Start a streak

What have you done every day, every week or every month for years?

For example, I’ve written a weekly column for the Flathead Beacon since 2006.

I don’t get a week off from the column if it’s Christmas or the Fourth of July. It just gets done.

Some find that a massive, if not surprising, achievement. Others see it as if it were a ball and chain.

Me? It’s just something I need to get done every week. Some weeks, it’s harder than others – but I still make sure it gets done – and yes, I’m better at getting that done regularly than I am at some other things because I’m accountable to the community who reads it.

The value of that accountability shouldn’t be discounted. It’s a powerful tool and motivator.

Think about it

Think about the consistency of the tasks *you* perform to grow your business. Would more consistency in how you podcast, blog, tweet, vlog, post to Facebook, send an email, make a call, drop a mailing or send a newsletter mean more/better business? Would adding a new item to the list make more of an impact?

Of the things you do regularly, which of them produce the best response? (if you don’t know – fix that)

Would it help if that work was done more often? Think about it.

Why the tourist drove past your business

Changes2005vs2013Photo credit: AP

You’ve probably seen this AP image contrasting the crowds at St. Peter’s in Rome over the last eight years.

The first photo was taken by Luca Bruno in 2005 during preparations for the public viewing of Pope John Paul II’s body – almost two years before the iPhone was first announced.

The second photo was taken by Michael Sohn in March 2013 as the crowd waited for the first balcony appearance of a newly-elected Pope Francis I.

No matter how you feel about mobile devices, smartphones, the mobile browsing experience, the quality of smartphone photos, the always-connected lifestyle and how these things relate to your personal life, ignoring the business impact of the widespread adoption of these devices is done at your peril.

So what?

Seems like just yesterday that I did a series of speaking gigs with groups of local business owners about social media, getting found via local web search, the growth of mobile and the impact of these things on local businesses. Fact is, it’s been closer to 18 months since that series concluded.

To their credit, some have picked up on what we talked about and are interacting with their prospects and clients via social media. At least one local business that I frequent offers occasional coupons for subscribers to their text message (SMS) based opt-in list.

While most local business sites display acceptably on today’s tablets, the story is altogether different on a phone, where a smaller number have made efforts to improve the experience of a website visitor using a phone. Let’s refresh why it’s important to deal with this.

It’s not uncommon to hear “So what?” when this topic comes up in discussion. That’s not the right question.

First impressions

Again, you must set aside your personal likes/dislikes about these devices because it isn’t about you. It’s about your customers.

If these customers are tourists whose first impression – and purchase decision – is tied to the usability of your site on their phone, it’s worth considering whether your site is helping them (and you).

You might be thinking “Well, they have smartphones, but do they use them for that?” It’s a good question. I can tell you 25% of visitors to the Columbia Falls’ Chamber website are using mobile devices – a number that grows every month. I’ve been told churches see an even larger percentage of mobile users.

So what do you do?

A mobile website checklist

Let’s talk about mobile website basics:

  • Do you have a website that is actually usable on a phone?
  • Does it clearly describe what you do, when you are open, how to get there (using Google Maps, et al) and how to contact your business?
  • Restaurants, is your menu visible on the phone or does it appear on a phone as tiny print because it’s in a PDF intended for desktop users?

To start this process, claim your business on Google Places for Business and setup a Facebook Page (not a Facebook user account) for your business. Both of these will give you a basic summary presence on mobile devices that includes hours, contact info and location.

Compare these two mobile search results:

flathead beacon mobile search result dmbdgoogle

The one on the left (without a Google Places listing) is tougher to read on a phone and requires additional screen taps to get answers to the basic questions listed above.

The one on the right (with a Google Places listing) gives you everything you need to make the next choice. One tap to call, get directions or view their site.

Which of those do you want your prospects to see?

Why’d they drive by?

When your website makes it easy for mobile phone users to learn about your business, it helps them decide what to do, where and when to go, and how well your business fits their needs/wants.

So why did the tourist drive past your business?

Three reasons:

  • They didn’t know your business exists, or they didn’t know enough about your business
  • The info they found didn’t help them make a decision.
  • The info they found helped them make a decision to go elsewhere.

The last reason is acceptable. You shouldn’t expect everyone to be your customer, much less to stop in simply because your business is easy to learn about and find online.

Etsy’s Social Commerce: Smart at Christmas

Etsy’s new Facebook app, the Gift Recommender, is a smart move and a great example of ways to use your data to attract more business.

I’ve no doubt that some will see Etsy’s “social commerce” via Facebook as “creepy” or invasive, but I suggest you give it a try to get an idea how this new app might impact your business or generate some ideas.

If Facebook isn’t your thing, but any form of retail is, create a test Facebook account with a throwaway email address so you too can see what the fuss is about.

Etsy is widely known for their belief in automated software testing. You can read about their latest project in their developers’ blog at  http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2011/11/09/engineering-social-commerce/

Hat tip to Scobleizer for pointing it out.

The ROI of Social Media is…

Two minutes and change that hit some of “the what and the why” discussed during my Social Media – A Roadmap for Small Businesses talk this week.

