Nov 102011
 

It seems that the number one question we get as marketers involves social media in one facet or another. It is this limitless, intimidating medium that seems to trip up even the most established entrepreneur simply because the “rules” seem to constantly be changing.

If you are thinking of entering the world of social media – whether through a blog, a Twitter account or Facebook fan page (to name but a few) – a word of caution is in order as well as a few helpful tips.

First of all, before entering this social media world you need to be committed to the process. This means that you have to allot a reasonable amount of time to developing your presence –  including the tone of the communications, the look of your page/blog, and content creation. Like anything of value, this is worth doing well. Make sure that your social media presence is consistent and enhances the brand you have so carefully and meticulously already created.  Realize that getting followers or “likes” on your page isn’t necessarily going to happen quickly – but it can happen consistently if you are committed to seeing this through and you have realistic expectations.

Secondly, create a content strategy that includes a fairly detailed editorial calendar. Two of the fatal flaws of new social media users can be solved through this one step. What are these flaws?

  1. Too much/Too little Updating: Tweeting 50 times a day is simply annoying, but creating a twitter account or Blog and never updating it next is also a sure-fire way to annoy your audience and squander a great opportunity to develop a relationship with your target market.
  2. Irrelevant/Annoying Content: No one, other than close friends and family, is terribly interested in whether you are sipping on a latte at the moment or you are off to your kid’s hockey game. Neither do your followers want to be hounded with sales material constantly. It is vital to remember that social media is meant for connection and conversation – it is a 2-way relationship with your clients/prospects so instead of talking at them,converse with them about the things that are important to them.

By mapping out the kind of content that you will be creating  prior to publication you mitigate the risk of sending out irrelevant or uninspiring messages or ceasing to use the medium at all. Depending on your time and resources you should decide how many times per week (or day) you can reasonably update your social media presence and be sure that 30% or less of your messaging is sales related. What I suggest is to make approximately a third of your communication value-add (links to interesting articles, tips, etc.), a third of your communication sales related (promoting specials, your unique value, etc.), and a third of your communication entertainment. This mix will help to keep your followers engaged and will help your social media team`s creativity.

Thirdly, you need to relieve yourself of the pressure to do everything yourself. Some simple research (ie. Google Alert or Social Mention) will uncover a variety of existing conversations that apply to your business.  You can join to gain exposure and engage with your target market on things that are important to them and gain credibility. As you practice the art of following and contributing to these online forums you will learn how to best articulate your value to the marketplace, and then easily to then transfer to your own social media presence.

Nov 092011
 

A social media savvy colleague of mine, Joanne Burgess of Virtually Yours (a Virtual Social Media Specialist), wrote an article that had me thinking about green hosting options for our client websites. If you’re interested in increasing your awareness about carbon footprints, it’s worth a quick read, imho.

Have a browse: Have You Considered Green Hosting?.

To your success!

Lara

 

 Posted by at 3:35 pm

When you need some help…

 Planning, Virtual Assistants  Comments Off on When you need some help…
Apr 062011
 

Even though rapid growth is something small business owners strive for, keeping up with increasing demand and expectations can bring about as much – or even more – stress as when things are slow. No one ever wants to risk falling behind and disappointing clients…but adding additional employees to the payroll  permanently can be premature.

What is an entrepreneur to do?
A possible solution? A Virtual Assistant.

Virtual Assistants, or VAs, are themselves entrepreneurs who exist to help other small business owners with administrative, technical and/or creative solutions from their own office/home. A VA’s assistance in anything from administrative support to web hosting or blog writing releases their clients to focus on revenue generating activities while the VA manages the rest.

Doesn’t that sound great?

The best part – you can hire a VA  project-by-project, thus relieving the stress that comes with hiring and laying off employees, providing workspace for an entire team, and outfitting  employees with costly things like technology and training. Alternatively, many entrepreneurs have opted to keep a VA on an ongoing basis to maintain things like bookkeeping and database management – ultimately finding it to be a cost-effective investment in their own work-life balance.

