THE Four, or Even Five, P’s of Marketing

Amidst all the new ways to market your products – social media, email, search engine marketing – it is still important to build your communications on a solid foundation of marketing basics.  A good place to start is with the 4 P’s of Marketing!  Product, Place, Price, Promotion

Product

Your product and product mix are a critical first step in the marketing plan.  Here are some questions to ask periodically to make sure you are still relevant in the market place.

Market Need – Do your core products still meet the important market need?

Product Mix – Could you add products to more completely meet the need of existing customers?

Product Profitability – Is there a way to make your products more profitable by cutting material and manufacturing costs? (We’ll talk price in a minute)

Make sure your product mix is keeping up with a changing market need and that you are getting the most business possible from your existing loyal customer base.

Price

There are two basic approaches to pricing.

Cost Plus – Calculate the cost to provide our product or service and then mark it up enough to cover overhead and provide profit.  This method can be safe and very effective in many situations.  However, most small business owners under estimate their costs and leave money on the table.

Market Price –  Market price is about selling to value, to the amount people are willing to pay.  Businesses in markets where there are high quantities of similar sales can usually figure out a good market price and then adjust to their added value.  Gas
stations are a great example.  For the rest of us a good starting place is to compare purchase price to the cost of alternatives – buying this widget for $100 will save you $200.

Be careful not to undersell when you are getting started.  Charge what you need to make to
be successful and then deliver the value.

Place or Distribution

Determining the best, pronounced “most profitable”, way to get your product to market is often UNDER analyzed by small businesses.  Here are some things to consider for your product “Place”.

Sales Volume – independent distributors, network marketing or joint packaging can provide a very large direct sales resource that local retail would have trouble touching.

Most Convenient – it’s usually best to close a customer and get product in their hands quickly, without much effort on their part.  Leverage the post purchase attitude.

Cost and Efficiency – many great product ideas are dragged under by a distribution plan that takes too much time, energy and cost.

Channel Competition – are you using retail distribution or independent agents for your product?
What is the impact on them if you start selling directly online?  If you don’t coordinate closely you may lose a loyal sales force.

When it comes to distribution, beware of the statement or thought “Well, we’ll just….., shouldn’t be that difficult”, it’s usually more difficult.

Promotion

FINALLY! PROMOTION! For most people with no marketing experience or education, marketing is promotion.  When I interview new clients to build them a marketing plan, or when I have students in my marketing classes, most think I’m there to talk about advertising.  Where should I advertise? Should I be on Facebook? What about Twitter? My web site isn’t generating traffic!

It usually takes me some time to talk them through the importance of focusing on Product, Place and Price first, so that when we spend our Promotion money it isn’t flushed down the Pot!

A simple approach to every advertising, promotion or communication decision is to first determine the Audience, Objective and Message and then figure out the media that will be most effective.

Audience – a defined group of buyers and influencers that you want to reach.

Objective – awareness, attitude or action.  What are you trying to accomplish?

Message – what is the right thing to say and the right way to say it to meet your objective with the target audience

Media – the communication tool or set of tools that will most effectively deliver the message

Persistence

OK, I made this one up as a fifth P, but it might be the most important.  We could sit together for 15 minutes and come up with a multitude of ideas to market your business.  That’s the easy part of marketing.  The hard part, especially for the small business owner, is to consistently and repeatedly deliver your message patiently over a long period of time.
This takes money, marketing knowledge, resources and patience, not traits associated with the average entrepreneur!

Not getting the most from your marketing efforts or don’t know where to start with your marketing?  Sigma College of Small Business provides marketing classes, marketing services and marketing consulting to get you going.  We keep it practical and affordable to meet your immediate needs.

A Picture is Worth…A Great Business Lesson!