The ROI of social media is that your business is still here in five years.

25 (or 6) to 54: Is that demographic important to you?

25 (or 6) to 54 is not a song from Chicago (that’s 25 or 6 to 4, video above).

It’s people.

People aged 25 (or 26) to 54 make up…

  • SIXTY-TWO percent of all social media use.
  • FIFTY THREE percent of Facebook users (687 million as of June 2011)
  • SEVENTY-FOUR percent of Twitter users.

We’re talking about a ton of people who have jobs, families, purchasing power, retirement plans, homes, cars and P&L responsibilities.

In other words – they might not be who you assumed they were. Many of them are potential customers who need and/or want what you create.

Typical

The typical social network user is 37 years old. Not a 13-15 year old who hasn’t yet gotten their license.

59% of people from ages 16 to 32 get their news online (is *that* demographic important to you?)

Are you taking social media interaction seriously from a strategic point of view? Are your competitors?

 

Social media use age profile (click to see full-size)

Graphic source: http://news.community102.com/how-different-age-groups-interact-online For the sources of these numbers, see the links at the bottom of the graphic. They’re readable when the graphic is viewed full-size (click the image).

A gift for Bobby?

Yesterday, I was reading a comment from Bobby Rich about this small business (whaaaaa?) post on Hildy’s blog.

Bobby took Hildy’s idea, smooshed it around a little and decided to see if it would work for his business.

I like the idea, but I think we can put a cherry on top of that smooshed idea.

No doubt, it’s a nice giveback to the community to promote these local businesses.

In partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce, regional marketing co-op, etc; it might also be a way to promote that group and its members, introduce new members’ businesses, and maybe urge new businesses to join that group.

Even better for Bobby, I’m thinking it’d be a simple way to demonstrate to a small business owner how well radio/tv ads for that business would work on his stations, particularly the small local businesses who might not even consider advertising on radio/tv.

Imagine the reaction of a small business owner who previously balked at the investment of a radio ad, only to find that a free ad ended up generating 100 new customers in a few week’s time – especially if the ad was designed to make the results obvious and trackable to the ad.

Kinda makes a guy wonder…

Arriving late?

Today’s guest post is for those business owners arriving late at the “social media party”.

For those making an entrance, business-wise, here’s a nice social media startup guide from the NYTimes’ “You’re The Boss” blog.

It talks about restaurants specifically, but the advice is sound regardless of what your business does.

As usual, salt to taste.

After The Honeymoon

Recently, I stopped into a niche retail business for the very first time.

They’ve done a nice job with it. Haven’t been open long, so some of the obvious things I’d suggest to make the place a real customer magnet weren’t in place yet.

I have a feeling they might get there, but time will tell.

What worries me most about my visit is that they did nothing to see that I’d return…

  • I wasn’t asked how I’d be using their product – and it’s a natural question for them, not a nosy none-of-your-business one.
  • I wasn’t offered any additional information showing all the other items they make.
  • I wasn’t asked to check out their Facebook page, which will someday hopefully be full of ways to use their product.
  • There was nothing letting me know that another business in town uses their product, so that if I really loved it I could go there too.
  • There was nothing in the store or on the products that included their website address on it – including the receipt or the label on the product.
  • I wasn’t asked if I’d like to be notified when they make special stuff. Doesn’t matter whether that notification happens by phone, text message, Facebook, email list or even a printed newsletter, just notify me.
  • I wasn’t asked to let them know how I liked their stuff by going to their site or Facebook page (which also doesn’t encourage this) or heaven forbid, filling out a self-addressed postcard or picking up the phone.
  • I wasn’t given a coupon or “send-a-friend” promotion so that I could tell my friends about them if I liked their stuff (that’s also what the Facebook Like button is for).

Doing ALL of this might be a bit pushy. Doing NONE of this is a big mistake.

Look, I know they are a new place and some of this takes time to get going.

You may even think I’m being hard on them, but I’m nowhere near as hard on them as the market will be.

No Second Chances

Re-elected politicians get second chances. Folks who make mistakes, like Michael Vick and Martha Stewart, get second chances.

Businesses are rarely granted that luxury.

You have to take advantage of the “honeymoon of newly open”.

During your honeymoon, people will…

  • Visit your store even if they don’t need what you sell.
  • Tell their friends that they visited, even when they might not normally do so.
  • Click “Like” in Facebook just to give you a little push, when they might not ever use that button.
  • Cut you some slack for mistakes like untrained staff and other stuff that happens when you’re still trying to get all the kinks out.

When you operate a niche business, not every one is going to decide to be your customer. Those who do more or less raise their hands and say “me, me, me!”

When they do that, your job is to make sure to remind them to come back regularly, not just when they remember to return. Leave it to them to return at random and you might not see them for months.

Make the honeymoon last forever

Customers are hard to replace, even in a good economy. It’s particularly difficult to go out and find 100 new customers tomorrow because revenues are tight.

It’s a lot easier (and smarter) to earn just one new customer a week, keep it up year after year, and do whatever it takes keep most of them.

So let’s go over this again.

