise? Which have plateaued or faded? Trade show and conference war stories exchanged between colleagues and competitors alike are loaded with content ideas. Don’t write off any snippet of information from any conversation, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Organizing Your Content
Next you have to pan the marketing gold from the dirt of hastily-scrawled notes. Extract and organize your ideas using spreadsheets and calendars.  Feel free to download a copy of Terrapin’s own 2013 Content Marketing Calendar for reference.

Slate the relevant content for a corresponding post date and format your marketing calendar to a team consensus. The key itemizations in your document should be:
  • Topic and Title
  • Format (Facebook, Blogger, etc)
  • Planned Post Date
  • Author
  • Tags and Keywords 

Getting Ahead of Yourself
You may want to knock out an entire year worth of content in one document. Or if you’re leery of committing resources to trends and information that might quickly become obsolete, focus on the next quarter.  You know the patterns of the business, so construct your marketing calendar according to the ebb and flow of your industry.

Just note that you are laying out your content ideas on a spreadsheet, not etching them in stone. Ideas can and will change as time goes on.

In Summation
Marketing your business is a necessary and beneficial battle. Putting in the preparation now is a solid investment on two fronts:

  • You avoid the pitfall of struggling for last minute concepts
  • More importantly, this simple document represents a dedicated, ongoing focus toward marketing and growing your business

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Timing and Twitter

From mom and pop stores to corporate chains, all companies have sales and events. But small businesses don’t have the promotions resources enjoyed by their larger competitors. Where your business lacks in national TV spots it can thrive with the free services of Twitter.

Time-sensitivity is a common thread in all small business’ sales and events. Take to Twitter to spread the word and draw a crowd. 

Sale Savviness in the Twittersphere
Sales and promotions are a must of owning a small business, whether you’re in retail, services or run a restaurant. Once you’ve built a solid Twitter following, the network is ideal for inviting your customers to take advantage of your special offers.

Daily promotions require daily tweeting. If your pub offers nightly draft specials, or your consignment shop has a discount item of the day, fire out the relevant tweet the morning or afternoon of the offer. “Come in for today’s IPA Pick, Newport Storm India Point Ale!” or “Half-off Orange Tag items! Today only!” Make sure you include any relevant hours, such as opening and close times.

More focused events, such as holiday sales, require more planning and more Tweets. Whether the sale is a day long or runs for a week, you want to give your followers ample notice of the event while avoiding an overlong bombardment of reminders.

Two days before the event kicks off, start tweeting at the relevant high use hours.  3-4 tweets a day should be just right to pique followers’ interest. Don’t copy and paste the same content for multi-tweet campaigns. Highlight a different item, service or point of interest with each post. Use Twit Pics to give users a feel for what you offer. If the promotion runs several days, send out Tweets over its duration and stress when it will be ending. 

Optimal Tweeting Times
According to Twitter itself, the heaviest use of the network takes place at 9AM, noon, 3PM and 6PM. For maximum effect, post your event information during these time windows. Otherwise you risk your tweets being buried under the pile of relatively unseen posts created outside of these peak hours. 

Tweeting for On-the-Go Businesses
Not all businesses have a fixed location. Food trucks might be a common sight on your street’s curb. These road-bound restaurants need to communicate their schedule with sidewalk diners, and Twitter is the perfect vehicle.

The RI Food Trucks Twitter list compiles numerous tweets per day from various Ocean State food trucks. From Mama Kim’s Korean BBQ to Plouf Gastronomie to Rocket Street Food, this list tells followers where and when their favorite nomadic meal provider will be serving.

The list generally gives an hour’s notice of a truck’s arrival and its designated intersection. This gives the lunch hour crowd time to plan ahead. Consider this tweeting method if your small business incorporates street teams or traveling promotions. 

In Summation
Twitter is a free gift that keeps on giving to small businesses on a shoe string advertising budget. Its massive popularity and potential will give your company a fresh and viable web visibility. You put yourself out there on your time; you just have to get the timing down.

Once you’ve mastered the art of timing and Twitter, you just might find an entire new customer base clamouring for your products and services.