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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – For the small businesses owner the last few years have brought some incredible challenges. Competition from online sales have been the largest issue, as many consumers have begun to engage in a new practice termed “showrooming,” where they go to a local brick and mortar business to check out, in person, the items they wish to purchase, and then trying to get a better price by ordering them online. Combined with the lack of local sales tax charged by online vendors, the deck has truly been stacked against the local businessses, as we’ve seen with the demise of some of our largest and most popular companies like Borders.
Whether you run a gym or a bank, a coffee shop or tile store, the key to success for the local business owner lies, to a large extent, in building that loyal client base from the ground up. If you can deliver quality goods and services, keep your best clients coming back, and bring new ones to the door each and every day, you can succeed over your competitors in any market. This is where I hope to come in and be able to help you to grow and develop. As a matter of necessity for my own real estate business, I was one of the early online marketing pioneers, dating back to the early 1990’s when the first web browsers came out and allowed to access “Compuserve” using what we then called the “World Wide Web worm.” Oh how long ago that seems now. Since then, I’ve developed numerous social media marketing campaigns both for myself, and other organizations, spoken nationally on the topic, and trained people who, even as we speak, are out training others each and every day. I suppose the very fact that you are reading this article at all, speaks to my ability to master social media in ways that others have yet to even explore. After all, aside from the many facebook groups and websites I run, you’re reading my local newspaper, along with thousands of other people each day. Now that is social media at its finest.
Over time, I’ve been asked my many friends around the country to consult on marketing strategies, which I was happy to do, but in a way it’s often disappointing because as excited as they seem when we talk, few of them ever actually implement the strategies we spoke of when I walk out the door. In the end, I decided that I’d use some of my rare “free time,” to start up a small consulting company here in Shrewsbury, which will be called “SMS,” for Social Media Strategies, and take on marketing efforts for people on a day to day basis, making sure that we not only have a plan, but execute on it to make sure that it gets done. I’m not looking to take over the world, or put the marketing giants out of business, by any means, as real estate certainly keeps me more than busy enough, and will always be priority number one, but rather I hope to just to take on a few dozen clients, and develop their market strategies the way I know that they should be done, to achieve results.
One of the key ways in which you can compete with even the biggest national organizations is through the use of a comprehensive, dynamic, and appropriate social media marketing plan. In fact, I dare to say that it’s really no longer an “option,” but a requirement for business success. What is a comprehensive marketing plan? Well, I know for certain what it is not. It is likely not one that many business owners do in their spare time, it’s certainly not something that the high school student who comes in to work for a few hours after class takes on as their duties after they are done sweeping the floor. Rather it requires the work of someone with years nd years of experience, and a defined set of goals and objectives that match those of the business owner. So many people just fail at that very first stage. The other day, for example, I was shopping for a new car. I had some very specific requirements, and my search on Google led me to the website of a car dealer down in New York. They had just the car I was interested in, and a really nice website, so I dutifully filled in the contact form, and asked a few questions about the specific vehicle. That was four days ago, and still no response = lost sale! Yesterday, found a second website from a different dealership who had a similar car, and I emailed them with my questions. Today, I heard back with an email that said “Thank you for inquiring. Please call to speak with one of our salespeople and they would be happy to help you.” Now if I had wanted to call, I wouldn’t have emailed. Two lost sales….all due not to a failure of the website to be found, but rather due to a failure to define the objectives of their online marketing campaign.
Having defined those goals, and come up with a plan to achieve them, the next thing we need to do is to ensure that that you have a strategy that is set up properly, (and I can’t underscore that enough), monitored every day, and designed to be more of a resource to your new and existing client base than a soap box. This should integrate not just Facebook, of course, but all types of online media, from Twitter, to Pinterest to Tumblr, and a host of others. It’s not just about getting “new followers,” if those followers have no intent of doing business with you. There are companies out there now that are selling “Twitter followers.” You pay them $X and they guarantee that you will have “Y followers” in a week, but who in the world needs random people from Idaho following your Twitter feed for your Shrewsbury coffee shop? That’s nothing more than a waste of time and money. Only by building a core group of local and devoted followers, will you see an impact on your bottom line.
Of course all social media begins with the main web presence for your company. No sense in driving business to a dead website. If you don’t already have a complete and comprehensive website, then that is where we need to begin. If you do have a website, then we move on to development of a dynamic SEO strategy (Search Engine Optimization) designed to make sure that your website is found when clients are looking for your products or services. Preferably this would be by developing what are called “native search engine results,” meaning that you show up at the top of the search results without paying for that. Many companies are constantly advertising that they can make you “#1 on Google.” Well, they can if you’re willing to pay up to $10 every time someone clicks on your link, but that’s just not the right answer for any but the richest businesses out there.