Setting Your Goals – Yes, We Know It’s July

An important part of setting goals is figuring out how to know they are complete.  Although this is a topic typically reserved for December or January, July is actually a great time to talk about goal setting because your 2011 goals are old enough to evaluate, but still new enough to be accomplished.  Here are 4 methods for measuring goals that should be considered as you are refining for 2011 and moving into initial planning for 2012.

The Go, No-Go Goal Measurement

When I was in telecommunications sales, a common annual objective was to get products lab tested and approved for sale into major accounts.  Customers would provide a lab approval notice that gave the go, no-go for the “lab approval” objective.  The good thing about these types of goals is that they are very easy to measure, it’s either done or not done.

However, there is a down side, especially when using it for performance payment. Sometimes your goal becomes impossible a few months into the year – losing a specific RFP or landing a specific client, and at that point you have a goal with no hope of accomplishment.  It’s ok to have one or two of these, but be careful not to have a bunch of goals that are impossible by the fourth month of the year.

The Simple Goal Measure

Revenue is a great simple measure, as is profitability.  These are things that are already being measured and typically have a history of performance so that a realistic number can be set for achievement.  If you can set goals for things you already measure that also accomplish the things you want, it’s a great goal.  But many times, you want to accomplish things that aren’t already being measured….

The Not-So-Simple Goal Measure

Many times you want to set goals on things like customer satisfaction and brand awareness, things that are measurable, but ones that you probably aren’t currently measuring.  It might be a new goal that just needs to be set up for measurement or one that previously escaped your means to pay for measurement.  Many times it helps to figure out a cheaper and easier way to measure something indirectly. Using a well designed web site and Google Analytics can go a long way in measuring certain results, especially things like advertising effectiveness.

Subjective Goal Measurement

Once, I was interviewing a new client, a restaurant owner, and asked how they measured a successful day.  I was looking for a revenue number or even a number of customers, but they looked me in the eye and said, “It just feels like everything is going well.  Customers seem happy, the orders are moving and the wait staff is smiling.”  In the end there are some things we want to accomplish that either can’t be measured or we can’t afford to measure them and that’s ok.  Just make sure you realize the shortcoming and do the best you can.

In the case of the restaurant, I definitely recommended they use daily revenue as a measure they were already tracking.  But I also told them to count the number of days that things “felt good”, or even rate the good feeling on a scale of 1 to 5, and we could use that as a starting point.  Sigma College of Small Business helps small and medium businesses with their business strategies and planning, including setting up goal measurements for the things that you just want to get done.

Tell Us – What is the biggest obstacle you face in setting and reaching goals!

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.

“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.

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.

“Friendly” URL for Your Facebook Fan Page

I had a question come up from a student about how they could get their Facebook Fan page to have a “friendly” URL like mine www.facebook.com/SigmaCollege.

According to Facebook Help, you must have 25 people who ‘like’ your page before you can set up a “username” for the page. And, you must also be an admin for the page. If you meet these requirements it’s pretty easy, but pick your username before starting the process because once it’s done, it’s done.

1. Go to www.facebook.com/username and you will see your personal username in the top block. In the bottom block will be a drop down box with all the pages for which you are an admin.

Facebook Username Friendly URL

2. Select the page for which you want to create a usnername. Type in the desired username and “Check Availability”. You may need to go to a backup username if the one you chose is already taken.

3. Once you have a username that is available, a confirmation box will come up that tells you that the name can’t be changed or transferred along with some other rules. Make sure that you chose wisely and that you spelled it correctly:-) Then click “Confirm” and you are all set.

Now you can put the friendly URL in your email signature, business cards and wherever else you want to promote your fan page.

Would the REAL Time for Social Media Please Stand Up?

I attended a great seminar Wednesday presented by Gina Watkins of Constant Contact and hosted by the Greater Warrenton Chamber. (Sigma College co-sponsored with CC) The topic was social media and Gina mentioned that a business owner could be effective at social media spending about 15 minutes a day! There are a lot of us spending more time than that, so I thought I would walk through where the time goes when you make social a part of your marketing mix.

Social Media Calendar

Start Here!

The first slide of my social media classes is this picture of a calendar as a way of telling my students that, although social media is cash cheap, it can be time expensive.  One of the first decisions in determining the role social media plays in your marketing plan is how much time should be spent building your network.

Pure Posting

Once you are all set up with your accounts and have a goal of 5 or 10 posts per week on a couple of social media sites, then 15 minutes a day is likely enough time.  But don’t get your expectations up!  You will likely get fans and followers from your current network, but it will be slow going building that network over months.  Mixing in some time to monitor and comment on some blogs, share some posts with your network and start some discussions will be time well spent.