I am often accused by family, friends and colleagues of applying business principles to any and every situation – it’s a blessing and a curse (especially when helping a teenager with homework).  My friend Michelle Stella Riordan of Photography by Exposure fame has a great photography blog and I often joke with her about how nice and easy it would be to just post a picture and write something about it – much easier than coming up with exciting business topics.  Soooo, in an attempt to either defend or prove myself, I asked Michelle to send me a picture every once in a while and challenge me to relate a valuable business principle.  You can challenge me as well.  Email your picture with a brief description about where it came from and any relevant links.  Now to our first Picture v. Business Challenge!

You Have to Limit Your Hats!

In the course of a year I meet with many different types and ages of business.  One big difference between a small, new business and a more mature business is the number and types of hats that the owner wears.  Like the baby in the picture, young businesses don the hat of their technical profession, but very quickly find themselves wearing the marketing hat, accounting hat, facilities hat, computer hat and the sales hat, which not suprisingly resembles a court jester hat!

On the contrary, the owners of more mature businesses, even those with no employees, have limited their hats and their focus to the things they do best and like to do the most. They turn over their books to bookkeepers and accountants, hire administrative professionals, bring on sales people, and pay people to develop their web sites.  Of course they have grown the business and have the revenue to support these resources now, but to at some point they had to make the decision to let something go.  They could have done it  themselves for cheaper, and it probably wasn’t done exactly like they would have done it,  but by delegating and taking the risk they were able to leverage their value and grow the business.

Grow Business By Giving Away Your Hats

As you plan and strategize about your business, think about ways that you can turn things over.  List the skills needed for that task and get pricing for contracting it out until you need to hire someone.  Most importantly prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to let go of doing IT and stick to managing IT – it will make you a better business person!

If you need help getting rid of your hats, contact us at Sigma College of Small Business – we teach business, consult on management and even teach you while we consult, what we call “Consultative Learning”.

Do you have a picture for The Picture vs. Business Challenge?  Email it to me along with a brief description of where it came from and any links you want me to include.  Thanks Michelle for getting us started – let me know how I did!

But We Just Got Here! Developing an Exit Strategy

Welcome to our class on “How to Start a Business”, our first topic is on “Exit Strategies”! This opening never fails to get a class full of raised eyebrows, but I’m convinced that considering your exit strategy is an exercise every small business should start with and periodically review.

Starting with your company name…

…most of your decisions will be affected by your exit strategy.  Let’s say you want to build your plumbing business over a few years and then sell.  Using your name as the brand will detract value for a new owner with a different name.  The legal entity; C-corp, S-corp or LLC, that you choose is another big decision made early in the start-up process that can be dependent on your exit strategy.  Hiring employees, the value model, buy or lease decisions – your exit strategy may effect all these decisions, which is why I encourage every small and medium business to have one.

Controlled Dissolution

In a controlled dissolution exit strategy the business stays in operation as long as the owner is working.  When the owner decides to stop working the business is done.  This exit strategy is typical of many professionals who are the primary revenue generator for the company – a consultant who bills all the hours or a plumber who does all the labor.  There is no passive revenue and the value of the business is basically zero without the owner’s daily involvement.

There is nothing wrong with this exit strategy, as long as it is a conscious decision and the owner plans the rest of the business around it.  For instance, the value model is that you pull out as much cash as possible and invest in outside resources, which means the marketing strategy should maximize profitability and cash flow.

Ownership Transfers

An ownership transfer exit strategy is one in which the owner plans to sell his ownership to another party in whole or in part.  The most common transaction for smaller businesses is a complete sale to another person or another company.  For a few entrepreneurs with the right business concept, “going public” is a valid strategy where the “sale” of the company is to many outside investors on a public stock exchange.

In an ownership transfer exit strategy the value model is about building “transferrable” value.  This is the kind of value that can be realized even in the absence of the owner.  With this exit strategy the sky is the limit for your return on investment.  The value of the company can be a passive revenue stream, typical of insurance agencies, or the potential for growth from a new technology, a high value customer mix or demand for a specific product or process that you own.  In general owners with this exit strategy should always be looking for ways to make the business less dependent on them through solid processes and a strong work force.  That will make the business much more valuable to any potential outside buyers.

