Posts Tagged ‘Starting a business’

I’m an expert, how about you?

When you have a small business, minutes matter.  You have to stay focused, which is very hard to do in this chaotic business world in which many of us operate.  In the past, many companies operated and sold either locally or, at most, regionally.  Now, we are global.  So how can you differentiate your brand, in addition to your products and services?  Become the Expert!

I was reading Ivana Taylor’s article regarding influence (You 14 Step Roadmap to becoming an Influencer ) on and it got me thinking…what can small businesses do to make themselves brand experts? 

Here are some ideas that I gleaned from Ivana with my additions (of course).

  • Put in the time—You truly do need to be an expert to claim that status (don’t be a poser!)…Ivana recommends 10,000 hours…that means that you have to be working full time in an industry for at least five years to claim expert status…totally doable!  Remember though, focus is key… I am not just a market research and marketing expert…I am an expert in B2B insurance market research and B2B insurance marketing (as well as other things…wink). 
  • Strategically Embrace Social media—there are a lot of things you can do through social media that will boost your expert status, but you can’t afford to waste time.  Here are my quick hit favorites:
    • LinkedIn—join 50 groups…it’s fast and easy; and, actively post articles and ask questions in the groups from which you think you will get the most “expert status” bump. 
    • Blog—Don’t do what I do…keep your blogs short and sweet…and do what I do…keep them on topic.  When you blog, use key words you want to own/be associated with your name/brand…like marketing, commercial insurance, Net Promoter Score.  If you have more time…I suggest you also place comments on other people’s blogs—it helps with Google juice!  Another idea would be to guest blog, but few of us have enough time to write our own blogs let alone blog for other people.  I would try to get them to repost one of the blogs you have already written.
    • Create a YouTube video—if you have a video camera and an internet connection, you are pretty much set.  Make the video really short (1 to 3 minutes, tops) and very informative and instructional.  Oh, and make it fun.    Post these videos on your website…more Google juice!
    • Publish…Your Data—if you collect and analyze data and can publish it…do so!   Nothing better than providing the world with useful information.  And, after you have published your data…write a press release about it.  It doesn’t cost that much to get your press releases run through the newswires. 
    • In-person Networking—yes, you need to get out there and meet people face to face, not just online.  To do this, I recommend joining associations and attending their conferences (to the extent it makes sense).  Service clubs like Rotary are great as well, but don’t just focus on local things and events.  
    • Speak/Join Panels/Webinars—most of us would rather jump off a bridge than speak publically; but, there are few better ways to build up your expert status than having documented proof that people are willing to pay for your advice.

There are a heck of a lot more ways to get your brand elevated to expert status, but these were my favorites.  And, as you have probably noticed, most of them are absolutely free (except for your time). 

What are you doing to elevate your brand status to expert?

Happy Marketing!

Four Quick and Easy Tips to Name Generation…

While most of us would agree that great care should be given when selecting a name for a new company or a new product, many people don’t have a true process they go through when selecting a name.

Since the name of your company or product/service is going to be with you for hopefully a very, very long time, it is important that you get this part of building your new business/product/service right.

Here are four quick and easy tips to naming a new business, product or service.

  1. Keep it Simple— less is (most often) more when selecting a name.  Think about your target audience when you are naming your company.  Since you are building your product and service around their wants/needs…why wouldn’t you build your company name around these wants/needs as well?   For some, simple could mean naming it after the family like SC Johnson (who makes things like Windex).
  2. Make it Memorable—while “being memorable” means different things to different people, to me it means selecting a name that is easy for your target market to remember.  So nothing complicated or hard to remember.  Or worse yet…one that is so close in name to a competitor that you often get mistaken for them (which could be a good or bad thing depending upon the competitor).  For example:  JiffyPop.  How could you forget that name?  Popped corn in a jiffy!
  3. Make it Relevant—is important for you to select a name that is easily relatable (by your target market) to what you do.  For example:  Toys”R”us.  When seeing this name for the very first time, would you have any doubt or misunderstanding as to what this company does?   Another great example is ProPixFix…a new online photo restoration service.  The name clearly tells you what they do.
  4. Make it Familiar—my final and favorite naming tip is make it familiar…meaning make it sound like you have heard of that company before.  When you start a business, you will have almost no brand recognition or equity.  By having a familiar sounding name, you might get people comfortable in giving you a shot, even though you are new.   For example: Fast Forward Strategies.  This marketing strategy company started in 2002 with no brand awareness/equity.  The company benefitted from the name sounding like a strategy company their target market had heard of before.

