SUGGESTIONS for SUCCESS
Suggestions for Success is a 12 week education program sponsored by Old Town Pocatello, Inc. and the Historic Old Town Pocatello Foundation. Board members with specific areas of expertise have developed weekly educational materials to help our merchants, businesses and property owners grow their businesses/properties. In today's fast paced business climate, it's difficult to attend seminars and workshops. So our experts are delivering these weekly education segments via email and then added to this website to be reviewed at a time that's most convenient for you!
Small Business Accounting, a two week series by Allen Collins. Allen is a property owner, member of the Board of Directors and a CPA with Cooper Norman CPAs and Business Advisors.
Property Care & Maintenance, week one of a two week series by Jerry Myers, architect, property owner and business owner, Myers Anderson Artchitects.
Customer Service, a two week series by John Nye, Assistant Professor of Marketing/Director of Professional Development, Idaho State University.
Week #1 Customer Service 101
Marketing, a 6 week series by Scott Elliott, a Creative Director with Steele Branding of Pocatello.
In the following series I will talk about various marketing tactics and share some thoughts and insights with you. I’d like to point out that “Marketing” is a very broad term that includes any type of communication that promotes a brand, service, or product. Please understand that Advertising, PR, and face-to-face sales are loose descriptions of only 3 (of many) tactics that can be used as part of “Marketing”. Each week I will describe a few details about an individual marketing tactic and share a little experience. Do not read one week’s article and think you see the whole picture. I will always recommend using a combination of tactics, as part of a plan in order to increase visits to your business, website, event, restaurant, etc, until you have all the customers you could ever want.
WEEK #1 (March 3): THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE (WOM)
Ever since way back in the old days, businesses have enjoyed annoying the general public by using various advertising media to market their goods and services. A business would paint their name on the side of a barn by a roadside or maybe a traveling circus would fly a banner behind an airplane to create excitement. A restaurant or politician might nail posters to trees or make big signs to get your attention. Eventually, we started using electronic media like radio, TV, and internet to tell people who we are and why they should buy from our business or use our services. In almost every instance, there is a common “Marketing denominator” that has helped determine the success or failure of every single business, large or small. And in a small town – I will even dare to say that no amount of advertising can replace this major “Marketing denominator” once it has begun building momentum. The “Marketing denominator” I am referring to is WORD OF MOUTH, or WOM. In a small town where everyone knows each other, word travels quickly. If people are happy, they smile and tell their friends about their great experience at a business. And conversely, if they are unhappy they’ll talk about that too - and usually, they’ll express being UNHAPPY with a lot more vigor (it’s just human nature).
Think about your 3 favorite local restaurants; the restaurants in your home town where you want to go with your spouse or a date or to just unwind on a Friday night. I’d bet that the first time you went there was NOT because of an advertisement, but because of something you heard from a friend, spouse or a co-worker or maybe you overheard some people talking. And I’ll bet the 2nd time you went there was not because of an advertisement either. Nope. You most likely went BACK because you enjoyed your 1st experience and now you want to repeat that great feeling you felt the first time you went.
If you want people to talk about your business, then you are hoping that they will do your marketing for you… and fair enough. I hope you do! But, if you want to take advantage of the most powerful marketing tool that a small-town business can use (WOM) than it’s simple, just make your business remarkable. (re·mark·a·ble rəˈmärkəb(ə)l/ adjective. Worthy of attention; striking). What does it mean to be remarkable? It means that you give people something to talk about. Is your product GREAT or average? Are you open when people need/want to use your service or not? Is there something people will find at your business that’s not available elsewhere? Is there something exciting or exceptional about your business? What makes your business unique? Seriously… what makes your business truly unique? If you expect people to talk about you, you’ve got to give them something to talk about… and it had better be positive talk, because positive talk can save you from spending more money on advertising. And there are a LOT of ways to perpetuate positive talk!
Let’s take a look at a case in point. Have you ever gone to Five Guys Burgers? I went there the first time because a friend said “Hey! We gotta go to lunch at Five Guys… they’ve got the BEST FRIES ever! You gotta try ‘em”! So we went. In fact, he offered to buy because he was so excited to share this wonderful new discovery with me.…and he was right. The fries come in an overflowing cup and taste amazing! They have Idaho potato sacks piled up all around inside the restaurant (it’s a regular part of their franchise decor). Oh, and you can get a burger while you are there too. The reason I went the first time was because of WOM and the reason I went back is because they were REMARKABLE in a positive way. Are you?