Transition to Passive Investment

This exit strategy is used very often in family businesses.  As the kids are able (and willing) to take over the business, ownership is sold or gifted to them over time.  The owner either sells them the business and finances it over a number of years, or maintains a diminishing ownership stake as they buy ownership through the transition process.  The passive income for the owner is in the form of principle and interest payments on a long term loan, additional sale of their ownership and distributions from the profit of the company over time.

This is a solid strategy when done correctly.  First of all, it is imperative that the owner ensures the transition of operations is to someone competent, because if the business fails, the passive income source is done.  Also, if you are dependent on distributions or dividends as an income source, make sure the new ownership is planning to make those.  If they decide to put everything back in the company, your income source could dry up quickly.

Pick One and Decide Accordingly

Picking an exit strategy is not about predicting the future and yours will probably even change over time.  The important thing is to have one in mind so that when you make daily decisions they are based on a long term vision, not just a gut feel for what’s easiest at the time.

Of course there are many variations and nuances to exit strategies and I’d love to hear about your experiences or struggles in deciding on and implementing an exit strategy.  If you need help in this area give Sigma College of Small Business a call and we can help.

When, What, Where? Social Media Posting Strategies

It’s early, you have your cup of coffee, a laptop and about 45 minutes that has been carefully set aside to devote to your Facebook business page….

WHAT THE HECK DO I WRITE?!?

If you don’t have a plan the result is either to think about something clever and creative for 40 minutes and then share it in the last 5, or unload two days of thoughts in 5 or 6 rapid sequence posts, completely filling the first page of all our loyal fans, annoying them to no end!

Here are Three Social Media Posting Strategies I’ve found to be effective at Sigma College of Small Business and with our clients.

#1 – Have One, a Social Media Marketing Strategy That Is!

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you should take some time and write out a social media strategy.  The plans we write for clients are three pages or less and include:

  • Target audience – list of the top three audience categories we expect to reach
  • Objective – what we expect from that audience as a result of social media marketing
  • Message – the general message(s) we will convey through social media
  • Media Plan – a list of each social media channel we will use, with the specific audience, post frequency, specific objective, primary topic categories and examples for each individual channel.

The Media Plan is the most important part of the plan, because you will use Facebook for a different purpose than your blog, and LinkedIn will get different results than Twitter. Taking some time to write out your strategy will give you a first reference for building a Social Media Calendar.

#2 – Use a Social Media Marketing Calendar

Every month I meet with clients and we list all the events, products, services and important messages that are “post worthy”, i.e. valuable to our audience, for the next month.  Then we add in some campaign ideas, their Constant Contact email marketing schedule and some placeholders for sharing the content of others.  Once we have the master list we expand it and develop specific posts for each item.  A big event may warrant 4 or 5 posts in the weeks and days before the actual event and even 1 or 2 follow-up posts.  Smaller events may be one “I’m here” post.

The result of the media calendar is that the time used for posting becomes very efficient.  Many times I write the posts ahead of time so it’s just a matter of copying them over to the right media channel.  There are also social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite that enable scheduling your posts days in advance if you won’t be available to make it real time.

A media calendar with a posting strategy also keeps your posts consistent and spread out so they are “above the fold” more frequently for your audience.  Use the calendar to fill in the gaps on the days and weeks where there isn’t too much going on.  A good way to fill those gaps is by sharing the content of others.

#3 – Make Sharing a Part of Your Strategy

A great thing about social media is that sharing great content is easy. (almost too easy for those who can’t recognize “great” content:-)  Make sharing part of your strategy.  Share content from blogs that are relevant to your audience, web sites of great new products or services you find (like business classes for small business owners), and most importantly the posts, tweets, blogs and emails of the people in your social media and personal networks.

