We’ve got a lot of small business customers. Thousands. Products we’ve acquired like PRWeb, HARO and North Social mostly serve the SMB market – and have had amazing success stories. HARO sources are nearly 70% small business owners. The stats are similar for PRWeb.
One thing that’s awesome about being part of Vocus is being able to work with our small business customers who pour their hearts into their work. I hear, and often write, about their aspirations, successes, and sometimes problems.
With budgets tight small businesses know to look for proven marketing solutions, whether products or ideas. That’s a no-brainer in my book. However, there are five larger problem areas where small business owners often struggle. The good news is there’s always a way to overcome them. Sometimes it just requires a big jump.
1. I haven’t got a strategy. For many small businesses, marketing is an afterthought or a one-off experiment without an end-state in mind. This is easy to understand since the small business owners juggle a litany of responsibilities – from inventory and pricing – to fulfillment and customer service. Worry over cash-flow usually ranks high on the priority list too.
Overcome it: However, every business has a story: how the business was born, matured, its values, its challenges and successes. Don’t think of a strategy as a formal corporate document – that will only serve as a big black cloud over your head. Instead, simply write out your story in your own voice. This will provide the basis for developing a strategy on where you need to go next. You’ll amaze yourself, that once you get started, how the ideas will flow.
2. I don’t know where to start. Many small business owners don’t know where to start. The web is cluttered with competing ideas, products and strategies. It all seems overwhelming. The solution is to set aside some time to do research.
Overcome it: Peruse the web. Search for similar companies, perhaps they are competitors nearby, or a similar company hundreds of miles away. Study their web sites and social media outposts and look for those areas that look like they have a lot of engagement. Then pick one idea and focus – study, experiment and then…drive it home.
3. I struggle coming up with good ideas. On a recent webinar (which sparked the idea for this post), Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion) said something I thought was really profound. To paraphrase: If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you are going to get your hair cut. Likewise, if you provide interesting content on your website or blog, people will hang around longer. If they do that, sooner or later they are going to buy something. Many small businesses would like to write a press release, they’d like to write a blog, or tweet interesting things or post engaging content on Facebook, but they struggle with exactly what.
Overcome it: That what is your expertise! A florist knows a lot about growing flowers; share it. A plumber has advice for preparing your pipes for winter; write it. There are a million tips about car repairs – become the go to source – and write what you know.
4. I never have time. There are never enough hours in the day, but a mentor of mine said to me a long time ago that we make time for the things that are important. What he meant was being disciplined.
Overcome it: It’s easy to rationalize, to make excuses, but stick to your guns. Start small and set aside, 30 to 60 minutes a day: a) start with research b) make a tentative plan c) experiment d) refine and supervise. Veterans might recognize these four points as being vaguely familiar.
5. I don’t see the results. Remember the old adage about Rome? It wasn’t built in a day. Starting a Twitter account in the morning and abandoning that afternoon because you don’t have 100,000 followers is not a valid experiment.
Overcome it: Vocus and PRWeb have been on Twitter for years and have about 25,000 followers between the two. However, we’ve never purchased followers, they are all organic and as a result, we have earned a very engaged community (thank you!). Larger businesses have the same challenges, it’s not about size or budget. Throwing money at marketing isn’t the answer, but rather investing in a cohesive integrated marketing strategy – and then working the plan. You can too but you’ve got to stick it out.
What are your thoughts? What problems and solutions have you encountered in your small business endeavor?