Q: Have you ever seen an ad for Five Guys Burgers? A: No, you have not. They generally don’t advertise. Five Guys’ success, without general advertising, took a ton of hard work, planning and vision on their part. The success of a restaurant like Five Guys is due to great marketing, not great advertising. Some businesses can use one or the other – most businesses need both.
Next week: Social Media (It’s about time).
WEEK #2 (March 11): SOCIAL MEDIA (it’s about time)
Now that you’ve made your business remarkable (see part #1) it’s time to take advantage of the 2nd “Free” marketing tool in your toolbox – social media. Before you get too excited about the whole “Free Marketing” concept, you’ve got to remind yourself right from the start that effective use of social media requires time to maintain. So, if you’ve got the time – great! Pay yourself with the fruits of your success or pay someone else to spend their time making it successful. Either way, social media will require a commitment of time if you want to see a positive result.
Way back in 2009 Facebook for business began rolling out it’s free service to the general public. Since then, two major things happened to Facebook that have impacted the public use of the media from my perspective. 1. Many (not all) of the younger users have jumped ship for other mediums where mom and dad aren’t engaged in their conversations, and 2. Advertising has taken a regular place in the Facebook user’s experience. Frequently, younger users (under 40) recognize a Facebook Ad at a glance and older users do not. While there are MANY types of social medias available for free to the public, I am going to focus on Facebook for this piece because it is currently the most popular electronic social media used for business.
“Effective” Social media is a 2-way conversation. This means that people don’t just read and (hopefully) respond to announcements, but they can ask questions, make comments, and express their own opinions and feelings. And just like in any other 2-way conversation, they want to hear BACK from the person making the comments or announcements. Did you notice that I said that they want to hear back from the PERSON making the announcements? I didn’t say the “Business” I said the “Person”.
EVERYONE who uses social media knows that a response to a question or comment on a socially posted ad or announcement will come from a PERSON. This is the 2-way conversation that separates social media from advertising. If someone asks a question or makes a comment about a post from a business and does not get a response, they soon stop engaging in posts from that source, because they know they are just looking at “An Ad” and not really talking to someone who actually cares.
We’ve all seen the annoying friend who has a Facebook page and then continually post nothing but ads and links for their business interests. While their closest 10 friends will attend their parties, everyone else will tune them out. There is nothing wrong with promoting your business to your friends, but you should try to talk about your personal experiences and what makes you and your business remarkable. You want to keep it conversational or people will see that you are only being a salesman – and most will become wise and stop reading through your posts.
Case in point; recently, there was a popular local car dealer who decided to get in on the “Social media ad scene” and had someone place one of their TV ads on Facebook, with links back to a web page. But, when some of the unhappy customers from their past, actually began to post “Less than flattering” comments on the Facebook page – the car dealer did not have a person assigned to respond, and the slew of negative comments grew to a roar surprisingly fast. Having learned a harsh lesson, the dealership cancelled the paid campaign after 1 day, deleted the posts, and has not posted on social media since. This was a real missed opportunity! Why? If the dealer actually took the time to respond to these past customers in a diplomatic way, they could have made some very positive impressions on potential future customers who were reading the ads as “casual observers” in the first place. The problem was that the dealer was just thinking of Facebook as “another place to run ads” as opposed to thinking of it as a place to engage in actual back & forth discussions.
Remember, social media is just that: “Social”. Be yourself. Be prepared to engage in conversations and not just make announcements. Be remarkable. Conversations make impressions, both good and bad. Think about what you say before you post. Keep in mind that people expect to be told the truth and want to see that you really do care. Which brings me to the next point in this piece… and I would be absolutely irresponsible if I didn’t share this next part, because it is super-important, and cannot be overlooked as you move forward in social media marketing…
Next Week: Content is King.
PART #3: Content is King
In my previous article, I said that you need to make a “time commitment” to your social media management if you want to realize some degree of ROI. I also showed an example of how a business could actually have social media work against them if they use social media without at least a little thought and planning.
Let me make it clear. The main reason a business should use social media as opposed to using a web site alone is to share information about your business and engage in 2-way communications when appropriate. At a minimum, your page should tell people the 5 “W’s (who, what, when, where and why). Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor who knows nothing about your business – does your page answer the 5 “W”s? If so, you can begin moving onto the other points in this article.
Facebook (or social media in general) can be highly addictive. It’s really easy to fiddle away your time perusing social media “fodder” as opposed to focusing on actual promotions or useful information that you want people to know about you and your business. Why? Because social media “fodder” is FUN! Fodder is the content that you will share just for laughs. I mean things like the elephant playing the piano, the cat riding the skateboard, or the scientists who made the fountain display out of diet Coke bottles and Mentos. All good for a chuckle but, basically… fodder. IE; Filler that doesn’t have much value…Or does it?
