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Facing Your Fear of Marketing April 9, 2011

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Marketing Plan, marketing strategies, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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As a consultant to small and mid-sized businesses, I often speak to and work with companies that are run by CEOs who are the original founders of their company and typically the originator of the “product” offered by their firm. In most cases, the CEO is highly knowledgeable about the “product” and usually admits to a substantial lack of knowledge about the less industry-specific parts of their business.  Areas such as operations, marketing, accounting, HR, legal and more are beyond their experience – and typically their interest as well. In most cases, they’ve gone into business knowing that they would hire an attorney and an accountant to assist them, however with regard to the more ‘day-to-day’ functions of operations, marketing and HR they just figure it will all come together – sort of a “build it and they will come” mentality.

Nowhere is the “build it and they will come” mentality more obvious in these individuals than in the area of Marketing.  With rare exception, most of these business owners assume that everyone will see the value of their “product” as easily as they do, and that as soon as it becomes available they will be swamped with customers!  Then, before very long, reality begins to set in.

It’s typically not very long before the business owner begins to panic; ‘why can’t they see it?’, ‘why aren’t they buying?’ he or she begins to ask.  Then there is typically a period where they will spend money on any type of advertising that is thrown in front of them – and the media reps are happy, but the business isn’t becoming any more successful, and now they have a lot less money. 

Then comes the third stage, this is where they come to someone like me – the outside consultant, and they say, “fix this ASAP before I’m out of business! But by the way, I have very little money to pay you so you need to fix it this month because that’s all the money I have left. Oh, and I don’t want you to do ‘this’, and I do want you to include ‘this’, and make sure that you allocate budget for ‘this’ as well.  But other than that, do whatever you need to in order to fix it yesterday”.

Now don’t laugh because I promise you that right now some of you are reading this and seeing yourselves in this story!

So I thought it might be helpful to the small and mid-sized business owners out there to bring a fact to light if you haven’t already realized it – you have to gain enough knowledge to enable yourselves to comfortably wear the multiple hats of operations, marketing, accounting, legal, HR and every other aspect of your business – even if you have someone else performing those functions.  This is particularly important in the area of Marketing where it must be at the forefront of every decision you make for your business – or you won’t have a business.  In my experience, this becomes an area of tremendous fear for business owners; Marketing is definitely outside their comfort zone.  They ask questions like:

  • My radio/TV/newspaper/yellow pages (use your preference) rep said theirs is the only type of advertising I need, are they right?
  • How do I know how much money I need to spend?
  • How do I know what type of advertising is going to be interesting and get the attention of my potential customers?
  • Do I need to use Facebook?  Everyone is telling me I need to use Facebook!
  • and much, much more.

So the best answer is: 

  1. First, relax. 
  2. Second, FACE YOUR FEAR; don’t pretend that the need to Market your business doesn’t exist and hope it will go away.
  3. Third, start educating yourself about the types of marketing strategies available to you; what they cost, how they’re used, which types of potential customers they appeal to, etc.
  4. Fourth, do an analysis of your existing customer base and try to identify some key factors that your ‘best’ customers have in common and then plan to go in search of more just like them.
  5. Fifth, bring in an outside consultant.  It doesn’t have to be a long-term arrangement, just let them help you analyze your business, your customers, your market, and your industry and then develop a Marketing Plan for you based on their findings, your goals, and your budget – and then YOU implement the plan with your newly gained knowledge.

To help you gain clarity on the fact that you must be your company’s best marketer, I refer you to a recent article in the American Express Open Forum entitled, “Attention Small Businesses:  You’re ALL in the Marketing Business“.  This is an excellent article that will help you understand the importance of the company CEO having a strong level of involvement in Marketing on a daily basis.

Hopefully, you will all now FACE YOUR FEAR and become alot more involved in Marketing your business.

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses.

Linda is a recognized small business marketing expert with 20+ years experience in a variety of industries and an award-winning blogger on such topics as marketing a small business, mobile marketing, social media marketing, and virtual events.

Linda is available for consultation and can be contacted at linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com. The company website can be viewed at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com.

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High-impact Marketing Strategies for Non-profits and Small Businesses September 18, 2010

Posted by StrategicGrowth in local marketing strategies, Marketing Plan, marketing strategies, mobile, mobile coupons, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Brian Prows, Director of New Media Marketing for MobileBeyond, on the topics of Mobile Marketing and Social Media for small business and non-profits.

