Tag Archives: sales

Answering Why Businesses Should Blog

Earlier this morning I spoke about social media at a small networking group meeting. The question of why to blog came up.

In this case the questioner had employees tracking billable hours and he was not interested in losing billable hours to blogging or other social media activities. We quickly worked through a couple of scenarios that might meet his needs using current staff and then looked at what he could do through outsourcing or adding overhead. He immediately understood the idea of his company becoming a thought leader in his business through blogging and that his employees would showcase their acquired knowledge to customers and prospects.

What I failed to point out at the time, and covered in a subsequent email, was the added benefit that his blogging employees were also sharpening their relationship selling skills by applying conscious effort in writing about their professional expertise. A tweet in my Twitter stream reminded me of this sharpening effect when the tweeter linked to this 1:37 YouTube segment of Seth Godin and Tom Peters discussing the core value of blogging.

Listen near the end of the clip where Tom Peters says, “No single thing in the last 15 years, professionally, has been more important to my life than blogging. It [blogging] has changed my life, it has changed my perspective, it has changed my intellectual outlook….it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude I’ve ever had.”

This video is now in my favorites and I’ve added the quote to my slides for presentations. Maybe the best part about this is that it also proved the value of the Twitter stream and the serendipity that comes with checking the stream instead of always having completely narrow focus.

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Filed under Small Business, Social Media

Five Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Twitter

Small business marketing can be tricky, it needs to reach your customers quickly and easily without costing an arm and a leg. Twitter, no matter what the buzz you’ve heard, is a great communication tool that can help you with marketing and sales. Here’s why:

1. Most business is small business.
More than 99% of business in the U.S. is small business, defined by the SBA as under 500 employees (more staggering, the percentage is actually 99.7%). But 500 employees is a really large business in most of our eyes, so a more important number for this discussion is that over 98% of businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 100 employees. Mike Clough, a serial entrepreneur and SCORE consultant, has a very readable blog post that helps parse the dense SBA figures (and you might want to read Mike’s blog on a regular basis).

Why are these numbers important? They show that if Twitter can be used in business, and I’ll write more later on businesses using Twitter, then the overwhelming majority of businesses using Twitter will be small businesses.

2. Your customers are using Twitter.
And more will begin using it this week. According to Nielsen, Twitter grew 1382% between February 2008 and February 2009, rapidly expanding from less than a half-million to over 7 million users. The overall numbers are still small, but this growth rate means over 91 million people using Twitter next February.

Twitter users are not kids. Better yet, the sweet spot of Twitter use is in the 35-49 age group, this group represents roughly 42% of all Twitter users and the core age group of the working world. This number will definitely change as Twitter use continues to grow, but it is an important age group for small business sales.

3. Your competitors are probably using Twitter and they are talking to your customers.
Come one, you already know this. When was the last time you tried some marketing or sales activity and you didn’t find out or know that a competitor was already doing this? The boom in Twitter business use followed the boom in Twitter users, it’s an organic growth curve, but you can still get started now.

The New York Times recently covered business use of Twitter and mentioned some small retail business uses along with the typical array of large corporations, but they left out the backbone of American business. They left out the business-to-business, industrial/commercial aspect of business. Twitter talks to and through your distribution chain, reaching your reps, distributors, and retailers, as well as your end customers, affecting end-to-end marketing along your entire distribution chain, no matter how many tiers and branches in that chain.

4. You can extend customer loyalty.
There’s a period following the purchase process where the customer becomes loyal to your product or company. Continuing that loyalty can be hard for small businesses, especially when repeat business is spread over longer periods. You can use Twitter can keep customers in the loop on your product or service, keeping them in a positive purchase state long after the sale is complete, possibly through to the next sale. And the word-of-mouth

Even better, it doesn’t matter whether your customers are local or geographically dispersed. Your regular sales skills are the main requirement in Twitter, the same as the conversation on the phone or in the office. One good difference is you can reach multiple customers at one time and then handle individual conversations through other methods appropriate to the customer need.

5. You determine how much time you spend using Twitter.
Twitter use grows organically, it is a self-defining use responding to the conversations surrounding your business. Yes, there is the group that tweets what they had for breakfast, but far more serious questions and discussions also happen on a minute by minute basis. Finding these discussion depends on your customers and their habits, but the best place to start finding them and listening to their discussions is by using a form of search.

Use TweetDeck or Seesmic, desktop applications that will continually track and report uses of searchable terms used in your business. Or use TweetBeep to get search term uses emailed directly to you (be careful with TweetBeep, it’s great for lower search activity but can overwhelm your email inbox if a search term is heavily used). These tools can get you started effectively using Twitter in business, but there are many other methods as well.

So that’s five reasons to start using Twitter today. There are many more reasons, but they will be specific to your business needs, feel free to comment here or email me with specific questions and I’ll try to give you some quick general answers to your possible uses.

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Filed under Business, Small Business, Social Media

Case Studies: Does this sound familiar?

You just completed a great project for your number one customer. You are proud, the customer said the project went extremely well and that they are already getting results above their expectations.

You ask the customer for a testimonial or maybe a full-fledged case study….and….the communication….goes silent….

Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Many companies are loathe to let anyone know what they are doing; and other companies just don’t want to be bothered; and still others are cautious about having a simple case study seem to legally link them to you, as if a case study was a performance guarantee they were signing.

One way to avoid the uncomfortable dance, or have the lawyers simply shut the discussion down, is to start the discussion during the project start-up. People are always more agreeable when you have something they want. One agency I worked at years ago actually had case study rights written into the contract on the back of each of their estimates, which were required to be signed prior to starting a project. Even signing the estimate did not work every time in gaining a case study.

But maybe the question should be about the value of case studies. Case studies are essential in some business circles, such as military and high tech sales, and with the media. If you are looking for investors, case studies demonstrate how effectively your business handles its business and what your customers say about you. Case studies are the proof of your talk, without case studies your talk is just that, talk.

Jeremiah Owyang recently discussed how to present case studies to analysts and he makes a case for five top line items:

  1. Define the objective
  2. Tell what you actually did
  3. Define how you overcame challenges
  4. Costs
  5. Measurable results

I am not going to repeat everything he said, slide over to Jeremiah’s site to read his take and join in the conversation.

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