Where do you find a great VA? I’ve found a couple of online resources for you to begin your research and get connected:

1. CanadianVirtualAssistance.com – a central database and information source for and about the Virtual Assistant industry.
2. Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection – an organization that supports Virtual Assistants. It has a free RFP tool on the site that distributes your requirements to VA members.
3. Canadian Virtual Assistant Network – a network of Virtual Assistants and a great resource for learning more about the industry. Also has a free RFP tool.

Remember, one of the greatest things about Virtual Assistants is that they are just that – virtual. They can be located anywhere – your own town, province, country or anywhere around the world – and can help your business. Just be sure to check references and hire a VA with an excellent track record and verifiable training, much like you would if you were hiring someone in a traditional manner. The sites listed above will give you the tools you need to help with your due diligence.

Boy, do I need a list

 Email Marketing, For Entrepreneurs, Planning  Comments Off on Boy, do I need a list
Feb 222011
 

So my last entry talked a bit about the idea of email marketing – mainly from the perspective of using it as a client care/communication vehicle. You see, I’m always drawn to thinking about and fostering my current business relationships. What’s the old saying? A bird in the hand is worth more than a flock in a tree?  No…that can’t be right. But you get my point.

That being said, all entrepreneurs need to be looking for ways to get new clients (while keep their existing ideal ones). And we can all agree that the email is a cost-effective and readily available tool for business building, right? So why is it that we all seem to find it difficult to properly utilize this tool that we use literally all the time?

Then I read Shawn Casey’s blog entry “Successful Email Marketing Campaigns Hinge on Successful List Building.” He shares ideas on how to build great lists – the key foundation to a great and successful email marketing campaign. It’s definitely worth a read.

I’ll bet you’ll finish it and think…Boy, do I need a list!

 Posted by at 3:28 pm

Buying into Business Purpose

 For Entrepreneurs, Planning  Comments Off on Buying into Business Purpose
Jan 182011
 

I read a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review – and it emphasizes the vital importance of understanding the purpose of your business.

John Mackey, cofounder and co-CEO of Whole Foods (a high-end organic grocery store), sat down with the Harvard Business Review to speak about the necessity of setting a business apart by defining its unique value. The article is called “What is it that only I can do?” and its worth a read – despite its 7 pages.

In a nutshell, Mackey has 3 key points concerning Business Purpose that are worth considering.

1. Determining the purpose of your business is vital to its success.

When Mackey was asked: If you’re talking to somebody who is starting a company or trying to grow one, do you have any pearls of wisdom?” his answer? Determine the purpose of your business. He specifically mentions that the purpose shouldn’t be “trying to maximize profits as a very good long-term strategy for a business. It doesn’t inspire the people who work for you. It doesn’t lead to that higher creativity.”

2. A business purpose needs to evolve.

To quote Mackey :”The interesting thing about our purpose is that it has continued to evolve. As a company grows, its purpose grows with it.”

Mackey uses an example from Whole Foods where they took their purpose – of being good citizens in the communities where they do business – and letting it evolve to also being good citizens in the developing nations they trade with. The willingness to expand their business purpose resulted in the creation of a foundation that now does microlending to small businesses in 23 countries.

Finally…

3. A business purpose doesn’t need to last forever.

I found this statement to be freeing. Isn’t it wonderful to think that it isn’t necessary to draft a business purpose in stone? Sometimes, for me at least, there is too much pressure in trying to articulate all of my ideas in one statement. Mackey not only agrees, but asserts that the willingness of Whole Foods’ executives to allow their business purpose to develop and evolve overtime has been a key factor to their success.

Knowing why your business exists will bleed into every area of your enterprise. A clear sense of purpose will most certainly affect the tone of your marketing and communication, but it will also factor into your financial planning, your human resource policies, and your daily processes. Perhaps most importantly it will govern your client experience at all points in the sales cycle – and properly executed can measurably contribute to referral and recurrent business.

It seems to be working for Whole Foods…