Sharing great content does a lot for building your online reputation and relationship with the people who can help share your message!  As part of the social media marketing plans that we develop for clients, there is a list of blogs, pages and people for them to follow; most importantly for their own information and development, but also to give them plenty of stuff to share on those rare mornings when they have some time but nothing to say.

What are Your Social Media Tips and Tricks?

Social Media can be a very effective tool for small business owners if they take the time to create and implement a simple strategy.  One of the goals for Sigma College of Small Business is to keep things practical for our customers.  We focus first on simple ideas and actions that are easy to implement but will have an impact.  What are some tricks and techniques you use to be more effective with Social Media Marketing?

“Like” Your Page?!? What’s in it for Me?

“How do I get more people to…

…”like” my Facebook page?

…join my Constant Contact email list?

…follow me on Twitter?

…subscribe to my WordPress blog?”

This is a question I get in nearly every workshop, webinar and consultation on social media.  I was reminded of this common marketing concern yesterday, when I saw an emphatic post in my Facebook feed demanding that I like a friend’s fan page.  My first thought was:

What’s in it for ME?

So you set up your fan page and your family and close friends are happy to join in your little social media experiment, so you have your first 25 fans – enough to get your own custom Facebook username!  After a time of networking, posting a few things, maybe even creating an event or two, other business friends and acquaintances become fans and you break the 100 mark.  At some point you reach the plateau of people willing to join the cause just because they know you, and this is where it gets challenging.  You see, at this point you actually have to show your value!  That page, post and tweet have to start earning their keep and providing your audience with something they need.  If it doesn’t, there is nothing in it for them and they will not join or will quickly leave.

Delivering Value

I recently saw a list of the top 10 reasons people like a business fan page.  Potential discounts, brand loyalty and new product information were among the top reasons in the study.  Here are some ways we guide small businesses to add value for their audience:

Use a 30/30/30 Content Mix

If your goal is to just repeat your advertising copy into your Facebook business posts, don’t expect a huge return on the time invested!  My recommendation to most clients is that less than 30% of social media posts be straight advertising promotion.   Another 30% should be industry news, product tips, research and other information that establishes your company as credible experts.  The third 30% should be less business focused and can consist of community news, promoting charity events or entertainment.  For all those keeping score at home, use that last 10% however you like!

Make it Shareable

You know those posts that you can’t wait to comment on and share with your friends?  Try to be the person who makes that post!  Think through your media calendar and post schedule from your audience’s point of view.  Are the things you post something they will want to see and share with their friends?  When you are not only valuable, but also shareable, your fan base will grow quickly.

Post Consistently

My Facebook friend base combined with the business pages I like totals about 300.  Not a large number, pretty average in fact.  But, for me to see one day’s worth of posts I have to scroll back through about 8 screens – and I hide Farmville posts!  That means if you are a business posting once or twice a week in the morning, it’s likely I won’t even see your posts for months at a time.  Social Media is more tolerant of short, valuable posts multiple times a day than email.  In fact, if you are on Twitter and only tweeting a couple times a day, most people who follow over 500 people (not uncommon) will forget they are following you.

Social Media Calendar

It’s tough to sit down and in the moment you have to post, think of something creative and valuable to say.  Create a social media calendar to help organize, schedule and mix your post content.  My social medial calendar includes Facebook, Twitter, WordPress blog posts and Constant Contact email marketing.  This provides an integrated, consistent approach to my online marketing (when I have the time to implement!)

Having trouble with your social media or email marketing?  Sigma College of Small Business has business classes, webinars and services to help you get started and be more effective.

Would you like a Social Media Planning Calendar?  We developed an Excel spreadsheet that we use at Sigma College.  Use the comments below to let me know if you are interested.

The Economic Impact Of “March Madness” from The Vantage Weekly

As I was enjoying the first couple rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament and thinking up a great blog topic using basketball as a metaphor for business, Monday’s issue of The Vantage Weekly came to my inbox.  My good friend John Stewart gave me special permission to repost the Management Impact from this week.  Thanks John!

