Creative Combustion Blog
Marketing and branding tips for the badass small business owner.
May 8, 2013
How can you find more customers, clients, and referrals? There are HUNDREDS of networking events for small business owners—and that’s just in Pittsburgh alone. With so many options, you could literally spend all of your time networking and not have any time left to actually work on growing your business.
If you’re going to maximize your time and your efforts, you need to focus on the groups, resources, and networking channels that make the most sense for your business.
Join me on Friday, May 10, 2013, at the 15th Annual Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference at Duquesne University to learn how you can maximize profits, turn market opportunities into sales, and tackle some of your toughest business challenges.
I’ll be co-presenting the session “Next-Generation Networking: 15 Ways to Meet Your Next Business Contact” with Michelle Donovan, an international bestselling author and owner and operator of the Referral Institute of Western Pennsylvania.
Event highlights include:
- 15 workshops covering marketing and PR, money, strategic planning, technology, business starts, and special interest topics
- “Meet the Expert” Luncheon
- Business Building Tradeshow
- Keynote Speaker, Will Knecht President of Wendell August Forge
More than 400 entrepreneurs and managers are expected to attend. For more on the event, be sure to check out this short video:
When registering use promo code Pitt13 and save $20. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at shawn @ shawngraham.me.
I hope to see you there!
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Betsy Weber]
April 18, 2013
Facebook is the #1 hardest platform to maintain for small businesses followed by LinkedIn and Twitter—that according to a recent nationwide survey of more than 1,200 small business owners conducted by Manta.com as part of their Q1 Small Business Wellness Index.
Using Social Media to Attract New Customers
Not surprisingly, 55% of small business owners indicated acquiring and engaging new customers and lead generation as their top two primary goals for using social media. On the flip side, only 2% reported using social media to retain current customers. For me, that represents a real missed opportunity.
I know it can be awfully tempting to want to focus on attracting new customers, but that doesn’t mean you can totally forget about your existing customers—especially when it comes to social media. Instead of always trying to focus on making the sale, you should also look for opportunities to use your social media platforms as a way to create an ongoing dialogue with both groups.
Generating Social Media ROI
Lured by the potential of generating a compelling return on investment (ROI), social media adoption continues to grow amongst members of the small business community.
Over the past 12 months, nearly 50% of respondents reported increasing the amount of time they spent on social media. More than one in three small business owners dedicate between one and three hours each week managing their social media channels, while 10% spend more than 10 hours.
Struggling with Social Media Maintenance
As more and more small business owners look to establish their social media presence, many are also finding it difficult to keep up. Nearly one in five (18%) reported struggling with maintaining their Facebook profile, compared to only 9% for Twitter.
Given the sheer number of people and businesses already on Facebook (with more and more being added every day) and EdgeRank, the algorithm Facebook uses to determine where and when your posts will appear on the news feeds of your followers, small business owners must have a solid social media strategy in place if they are going to get the most out the platform.
Looking for more insights? Check out the complete survey results and infographic from Manta's Q1 Small Business Wellness Index.
What about your small business?
How much time do you spend each week on social media activities? What social media platform is the hardest for you to maintain for your business? Share your comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user birgerking]
February 28, 2013
Building a small business website is only the beginning. If you want your online storefront to have real staying power, you’re going to have to give it frequent doses of tender loving care. You want your website to evolve with your business and your customers and that means you’ve got to get in the habit of taking a look under the hood to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders.
Don’t panic. Improving your small business website doesn’t mean you need to give it a complete overhaul. In fact, it’s usually some of the small, incremental changes that can have the most impact. Let’s take a look at 8 ways you can improve your small business website today:
Simplify your navigation
When current and prospective customers land on your small business website, you want them to be able to find what they’re looking for as quickly and easily as possible. That means you’re navigation needs to be clear and concise. Typically, your navigation should be comprised of 5-7 top-level categories (ex. About Us, Contact, Blog, etc.) that reflect the content on each subsequent page.
Insert keyword-rich subheadings
Our attention spans are only getting shorter. Including keyword-rich subheadings not only helps to improve readability by breaking up your content, but they also make your website and your content that much easier to scan.
Add a call to action
Calls to action are one of the most important elements of your small business website. As the name implies, they help prompt your visitors to take action. That could include scheduling a free demo, downloading information, or signing up for your newsletter just to name a few. Take a look at your site and identify an opportunity to incorporate a targeted call to action that aligns with your sales and marketing goals.
Rewrite one page of website content
Start by rereading your content from the eyes of prospective customers. What questions will they have? What information are they looking for? Is there anything missing? How does everything flow together? Above all, you want your small business website content to be interesting AND relevant to your audience.
Refresh your images
Images are what give your small business website visual interest. They help pull your visitors in, complement your existing content, and establish a specific vibe that reflects your business and your brand. Think about your target audience and your current image strategy. What photos would you replace?
Incorporate customer testimonials
Customer testimonials help to establish credibility and encourage visitors to make a purchase. Whether you create a separate page or incorporate them throughout your site, a few testimonials can go a long way.
Update your meta descriptions
Visibility in search results is great but it doesn’t mean anything if people don’t click through to your site. Your meta description is the content (typically 160 characters) that appears on the search engine result page directly below your page title. You want your meta description to be unique to each page and include keywords and a compelling description that your target audience will actually want to click. Google keywords relevant to your business and review the meta descriptions for your local competitors. What do you think they’re doing well? What could they improve?
