Articles tagged with: Social Media

8 Strategies Small Businesses Should Consider to Make the Most of the Holidays

on Monday, 15 December 2014. Posted in Techniques & Strategies

The holidays are an exciting time of year for most people. After all, there is a lot to look forward to. Families are coming together to spend quality time. Many will do a lot of shopping and inevitably some Christmas decorating will get done. Some will even attempt their very best Clark Griswold impression when they wrap their house with 250 strands of lights. Drum-roll please . . .

If you are football fan, this is your time of year. The temperatures are dropping and the playoff picture is heating up. My house is buzzing on Sunday with a fire, the big game, and some of my favorite Cajun dishes as our divided house cheers on the Packers, Saints, and anyone playing the Bears.

If you are a business owner, this can also be your favorite time of year. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend around $700 on holiday gifts, goodies, and treats this year. That adds up to an estimated $465 billion and you should be getting your piece of that. The challenge for most business owners is that they just don't know how to capitalize on this opportunity. If you are looking for inspiration to help capitalize on this holiday season, you are in luck. I've assembled 8 of my favorite strategies for quick wins during the holidays.

These strategies are market agnostic and meant to be fairly easy to implement. If you have questions or need clarification, please reach out to me via email at michael@michaellejeune.com.

1. Invest in marketing - Most companies don't realize how important marketing is at this time of year. In fact, a lot of companies try to dial back their marketing at this time of year because they think it will get lost in a sea of mail. While there is some truth to that, you also have to understand that your competition is marketing to your potential clients during this season and you are risking losing them to the competition if they are the only voice that your clients / prospects hear. My advice is to think more along the lines of multi-touch campaigns or even multi-media campaigns. A multi-media campaign targets various forms of marketing such as direct mail, social, online ads, email, radio, etc. Hit your prospects from multiple sources for the best impact. But for heaven's sake, don't fall into the trap of shutting down your marketing during the holidays. It's a massive mistake that can cost you dearly.

2. Capturing leads - This is actually a year-round strategy, but especially important during the holidays when your in-store, online, and call traffic should be higher. I review hundreds of small business websites, marketing pieces, ads, and strategies each year and my number one complaint for 99% of them is that they are solely focused on a sale. This is a bad strategy. I relate it to proposing the first time you meet someone. Imagine Lloyd Christmas style from Dumber and Dumber when he first meets Mary and goes for the long hug at the airport. Awkward . . . Don't get me wrong. It totally makes sense going for the sale, but what's your fallback to that? The answer is usually nothing. That's why it's so important to build in a lead contact capture strategy into whatever you are doing. Think of it this way. If you capture their contact information, you can market to them later. If you don't, you just wasted your marketing dollars on people who aren't ready to buy yet. So make sure your websites have a lead capture strategy right on the front page or on any of your landing pages for ads and make sure all of your marketing gives an incentive for prospects to at least register for something online. A lot of people use bonuses, free downloads, a free copy of their book, a buying guide, a case study, or some other form of goodie to get people to share their contact information with them.

3. Quick wins through promotions to your current customers - One of the most valuable assets to any company is your database of current customers / clients. However, it's only valuable if you use the database. The holidays are a perfect time to reach out to your current customers with a special promotion. In fact, I often suggest creating a VIP / Membership program during the holidays if you don't already have one and launching it at this time. You can do a great promotion for this via direct mail and email and offer your current customers exclusive access to your new program along with special discounts, bonuses, bundles, etc.

4. Irresistible offers to reel in new customers - One of the things I'm constantly harping on with clients is for them to create irresistible offers for their marketing. You want a prospect to look at your offer and think to themselves, "I can't pass this up." This strategy will increase your response rate and conversion rate by several hundred percent. The other great thing about this is that it gets you a new client, gets their contact information, and it lets you continue marketing to them. Focus on something simple that's easy to understand. A great example is one of the irresistible offers I use. When I speak, I offer a 1-hour consultation, review of your website and marketing materials, and a copy of both of my books for $20. The value of this package is around $600. I also sweeten the deal by not taking a credit card upfront and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If the client doesn't feel they got their $20 worth, I don't charge them a dime. Pretty irresistible if you ask me.

5. Direct mail - I keep hearing clients say that direct mail is dead, but that's simply not true. Would you believe that direct mail actually has a higher conversion rate than any other marketing strategy we use? We have tested this in many markets and industries and direct mail done correctly, still outshines most other marketing strategies. As with everything, there are exceptions, but I'm here to vouch for direct mail. The key is standing out from the rest of the mail. You can do this many ways. One of which is using oversized postcards, oversized envelopes, or something we call shock and awe kits which is actually a box of marketing materials. The other factor is to make it simple. If the offer is too complicated, prospects won't bite. There's a reason great copywriters like Dan Kennedy make six figures just to write one direct mail letter. And that reason is because direct mail still works extremely well.

