I’m sure you are aware that social media is imperative for businesses these days, no matter the size or stature of the company, customers want to see an active presence on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
As a start-up business social media can seem a little intimidating. How are you ever going to stand out from the crowd amongst a sea of hundreds and thousands of other, similar companies within your industry? And can it actually help you to achieve your goals?
Prior to going live on social media it is a good idea to jot down a list of objectives that you hope to achieve with this marketing channel. From improving customer service, to increasing discussion about your brand or product, there aren’t really any wrong answers. Within this strategy it’s also really important to plan what social media channels you’re going to use. Not all social media is right for all businesses. Some companies that are very visual (e.g. food and fashion) will benefit more from platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram whereas some will struggle to populate those channels. Once you have the channels you want to be active in then you can create a content calendar so you know what you are going to be posting or tweeting about in advance, this can be built around campaigns and events.
When it’s time to take the plunge ensuring you have key imagery ready for each of the platforms is key. A bright, eye-catching logo and cover image are so important, particularly for Twitter and Facebook, as the lack of either can give a bad impression to prospective customers. Ensuring that all the imagery is branded is a great way of maintaining consistency and uniformity amongst your social media pages, however this isn’t imperative.
The information you display on your social media pages is entirely up to you, however, the more details about your business that you share, the better. Make sure you display your website URL, a short blurb about your business, your location and your contact information. All of these little information nuggets help build up trust with your prospective customers.
Having an open line of communication with your current customer base and/or prospective future clients is why so many businesses find social media so important for them. Utilising these platforms can also save you a lot of money in regard to a full-time customer service role. Pretty much everyone has access to Facebook these days, and it’s generally their first port of call when they’ve had an overly bad or good experience with a business. So, it’s recommended that you keep a frequent eye on your platforms to pick up any comments, whether they are positive or negative, so you can reply in a timely manner.
Don’t get stuck in a rut when it comes to social media for your company. Make sure you review your strategy on a regular basis, keeping an eye out for developments on each of the platforms that you use, so that you can utilise these advancements. Also, as your business grows, so too will your requirements when it comes to social media. What channels you may have initially disregarded, you may find use for as your company grows.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to experiment. As a start-up, the early stages are all a big learning process, and that counts for social media marketing too, and, you only truly grow by making mistakes and learning from them.
Ask any small business owner how important marketing is and they will likely agree that it’s one of the most important keys to a successful SME. But in the day-to-day reality of management it’s often one of the first things to be overlooked or have resource cut from, particularly when on a tight budget.
But whatever the status of your marketing initiative, there are a few essentials that you cannot afford to skimp on, so here are three Marketing Musts to ensure your SME has the best chance of success.
Your Website is your Window
Despite the old saying, books are statistically always judged by their covers within the first 8 seconds of seeing them. The same is true for your website, the single most important touchpoint for SME’s. You need to showcase your offer quickly, cleanly and memorably before the potential customer changes browser tabs and you’ve lost them.
There is of course no one size fits all solution for how best to do this, and different market categories have different norms and conventions that need to be conformed to or, in some cases, disrupted. Knowing the competitive landscape is important here, so take the time to research what the other guys are doing and ensure you stay ahead of the curve. Free analytics tools can show you engagement metrics with you pages and content, so you can really get a handle on what works and what doesn’t.
And with 27% of ecommerce sales coming from tablet and mobile, ensuring your site is optimised for these devices is essential.
When looking for inspiration for website design, do what all great advertisers do and steal! Awards bodies like http://www.webaward.org/ have a back catalogue of past winners so you can see how other small business have cut through with creativity.
Strengthen your SEO & PPC
Having a beautiful website of course, is useless if no one can find it. While you can use available marketing budget to boost your findability with PPC (and make sure you take advantage of free credits when you do), as a standard you should be ensuring your touchpoints are optimised to ensure they are discoverable by the major search engines.
For your website, there is a lot that goes into this, ranging from optimizing your social channels, to optimizing the content on your site so that your snippets (the little bit of blurb you see with search results) are the most clickable they can be. But as a general principle you want to ensure that your site is delivering against user needs and ensuring your page content delivers against the most common search queries, which can be achieved with search engine optimisation (SEO).
For local business that rely on footfall, there are other important discoverability touchpoints in Maps services and review sites like Yelp. Ensuring your listings on these sites are up to date, with the correct contact information, opening hours etc is crucial to capture people using local search. Something that seems simple but is disproportionately effective are photos – having lots of up to date, high quality pics of your business and product makes you look as good as you can do to potential visitors.
Streamline your Social
Every Facebook user knows that social is important, and marketers often sound like cracked records for going on about the various different social platforms and the need to be utilising them at every opportunity. However, for small businesses this approach really needs to be scaleable, as unlike big brands with content teams they likely won’t have the resources to be active on every social network.
It really important therefore to find the platforms that can really work hardest for you. Facebook is still a standard, but with Twitter’s numbers dwindling there is good reason to question if you need to supply real time information. Similarly, platforms like Snapchat offer a great way to connect with and engage an audience, but with over 50% of UK users being under 24, it could well not be right for your audience. For some businesses such as Food or Fashion, a visual presence will be essential so Instagram or Pinterest should be considered as a primary platform. And with the rise of livestreaming apps like periscope, consider how you could use this for some interesting content like a live q&a, product unveiling or grand opening.
With any network you might want to use, ensure your content is authentic to you and is right for the platform, and, with video, not too long (don’t forget - most users click away from a video within the first 6 seconds!).
The Spirit of Christmas fair by House & Garden is a great place for start-ups from all over the UK to reach a wider market, from creating jewellery in their garden in Devon to the bright lights of Olympia.
It’s a lot of work, but is it all worth it? I spoke to a number of exhibitors who were showcasing their wares for the first time and some businesses were only a year old but had some fantastic products. What seemed to be a recurrent theme was that the fair was great at meeting and getting up close to a huge market of potential customers but they struggled to truly capitalise on the opportunities presented because they were so focused on getting the products ready and prepping the stand. It just proves how hard it is to be a product designer, ecommerce manager, social media guru and marketing specialist at the same time as setting up your business. It’s so important to plan your marketing and communications around campaigns, such as a trade fair or show.
These shows usually have brochures and links on their site which you can ensure you can stand out in, if you have a blurb about the business usually you can use this in a number of spaces. So if you haven’t, get writing one that is short, succinct and truly tells someone about your business and captivates them to read more. Maximise social media opps at the event by tweeting and uploading images to Instagram (or if you need to focus on selling, get someone to do this for you), make sure you are following the bigger companies/sponsor and use their hashtag or handle to reach a wider audience. Also try to get a chance to grab a coffee and look round the other stalls, chat to other sellers it’s a great way to network and get some ideas and tips.
Everyone that comes to your stand get their email address or contact details so that after the show you can follow-up with a little thank you message or discount off their first order and link to your site. These little tips are just a start, there is lots you can do but even if you can only do a little it will go a long way, just put the effort into a plan that way you just have to tick off your to do list at the busy time. We'll see you at the Ideal Home Show!