Subscribe to The Vantage Weekly for a practical perspective of the economy and great advice for business and investors.

The Economic Impact Of “March Madness”

The Madness in March extends well beyond the court action of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. We chuckle after hearing reports on the losses in worker productivity from time spent on all things “tourney”. In fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates the losses in productivity to be between $1.8B and $4.0B, but it’s nearly impossible to confirm and weigh against generated revenue.

One offset to lost productivity is the revenue from added consumption. The economic impact to the hosting cities for first weekend games is estimated at $4M to $6M each. The Final Four weekend is worth an estimated $13 million to it’s host city, though there is variation depending on the city and the contestants.

In their 2003 study, “An Economic Slam Dunk or March Madness?”, Matheson and Baade did the math and found that the men’s NCAA Division I tournaments since 1970 actually provided only a slight economic gain to host cities in opening rounds while the final four lost money. However, this seemed counterintuitive so we took a quick glance for ourselves. Estimates from the Indiana Department of Revenue show that 2006 Final Four host Indianapolis (Marion County data) had average annual tax revenue growth of 45% in March and April of 2006, which slowed to about 10% in 2007 and was -1% in 2005. They also hosted in 2010, but it’s very hard to control for economic conditions. In other words there was a clear and significant direct economic impact from spending. Also, indirectly more people would be hired temporarily and revenues would be raised by local government on local projects in preparation, which would also boost local economic activity. Of course this is much more difficult to measure but does help.

It’s not just the basketball that’s competitive. One estimate states that 70 cities bid for the 39 spots to host the 2011, 2012, and 2013 tournaments. Being competitive requires cities to invest 100’s of millions for facilities and other NCAA standards for hosting. Amortizing these expenses and accounting for the losses in productivity shows a quick offset to the aforementioned gains. We may never actually know with any precision the real economic impact, but we do know it’s arguably one of the greatest annual sporting events. And, although productivity might fall briefly, the happiness it brings may just be better in the long run! Enjoy.

Thanks John for a great post!  I forgive you for kicking my butt in our bracket competition.

8 Tips to Boost Your Email Marketing

Last week I presented a “Hands-on” seminar for the Greater Warrenton Chamber of Commerce to help small businesses use Constant Contact email marketing to help grow their business.  The seminar was based on these 8 Tips to Boost Your Email Marketing.  Sigma College of Small Business chose to be a Constant Contact Partner and Certified Local Expert last year because of the ease of use for developing professional emails and their support for social media channels.

1.  Add Value

Bottom Line – people will only open, read and act on emails they find consistently valuable.

  • “Email special” discounts, sales and insider info
  • Industry and community news – edited to highlight the value to your audience
  • Opportunity to interact and share

2.  Keep it Opt-In

Maintain a conservative definition of “opt-in” and manage your list to keep it that way.

  • Sending to people that don’t want to hear from you can be negative
  • Building a relationship they started is always better

3.  Subject, Subject, Subject (and headline to Match)

You have a split second to catch their attention, don’t waste it! And confirm their “open” decision with a clear, related headline.

  • “Our Monthly Newsletter” = “I can read this later” = “Will read when I have more time”
  • YOUR AUDIENCE WILL NEVER HAVE MORE TIME!
  • “Your Back Will Thank You”, “Get the CEO off Your Back”, “Are You Giving Your Profits Away?”
  • Use a txt headline at the top of the email to confirm it’s not a trick

4.  The Length and Frequency Principle

Keep frequent emails short, with one or two timely key points.  Less frequent emails can be longer.

  • A daily newspaper doesn’t publish each day with news from last week – if you are sending daily or weekly, have content that changes daily or weekly.

5.  Using Lists

Using multiple lists gives your audience choices on content and frequency to match their needs.

  • Monthly Newsletter, Weekly Specials, Daily Tip OR Engaged, Recently Married, With Children
  • Tell each audience what they should expect and then deliver!
  • Consistency – Delivery, Content, Format, From

6.  Keep your emails consistent

Deliver at promised times with expected content that matches subject

  • Consistent format will help brand recognition and using a recognizable email will help

7.  “Join My Email List”

Ask people to join your email list – tell them why they should and then deliver.