6. Social media - You would ideally build up your presence on social media before starting a marketing campaign for the holidays, but it's not completely necessary. In fact, you could run social promotions with the intention of building your followers. What you have to understand is which social platform your prospects are using. For example, an under 20 demographic is more likely to look at Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram, while an older demographic is more likely to only use Facebook. Once you nail down which social platform is best for your demographic, you need to focus on what your social media strategy should be and how you want to deliver your messages.

One of our clients is a non-profit organization that runs a thrift store. They found that their target customer was on Facebook. We started testing different messages and concepts and found that text only posts were typically only seen by 50 to 100 people, photos were seen by 500 to 1,000 people, but videos were seen by as many 8,000 people. So we started building a video heavy strategy. The videos feature yours truly talking about upcoming sales and activities and asking people to share the video for a chance to win a $25 gift card. This strategy has increased sales by more than 30%. You can watch what we are doing for this group by following them on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/willowtreemissions

7. Differentiation - For some companies, the holidays are a slow time of year. In fact, it's a slower time of year for my business. In addition to being a founder member of my own coaching practice, I'm also a Senior Consultant and Program Manager for RSM Federal where most of our clients are government contractors. So this is traditionally a slow time for government work. With that in mind, I've always suggested that clients use slow times of the year to look at new markets such as government contracting and to use this downtime to brainstorm ways they can differentiate from their competition.

What can you do during the holidays to separate your business from your competition? An even better question is; what can you do to separate your business from the big companies in your industry? I highly encourage my clients to look at their customer service and client communication as a point of difference. How do you treat people and how do you talk to people? Can you hire a great copywriter to recreate your messages, spruce up your marketing pieces, and come up with better hold messages? Do you need to create some new policies and procedures for how your employees interact with customers? If so, you probably need to script this and do some training on it.

The objective with differentiation is to get people to say, "Wow, those folks are different". You want them to love your company and spend money with you because of who you are and not just because of what products and services you provide. More importantly, you want them to choose you because of how your company makes them feel.

If you are considering getting into government contracting, please check out this article I did on differentiation for government contracting. It will give you some great ideas on how to separate yourself from the pack. www.rsmfederal.com/blog/the-name-of-the-game-is-differentiation

8. Hiring a coach - Last but not least, I suggest you hire a coach. I know, it's not only obvious, but brilliant right. It's that or makes me look like a schmuck. Either way, it's the truth. . . A great business coach (cough, cough) like myself, really understands the fundamentals of business and can give you a massive advantage to growing your company. It's our job to understand the techniques, strategies, and short-cuts that your business needs and more importantly, how to implement them.

A great coach will typically cost you about as much as a great admin assistant (around 25 to 40K per year depending on the coach and what they are doing for you). However, they should be the highest ROI person on your team. For example, one of my clients recently more than doubled their revenue from $350K to $765K in our first year. They also decreased cost and increased profitability by more than 20%.

The bottom line is that a great coach can help you leap frog over obstacles, solve some of your biggest challenges, and do it all at a price that not only makes sense, but makes you a fortune in the process.

So what happens if you don't have the extra cash to implement these ideas? A couple of thoughts on this. The first is that you have to be willing to wisely invest some money in order to grow your business. All too often, I run into companies who aren't willing to invest in their business. And inevitably, those companies either fail or fail to achieve the results they desire. So first and foremost, be willing to invest some cash in the growth and health of your company.

There are a lot of ways to get the extra cash you need. You can lower your costs, sell some personal items or old equipment, or get a loan. For most companies, I suggest having a line of credit. Even a small line of credit can go a long way toward implementing these strategies. You can check with your local bank or one of many online sources.

I really like Kabbage. They approve funding for businesses based on real life data, not just a credit report. They link your bank, PayPal, or other accounts and review payment transactions to qualify you on the spot. This unique credit line method gives people with a lower credit score a better chance of getting approved as long as they have a transaction history to support the credit line.

###

Michael LeJeune is a Senior Consultant and Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that helps businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information, please visit www.rsmfederal.com

Five Observations On Social Media

on Thursday, 19 September 2013. Posted in Social Media

You really can't sell to the Federal government unless you're already selling to Corporate America. Sure, there are exceptions but that's very rare. Over the last several years I've been managing a social media team for a National Coalition in Washington DC that supports our military service members and their families. While RSM Federal utilizes LinkedIn for the majority of our social media leverage, I wanted to share some general business observations and experiences on the use of social media.

1. There are very few social media experts who have comprehensive expertise, past performance, and proven success to be labeled an expert. You will find that social media experts are experts in specific markets or industries and primarily have experience in either small, medium, or large business. There are some excellent social media professionals who understand product but not service; understand Fortune 500 but not small business; and whose techniques and strategies for user engagement require a level of funding that is only viable with a larger business. I personally believe that 95% of self-proclaimed social media experts, based on their background and client-base, understand how to use social media tools but often lack an integrated approach to the strategy that drives these tools.

