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How Are You Promoting Your Business – the Old Standby Methods or Utilizing New Technology? October 31, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, Marketing Plan, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Virtual Technology, Web TV.
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dma-expected-change-in-media-use-by-medium

Expected change in media use by medium

As the economy continues to be a major factor affecting the ways in which small businesses promote themselves and go about the business of obtaining new customers, we at Strategic Growth Concepts have also found ourselves seeking new, higher impact, more cost-effective ways of promoting our business to prospective clients, as well as ways to help our clients promote their businesses. Our interactions with our clients and those in our many networks tell us that most small businesses are also interested in learning all they can to make the most of these new marketing and advertising tools.

Therefore, we thought we would conduct a brief study to determine the methods of marketing and advertising currently being used by small businesses, as well as to determine which methods are being explored. We will use this information to develop a series of articles and radio shows to help small businesses review and evaluate the marketing and advertising options available to them, and to assist in their determination of which methods will work best for their business. Click HERE to take survey.

We will share the survey results, as well as information about the various marketing methods, in upcoming articles and broadcasts. In the meantime, we would love to receive your comments in response to this article with your thoughts about the results various forms of marketing have produced for your firm.

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting and training firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Who’s Using Twitter? Do You (and Your Business) REALLY Know? October 19, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Web 2.0.
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You’ve probably heard of the Morgan Stanley report that declares “teenagers do not use Twitter,” based on a sample size of one 15 year-old intern named Matthew Robson. Morgan Stanley rightfully disclosed that they do not claim that his study is representational or merits statistical accuracy, so we thought we could provide both with our NetRatings panel of 250,000 U.S. Internet users.

Twitter’s footprint has expanded impressively in the first half of 2009, reaching 10.7 percent of all active Internet users in June. Perhaps even more impressively, this growth has come despite a lack of widespread adoption by children, teens, and young adults. In June 2009, only 16 percent of Twitter.com website users were under the age of 25. Bear in mind persons under 25 make up nearly one quarter of the active US Internet universe, which means that Twitter.com effectively under-indexes on the youth market by 36 percent.

While the metrics in the chart above only represent the website and branded “front door” of Twitter, it would be a big stretch to assume that the gap in the youth demographic is being made up via other clients and platforms. For example, more than 90 percent of popular Twitter client Tweetdeck’s audience is over 25.  Furthermore, Twitter.com’s reach is 6.6 percent for kids, teens and young adults, whereas it is 12.1 percent for those over 25; implying that adults are trying Twitter at nearly double the rate.  To see more detailed information regarding Twitter demographics, click HERE, HERE and HERE.

But does it really matter if the kids don’t get it? The fact remains that Twitter has grown to be a major online presence and is being driven forward by significant buzz. To illustrate this point: the volume of Twitter mentions on blogs, message boards and forums has reached the same level as Facebook, a property four times its size. We’ve also seen that Twitter’s growth is very highly influenced by buzz around current events as they are happening such as the Iran election or the death of Michael Jackson. All it takes is one celebrity or major news story to rekindle the Twitter buzz machine, but do these one-off shifts create one-time curiosity seekers or lead to more permanent users?  That’s the unanswered question.

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Portions of this article were posted originally in Nielsen News.

5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses October 13, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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by Samir Balwani

Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. More small businesses are beginning to understand how to best leverage online tools to build a community and recognize that engagement and interaction are the foundations of social marketing, but most don’t know what’s next.  What follows are five advanced strategies for small businesses that may already have small online communities and understand how to create an online presence, but don’t know what to do next.

What Is An Advanced Strategy?

The definition of an advanced social strategy is a technique that goes beyond the normal social media presence. It introduces or reinforces a marketing message while pushing a user to another profile or business site. Before moving forward with an advanced strategy, it’s important that your business understands social marketing, has experience engaging consumers, and that you possess a basic understanding of online marketing.

