Archive for the ‘Revenue’ Category

Social Media: Still a Mystery to Most Small Businesses

By Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies

Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about social media for business. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all new media tools that can help bolster your Internet or digital “footprint.”

You can read all about how social media is ramping up the conversation by doing a simple Google search. But the more important question small business owners want answered is how to use social media to boost sales and get the phone ringing. I call it “turning on the water faucet.” Social media for businesses should mean one thing: free tools that can strengthen your organization’s SEO (search engine optimization), help get your message out, and engage with customers and prospects.

Now these tools may be free, but the time you must spend executing the work can be extensive. A lot of writers just re-hash what’s already been written, so what I find most helpful is to share what we help clients do in the trenches every day. Below are the main barriers to using social media and why it remains a mystery, followed by how to get started and what to do first.

The barriers for most small businesses using social media are:

  • Time and education: It takes time to read and learn about the ever-changing, growing tools online, and most business owners don’t have extra time to devote to this. I hear it every day, and as a small business owner myself, I certainly understand this constraint. Small businesses have limited resources and must focus on revenue development and all that comes with running a business. Social media can help a small business tremendously, but most owners have not had time to get up to speed.
  • Lack of resources: It takes a dedicated effort to employ social media tools. Most companies can hire help, but many simply don’t have the extra resources to do so.
  • Reluctance to embrace new media: A lot of people are just flat out skeptical of social media. There are legitimate reasons to ignore it, especially if you are in a regulated industry (banking, insurance, finance, etc.), as some governing entities such as the SEC have policies against any use of social media for work. I think that will change soon, as I’m already seeing some large organizations issue new policies on social media use.
  • Generational: Most people would be surprised to know that the average age of a Twitter user is between 40 and 55. Age isn’t an excuse to avoid social tools, but it is often an explanation.

How to get started if you want to add a social media strategy to your marketing toolkit:

  • Read, read, read. There are some excellent blogs (like this one) and other resources online that can tell you all you need to know. There is no “magic wand” that will do this for you. If you really want to jump in, you have to do the reading yourself. You can hire it out of course, but the ideal results spring from the business understanding social media and embracing it, even if it means only monitoring at first. Let’s take the Judy McLellan Team for example (@JudyMacTeam on Twitter). Judy hired my firm to help with a real estate marketing and PR strategy that included the use of social tools. At first, we did some of the tweeting and posting. But now, you can find Judy out selling homes while using her iPad and iPhone to tweet and spread information about her listings.
  • Pick one tool and learn that first. For me, it’s Twitter. Once I understood Twitter, I moved on to learning about some other tools. I think by mastering one tool, small businesses can see results faster. Let’s take Cheffie’s Cafe (@Cheffies on Twitter) as the next example. We helped Cheffie’s Cafe spread the word by using Twitter, along with traditional PR during the previous few months. A good Twitter strategy is key to a successful PR campaign.
  • Look at what your competition is doing. Get online and do a little research to see what your competition is up to in the social space. Let’s take OrthoMemphis, a successful orthopaedic practice in Memphis that adopted social media long before its competition did. We have helped OrthoMemphis (@OrthoMemphis on Twitter) use social media tools to not only market their sub-specialists (knee, hips, and shoulders), but also to launch OrthoStat, its acute care walk-in clinic. Combined with direct mail, PR, and patient communications, Twitter and Facebook have been tremendously helpful.
  • Get a social media policy in place and communicate it to your organization. There are some great examples online and free resources available. I suggest any small business that wants to use social media tools have a policy in place just like a media policy. Talking online is like talking in the newspaper, and it’s important to have a strategy and know the dos and don’ts of posting online. Good examples are Coca-Cola, Kodak, and Intel. (A list of these can be found on my blog.)

The smaller the organization (or flatter), the easier it is to employ social media. Even though they may have more resources, larger companies are often more bureaucratic and have more red tape. Larger companies are also usually slower to “get it,” and we have found that companies without all the red tape can move faster and are often more decisive. Social media gives the little guys a leg up and is a great way to have a big voice online.

Nordstrom Does Twitter Right

By David Meerman Scott, Author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly

The other morning, I popped over to my local Nordstrom store to check out what’s new for spring. Dave Angiulo helped me choose some styling shirts that I can wear with my blue Peter Millar suit.

As we were heading to the cash register, Dave asked me if I was on Twitter. It was a very low-key, casual question. It did not feel pushy in any way. “Absolutely,” I said. “Are you?” He gave me his business card, which included his Twitter handle: @NordstromDave. Damn. I wanted to learn more.