Ok, so what do you do if you have a “bad” name and you are stuck with it?  Help fix the bad name with a tagline.  Look for a future blog post on the topic of taglines coming soon to my blog.

Have more quick and easy tips on selecting a name for your new company, product or service?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Happy Marketing!

Addressing the “social” side of your group…

I know what you are thinking…Sharon you are market researcher at heart, where are your stories with a market research flair?

Ok, since you asked, here are some great market research statistics about the impact Americans think the internet has had on group participation.  In this survey, the Pew Internet Project asked about 27 different kinds of groups and found great diversity in group membership and participation using traditional and new technologies.

Following are the percentages of Americans that say the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to do the following:

  • Communicate with members: 68% of all Americans (internet users and non-users alike) and 75% of internet users said that
  • Draw attention to an issue: 62% of all Americans and 68% of internet users
  • Connect with other groups: 60% of all Americans and 67% of internet users
  • Impact the society at large: 59% of all Americans and 64% of internet users
  • Organize activities: 59% of all Americans and 65% of internet users
  • Raise money: 52% of all Americans and 55% of internet users
  • Recruit new members: 51% of all Americans and 55% of internet users said that.
  • Impact local communities: 49% of all Americans and 52% of internet users
  • Find people to take leadership roles: 35% of all Americans and internet users

Continue reading

The Numerati are watching…

Who or what are the Numerati you may ask?  Well they aren’t a religion nor are they Santa Claus, but they know when you are sleeping and when you are awake (whether you have been bad or good is up to you and your conscious).  Just ask Stephen Baker

Marketing has certainly reached a tipping point as it relates to targeting.  No longer do we have to develop large targeted advertising and marketing campaigns…thanks to the Numerati.  Okay, back to my original question…who are the Numerati?  They are the technological and statistical gurus who have figured out how to target us without asking us one single question.  Can’t be?  Read on.

Ever wonder how it is that while surfing the web you are consistently receiving banner advertising that seems to be targeted to what you are currently shopping for?  How about online advertising that pops up on your favorite news website for things you are vaguely interested in based on your hobbies?  To use a phrase from Hawaii Five-O last night…you know what they say about coincidences…they take a lot of planning.  And the Numerati do nothing but plan…how to reach you.

Without getting into a lot of techno babble and market research geek, the Numerati are the folks that take volumes of behavioral data from the web and, through the use of some pretty sophisticated modeling and programming, determine what online advertising should resonate with you.   

The Two Main Benefits:

  • It can help you quantify a hard to define/segment market—it goes beyond the typical demographic and psychographic variables
  • Behavioral targeting can significantly reduce the cost of sale (new and ongoing)

The Drawbacks:

  • It’s a model…and models can be wrong
  • There is too much junk out there for a meaningful conclusion for targeting
  • We are lazy and ADD (attention deficit disorder) surfers…not everything we search or click on is meaningful to us.

Marketing is truly at a tipping point.  Soon I wont even have to think about or desire anything! The Numerati will tell me what I want and make it very easy to buy it!

Happy Marketing!

Business Owners: Wake Up and Smell the Facebook!

If I had a dime for every time someone said, “you can’t make money from Social Media” I would probably be on a beach somewhere having a Cosmopolitan. 

After giving the person the lecture on the fact that social media marketing is “social” first and “marketing” second, I tell them you can make money on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you just haven’t educated yourself on how. 

Don’t believe me?  Chew on this…according to eMarketer, U.S. marketers will spend $3.08 billion to advertise on social networking sites this year, about a 55% over their 2010 spend.  And, eMarketer expects this number to reach $4 billion by 2012.   

So are all these people wasting their money?  Well some clearly are, but for many not.  It can be much, much cheaper to build brand awareness among and engage your audience through social media than through traditional advertising such as TV and Print.

So why is Facebook so important?  Well, in a few words… over 175 million people (log in every day to Facebook).

So why now for Facebook?  Get in early (or should I say less late).  If you check the online advertising costs for Facebook, you will see that some markets (based on their cost per click) are relatively untapped.  Why not get your product or service in front of your markets now before someone else does?

Like it or not, Social Media and Facebook are here to stay (at least for now).  You need to jump in before it’s too late. 

Happy Marketing!

Small businesses are getting it!

Those that follow my blog know that small businesses are near and dear to my heart—more specifically, their feelings about and usage of social media.  And, ofcourse, so is measurement/data. 

