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4 Realities of Inbound Marketing You Can’t Afford to Neglect

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Rohan Ayyar – Enjoy!

Inbound marketing and social media participation for brands are one of the most effective promotion tactics today. The whole world of marketing is now skewed towards “earning customers” instead of “buy, beg, or buy your way in” that outbound marketers follow, if this Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing infographic on Mashable is to be believed.

The fundamental shift in consumer behavior is certain now: individuals are in control of what information they choose to receive. Not only do they have options when it comes to brands while buying, but they can also choose who they want to hear from.

According to Mashable’s infographic, more than 84% of 25-34 year olds have abandoned their favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. More than a whopping 86% of people skip television ads. At least 200 million Americans have registered for FTC’s “Do Not Call” list. Over 91% of email subscribers have unsubscribed from an email list they previously opted into.

Clearly, outbound marketing is having a hard time. On the other hand, inbound marketing works, but only when you go at it the right way.

Here are a few inbound marketing realities you can’t afford to neglect:

1. No one gives two hoots about your brand, product, service or whatever

This one’s hard. In fact, it’s the hardest truism about being in business today. Contrary to whatever you might think about your business, your prospective customers don’t really give a damn about you. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Does it mean all that passion, sweat, blood, and tears you put into running your business are for naught?

Customers aren’t overly concerned about you, and won’t be either, for as long as you beat your big corporate chest with your “campaigns,” you are just carrying out interruption marketing.

What the world does care about is solutions to problems. Your prospective customers are looking for solutions that can make their life better somehow, in some way. Whatever fits the bill – with respect to products and services – takes the cake.

2. Competition has no face

Once upon a time, all that a company would have to worry about – apart from producing goods and delivering services – was competition from similar companies selling similar products. Today, competition comes in new garbs everyday.

First, there’s the information overload that customers are slowly getting immune to (which means that they mastered the art of ignoring what you have to say). Second, the competition comes from smarter and leaner companies that have learnt the art of keeping customers engaged (with inbound marketing practices, of course).

If you’ve ever wondered why all that money being spent on campaigns never managed to bring in a dollar, it’s because of this competition overload. You just have a lot more to do today.

Are you ready to deal with it?

3. Marketing is the new way of giving

Capitalism was almost a result of selfishness. Ayn Rand was a staunch advocate of “self-worth” and “self-preservation.” She wrote whole tomes like Atlas Shrugged to get that point across. That was then.

Capitalism is still about making a profit. It’s just the way profits are made has changed with inbound marketing. This new line of marketing calls for “selflessness.” It calls for giving away more than you ask for. It calls for altruism, generosity, and spreading buckets of value through content, information dissemination, and relationship-building on social media.

Take whatever route you like, just make sure you give.

4. Inbound is harder than outbound

Most rookie entrepreneurs believe that since inbound marketing is relatively cheaper than traditional marketing, it ought to be easier. As they say, “Talk is cheap.” However, it’s easy to forget that work comes at a premium.

Inbound marketing is harder than traditional marketing. As a matter of fact, marketing is always hard as Drew Williams of HubSpot candidly explained. There are a whole lot of things to get used to. Businesses have to produce an unimaginable amount of content. There’s social media, there’s content (which itself stretches into blog posts, videos, podcasts, slide decks, infographics, curated content, and a whole lot more), which companies have to produce at an alarming rate.

Then there are multiple channels to tap into. Marketing itself is now a hodge-podge of tasks, departments and functions. Teams need to put their heart into all of these. They need to learn and use sophisticated tools for manifold tasks ranging from project collaboration to publishing, from web analytics to video conferencing. What’s more, they need to be effective at that, produce results and justify ROI.

How do you go about inbound marketing? What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in getting inbound leads? How do you convert these to sales? Do you have any new tactics or strategies to share?

Rohan Ayyar bio photoRohan works at E2M solutions, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in creative content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. He is an avid blogger, with posts on Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today and Moz, among other places. Rohan hangs out round the clock on Twitter @searchrook – hit him up any time for a quick Q&A.

Increase Rejection to Grow Your Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Andrea Waltz  - Enjoy!

YistheDestinationgraphic-webIt seems ridiculous.  After all, most business owners and salespeople alike operate from a place of fearing or, at best, avoiding opportunities to be rejected.  If the goal is to close sales and build the business, how would getting rejected more often possibly work?

The simple answer is it is in the avoiding rejection that the greatest opportunities are actually lost. The strategy works on the premise that when you increase opportunities to be rejected and hear more ‘no’s’, that your opportunities for yes’s, or whatever it is you are seeking, will also increase. You could say it is a numbers game.

For example, we’ve all heard the line, “Would you like fries with that?” A question so popular, the phrase itself encapsulates the entire philosophy of what it means to “upsell.” Of course, it is true: the mere act of increasing the amount of product you show and services you offer increases both the yes’s and no’s you will hear. It is not only a fool-proof formula, but one of the great undeniable laws of the universe.

