Earlier this week, I led a workshop on marketing for a group of entrepreneurs from Boston’s North Shore at Salem State University’s Enterprise Center.
Its always great to get out and interact with new people, particularly those who have taken the leap to chase their entrepreneurial dreams and start a business. Having spent most of the past six years running or co-running my own small business before joining Matter, I looked forward to sharing my personal marketing experiences from my own business and some SMB client experiences, and not just talk about the theoretical aspects.
One of the hardest parts of preparing for sessions like these is trying to figure out the depth of information to present. Clearly the attendees would have an interest in marketing themselves and their business. But how knowledgeable would they be? Would they be voracious users of social media or new to the game? Would they be experienced marketers looking for few new tips and techniques? I did know one thing as a former SMB owner: they’d want to hear how to get things done quickly and cost-effectively.
In preparation I recalled the lessons I’d learned when marketing and growing my businesses. I thought about the important, but often time-consuming tasks like launching blogs, creating content, executing on business development efforts and promoting our brands – all while juggling the “other” day-to-day demands of the business: servicing clients; nurturing new relationships and bringing in new business; hiring, growing and motivating employees; keeping the books balanced and the lights on.
I also realized that the many social media platforms and inbound marketing tools that have emerged in the past several years have made a huge difference for SMB marketers. As marketers and PR professionals, we often talk about the importance of awareness, recall and preference, and the need to create a “larger than life” persona. It made me wonder – how was this even possible ten or fifteen years ago – back in the dark ages before all these great (and many free) tools existed?
What was refreshing was that the audience was a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Lawyers, financial planners, wedding and event planners, a music instructor, a freelancer copywriter, even a former stock broker who is now designing and building custom skis. All had a real hunger for learning more and more importantly, for doing things right. Everyone had different business challenges but they shared a singular marketing need: to get the word out – quickly, economically and credibly.
The discussion centered on a few key points worth sharing:
- Who are We and Why are We Here? – What we trying to accomplish through marketing? To increase web traffic? Attract a sales channel or strategic partners? Increase traction with current customers? To drive new leads? Enter a new market? Recruitment? The answer to most SMBs cannot be “all of the above.” Choose your objectives wisely and your marketing vehicles even more so.
- Inbound and Outbound Marketing – yes some “old school” techniques can be effective, but old dogs need to learn new tricks. For most entrepreneurs, this doesn’t need to be an either/or decision.
- Narrowcasting Rules – especially on social channels, focus is critical. Attempting to launch a presence and engage deeply on twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and every new flavor of the month is fruitless. Few companies or entrepreneurs can or should try to “boil the social media ocean.” Do one or two things really well and build on this success.
- Mistakes Can Be a Good Thing – experiment – with social, PR, lead gen, word of mouth marketing or even advertising. Rarely do we achieve overnight successes. Test. Learn. Listen. Modify. Rinse and Repeat.
- Bigger Is Isn’t Better – Followers. Fans. High Klout scores. The audience (and many entrepreneurs) could care less. What they are concerned with – and rightly so – is the need to identify and engage the right audience and the knowledge and expertise about how to connect across a few channels.
- Measurement is Possible – whether you’re doing your own marketing, outsourcing it or using a hybrid approach, don’t take no for an answer when you, or your board/investors or other stakeholders ask “Is this measurable?” Great tools – many of them free or very reasonably priced – are out there. Know them. Use them. They’ll improve your game.
These were just a few topics covered about social media, PR and lead gen. What have we missed?