Given this, I am happy to report that yet another study has been completed on the usage of social media by small businesses.   According to research conducted by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, small-business adoption of social media marketing seems to have plateaued at 24% after experiencing double digit growth over the past few years.  That said, small businesses are reaping the benefits of their efforts.

The study of US small businesses found that those that do market via social media primarily use Facebook (82%), and that the most common activities are maintaining a company page on a social network and posting status updates or links to interesting content. About half of businesses that used social media also monitored brand chatter on social networks.

While the performance of the social media channels they used didn’t always line up with their expectations, the performance of the social media tactics employed by small businesses was relatively effective; particularly as it relates to staying engaged with current customers (65%), increasing brand awareness among targeted audiences (64%), and identifying and attracting new customer (53%).

Performance of Social Media Tactics, June 2010 (% of US small businesses)

So what business objectives have small businesses achieved through social media?  The usual: 

  • Connecting with customers through sites like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Increasing traffic to the company website through Facebook
  • Increasing traffic to the company website through LinkedIn
  • Increasing customers following the company on Twitter

While small businesses seemed to have been more successful in achieving relationship and brand building objectives through social media, about one-third have achieved sales leads through Facebook (36%) and LinkedIn (35%).  Far fewer, only 16%, say they have achieved sales leads from Twitter.

Business Objectives Achieved via Social Media, June 2010 (% of US small businesses*)

While small businesses are achieving the benefits of social media, they are experiencing some of the downsides of being so visible—online criticism.  The percentage of small businesses saying their business had been criticized online nearly doubled (to 29%) since December.  That said, only 1% of small businesses said their image was hurt more than it was helped by social media, a decline from last year (6%).

While the percentage of small businesses using social media may have plateaued (for now), the report does show us that even small businesses are reaping the rewards of having a social media presence and strategy.

Happy marketing!

The customer journey and your brand…are they on the same path?

Social media and search engine marketing (SEM) are growing by leaps and bounds.  And, they should.  That said, in this new world of social media and SEM, we often forget that the best marketing campaign is often an integrated campaign, not just one that is offered solely through the internet.

So, even though I am a big proponent of social media and SEM, why am I recommending an integrated campaign?  That’s because we need to focus on the customer experience or journey (as some people call it) and not on any particular marketing methodology—that we like or we even good at.  The customer’s journey to our product or service brand can be as varied as ways there are to experience our brand.  So, to be most effective, we need to have our brands presented in the most positive manner in as many of these journey pathways as economically possible.

So what type of integrated campaign is right for your brand?  Well, as you might expect, it depends.  It depends on your current and potential customer targets.  Here are some of the contact methods that you should consider for your brand:

  • Traditional Media—these are the tried and true “old school” marketing methods.  And make no mistake, these are useful for both B2B and B2C campaigns.  These would include:
    • Print advertising—best used for building awareness of your brand to a wide audience.  The key here is to focus your advertising on publications that focus on your target markets and not on national and expensive publications in which your brand may get lost in the shuffle.
    • Direct mail—best used for increasing consideration of your brand and presenting more complex offers.  Many companies have gotten away from this type of marketing, so this type of interruption marketing can be very effective.
    • Faxes—yes, faxes.  This will probably shock some people, but it can be very effective reach method for hard to reach B2B prospects.
    • PR marketing—thought these were mutually exclusive?  Not anymore.  Effective PR campaigns can be even more successful than a well-defined marketing campaign.  The key?  Making the PR meaningful for your audience…not your father’s or grandfather’s press releases.
  • Internet Marketing—these are the new methods that have all buzz nowadays.  These methods can be effective for both B2B and B2c prospects, though some of these methods are clearly more focused on the younger segments of the market than us old folks.
    • Online advertising—these are the banner ads that are pervasive on virtually every commerce-based website out there.  While online advertising has sort of been the redheaded stepchild of the online marketing set, it truly can be effective if done right.
    • Social media—these are the listening and engagement tools in your marketing campaign.  These include such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Myspace.  Remember, this type of marketing is very different than your typical internet marketing campaign.  This method has a much longer “tail” as we say in the insurance business—meaning that the sale can take longer than it would with other methods.
    • E-mail marketing—spam, spam everywhere…e-mail marketing can be effective, but for most it isn’t.  That’s because many marketers are spamming people, even if they don’t realize it.  If you are going to do e-mail marketing, make sure you engage a professional.  Even if e-mail marketing is essentially free, it can cost you a lot from a brand perception perspective if done incorrectly.
    • Mobile marketing—ads on my cell phone?  Say it isn’t so.  Actually, with the geomapping software now available, this type of marketing truly is a brave and exciting new world and possibly a “win win” for both the marketer and the consumer.  How great is it that I can receive a coupon for my Skinny Latte as I enter the proximity of a Starbucks?
    • Search Engine Optimization/Your Website—some companies put way too much focus on other internet marketing efforts without putting enough effort on ensuring that their website can be found organically on the internet.