What’s the issue?

Most people have grown up in a “Go for Yes” world. In that world, closing is good (the yes) and rejection (no) is bad. If you get a “no” you must be a failure and doing something wrong.   Unfortunately, it’s this emotional baggage and poor belief system that that holds us back from asking more questions, talking about additional products and services, or going after that big, scary client we’ve always wanted to land.

As kids, we had a natural sense of tenacity that has somehow been drummed out of us. So as adults, business owners find themselves doing everything within their power to avoid hearing “no”, sabotaging their growth and ensuring mediocre performance. As we go on, the entire world of opportunities starts to shrink because they only look for the yes’s – the low hanging fruit, the “easy” sales, leading to average results over time.

Try this:

Go out of your way to intentionally increase your failure rate. You read that right; intentionally increase the number of times you hear prospects and clients say “no” to you.  And, if the key to success is to increase our no’s, then it only makes sense to celebrate our setbacks as well. If someone turns you down, celebrate it! When was the last time you rewarded yourself for failing or hearing a no? Probably never!

How many total “no’s” did you personally obtain yesterday?  Last week?  Last month?  Now it’s time to start.  For this to work, you’ve got to get into action and step outside of your comfort zone.  When you start hearing no’s and start thinking differently about no, you will create the mind shift that is required to get back to that persistence you had as a kid. And, in the process opportunities will come into your business and life because you are finally willing to risk and wanting to ‘fail.’

To achieve significant success in today’s world, failure and hearing ‘no’ is not just a possibility…it is a requirement. We must see success and failure for what they truly are: not opposites, but opposite sides of the same coin. In other words: Yes is the Destination, No is how you get there.

AJWHeadShotFeb2013-WEBRichard Fenton & Andrea Waltz are the authors of “Go for No!” a short powerful story written specifically for business owners and sales professionals in every industry who must learn how to face failure and rejection to be successful. Visit http://www.goforno.com or get ongoing NOtivation at www.facebook.com/Goforno.

5 Ways Buying Facebook Fans Can Hurt Your Business

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Norton – Enjoy!

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photo credit: pixabay.com

Amazingly, many brands still measure social media success based on ‘counting metrics’, not on more meaningful indicators such as engagement, referrals or share of voice. Fueling this is the ongoing trend toward buying fans; usually bots that offer nothing of value what-so-ever. However, what many don’t realize is that this approach can in fact be actively harming your brand online. So, how can fake social media fans and followers be damaging? What kind of metrics should you be interested in, and why should social marketing success never be measured in LIKES alone?

1. Fake Likes Don’t Help Credibility

Purchasing of Likes may give your company an impressive image at first glance, but this alone isn’t enough to build a good reputation. With well-known crackdowns on fake accounts from the likes of Facebook in recent years, chances are your new ‘fans’ could suddenly disappear, or worse still, you could be publicly named and shamed. Think of the consequences; should you be exposed as buying fake fans, you risk instant scrutiny from the online world who won’t be shy in making their feelings known, and in the long term, this could damage your brand integrity, especially if you profess to be a transparent organization.

2. Fake Likes Don’t Turn A Profit

Contrary to popular belief, having a social media page full of fake likes or followers generally won’t help you achieve your marketing objectives – including driving sales. Anyone buying fake fans should check out their insights, and they’ll quickly see the majority of the accounts – even if they are real – are based in countries that they don’t even operate in. The same goes for any call-to-actions you are making through your social networks. How can you expect people to click through to your website or engage with your content if they’ve got no interest in your brand what-so-ever?

3. Fake Likes Don’t Measure Success

Many businesses, especially those starting out, believe the amount of Facebook fans are a measure of their company’s success and brand awareness. It is not. In fact, fake fans and followers can make your brand look worse online. If you’ve got a highly engaged online community of a few hundred, then any content you share will be received warmly, discussed and shared. In simplistic terms, Facebook’s algorithm will recognize this, and will then broaden the reach of the post to your wider community. Conversely, if you’ve got 1,000 fake profiles, then the initial reach of your posts will be worse, given that it’s being sent to un-engaged bots, not real people. This will subsequently reduce its natural reach, as Facebook’s algorithm recognizes this lack of engagement and interest in your content.

4. Fake Likes Will Mess With Your Metrics

A strong understand of social media metrics is essential if you ever want to improve your social media success. This includes knowing what content people are engaged with, and gaining an understanding of your online community’s dynamics and norms. However, the influx of fake profiles – which offer nothing in the way of engagement or meaningful action – will only impede your ability to measure your community’s behavior, leaving you with a dense smokescreen to negotiate.