What if you make the fun posts that are relevant to your business? Let’s say you run a skateboard shop and you make an “original post” about the cat riding the skateboard (as opposed to just sharing someone else’s post) so your business’ name is attached to an item that will get re-posted by another person just for fun. Now you’ve turned fodder into relevant content. Is it useful? Not really. But, it is likely to be re-posted with your name attached to it. And if it’s delightful to watch or read, with a little thought you can make sure it is relevant to your business name. The same logic could be applied to the elephant playing a piano – if you ran a piano store, or if you were a pachyderm music teacher. Make sure and post content that is relevant to your business category.
People love to share content that is helpful, smart, and honestly useful. If relevant or useful information is associated with your business name, then it makes you look smart too. People love to be associated with things that are smart and successful. So post things with your business name on them that are smart, unique, and useful – because it makes your business look smart, unique and useful too. The same approach works for technical information, special pricing, rebates, trade-secrets, and inside information that people see and say “Wow! That’s cool! I need to share that”! That’s just the sort of content you want your name attached to – especially if it’s related to your business.
I’m sure you are wondering about how you can take advantage of the other social medias you hear about as well.
Next week; Part #4 Content Distribution Systems
Part #4. Content Distribution Systems
In “Suggestions for Success” parts 2 and 3, I mainly focused on Facebook because it is currently the most popular social media being used by the middle-aged. That’s a good place to start the conversation about social media because the majority of small business owners here in downtown Pocatello are familiar with Facebook to some degree. I’m willing to bet the majority of the business owners in downtown Pocatello have a Facebook page of their own and would like to get the best use out of the time they spend on social media for business.
But what about all those other social medias we hear about? What about Twitter? What about and Instagram, and Foursquare, and Google +, and Flicker, Linkedin, Pinterest, and the list is really loooong! How do you get involved with all of these social medias and try to keep up? Well, honestly, you can’t do them all. So you have to use the medias that are going to give you the most results for the amount of time you have.
We know that younger people are using other types of free/social medias all the time. It’s a herculean task to try and keep up with all the types of new social medias that seem to be popping up almost daily. Nobody has time to manage all of these new social medias and the entrepreneur who tries to engage in using a set of multiple social medias quickly finds themselves overwhelmed by a time-sucking monster. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those who want to use multiple social medias and don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to managing all of them.
This is where a “content distribution system” comes into play. Basically, a content distribution system allows you to post your content to one main system that will automatically populate all of your other social media accounts for you. It does take some time to set up your content distribution system to link to your various social media accounts – but the total time savings can be worth the initial time investment in the long run.
If you are considering using a content distribution system, I’d suggest that you read the descriptions of each on the internet and pick the one that integrates with the social media combinations that you want to use the most. There is not enough space in this article to list them all, but I will give a few suggestions at the bottom of this page. Some are free to use, but most have a small monthly fee. What’s exciting is that some of these social content distribution systems will let you view analytics of how your posts are performing. This can be a big time saver that allows you to analyze performances so you only make adjustments where needed.
There are also options in most content distribution systems that allow you to pre-schedule posts for the various accounts you manage within your system. This allows you to work with your business calendar so you can offset when posts go live or time your posts ahead of schedule. This allows you to sit down and do a week or 2 at a time. I suggest dedicating at least 2 hours at the same day & time each week (if you run your own shop) to working with your content distribution system after you’ve got set up.
Some of the most popular and affordable content distribution systems available right now are: Hootsuite (the most popular right now, offers different versions; both free and paid.), Everypost (free), and SproutSocial ($39 - $99 per month). There are a WHOLE BUNCH more and they all work a little differently, so check ‘em out before you pick one. I’ll be looking for your posts! - Scott
Next Week: Radio and TV Advertising
Part #5. Radio and TV Advertising
As a 25 year veteran in the marketing business, and as a Creative Director with 3 agencies over the last 16 years, I’ve worked with many forms of advertising and marketing. In speaking to many boards, committees, organizations, high schools and college classes about various marketing topics, I’ve heard one question most of all. By far, the most popular question is also the most annoying one… “What is the best type of marketing”? Why is this question so annoying? Well, it’s kind of like asking a mechanic “What’s the best type of car repair?” The logical response will always be to ask for more information. I.e., what is your objective? In determining marketing objectives (just like fixing a car) the questions that are asked quickly become much more specific.
Are you selling a product or a service? Are you advertising an event or building trust in a brand? Is your objective to increase attendance at an event? What is your target audience/customer? Do you have a specific budget that needs to accomplish a specific goal? Etc…
Obviously, there is a broad spectrum of potential answers to these questions. And that is precisely why I’m so hesitant to say any one type of advertising media is the best. I can say without hesitation that there are many, many cases where TV and radio advertising are NOT the best advertising media for certain businesses.