Strategy 1: Multimedia Usage

The term “A picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer. Consumers are now using the web to look for product pictures and videos; they want more information and want to see what they’re considering buying. The good news is that it’s easy for a company to create and publish videos and pictures.

In addition to taking photos of products, you can also take pictures at office events as a way to highlight company culture. This not only helps convince others to work with you or to buy from you (consumers see that you are down to earth and one of them, instead of a stuffy company), it also helps your HR department recruit new employees. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that celebrates birthdays and has a good time?   

Videos are useful for explaining complex how-tos or concepts. Showing step-by-step directions can have a greater impact than even the most well written article. Businesses don’t have to invest huge sums of money to create good videos, either. I highly recommend the relatively cheap Flip camcorder, which takes great videos and is easy for even a non-technical marketer to use.  Multimedia can break down the faceless business-to-consumer sales flow and make your company appear friendlier. Use videos and images to show that your business is fun, you care about your employees, and most importantly, that you care about your customers.

Example: WorldMusicSupply.com

WorldMusicSupply.com, an online retailer of musical instruments and accessories, has used YouTube to build a strong online community. Their channel has built over 7,000 subscribers and has over 260,000 views.

Strategy 2: Integrate Offline and Online Advertising

Many small businesses do some sort of offline advertising, whether it be radio, print, or cable. Social marketing allows a business to extend their offline sales pitch.  Including your Facebook Page, Twitter ID or blog URL in offline ads act as social proof, inviting potential consumers to see your community and increase trust in your business. Not only can integrating online and offline advertising help the conversion process, but it can also help build your community. Introducing potential consumers to your social profiles means they may join your community now and buy later.

Strategy 3: Message Adaptation

As businesses start to become more sophisticated with social media they are starting to leverage more online platforms.  However, most deliver the same message over multiple platforms instead of tailoring communications for each individual site.

Social platforms each have an ecosystem of their own. What might be acceptable on Tumblr might be considered spam on Facebook.  A specific style of writing might spread on Twitter but fail on FriendFeed.  Understanding that each site is different and then customizing your message ensures they do well on each respective site.

Not only does customizing messages across sites help the message spread but it keeps users from receiving multiple identical communications. Be sure to maximize your potential by sending a user that follows the business on Twitter and Facebook two different messages, instead of the same thing.

Strategy 4: Local Social Networks, Beyond Yelp

For a small business, local search can be a big win. Being visible to consumers looking for a business in their area is extremely important. Make sure your site is included in local business directories in order to help ensure that consumers find you when they need you. Sometimes finding that many sites can be difficult, however. First, make sure you check your competitors.

Where are they listed? Check their inbound links to check for business directories you can add yourself to. Also, make sure your business has been added to Google Maps, using the Local Business Center.  Take the time to include all the information you can and update any old news. For many consumers, this will be their first interaction with the business.

Example: Bella Napoli in New York

Bella Napoli is a small pizzeria in New York that has done a great job of making sure they appear in as many local searches as possible.

Strategy 5: Contests and Discounts

Building a community is only the first part of social marketing. Using that community to drive sales, propagate marketing, or crowdsource operations is the true power of social media. One way to excite the community is to collectively do something to create a contest or offer an exclusive discount (i.e., the contest can create competition between users). Not only does a contest build buzz organically but if contestants need to, for example, publish an article that gets the most comments in order to win, the contest itself becomes viral.

A good social media contest should include some sort of sharing or virality as a requirement for winning.  Discounts are also a great way to connect with your community. By giving exclusive coupons to your social community, you’re rewarding and reminding them that you are not only a brand to engage with, but also to buy from.

Example: NetFirms.com

NetFirms.com decided to make it easier to register a domain by allowing people to do it via Twitter. Those who participated or spread the word by tweeting, were also entered into a prize drawing.

Conclusion

Creating a basic social media presence is easy enough, getting your community to actually do something is more difficult. Taking advantage of these strategies can help you build your community, make your marketing more effective, and incentivize buying.

