How Do I Find the Time to Market My Business Online?
I talk very frequently with a lot of small businesses about how/where they should be marketing online. The most common question I am faced with is, “How do I find the time?” What people don’t want to hear is the truth; you probably can’t. It is an extremely hard truth to face as a small business owner. This seemingly magical and free way to market your business just seems too good to be true … and partly it is. This does not mean you shouldn’t explore doing it yourself or in-house, but it does mean you should explore what is really most lucrative for your business. Read what I have to say and really take a moment to think, 'can I manage all of this effectively and efficiently? Where is my time most valuable?'
Social media is an ever changing beast, what you thought one channel was today, it may not be tomorrow. Foursquare is a great example. It began as a way to boast about being the most frequent customer (mayor) and it was a way to see what companies were offering specials in your current location. Now, it is about reviews and travel. In an article by Allyson Kazmucha, the editor of iMore, she really speaks to the evolution of Foursquare and how the average user is finding new and useful ways to engage with it. It is now about both learning where are the best places to go (locally recommended) and what people who have been there have to say. (A link to that article is provided at the bottom of this page.) That is just one example of social media channels evolving. As a small business owner, staying on top of those changes is extremely difficult. If your industry relies on word of mouth this is now a place you can’t afford not to be. It is surprising how many businesses are unaware of this trend change.
There are terms you hear often and seemingly on repeat about social media: content is king, engagement is important, and grow your following. These are all true, but none of that can be done properly, without a plan. Strategy is what fuels your marketing engine. When you created your business you had an idea of who would be your target client, where you might find them, what your call-to-action would be, and how you would differentiate yourself to retain those clients. You should begin your online marketing strategy the same way. An in-depth competitive and best practices analysis, along with a focused plan on where your target audience is online and how you will accomplish your marketing goals, is paramount to your online success. Every interaction on social media should have a reason - what is this post accomplishing for my business and how is it contributing to my goals?
Let’s say you’ve set up some Google Alerts to know when new things are happening with the social channels and you’ve developed the plan. That is all a great start, but now you have to implement the plan and continue to alter it as needed. Just as your business plan has had to evolve with your business, so does your marketing plan. It is no longer a successful online marketing model to just post and try to engage, it is now about listening. If your website is your storefront and contains your call-to-action, then your social media is your customer service, your PR firm, and your personality. What is your ideal customer saying? What are they interested in? Is the target you originally had, truly your target customer? What posts are getting the most engagement? What channel is driving them to your call-to-action? What time of day are most people interacting with you? How long is it taking you to answer questions? All of these aspects need to be closely monitored and your strategy adjusted accordingly.
Your business is your business. It keeps you busy day in and day out, so how do you decide who can help you market your business online? Make sure they can tell you how they address all three things mentioned above. How do they stay on top of industry trends? How do they create a strategy tailored to your business and industry, and lastly, how do they fulfill that strategy and continue to adjust it, to make sure it is doing its best work for you? Think about whether or not you truly have the time to do this well, can you check all three of these things off your list? Do you have an employee that can truly dedicate the time? The most important thing that people don’t stop to consider is, how much is my time as a business owner worth? If you and your employees' main focus is your business tasks, then is your/their time best spent on the online marketing aspects. With the hours you would need to dedicate to a successful social media marketing campaign you can more than likely hire a professional. It is affordable, just don’t be afraid to ask those three important questions to make sure you are spending that money wisely.
Article by Allyson Kazmucha: http://www.imore.com/why-foursquare-better-travel-guide-any-book-or-app-you-could-ever-buy