When Brian contacted me about doing a podcast interview with him, we discussed a myriad of topics that we both deemed to be of great importance to our respective audiences.  In talking it through, we finally decided that if we focused the interview on small business and non-profit organizations, and strategies designed to help them grow, that we would be addressing a very large audience who would be able to find value in our discussion.

During the interview we discussed a wide range of marketing-related topics that will be beneficial to both non-profits and general small businesses; from marketing strategies, to marketing plan development, to social media marketing, location-based marketing, consumer review sites and mobile marketing.  A primary focus of the interview related to the need for small business owners to identify specific marketing strategies that are high-impact and cost-effective, and then to develop them into a comprehensive marketing plan which can be measured against to effectively track results.

I believe both small business owners and marketers, and non-profit organization management staff, will find valuable information within the podcast and I highly recommend that you have a listen.  The article and podcast can be found on MobileBeyond.  It can also be found on iTunes.

My thanks to Brian for the interview, and for helping to spread the message of Mobile and Social Media for small businesses.

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.

Time to Begin Planning Mobile Strategies to Aid Holiday Sales July 11, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Marketing Plan, mobile, Mobile Marketing, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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By Mickey Alam Khan, July 6, 2009

It’s only three months before mobile can expect to play a significant role in searching and shopping for the holidays. Marketers, agencies and vendors should gear up for the traffic and the expectations.

As is customary, marketers are already working on lists for catalog, direct mail, insert media and email drops for the holidays, along with planning print, television, radio and online buys for those with the budget. Mobile should now be included in that media mix.

First it is key to understand mobile’s role in the holidays. It certainly won’t supplant ecommerce or the wired Web. It won’t take away from print, TV or radio’s branding strengths. And it won’t compete with the catalog, mailer, insert or email.

SMS msg on cell in hand - verticalInstead, mobile will give legs to those channels, through mobile advertising, mobile marketing and mobile commerce.

Long on short codes
Let’s start with catalogs.

Each catalog invites users to shop via phone, mail or by entering a SKU number on the brand’s Web site. Perhaps it would be wise to add a keyword and common short code on each catalog, inviting recipients to text and opt in to the loyalty program for alerts of new deals, shipping incentives or discounts during the holidays.

A similar effort with targeted direct mail and inserts – unique keyword and short code – can actually track the piece’s efficacy in case the customer or prospect responds to the call to action.

Mentioning a keyword and short code on marketing and retail email newsletters can also encourage enrollment into the overall loyalty program with the mobile number.

Adding SMS to print, TV and radio will help track the effectiveness of print and broadcast advertising at a time when the sales pitches are at their shrillest. After all, the holidays are the annual Olympics for retail and marketing.

It’s as simple as that: a keyword and short code. But start preparing now. Wireless carriers take their own sweet time approving SMS programs, and with new requirements in place, marketers have to provide every detail about their planned campaigns.

What the carriers don’t want – and certainly will prevent at all costs – is a collapse of their network due to a deluge of commercial SMS messages. Nor do they want to be accused of spam, even if it’s a perception issue.

At any rate, expect holidays 2009 to set a record for holiday-oriented SMS messages exchanged between brand and consumer.

Site to see
Another holiday marketing tool that requires immediate attention is a mobile or mobile-friendly Web site.

With the falling costs of creating a mobile site and the plethora of plug-and-play services out there, retailers and marketers have little excuse to dither on creating a mobile Web presence targeting consumers on the go.

What would consumers on the go like from their favorite brands’ mobile site? Several functionalities including a search engine for merchandise, store locator, gift-finder tool, list of best-sellers and prices, sales promotions, SMS signup, package tracker and, in some cases, the ability to buy from that site.

Smart mobile sites will also include the click-to-call functionality, linking the shopper to the pertinent store.

Obviously most of these functions would work well only on sites customized for smartphones. But it’s a necessary first step to create user-friendly mobile sites for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and more sophisticated HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia phone models.

A smart accompaniment to the mobile site is the mobile application incorporating some, if not all, the functionality available on the marketer or retailer’s mobile site.

Brands can use their store marketing or other channels such as mail, catalog, print, email or broadcast ads to urge consumers to download their app from the pertinent app store.