  • Put “Join My Email List” on web sites, Fan Pages and in email signatures

8.  Social Media Promotion

Use the Constant Contact social media tools, but don’t stop there!

  • “Look for ‘Your Back Will Thank You!’ in tomorrow’s monthly email newsletter.” Join Now!
  • Connect your social media to Constant Contact and use the share and tweet functions.

Email marketing can be especially useful to small business owners because it can convey a personal message to clients on a consistent basis at very little cost.  If you have questions about getting your email marketing working better, post a comment or contact us at info@SigmaBizLearning.com or (703) 468-1465.

YOU Missed It! MAPS Public Relations Wrap-up

If you missed this year’s MAPS Meet the Media Event – “You Met the Media, Now What?”, here is a little taste of the great information and people that passed you by:

The Keynote Address

Matt Brock, Public Relations for Washington Center Hospital

Matt brought a ton of public relations experience to the table as the Keynote Speaker.  Sharing over 15 years of experience as a reporter for WJLA-TV Channel 7 and NewsChannel 8, including local coverage of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and the Washington Metro Sniper Attacks.  Now Matt is using his expertise from a different perspective in his new position with Washington Center Hospital.

Relationships – a critical link to knowing what is newsworthy and addressing your audience is to build relationships with your press contacts and be able to respond to their needs as a media professional.  Matt related a great story about how he used our own PR professional Asha Brouta and one of her clients in a story topic that he thought was especially newsworthy for his audience.  Another benefit of building those relationships is that it will help you be in the right place at the right time.  And if you don’t have the relationships, this event was a great place to start building them or to find someone who already has them!

What is Newsworthy: Who Cares and What is Your Audience?

Asha Bruot, ASHA Public Relations

A local public relations professional and recently featured on the cover of Piedmont Business Journal as one of “20 Women to Watch” in the Piedmont region, Asha shared a wealth of experience in public relations for local businesses.  One key point was that public relations is not advertising.  Making this realization will help set the strategy and direction for your activities with the press.  With advertising you can pay to say what you want, but in PR you must position your story in a positive way within the context of what your media contacts are writing about.  Facing this reality is a big first step to developing the right story and writing a press release that they care about for their audience.

How to Write a Press Release

Sherri Arnaiz, MDA Technologies Group and Barbara Reese, BR Associates

Keep the News Up Top – Hank Silverberg of WTOP Radio receives press releases by email and on his Blackberry, so the subject line is VERY important: Don’t bury the lead! Keep the “news” up top.   Chanda Washington, Community Editor of Prince William Local Living in the Washington Post is also focused on getting to the “news” in a story, so write accordingly.

Pictures Sell, Especially for Newspapers – Bill Walsh, Editor of the Fauquier Times Democrat recommended including a relevant professional photograph with your press release.  An official portrait of the CEO, some shots of your facility, or a picture of the event with the names of those in the picture are a welcome addition to any press release.

Local Papers Love Local News – Randi Reid, Publisher of the Observer Newspapers, stressed the importance of local press releases to her local paper.  Although larger media may not use them as much anymore, local papers are hungry for your stories to keep the community informed.

Be Available – Make sure the contact information provided is current and that the number is normally “manned” with someone who is knowledgeable and an authorized spokesperson.

Know Your Audience and Build Relationships – Our Media VIPs all agreed that you should be familiar with the stories a media source uses before sending the release.  Sending a national story to a news source focused on local news can reduce your credibility with that source.  Building a good relationship with a reporter starts with some research into what they like to write about!