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Samir Balwani is an emerging technology strategist at Morpheus Media, a firm specializing in Social Marketing, SEM, and SEO. 

You can follow him on Twitter @leftthebox and get his newsletter.

Do You Need Your Own Web TV Show? October 2, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Video Marketing, Web 2.0, Web TV.
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In our quest to continually bring information to our readers on the latest technologies available to aid you in marketing your business, today we present  another idea that’s beginning to gain traction for small businesses.  Thanks to technology, anyone today can be a “TV star” by hosting your own online television show to promote your business – and, you may even be able to make money doing it!

Below is an article from Business Week which reviews this latest marketing ‘tool’ and talks to small business owners currently utilizing it to promote their firms.

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Independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, but marketing and profiting from them is a challenge

By Karen E. Klein for Business Week Smart Answers, 9/29/09

Yana Berlin dabbed on a product sample for a new perfume and liked it O.K. But when her three grown daughters got a whiff, they had one reaction: “You smell like Grandma!”

“I don’t think the manufacturer is going to like it, because it’s being marketed to women over 40 and no one at 44 wants to smell like Grandma,” Berlin notes wryly.

In the past, the perfume company might not have gotten direct feedback from people like Berlin, a San Diego entrepreneur who founded the Fabulously40 social networking Web site. But that’s changed now that Berlin and her daughters, Daisy, Sasha, and Stephanie, have started a Web TV show called, The Love or Hate Debate. It features product reviews and demonstrations from two generations of women.

$20 Billion in Ads at Risk

Like growing numbers of entrepreneurs, Berlin and her family produce the show themselves, edit it, and post it online using free or low-cost video-uploading and streaming software. These Internet-based videos—most packaged in short episodes no more than four minutes long—have the potential to transform marketing and turn small business owners into celebrities in their own right, experts say.

“It’s a fascinating shift and one of the more important ones we’ve seen in B2B communications,” says Daniel Taylor, lead technology and media analyst at The Big Picture, a research firm covering digital media, technology, and communications.

If Internet video continues to catch on as a marketing alternative for small businesses, Taylor says, $20 to $30 billion in advertising that currently goes to the business and trade press could evaporate. Small firms that typically advertise in their industry trade publications, business publications, the Yellow Pages, and on cable television could shift their marketing dollars into producing their own video content. “About 10% of the overall advertising spending in the U.S. could be at risk because of this” new phenomenon, Taylor says. “It’s largely small to midsize businesses that are involved in this, and the caliber of people and the quality of what they’re doing is really amazing.”

Starting in a Garage

Take Andrew Lock, a marketing consultant and former U.K. television producer whose weekly show, Help! My Business Sucks! provides entrepreneurial advice and interviews and attracts corporate sponsors.

The 74-and-counting episodes of Lock’s show attract 100,000 viewers each, have helped boost his consulting business to five-figure monthly revenue and brought him speaking invitations around the world, he says. “I go to conferences where entrepreneurs line up and ask for my autograph,” Lock says. “And I’m just this little British guy living in Utah who started a show out of my garage!”

That show proved so popular, he says, that he built a studio facility near his home in Salt Lake City where he houses professional sets, six employees, and a host of additional presenters who tape their own shows there.

Production Quality Improving

While it’s still very early in the world of Web TV, Lock says, there are myriad shows springing up that cover niche topics like wine, gadgetry, and scrapbooking and are building loyal audiences. “These are real people, not Hollywood, air-brushed celebrities, and it seems viewers respond positively to that real-ness that is very different from traditional TV,” he says.

All of this, of course, is only possible due to technology updates that have taken place in the last three years, says Steven C. Hawley, principal analyst and consultant at tvstrategies, a telecommunications consulting firm in based in Seattle.