There are many ways you can be visible on your current and prospect customers’ product and service search journeys.  The key is to identify what methods allow your brand to be most visible to your targets, for the most effective cost.  If you’ve got the money, integrated campaigns are usually the way to go.

Happy marketing!

Brand strength matters…don’t let yours wither on the vine…

In past blogs, I have talked repeatedly about the value of having and protecting a strong brand—if for no other reason than keeping your product from slipping into commodity status.  While most people would agree that intuitively it makes sense that having a strong brand would lead to more sales, not much data has been around for us data junkies to prove it.  Well, I am happy to say that one company, the Reputation Institute went out and did just that…attempt to prove the link between a strong/excellent brand and revenue.

Here are some of the highlights of the findings from the Global Reputation Pulse 2010 research:

  • Strong reputations have a direct link to link to the bottom line in the form of increased:
    • Recommendations/verbal support
    • Purchase consideration
  • According to The Reputation Pulse Study, excellent reputations are built across the following seven dimensions:
    • Products/Services
    • Innovation
    • Governance
    • Workplace
    • Citizenship
    • Leadership
    • Performance

Here are some additional highlights from the 2010 study:

  • Ten companies (Chubb, McDonald’s, Archer Daniels Midland, SunTrust Banks, ExxonMobil, AutoNation, Humana, Marathon Oil, CITGO and Staples) increased their reputation scores by seven points or more from 2009.
  • U.S. consumers feel the most respected and reputable industries, as measured by the reputations of the biggest companies are: 1) Food Manufacturing, 2) Consumer Products, 3) Transportation & Logistics, 3) Computers, 4) Industrial Products, and 5) General Retail.
  • With mergers, bankruptcies and bail-outs, financial industries suffered the most with the greatest negative individual company changes in reputation.
  • Interestingly, utilities and communications companies improved as a whole.
    • While the drivers of excellent reputations differs by industry, country and stakeholder group, the study found that for U.S. companies, Products/Services was the most influential brand dimension; followed by Governance and Citizenship.

So you must be wondering which brand achieved the best brand reputation score overall….drum roll please…it was Johnson & Johnson—for the second year in a row.  Kraft Foods, Kellogg, The Walt Disney Company, PepsiCo, and Sara Lee rounded out the top tier of U.S. companies in 2010, all with excellent reputation.

Achieving and protecting a strong brand is critically important.  Even if you don’t see the direct link between brand excellence/strength and sales, you can certainly make the connection of having a strong brand elevating your product above commodity status (even if you are producing what some would argue is a commodity product—think Band-Aid or Jell-O).   Make sure you and your employees are charged up with protecting your brand!   Perhaps The Reputation Institute will be measuring your brand some day!

Happy Marketing!

For those of you that want more information about the study I reference above, the following describes how the study was conducted. The Global Reputation Pulse 2010 was conducted online in January and February 2010. A Pulse score is a measure of corporate reputation calculated by averaging perceptions of four indicators — trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling — obtained from a representative sample of at least 100 local respondents who were familiar with the company. Scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100, Pulse scores that differ by more than +/-0.5 are significantly different at the 95% confidence level. The U.S. mean for all 150 companies included in the study was 67.38. Top line reports on the 2010 Global Reputation Pulse findings can be downloaded at

Strategic Marketing Planning…Don’t Skip It!

Before you build your Marketing Plan, it is often helpful to conduct a strategic Marketing brainstorming session.  In this session, everything gets thrown on the table (even the kitchen sink and in some cases the bathroom toilet).  All too often, people jump right into their Marketing Plan without really knowing what they want to accomplish with it.

Here are some things you should consider in your strategic Marketing planning:

Step 1: Focus and Discipline Your Communications by Developing an Annual Marketing Plan

Through the development and execution of an organized marketing plan, a company can accomplish the following:

  • Brand Building—an organized effort to build awareness and affinity for the company brand among current and potential customers
  • Retention of the Base—reduce attrition rates through proactive communication
  • New Customer Acquisitions—attract new customers through the successful communication of the company value proposition

In addition to identifying the exact Marketing actions that will be taken during the length of the Marketing Plan, it will also include the timing in which all actions are to be taken.