What Does a PR Plan Look Like

Me, Jamie Gorman, Sigma College of Small Business

A good public relations plan, like other good marketing plans starts with the basics of identifying the audience, objectives and message.  I have been doing a lot of social media plans and really wanted to make the point that regardless of the media being used, having a good foundation will help answer a lot of questions.  After that we discussed the importance of developing a public relations calendar that schedules the activities necessary for success with public relations.  And sometimes it takes some creative partnerships to build a story.  An example we used was a partnership between your business and a non-profit that supports a common industry, cause or audience.  Having your business name mentioned as a sponsor for one of our great local non-profits can go a long way in building local credibility.

This event is one of those “must attend” events of the year.  Along with all the great information and networking, attendees received a local media guide with key press contacts for the local media.  Look for it again next year and thanks to the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and the MAPS Committee for pulling it all together.

Toeing the Line: Professionalism and Social Media

“How Social Media Can Affect Your Professionalism” was the topic of the day at Monday’s Network@Noon at the Prince William Chamber Western Office.  Promoting business in social media, while protecting your personal privacy and maintaining your professionalism is one of the biggest concerns for small business owners.

The Big Decision – Are my customers my friends

One of the first questions to ask yourself as you move forward with your social media plan is “Are my customers my friends?”  Answering this question will allow you to set up some “rules” for who you will connect with on the different social media channels.  For example, my general rule for a LinkedIn connection is that the person must know enough about me to make a recommendation.  LinkedIn is designed to set up professional connections so that your network can recommend you to their network – that’s tough to do if they don’t know me.

This becomes even more important in Facebook.  Facebook “friends” are people who have given me permission to see their personal posts and I’ve given them permission to see my personal posts.  So if crazy cousin Eddy posts something on my wall about an embarrassing childhood experience or picture, all my friends can see it.  Fans are people who choose to follow the posts I make on my business fan page.  “Liking” a fan page is a one-way interaction and these “fans” or “people who like” cannot see any information on my personal profile, and I can’t see their personal profile.

For many larger businesses, where the owner isn’t personally linked to the business, this isn’t a difficult decision.  However, many smaller businesses and sales people depend heavily on referrals from friends and building personal relationships to make the sale.

If you decide to pull customers into the more personal social media areas like your Facebook personal profile, make sure to adjust your posts to position yourself a personable, yet professional.  For example, you may not share that funny picture of your nephew’s potty training progress, but the tasteful pictures of your daughter’s field trip may be fine.  If you enjoy being fully transparent on Facebook, it might be better to keep your customers on the Fan Page.

Building Your Professionalism

Here are three ways that people are getting the best results in building their professionalism using social media.

Posts should add value and show your expertise…Make sure your content mix is more than 50% original thoughts.  It’s great to re-tweet and share the links of others, but to differentiate yourself and show your expertise it is important to post original stuff.  Even when you share a blog post, add a comment that explains why it is great content for your audience.
Blogging really establishes expertise…To really show off your expertise and credibility online, nothing beats a consistent blog.  Because blogs are typically longer than the standard social media post, it allows you to deliver real value and complete thoughts to your target audience.
Use social media to leverage your network, not replace it…All the old rules for face-to-face networking still apply and social media is not an excuse to stop attending those networking events.  Social media merely gives you a tool to take those relationships to a higher level faster.

Some General Posting Guidelines

Don’t post anything you don’t want on the front page…Including, but not limited to, complaining about customers, sharing trade secrets or talking about extremely personal family situations.  Before you “share”, think through your professional audience and make sure they won’t be offended and think less of your judgment and professionalism.
Do you want customers to know you are at their competitors??? If you have a key restaurant client, do you really want them to see you “check-in” at their competitors across the street?  It may not matter if you are good about equaling out the love.
Posts can reflect your work schedule, political positions, financial situation, etc…Launching into a bashing of a political candidate or religious group may seem harmless enough, but would you do that in a meeting with customers who may hold opposing views?  How about reflecting on your day off golfing to a customer who is still waiting for their overdue web site?

In Summary

While considering how social media fits into your marketing mix, make sure that you segment the audience and adjust your content to ensure professionalism, trust and credibility.