Dave said he uses Twitter to keep his customers informed. He tweets photos of clothes he likes. Sometimes he comments on what’s happening, like this tweet on the Academy Awards: “I think my vote goes to Colin Firth for best dressed last night… or maybe Tom Hanks. Just proves again that you can’t go wrong with a classic look.”

Dave also told me that he has a bunch of clients who he sends direct messages to. He knows their tastes in clothing, and when something new comes in, he informs them, privately, right away. This real-time effort frequently generates immediate sales, as Dave already has his customers’ sizes and payment information, and he ships the items right out. Brilliant.

As I was checking out his Twitter feed upon returning to my office, I found myself fascinated by a video that Dave pointed to about Ex-Girlfriend jeans. Dave’s not too fond of them. Can’t say I blame him. His tweet read, “Not sure I’m up on this skinny jeans for men thing… slim, straight is okay, but “jeggings” for men? Video from @GMA:” Others jumped into the Twitter discussion.

This is how you use Twitter at work!

In a corporate environment where many companies fear letting employees use social networking, Nordstrom is doing it right. Yes, there is a corporate @Nordstrom Twitter account, but Dave’s personal touch is a fantastic way to use Twitter for business, pushing the interaction down to people who work directly with customers.

To be sure, this is Dave’s initiative. He’s making it happen. But the effort is fully supported by Nordstrom. Dave has access to computers and iPads at work to tweet, and he usually uses his personal iPhone for the photos.

I’ll DM @NordstromDave the next time I need something. I want to make sure he’s there before I go in.

Social 3.0: Social Media Drives Demand Generation

By Brian Kardon, Chief Marketing Officer at Eloqua

Best-in-class companies have evolved beyond mere participation in social media. They have put a robust marketing technology platform in place that allows them to see how social media activities drive revenue. Social media is earning a seat at the revenue table. It’s called “revenue performance management.”

Social 1.0: Observe

Social 1.0 was all about curiosity. How interesting? What does it mean? What are the risks? Could social media (or “social computing” as my friends at Forrester called it in 2006) really take off?

Social 2.0: Act

Social 2.0 was about companies jumping in: tweeting, blogging, monitoring, and participating across social media platforms. “We should be doing this,” said an anxious CMO. “We will look cool.” “Look how ‘United Breaks Guitars’ or the ‘Comcast Sleeping Tech’ is killing them.” “We need an Old Spice viral idea.” “Hire a bunch of young people, stat!”

Social 3.0: Convert

Well, Social 3.0 is here, and it is about how social media is driving demand generation, adding engaged people to the database, nurturing their interest, and winning business. Yep, social media is driving revenue growth. It has evolved, matured. And it has earned a seat at the revenue table.

As CMO of Eloqua, I get to work with some of the most sophisticated marketing organizations in the world—companies like Adobe, American Express, and Sony. You may think “slow moving” or “bureaucratic.” Well, I can’t speak for everything these companies do, but in the world of social media, they have come to a remarkable place—faster than most would have expected. They have evolved to Social Media 3.0 in record time and are proving how social media drives revenue by:

  • Identifying “complaining” customers and resolving those complaints quickly, leading to higher retention rates
  • Identifying prospects who are shopping for a solution by their status updates or tweets (e.g., “Looking to switch brokerage account out of [competitor]. Any ideas?”) and responding through direct, helpful communications

Of course, most companies by now have set up processes to monitor the social environment. Best-in-class organizations have taken it to a whole new level by measuring and continuously tracking these people. For example, if someone is shopping in the category, they put them into a highly relevant nurturing program, score their progress, and pass the lead to the sales team at the right time. Then they track whether the prospects close or not, attributing the lead source to social media. In the case of complaining customers, they often put them into “remediation” nurturing programs to win them back. And, of course, they rigorously measure renewal rates of those in the remediation program.

From our experience, the companies that are proving social media’s contribution to revenue have five foundations in place:

  • Actively participate in all forms of social media
  • Have deployed a robust marketing and sales technology backbone, consisting of a CRM system, marketing automation, and social media monitoring
  • Have developed specific processes to deal with “complainers” and “active prospects”
  • Continuously measure and optimize the programs
  • Routinely report on social media’s contribution to closed business

Welcome to Social Media 3.0! If you are still in 2.0, it’s time to step up!