Make sure the app is compelling if it is not to be deleted within days of download. Occupying valuable screen real estate on, say, an iPhone, BlackBerry or Palm Pre, is a branding privilege that should not be abused.

Ads up
That takes care of the merchandising and mobile marketing sides of mobile. How about mobile advertising?

Well, now’s the time to make smart buys across leading media sites.

Brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Tiffany and Cartier as well as Walmart and Target should be locking up deals with trusted publications including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. They should lock in key positions for their ads to run on those publications’ mobile sites.

These brands can also strike deals with magazine publishers such as Time Inc. or Hearst to incorporate mobile into their multichannel media buys. Mobile ads can run not only with the publishers’ sites but also within their apps as part of sponsorship deals.

All mobile ads, once clicked on, will link to special landing pages with the desired call to action or to the mobile site. As simple as that. It’s been done on the wired Web and there’s no reason why it can’t be replicated on mobile.

Look, it’s very simple: When one in 10 working-age Americans is out of work, when the nation’s mood swings between optimism and pessimism, when the national savings rate is going up, the only way that marketers will get consumers to spend is through marketing and its desired end – creation of desire.

These ideas are basic and require little effort but consultation and working with the brand’s agency or mobile marketing firm. The time has come for brands to recognize that if they want the holiday merchandise to move, they must be as mobile as their customers and prospects. Call now.

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Should you be interested in learning more about mobile marketing and how it can help grow your business, please review the mobile section of our website, additional mobile marketing articles within this blog, or contact us directly via the website or email at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com for a FREE initial consultation.

Cheap-TV-Spots.com Now Incorporating Social Media in its Package June 19, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Marketing Plan, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Web 2.0.
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Cheap TV Spots, the award-winning, international, Internet-based discount TV advertising agency for entrepreneurs, says it’s aiming at Twitter these days.

“While Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and the like are all interesting ways for businesses to communicate with customers, we’re really fascinated by Twitter’s ability to take social media by storm,” says Ann Clark, Cheap TV Spots co-founder. “Twitter is doing for the web what Disco did for the dance floor. It’s all about stayin’ alive.”

Cheap TV Spots has developed a unique advertising methodology for entrepreneurs that helps link their television campaign with their online presence, creating a cohesive message that resonates with consumers. Cheap TV Spots can use the power of the bigger screen to channel customers to a Twitter page, website, or just about any online or mobile destination. Also, Cheap TV Spots can design TV commercials to be online-friendly, to complement a social website, company home page, blog or email campaign. With over 180 international awards, Cheap-TV-Spots.com has the proven expertise to design the ultimate media convergence.

Clark says, “It’s important to have an integrated plan. Social media is a great customer destination after you’ve gotten their attention with TV.”

Cheap TV Spots offers this recession-busting tip: To save money, stay away from automated, choose-it-yourself air time buying sites where the advertiser presumably picks her own airings from a list. Such sites can be deceptive, charging extra commissions in addition to the network air time cost, and selling air time that may not be available. That means the advertiser may get very little for her advertising dollar.

Ms. Clark says, “These so-called do-it-yourself sites give the impression that you can pick your airings from a list and pay a guaranteed price, when in fact the site cannot make such promises. It’s up to the networks whether air time is available, and whether they will even accept your commercial for broadcast.” Cheap TV Spots helps advertisers overcome these hurdles by negotiating with the networks on their behalf, and Cheap TV Spots never adds extra commissions. 

Cheap TV Spots produces award-winning, custom-made, national quality TV commercials for its low, flat rate. Cheap TV Spots also offers air time placement services scaled for start-ups and small- to medium-sized businesses.

Serving entrepreneurs since 2001, Cheap TV Spots is the world’s first global, Internet-based, discount TV ad agency. Cheap TV Spots is a registered trademark of Academy Leader, Inc., a privately held, multinational media company, which spans TV, motion pictures, radio, outdoor, publishing and mobile media.

Small Businesses Participate In and Benefit From Social Networking in Increasing Numbers June 6, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, Marketing Plan, Social Media, Twitter.
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Small business owners have always been among the strongest of networkers, and today’s new technology networking options have only increased their efforts as the economic downturn continues to drive laid-off workers toward self-employment and small business ownership.  A recent article by the New York Times discusses the increasing involvement of small business owners in social networking, and the positive effects being experienced by those companies.