Set-up and Design

Setting up and designing social media pages can seem like an unending task.  Every time I turn around there is a new tool, or a new app that I just have to try.  And even though they are all “one-click” installation, they typically take me a bit more time.  Most of the sample sites we see have had some work done.  An extra tab here, a customized page there – it all adds up to extra time or paying someone.  Make sure you schedule some time to keep up with the latest apps and keep your sites up to date.  It’s part of being relevant and it will take a couple hours a month.

Blogging

I recommend to most of my students and clients to do some blogging.  It’s a great way to show your expertise in the industry and adds great content.  When you decide that blogging is a part of your social media mix, make sure you plan the required time.  Depending on how often, your writing skills, the amount of research required and the pictures and links you add, you may need to schedule a couple hours per post as you get started and 30 minutes to an hour if you really get efficient.  But the payoff, if you are good, is that you are putting up good content that will draw readers that will subscribe, share, etc… and build a better network, quicker.

Interacting

I have yet to read a book, article or blog on social media that didn’t stress how critical it is that to be successful in social media you need to read and comment on other people’s posts.  In fact, here’s one from Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg that I read yesterday.  It’s part of establishing your online presence and building credibility – really it’s being part of the community, part of the network.  Plan to spend at least an hour a week just interacting with the online community.  Read, comment and share the content of others.

Planning

Now, to be more efficient and add the most value with the time you have will require a plan.  I give my students and clients a media calendar to pre-plan their posts.  We work through a plan for their posts over the next month or so, determine the topics they should post on and even write out the posts ahead of time if possible.  Spending a couple hours planning every month will make you more efficient and improve the quality of your posts.

In Summary

So the answer to the question of how much time do I need for social media is a pretty wide range.  Someone who uses social media for a high percentage of their marketing mix may spend a couple hours a day, whereas, a beginner may only spend about 15 minutes a day.  The important thing is that you pull out that calendar and schedule the time it will take to meet your social marketing objectives so you aren’t suprised.

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.

Social Media Marketing Starts with “Networking”

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a Career Building event at Strayer University in Manassas, VA.  My friend Amelia Stansell, a VP with BB&T, joined me in presenting a topic on professional networking and using social media to leverage your network.  My next few posts will work through that presentation, highlighting Amelia’s principles for networking and then relating those principles to techniques for social media marketing.

Thanks to Jennifer Durand at Strayer University for inviting us to speak and to the students who participated with some great comments and questions!

The Enigma We Call “Networking”

Amelia begins her presentation by defining the enigma we call networking as “person to person relationship marketing.  She emphasizes that it is taking the time with each individual to know them as a person and build a relationship.  It’s these relationships that can help lead to either closing a sale with that person or getting a referral from them.
Social Media is a new technology that leverages proven networking techniques.  The resulting value is that you can grow and manage a much larger network.  Use tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to follow the lives and careers of your network, interact with them through posts and comments, and refer them through sharing and recommendations.  These methods make it easier to interact with each person in your network between the meetings and phone calls.  Try it and notice how your face-to-face conversations change from “how have you been” to “did your son get off to college ok?”.  It’s a much deeper start to what will be a more productive conversation.

It’s About Getting More Referrals

Professional networkers will tell you that it’s all about the referral because it is more likely that you will get new business from a referral by your network than directly with someone in your network.  Therefore, it’s important that your network trusts you, sees you as an expert and understands your business enough to recognize situations where they can make the referral.  In traditional networking the process begins with the “elevator pitch” and initial meeting, then continues with follow-up meetings, networking groups, phone calls and promotional materials.

Social Media leverages these techniques by enabling you to post your basic information in online “profiles” and “info” pages.  These provide the base background information about you and your business.  Build trust and credibility online is a continual process of listening to your network by reading their posts, interacting with comments and questions, and consistently posting valuable and informative content for your audience.

Relationship Selling, Not Broadcast Advertising

Many business people approach their social media marketing as a broadcast advertising channel, a free way to reach more people with their message.  For some businesses that have a huge fan base, it can certainly be used in that way.  However, for most of us who count on sales through personal relationships and word-of-mouth, the approach needs to mirror solid networking techniques more than basic advertising principles.

Sigma College of Small Business Social Media Services help customers use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging to promote their business and themselves.

What are some tips and recommendations that you have for how to leverage social media to build your professional network?