Look for and fix broken links
I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens. Take a few minutes to click around your homepage and the rest of your site to make sure links to social media profiles, contact forms, etc. are all working properly and pointing to the right place.
Improving Your Small Business Website
Great small business websites are almost always a work in progress. By getting in the habit of making small, incremental changes, you’ll be able to refine your messaging and your marketing and adapt based on the changing needs of your target audience.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Daniel Oines]
February 4, 2013
Should your small business have a blog? What should you blog about? How do you even get started? If you’ve been looking for ways to ramp up your web marketing efforts, there’s a pretty good chance some (or all) of those questions will sound very familiar. And they should. Starting a small business blog can be a huge decision.
Before you dive in head first, you want to know whether the potential benefits of having a small business blog outweigh the costs. You need to find the right platform to showcase your content and your business. You’ve got to have a plan. At PodCamp Pittsburgh, a social and new media conference, I had a chance to talk about all that and more.
Whether you're thinking about starting a blog or you're looking to kick your blogging up a notch, this video is for you. I hope you'll check it out.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user JakeandLindsay Sherbert]
January 22, 2013
It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” No matter how hard you try, there’s always a chance you’re going to have unhappy customers who decide to vent their frustrations about your restaurant, food, or service via social media. Then POW!--just like that one negative tweet or Facebook post can quickly turn into an online rant session that can be incredibly difficult to contain.
I know it can be incredibly frustrating. In fact you might think they’re being totally unrealistic. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore their comments. Take a few minutes to clear your head, let the sting of their online barbs subside, and gather your thoughts. Once you feel like you’re good and ready, it’s time to map out your response.
Acknowledge Customer Comments
Frustrated customers want to know they’re being heard. This can be especially difficult for local restaurants since most aren’t going to have a dedicated marketing department (or marketing person) to monitor online chatter 24/7. But that doesn’t mean your customers still aren’t going to expect an immediate response (within minutes or at least within the hour). If your restaurant has a social media presence you need to keep an eye out for any questions, comments, and concerns throughout the day.
Once something does appear on your radar, the best way to keep frustrated customers from becoming even more frustrated is to give them some acknowledgement. Thank them for reaching out. Apologize for their frustration. Let them know you’re looking into the issue (and mean it). And then do everything you can to take the conversation offline. The last thing you want to do is risk the potential of having something trivial escalate into an online bitch session.
Even when a customer says your plants smell like cat pee...
Address the Issue
It’s not enough to just say you’re going to take care of the issue and then put it off for later. If you feel action is warranted you should always address the situation sooner rather than later. Before we go any further, I want to stress the importance of determining whether the situation is worth a response. As a restaurant owner you know better than anyone else that there are always going to be those cases where someone is just trying to score a free meal or game the system and, no matter what you do, they’re never going to be happy. In those cases you still want them to feel heard and to defuse the situation, you just don’t want to find yourself giving away free meals or establishing any bad precedents.
Always remember—frustrated customers have a way of getting more frustrated. If they’re upset because you have trash in your parking lot or snow on the sidewalk, that’s usually a pretty quick fix. If they haven’t left yet, there’s a good chance they’ll see that you’re already addressing the issue and that’s always a good thing.
In this case, the customer literally offered to address the complaint herself. I’m not sure how this one was ultimately played out as the restaurant didn’t follow up with her online, but that could have potentially been a fun and creative way to turn negative feedback into something positive.
Once you’ve addressed their comments and concerns, the last (and arguably most important) step is actually let them know. I know it might sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook. Following up is a great way to give frustrated customers some closure, show that you value their feedback and that you’re responsive, and turn negative feedback into something positive.
What about you?
How do you handle social media complaints? Share your suggestions and comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Merete Veian]Next Page »
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June 12, 20135 Signs Your Small Business Website Needs An Overhaul
June 5, 2013The Essential Guide To Blogging for Badass Small Businesses
May 30, 2013Creative About Us Page Examples: Tonx Coffee
May 14, 20138 Tips for Meeting Your Next Customer
May 8, 2013Join Me At The Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference Pittsburgh
Hall of Fame
- Visual Interest: The Rise Of Photos In Online Marketing (15 comments)
- The Golden Rule Of Successful Social Engagement (14)
- Are Business Cards On Their Way Out? (13)
- Don’t Be An SEO Chaser (12)
- Using Holiday Cards To Deepen Customer Relationships (10)
- Is Going Viral An Effective Marketing Tactic? (10)
- 5 Must Read Books For Small Business Owners (8)
- Using Social Media To Break Into Your Local Market (8)
- Pittsburgh Young Professionals, PodCamp Pittsburgh, And Paneling (8)
- Delivering Killer Customer Service (8)
My Blog / Creative About Us Page Examples: Tonx Coffee http://t.co/2WjAheAKTt about 1 week, 1 day, 8 hours, 8 minutes ago
@CamelClutchBlog wwe needs a fake crying coach. Or at least some youtube videos on the topic. about 1 week, 1 day, 20 hours, 45 minutes ago
In a Shift, Facebook Says It Will Make All Ads Social http://t.co/X1H01Jqf0S New ads will appear as a regular ad and a “Sponsored Story.” about 1 week, 2 days, 3 hours, 27 minutes ago
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