After reading the article, if you would like assistance in developing a social media strategy for your firm, please feel free to contact us at our website or via email at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com .

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by:  Mickey Meece, New York Times, June 3, 2009

BY choice or necessity, successful small-business owners are earnest networkers, gladly shaking hands, handing out cards and attending local meetings to find and keep customers, solve problems, seek feedback or support and bolster their bottom lines. 

Now, the Internet is starting to upend those long-established methods; online networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and newer niche sites can be instantaneous and far-reaching.

The sites are efficient and free, which is especially important in an economic downturn, as owners scramble for new customers, said Rob King, vice president for strategic marketing at Sage North America, a unit of Sage P.L.C., a global supplier of business management software and services.

Fast, free and efficient — those attributes appealed to Brighter Planet, a socially responsible start-up based in Vermont, which built social networking into its DNA.

“There’s almost a grass-roots quality to it,” said Patti Prairie, its chief executive. “As a start-up, we can’t afford to be buying ads anywhere. We have to use our outreach.”

For more than a year, the Brighter Planet team has been blogging, Tweeting, friending on Facebook and initiating viral marketing campaigns intended to help consumers reduce their carbon footprints.

While most small businesses have not yet embraced social networks as Brighter Planet has, their numbers are growing. According to the April index of Discover Small Business Watch, compiled by Discover Financial Services, 38 percent of owners were a member of an online social networking community, up from 22 percent in October 2007.

Charles H. Matthews, president of the International Council for Small Business, said the key was to view the sites as tools, not toys. “It can certainly help enhance the process of identifying customers, especially in niche markets.”

For Brighter Planet, the niche is the environment. Before Earth Day, for example, it sponsored Earthtweet, an Earth Day Tweet-a-Thon, which has generated 4,200 conservation Tweets and 2,500 followers.

Soon, BrighterPlanet.com will feature a portable social Web application that will allow visitors to calculate the status of their carbon footprints and share what they are doing on conservation on other social platforms like Facebook.

Friends, family and colleagues can immediately see how saving the environment is important to BrighterPlanet members, Ms. Prairie said. “That’s what we find is the beauty of social networking, particularly for environmental-type causes.”

A recent study for Sage North America found that 65 percent of small businesses that used social networking sites said that they felt more comfortable doing so this year than they did last year, and 51 percent said that they had acquired and retained customers because of it.

More than 260,000 North American businesses currently use social networking to promote their businesses, Mr. King said.

In April, Sage, which has 2.9 million small and midsize business customers, introduced its own networking site, SageSpark .com. “We know we’re not the first to the game,” Mr. King said. “Our twist really is the community, tools and services.”

Other niche sites have sprouted recently, like Shustir.com.

Last week, Shustir.com introduced its virtual marketplace, which was started by two former Lehman Brothers colleagues, Shu Kim and Khanh Pham. “It matters where you spend,” Ms. Kim said, echoing the site’s catchphrase. The goal, they said, is to keep Main Street U.S.A. alive.

“We want you to spend with small businesses,” Ms. Pham said. “By doing so, 80 percent of the money goes directly back to the community.”

The site is arranged so owners can create virtual storefronts with photos, video, blogs and store information, and communicate with customers.

“Shustir gives consumers a one-stop destination,” Ms. Kim said, where they can buy from trusted businesses, post about their favorite shops and make recommendations.

Businesses can exchange advice, ideas and information, and network on a site that provides them search optimization.

In its second phase, Shustir will add Facebook and Twitter badges so owners can use other social media to build business. There will also be a shared community calendar. “The call to localism is existing across the country,” Ms. Pham said, “because small business is suffering.”

PartnerUp has been around longer. It is a social networking site that helps entrepreneurs and small-businesses owners find partners or co-founders, network, ask for and offer up advice, find resources and create or join groups based on their interests. It was founded in 2005 and acquired by the Deluxe Corporation in 2008.

PartnerUp has more than 100,000 active members, and more than 300,000 unique business owners and entrepreneurs come to the site every month, according to Steve Nielsen, its president.

“We’re at an inflection point now,” Mr. Nielsen said, “where social media sites that are specific to a purpose for a market are going mainstream, and they’re not just for early adopters any more.”

