There is a mass of information that these are the fastest growing ways to communicate with existing and potential customers. Facebook alone had 1.49 billion monthly active users as of June 30, 2015. This is a massive potential audience for your products or services, but is it the right audience for your business?
Many media experts believe that online social media is the only way forward and I have come across many examples of small local businesses using “experts” to tap in to these social audiences.
However, there can be a problem. Many social media experts rate their performance on the number of likes and followers that they are able to get for a company. But do these turn into money in the till?
One local restaurant complained to me that he was spending over £300 a month for a company to run social media campaigns for him but he had not seen one new customer who had mentioned social media after 3 months. He had been told he had more followers and likes. When we looked into the demographics of the likes and followers we found they were not his target audience, in his local area or, in some cases, in the same country.
Now I am not saying that social media does not work. It can be a very successful way to communicate with existing customers and to inform potential new customers To be successful on social media you need to have a strategy in place that will make people want to follow you and read your posts.
Do not try to sell yourself via social media but think of it as a way to constantly remind people of your company and services.
An example of this is a driving instructor – rather than just put up his prices and offers I worked with him to write examples of his experiences, or similar that would make people laugh. Particularly the funny ones where a new driver went the wrong way round a roundabout. After time people started to follow and repost his experiences, which in turn lead to people actually referring him as a driving instructor on facebook.
But social media is not the only marketing solution.
Remember before the development of social media companies would successfully promote through “traditional media”.
Compare the global billions of social media to your customer base. Remember basic marketing questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
Ask yourself, Who are your customers? Where are they?
For many small businesses the majority of your customers will be local. So is tapping into the global social audience the best use of your time or resourses?
How about just standing outside your business and handing out a flyer or sample. Try actually talking to potential new customers face to face. Remember that people will buy from people that they like and know.
Using flyers can be a very cost effective way of getting a promotion directly to your audience. 1,000 A6 flyers can cost as little as £20.00 and you can make sure that you are giving the flyers directly to the right local audience.
If your business is online only, then this may be difficult, but selling directly to the public face to face could make a massive difference to your success and profit.
Online can benefit from face to face
A local jewellery producer who only sold via her website and online, finally took the plunge and opened a stall in a market for a couple of weeks. What she found out helped her to revolutionise her sales strategy and business.
The website gave her lots of stats about who had visited her site, which pages and products had been viewed, for how long, from where and how often.
On her market stall she could watch, which products potential customers looked at and for how long – and here is the really powerful thing – she could ask the customers what they thought of her products and if they did not buy there and then, find out why.
One example was a bracelet that was on a red strap. She found out, from talking directly to customers, they liked it but they thought the red was overpowering. She subsequently redesigned the bracelet to have a white background and it has now become a best seller both on the market stall and online. She had seen lots of people view the bracelet online but had never realised why it was not selling.
On the web you are competing with millions of sites around the world selling products. Face to face you have an extra advantage of instant information and the ability to respond.
Print Still Sells
There may be the billions of users on social media, and millions of people looking for information on the Internet, but printed products do deliver results.
For a small local business, one of the most powerful media is local newspapers and magazines. Many people will tell you that local newspapers are dying out and in many cases I have to agree. The traditional news reporting cannot compete with the social information age. Breaking news is on your phone in minutes rather than the next day or next week in print. Technological advances have seen an explosion of excellent local magazines. These magazines are often set up to be part of the community, championing local issues and promoting what’s on in the local area and local business. Many of them that I have come across want to help local business and, as well as selling adverts, will promote companies through editorial and advertorial.
These local magazines are often seen as part of the local community and reach more local people than are on social media locally. They also often hang around in people’s homes giving your promotion the opportunity to be seen time and time again. They may cost more than the perceived free adverts/posts on social media but one local hairdresser told me he gets better response from one advert in a local magazine than a whole year of promoting through a local facebook group.
Be careful, don’t just listen to the sales pitch. One kitchen company I worked with told me that local magazines do not work for him. When I asked why he told me he had bought a series of 3 full page adverts in a local magazine and had not had one enquiry. When I asked which one he told me and I asked how many customers he usually gets from a town 20 miles away. He told me he did not as there are kitchen shops companies selling the same products as him in that town, but the local magazine he had chosen to advertise in was mainly delivered in this other town with only a handful of copies delivered local to hi business.
Small business need to be engaging with customers, listen to customers ask them where they heard about you and then make sure that you are using the marketing solution that is really reaching your customers. Don’t get caught up in the hype, a little research into what your customers are looking at can bring massive rewards.