2. Social Media = Revenue. In February 2013, an article published on LeanardSipes states that "We know that social media is probably better at brand awareness than driving revenue." While I agree that the statement is valid - in a vacuum, the purpose of brand awareness, from a business perspective, at the end of the day, if you're using social media for a business purpose, the end state is increased revenue. You're using social media to increase distribution, to maintain and improve your brand, to gain referrals, and a myriad of other business functions. But social media used for business purposes has one core objective - to increase revenue. You can buy a product, pay for a service, refer a colleague, receive a discount, participate in a promotion - but every call to action is designed to directly or indirectly increase revenue. Yes social media can be fun, but if you're using it for business, the focus always comes back to revenue.

3. Daisy Chain Calls To Action. One of the most important lessons I've learned is that social media requires a daisy chain of call-to-actions (CTA). In working with one of our clients, we spoke with the team that manages President Obama's social media platform. They developed a workflow and a software solution that creates a daisy chain. They identify the call to action and when a user enters their information, the user is redirected to another landing page with a second call to action. There are many different examples of how you can daisy chain. For example, when you use Hootsuite for promotions, the software allows users to gain extra points for each user that registers as a result of a referral or share. When using social media for business, keep your daisy chain simple and every CTA should be based on an emotional, financial, social, or educational values.

4. There are some core differences between using social media for products and service. If you sell products, a social media plan is easier to develop. You have tangible goods which are much easier to market with discounts and coupons. On the other hand, if you're a service based organization, it's a bit more difficult. Using social media for business services is viable, but the time it takes to manage the social media platform(s) requires an incredibly strong emotional value with the users. For this reason, RSM Federal utilizes LinkedIn as the primary social media platform and nothing else. I simply don't have time to manage another platform where the expended time costs more than the revenue it would generate. The excuse, "Everyone else is using social media" or "Your competition is using social media" doesn't change my mind. Social media is either viable or it's not for your business. Based on what RSM Federal provides, LinkedIn is the only viable platform that makes sense.

5. Integrating Video and Social Media. If you haven't heard of Cinsay, you probably will. Cinsay is a video player capable of taking transactions, gathering leads, and collecting detailed analytics all within a video player. Doesn't sound all that exciting, does it? Let me explain. Today, almost all marketing on social media includes a graphic and a link. If you want to collect names and emails for your affinity group or newsletter, you can redirect the user to a 3rd party application in Facebook or redirect them to a landing page on your website that has a database back-end to collect the data, or a myriad of other redirects. If you are offering a 10% discount on one of your products, the user clicks the graphic or link and is directed to a landing page on your website or to PayPal, or another myriad of redirects. Regardless of the call-to-action, they are being redirected somewhere. More times than not, the user is redirected to your website. That's the current paradigm - get them to a specific landing page on your website, sell them, educate them, cross-sell, but keep them on your website.

But now, Cinsay's Smart Store Video Player changes this business paradigm. With Cinsay's player, you can load it into every major social media platform that accepts video. It can be shared and commented on just like any post. But here's why it's a game changer and why you should know about it. Your eCommerce is built directly into the video. Your products, your pricing, your credit card authorization and payment system - everything is inside the video. This means that as you are watching the video, you can select one or more products, see product specs and pricing, make a purchase - all while the video about your company is playing in the background. Users can watch your video, learn about your solutions and make a purchase - all without a redirect. Think about that for a moment. One of your prospects is on Facebook, plays the video on their wall, reviews one of your products inside the video and then makes a purchase. When they're done, they're still on your Facebook page! No redirect to 3rd party Facebook applications. No redirect to your website where extra clicks may lose the sale. However, once the purchase is made, you can then recommend or create a link to your website. I would recommend a landing page specific to the video that provides educational or other value to improve your relationship with your new client. It works in a similar fashion on all the major social media sites. Almost forgot, it works via email as well!

We know that the conversion percentage for video over pictures is much higher. Now you can send an email with the video and your prospect can buy your products directly within your email since the product and payment systems are inside the video. For the most part, we see an industry leading and market changing technology every ten years or so. Examples are MySpace, YouTube, eBay, Google, Facebook, etc. Personally, I believe Cinsay's Smart Store Video Player is one of these game changers. Stay tuned!

Summary. If you decide to use social media for your business, it would primarily be for commercial sales. You are very unlikely to use social media as a successful tool for government sales. But above all else, your success with social media is based on the strategy, not the tools that you use, which includes Cinsay. The Cinsay player is an incredible tool but it's still a tool. Without a solid strategy behind its use - it's just one more system you have spend time maintaining, wondering if the ROI is viable.

For more information on Cinsay, visit www.cinsay.com


###

Joshua P. Frank is Principal and owner of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that represents small and large businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to win government contracts. For more information and videos about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com  

Contact Us