In late 2007, David Reinke joined PartnerUp for a specific purpose. He had quit corporate America to start a fashion rating Web site, StyleHop.com, but needed a partner well versed in technology. He posted a profile on PartnerUp, and a job description for a chief technology officer and said, “Let’s see what happens.”

About a month later, Froilan Mendoza, who had 12 years experience building technology start-ups, contacted him and after a series of discussions, Mr. Mendoza quit his job to become chief technology officer of StyleHop.com.

Turning to PartnerUp, Mr. Reinke said, was consistent with how he uses online sites. “I was looking for something specific. I go to the source where the experts are,” Mr. Reinke said. PartnerUp also allowed for a quiet search and limited exposure, he added, so thousands of people would not know about his start-up.

To be sure, the majority of smaller concerns have not caught the online wave. In its monthly index, Discover noted that 62 percent of businesses still do not have Web sites.

What’s more, when asked which networking opportunities they used most, 46 percent of small-business owners identified traditional methods like conferences, trade shows, local in-person groups or chambers of commerce. Of the remaining respondents, 16 percent cited “other” networking opportunities, 8 percent cited online sites, 7 percent said e-mail messages and 22 percent said they were not sure.

Mr. King of Sage North America estimates that small businesses have a 12-month window to figure out online social networking. “I hate to say it, but if they don’t, they’ll get left in the dust,” he said. “It’s here to stay.”

Maximizing New Media Today to Build Your Brand for Tomorrow and Beyond May 31, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, Marketing Plan, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Web 2.0.
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With all of the new media options available today to promote your business, sometimes the hardest part of developing an effective marketing strategy is thinking thru the ways in which each option can be maximized to promote your business.  Many of the options available, such as Twitter and Facebook, are still new enough that no one really has all the answers on using them to the best advantage, so new ways of utilizing them are being discovered every day.  It’s exciting, and intriguing and challenging – especially for those with creative minds who are adept at finding useful ways to take advantage of new technology.

Many people with analytical minds actually spend a great deal of time trying to predict the future of such new media technology in order to determine its longevity and value.  One recent analysis developed by the great minds at 24/7 Wall Street resulted in an article predicting ‘The Ten Ways Twitter Will Permanently Change American Business’.  It’s an excellent article which I encourage you to read, and while reading, think about it in terms of how their thoughts might translate into useful applications for your business. 

Right now marketers are in the unique position of being able to utilize the many, many new technology tools available today – at no cost, or low cost – and to help build the standards for how those tools are used in the future.  This unique opportunity will allow firms that take advantage of the current situation to be ‘the leaders at the table’ in the future.  If you want to establish such a leadership role for your business and your brand, now is the time to use all your creativity, all your strategic planning capabilities, and all the new technology resources at your disposal to establish that brand and its leadership role.  Learn everything you can about the new media tools available, and use them in every way you can to promote your company.  We at Strategic Growth Concepts will continue to do our part by providing you with information you need to help you in that endeavor, and we’re available to consult with your business whenever you need us, just contact us via our website or email at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

FREE Marketing Plan Give-a-Way for Small Businesses; $8500 Grand Prize Value April 4, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Marketing Plan, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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Small business owners across the U.S. have the opportunity to win a comprehensive Strategic Marketing Plan for their business prepared by consulting firm, Strategic Growth Concepts of Southfield, MI.  Strategic is sponsoring this national contest, being promoted primarily via Web 2.0 technology and social media, as part of their efforts in support of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s upcoming National Small Business Week celebration.

Contestants can enter the contest via Strategic’s website at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com where they complete an online entry form, including essays about their business and why a Marketing Plan will benefit their company.  Contest entrants have the opportunity to win the grand prize, a Strategic Marketing Plan designed to help the firm effectively market themselves to prospective customers and achieve increased sales (approximate value $8,500), or one of five secondary prizes, 2 hours of small business consulting per winner (approximate value $470 per winner). Entries can be submitted thru April 30, 2009, with winners being announced during National Small Business Week, May 17 – 19, 2009.

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Strategic Growth Concepts is a Detroit-based firm that provides training and consulting services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses in the areas of Start-up, Marketing, Operations, HR and Strategic Planning.  The firm’s CEO, Linda Daichendt is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience.  Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com , and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.