  • You love whatever you do so much that you quit your job to do it. That’s great.
  • You spent most of what’s left of your liquid retirement money to fund the business.
  • It cost more than you thought it would to get going, so you borrowed from your in-laws, your family and friends.

After doing all that, please don’t tell me you’re going to ignore the very people who said “me,me,me” by letting them walk out the door as if they walked into a box store.

Keep that up and you’ll be back at your old job in no time – if you can get it back.

You didn’t like that job anyway, so please do these things for yourself and your business.

Facebook you…because?

As I drive around the area, I see lots of businesses who are trying to reap the potential rewards of local marketing on Facebook.

One sign: they have “Facebook us” or “Find us on Facebook” or similar on their roadside signs.

The idea is for you to click the “Like” button or become a fan of their business on Facebook, which will appear in your Facebook feed.

Because it appears in your Facebook feed, friends will see it as well and presumably some of them will check it out.

And that’s where it ends for many businesses. One time.

The smart ones talk with their fans/clients regularly via Facebook, even if they have a blog or other web presence.

People made the effort to friend, like or become a fan on Facebook.

What are you doing on Facebook to keep them paying attention?

Attention span

What are you doing to stand out amid the ever-present flood of game-related posts, surveys and other stuff on Facebook (note: you can hide that stuff without hiding the friend by clicking on the X at the right side of items of the type you don’t want to see – something you may want to share with your friends).

Does your restaurant have a Facebook fan special? A night where fans of the restaurant all get together IN PERSON (how’s that for frightening?)

Do you communicate daily or weekly with your fans to let them know what you’re up to? I don’t mean unnecessarily, but in cases where it makes sense.

Morning Glory Coffee and Tea in West Yellowstone, Montana does a great job of this and should give you some ideas, even if you don’t run a restaurant.

Ideas

What are people unaware of about your business? What knowledge would you like new (or existing) customers to know / have immediate access to?

What would they ask you in casual conversation about your business? What reason would people have to continue to visit your Facebook fan page?

Do some thinking about it – and act on it.

Fishing on Facebook

A common question I’m asked by small business owners is: “Should I use ‘bright shiny object of the month’ to market my business?

Lately, the question tends to be asked in the context of Facebook, but quite frankly, the answer is the same regardless of the magic solution you’re asking about.

As always, the answer is “Fish where the fish are.”

You’d never fish for westslope cutthroat trout in a midwest farm pond. Or at least…you’d never catch any cuts if you did try to fish there.

But..back to Facebook

In the context of Facebook, we’re still talking about people who care about the product or service you provide.

Let me rephrase that: What they really care about is what your product/service does for THEM; caring about you is way down the food chain.

And while it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Facebook or the Weekly World News, I’ll continue in the context of Facebook because there are a few Facebook-specific things to consider.

Ask yourself…

You have to ask yourself a series of questions about the pond you want to fish in.

Can I specifically identify the kind of prospective customers I want to meet? (No is not a valid answer – no matter what you sell)

Do those prospective customers hang out on Facebook?

A question you might not have considered…are your customers mostly women? And are they mostly women in their prime buying years?

If you take a look at the demographics of Facebook users (here, here, here and here), you’ll find that (currently) about 55% of Facebook users are women and the biggest group of women on Facebook are 35-55 years young (Tom Peters would be yelling at you not to ignore this market if he were here).

BUT…the key point is still “Are they actively using Facebook and having a conversation that involves what you do?”

Joining the conversation

Is your product or service the sort of thing that people tend to talk about around the water cooler, the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game or similar? That’s the same kind of conversation that occurs on Facebook.

If your Tribe meets on Facebook, you should be there and join the conversation.

If you were on the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game and the conversation turned to a topic that you are an expert on, would you ignore the people having the conversation or would you join in?

I’m guessing you’d gently find a way to join the conversation.

If you were at a Chamber luncheon and some business owners at your table were discussing a problem that your business’ product and/or service is great at resolving, wouldn’t you find a way to join the discussion in a way that doesn’t impose on the table?

Sure you would.

So…If there’s a conversation on Facebook, how is that different from these two situations?

You’re right. It isn’t different at all.

Finding them on Facebook

So..your next task is to create a Facebook account and search for people having conversations that you can offer value to.

You need to look at Facebook groups. There are groups for every conceivable topic. Some of them are sponsored by industry associations or leading vendors.

You might also look for Facebook “pages” (which normally represent a business) that you have something in common with. Interact when it makes sense.

Your goal is not to carpet bomb Facebook with “buy my stuff, visit my website”. Your goal is to join conversations, deliver value and thus establish your positioning as an expert.

In order to avoid spending all day on it AND to avoid blowing it off, treat it like any other work: Schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t take it seriously.

If it isn’t right for you: Two ways to say “I don’t use Facebook”

Almost every day, I hear business people saying “I don’t waste my time on Facebook.”

That’s one way to say “I don’t use Facebook.”

I suggest this instead: “I looked on Facebook to see if there was a community of people who need what I sell and found none, so I don’t use it for business. I still check in every few months to see if that has changed.”

That thought process shouldn’t be limited to Facebook.