Now, having stood on my soapbox about “objective consideration”, I can say that in my experience there have been very few instances (3 exactly, over 16 years) where a client actually called me up and told me they were getting too many calls from the ads we were running. In all 3 of those instances we were using TV and/or radio when it happened. Don’t get me wrong, people make and run ineffective TV and radio ads all the time and waste a lot of money doing it. But, when a talented producer is allowed to make an effective ad, and the ads are placed on air at the right time & channel - TV and radio are the winners of the competition for “best results for the money spent” I have seen from traditional electronic advertising.
Even though most people won’t follow these tips, they are true none-the-less.
- Your ads should ALWAYS answer the 5-W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why), if someone could take the name of the business off your ad, replace it with another name, and the ad would still work fine… chances are you need to re-think and make sure the ad tells what’s really different about you.
- On Radio: Fast reads work better than slow reads, the VOICE needs to be the loudest thing, humor on radio is really tough to pull off without sounding dumb… stick with the facts unless you can spend more budget on your production.
- On TV: Humor is an effective way to achieve better retention. You don’t have to make people laugh – a smile will do. Not everyone has the same tastes you do, so don’t be afraid to be yourself – you’ll be glad in the long run. Don’t forget to include the 5 W’s.
I’ve heard it said that TV, or Newspaper is “Just too expensive”. I say the most expensive advertising you can buy is the ad that doesn’t get a response. And the least expensive ad you can buy is the one that brings you the customer.
Next Week: Your Web Site
Part #6. Your Web Site
What a wonderful time it is to be in the marketing business. As new communication options appear on the media landscape each day, we can enjoy finding creative ways of using each one for marketing.
Sometime around 1920 the first radio advertising was heard in populated areas – and do you know what people were saying? People said that the RADIO was going to take over the media scene and put the NEWSPAPER people out of business! (Gasp!) Then in 1941 they started using advertising on that newfangled television set - and do you know what happened? The buzz among the business community was that TV is going to put RADIO out of business! Then around 1992 after the introduction of the internet – do you know what people were saying? Websites are going to put TV out of business! But in every case I’ve mentioned here, people reacted the same way every time they were introduced to a new media… they ate it up! They used it. They LOVED IT. They used it A LOT. People embraced the new medias and they became a part of their lifestyle right along with a continued (and somewhat altered) use of the same medias they loved and used before.
So, is it “Out with the old and in with the new”? Nope… It’s “let’s add the newest gadget to the newest gadget and repeat”.
Pretty much everyone in business has a web presence of some type. Typically, if a business is serious about selling a product online, they will have an actual “website” with a unique domain and some type of e-commerce (online sales) system installed on their site. And sometimes, if a business doesn’t want to sell anything online and just have their name exist somewhere on the web, without spending any money, then they may just get a Facebook-for-business page. Either way, business on the web is here to stay and it’s all about information.
I think of it like this; Facebook is like a comic book (fun, entertaining, and good for expressing an idea or sharing opinions) and a website is like a textbook (factual, useful, and more serious/down to business). Now, I am going overboard with the illustration. I’m not speaking in absolute – but I think you get the idea. Both serve a unique and useful purpose.
Whether you have your website professionally designed or use a plug-&-play system like Weebly or Intuit you will always want to make sure your website does the following Items in the following order as a general RULE OF THUMB.
- Answer the 5 “W”s (who, what, when, where, and why). If any of the W’s are missing from your website – FIX IT. If you want people to call you on the phone at ANY POINT in their interaction with you, make sure your phone number is easy to find and read on your site, and somewhere on every page.
- Make sure that the answer to the 5 “W”s are easy to find on your site. If it takes more than 1 click, after someone gets to your site, to answer one of those 5 questions – FIX IT.
- If there is an EVENT or ANNOUNCEMENT that will help your customers. This should be easy to see on your front page (Home page) where people can see it, and click on it quickly to gain more information.
- If you have any type of call to action or actionable item. Bring it to their attention by making an easy-to-see link (button) to a landing page or sub-page on your site.
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July First Friday Art Walk, July 7! Old Town will be alive with crowds this Friday as we host the July First Friday Art Walk. Don't miss this opportunity to view and experience art by local artists as well as regional and national artists. The walk includes over twenty businesses, restaurants and galleries, some with art on display, some with the artist on hand and some providing a live demonstration. Refreshments are always available. You may also find live music along the way. All local residents and visitors are welcome. There is no charge to attend monthly Art Walks.
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