Step 2: Identify Prospective customers and Prioritize Their “Capture” Through Market Analysis and Targeting

  • Profitable Customer Identification—conduct a full review of current and former customers to identify patterns that help determine success with a specific market target.
  • Market Targeting—Once the attributes of profitable customers have been identified, a company can then determine which types of potential customers they would like to target
  • Market Sizing—the first step in the market sizing analysis is to evaluate the overall potential for the company—given the tough economic times, it is good to revisit what the actual potential of new customer group is currently (i.e., in the short term).  Once the overall market is determined, the company would then look to determine pockets of potential (overall and among the identified targets) throughout the target area.

Step 3: Demand Attention With Cutting-Edge Message and Creative Development

  • Create Maximum Stopping Power – aim messages toward thought-provoking issues surrounding prospect concerns and needs
  • Message Targeting—each prospect target group will be unique and thus requires messaging that is specific to its needs and wants. To be successful with each of the market targets, compelling messages need to be crafted that address the specific pain points for the target.
  • Communication Media Strategy—Similar to messaging, the selection and possibly a blend of optimal media for communication is critical to success.
  • Creative Development—Message delivery should be consistent with the company brand, so that the creative itself rounds out prospects’ belief in the value proposition.


Step 4: Marketing Plan Execution

The final step in the Marketing Strategy Planning is to execute an Integrated Marketing Campaign Strategy—the elements of the strategy may include, but are not limited to:

  • Direct Marketing—mailings (letters), faxes, and e-mails
  • Social Media—maximizing a company’s visibility through Social Media sites such as Facebook, Linked In and Twitter
  • Network Marketing—personal contact (i.e. phone calls), presentations to associations and a presence at local business meetings
  • Internet Marketing—increasing a company’s presence on the internet through a SEO (search engine optimization) of the the company’s website and blogging and keeping in consistent contact with current and potential customers through systematic lead management
  • Affiliate Marketing—to the extent it makes sense, continue to build the value of the company services through discount programs offered to partner associations

Brainstorming is a critical component of building an effective marketing plan.  Don’t cheat yourself and your company without spending the time to brainstorm.

Happy marketing!

Small businesses…it’s social media calling…what are you waiting for?

Small businesses are the backbone of the US economy, period—no ifs, ands or buts!  These are the businesses that will lead us out of this recession.  As small businesses are struggling and competing right alongside the big boys, I am left wondering why they aren’t taking full advantage of social media.  Maybe they are struggling with the same things I did (see my blog on Combating social media inertia), but why not take advantage of at least the free stuff as it relates to social media? 

Don’t believe me?  Here’s what I am talking about…

According to a survey done by EMPLOYERS—a Reno-headquartered workers’ compensation insurance company that specializes in addressing the needs of small businesses:

  • More than half (52%) of small business decision-makers believe having a social media presence is important for companies, but only 16% say they have a social media presence for their business.  ARGH!

 Here’s why having a social media presence is important:

  • 59% of small businesses with a social media presence say it has provided value to their business
  • 49% say that their social media presence has produced advocates for their business
  • 65 percent with a social media presence say they actively use it to promote their businesses

Now, just so we aren’t focused on just one study, here are some additional facts for you coming from HubSpot (via eMarketer).  According to HubSpot:

  • Among business-to-consumer (B2C) small and medium-sized companies studied, more than one-half of those using Twitter generated double the median monthly leads of non-Twitter users. That result held across company size.
  • Twitter reach was critical to increased lead generation. Companies with 100 to 500 Twitter followers generated 146% more median monthly leads than those with 21 to 100 followers. Beyond the 500-follower mark, though, there was no further gain.
  • Blogging also increased median monthly leads, and, unlike with Twitter, the effect was about the same for B2C and B2B companies.

One more thing on Twitter…So why is Twitter important?  Google juice baby!  Don’t believe me?  Google my name and you will see what I mean.

Effect of Twitter Usage on Median Number of Monthly Leads Among B2C SMBs in North America, by Number of Employees, December 2009-February 2010


Effect of Blogging on Median Number of Monthly Leads Among B2B and B2C SMBs in North America, December 2009-February 2010


Okay small businesses, now that I have your attention—please, please make sure your blog has appropriate and meaningful content!  And, you have to blog consistently for your social media effort to take root. 

Happy Marketing!

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