In the earliest years of Internet video, picture quality was low, frames were tiny, and the action dribbled out herky-jerky. But now, new technology platforms, such as Blip TV and Vimeo, have sprung up and are maturing so quickly it’s difficult to track them. “The number and type of are proliferating and changing constantly. Internet technology competes head-to-head with cable and satellite, and the availability of multiple platforms makes it possible for just about anybody to distribute content over broadband,” Hawley says. “In fact, I’ve thought of doing it myself as a consultant and an analyst.”

All You Need is $100

It is also nowhere near as expensive as it once was to produce and distribute PC-quality video content. “You can build an audience through social media and through your customer database and drive traffic to your own site. All it takes is $100 for a video camera and a mike. You set it up on a tripod, talk to it, and upload it,” Hawley says.

He sees most small business people using Internet shows to do self-publishing and self-promotion. But entrepreneurs are also infiltrating—if not dominating—the entertainment side of the Web TV experience.

Leyna Juliet Weber, a writer and actor, moved to Los Angeles from New York City a few years ago hoping to break into the big time. But she found that opportunities were few and far between. “The TV climate is really bad, so instead of just waiting around, I worked on some student films at USC and met a fantastic gal named Annie Lukowski,” Weber says.

Launched at Funny or Die

The two stayed in touch, and after Lukowski attended Weber’s live comedy show, they decided to collaborate. They formed a company called Working Bug Media and produced two shorts that they posted at FunnyorDie and YouTube (GOOG).

“We funded them ourselves on a dime budget,” Weber says. After the shorts were well-received, they decided to write and produce a 10-episode show called Road to the Altar. “It’s a wedding story shot as a mockumentary and told from the groom’s point of view,” Weber says. “We pitched it around town and to Web production companies, but everyone is afraid to put money into anything.”

Eventually, the pair negotiated a deal with a company called MWD Media. When Weber was able to get Jaleel White, who played Urkel on the 1990s TV show Family Matters, to star opposite her in the series, they attracted corporate sponsors including Panda Express and Pier 1 Imports. At least 40,000 people have viewed the series on YouTube alone, Weber says.

Old-Fashioned Show Sponsors

Still, although independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, marketing and profiting from them is a challenge, says Joshua Cohen, the co-founder of Tilzy.tv, a Web site that chronicles and reviews episodic Web series.

The options for Internet video advertising include pre-roll, post-roll, and mid-roll ads as well as overlay ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen. Then there are old-fashioned show sponsors that hark back to the early days of television, when one company or specific product would fund a show and often get a plug by the host. “There are thousands of these shows being produced by major studios, TV networks, film students, and amateurs. It’s everything from NBC down to the most independent, bare-bones productions,” Cohen says.

Episodes typically run from three to five minutes, because most Internet shows are viewed at work. “Lunchtime is the new prime time for online viewing. Technology is being developed so you can watch the Internet on your big screen TV, but it hasn’t broken through yet, so most of the viewing is still happening on the PC at work,” Cohen says.

Trying to Monetize the Shows

While some firms predict that Internet advertising will reach $1 billion by 2011, Cohen says, online shows are not yet pulling dollars away from traditional television advertising. “People are still trying to figure things out online, where they’ve been making money off of TV for 50 years and they’ve gotten very good at it,” he says.

Lock says that while he has used his Web TV show to attract sponsors, increase his consulting profile, and boost his revenues, many Internet entrepreneurs are not as good at monetizing their efforts as he has been. “The show enables people to discover me and what I provide in a relaxed and informal setting. I don’t have to sell. If people respond to the messages in the show, they’ll come to me. I don’t have to do any cold-calling or any of that silly nonsense,” he says.

While many entrepreneurs love what they do, and enjoy producing their own shows, he believes that many of them could make more money at it if they did strategic marketing and advertising campaigns. “There are extremely popular shows that aren’t making any money at all, because they don’t know how to monetize it,” he says.

“A Slow Process”

Lock predicts, however, that advertisers will be increasingly willing to buy into Web TV series in the near future. “It’s a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Advertisers are looking for other avenues with people tuning out of television, fast-forwarding through commercials or watching their shows on Hulu,” he says.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.