5. Fake Likes Can Be Harmful

It’s often the case that the illegitimate individuals behind the fake likes and followers are professional hackers who use unsuspecting members of the public as their guinea pigs, without them even knowing a thing about it. The software in use by these people is also harmful to computers in general as spam links are commonly sent when the hackers are working their black magic. For any brand serious about behaving ethically online – which let’s face it, you should be – then buying fans should never be an option.

ChrisNortonChris Norton is MD at specialist social media and PR agency Prohibition.

Why You Don’t Need to Go Viral to Make Video Marketing Work

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Amy Harrison – Enjoy!

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photo credit: ARMLE via photopin cc

A viral video is the dream of many marketers and business owners. One smash hit can transform a business’s reach overnight. And it’s not just big brands like Blendtec and Old Spice dominating the video market. Newer companies such as Dollar Shave have exploded onto the scene largely due to their viral video presence.

The myth of viral for small business

While it can be a game-changer to be suddenly watched by the world, most small businesses don’t need this level of exposure to see results. If you could grow your audience by a few hundred, or a few thousand engaged prospects, would that make a difference to your inquiries, leads and sales?

The pressure to go viral can have a negative effect if you think:

  • You need a perfect video with high-end production to stand out
  • You need to create something wacky or crazy to get attention
  • If your video doesn’t go viral, you should can it and forget it

If you think video isn’t worth it unless you’re a YouTube star, you could be missing out.

Smaller audience, bigger rewards

Last year, I started a light-hearted sketch show called Content Marketing…Stripped!  I’ve created just 18 short videos

None of them have ever gone viral.

Most get around 100-300 views, but site traffic is growing, subscribers are up 75% and I’m seeing increased social media engagement.

Most importantly, they help attract clients. I’m closing sales faster because leads are more qualified. After watching, prospects say they feel they know me, would enjoy working with me and contact me based on that. I’ve never woken up to a phone call from The Tonight Show, or asked to comment for the New York Times, but this consistent creation of short videos has improved my marketing results.

Where to start? How to get results from a non-viral video

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A still shot from Content Marketing… Stripped!

Even a simple video of you talking to camera can build rapport and engagement with prospects. So why not break out your camera, and start planning your first simple marketing video using these steps?

1.     Focus on your customer’s problem first

Solving a customer’s problem is a great idea for your videos. Think about common “how do I…” questions your customer has that you can solve. For example: “How do I create a customer profile for my marketing?

2.      Ask yourself: what is the impact on my customer if this problem is left unsolved?

In the above case, without a clear customer profile, you don’t know what marketing will work, and you can’t attract your ideal target market to your business.

3.    Don’t just state the impact, illustrate it

Rather than simply tell your customer that it’s important to solve this problem, see if you can give them examples and illustrations to prove it, for example:

  • Wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t make the phone ring
  • Attracting the wrong clients and losing time on sales calls you’ll never close
  • Getting the wrong referrals because people don’t know who you serve

Video lets you be creative in how you present this information, you could think up a quick sketch, or unleash your whiteboard skills. Even if you’re just describing your examples, it’s better than simply telling your viewer that it’s important to solve their problem.

4.    Provide tips to solve it

Once you’ve illustrated the impact of the problem, provide useful tips viewers can use straight away.

5.    Remind viewers that you have products or services that can also help

In addition to free tips, don’t forget to let them know you can solve their problem directly with links to your contact, services or product page.

Start small and dip your toes in

If the goal of going viral has been putting you off, give video a try, there might be some low hanging fruit that you didn’t realize was ready and waiting for you.

Harrisonamy 150x150 (1)Amy Harrison trains companies to write better content, faster. She provides live content workshops for clients in Europe, and online training sessions for the wider world. You can find her Content Marketing…Stripped videos here and she was a featured speaker at the 2014 SXSW Interactive conference.

The Missing Ingredient From Your Content Marketing Strategy

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Mark Middo – Enjoy!

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photo credit: Craig Garner

“I’m writing blog posts almost on a daily basis, but I am getting zero traction from social media and my conversions are terrible,” said Adrian, the director of a large software company in Australia. “Looking at Google Analytics, it seems like people just get the information and go. No one is sharing – and worse yet, no one is converting. This content marketing thing just seems like a huge waste of time.”

When I got back to my computer a few hours later, I started reading through the content they had been posting on their website. I wanted an early night that night, but I didn’t think I would hitting the pillow that early. These blog posts nearly put me into a coma – they were that boring.

Here’s the problem: practical information isn’t typically the sort of content that can easily go viral (especially if you don’t have a large pre-existing social network). For content to even drive conversions, it needs to be interesting, have heaps of value and be truly unique for it to get even a few shares or influence people to connect further with the business. This is especially true if you are creating content with the goal of generating B2B leads.

One of the main reasons that most business content has minimal sharing potential is that it doesn’t create an emotional reaction for most people. You just read the information, then you take off and find another blog post to read. Content really only gets shared when people go ‘wow’ that was a really awesome article – I need to tell my friends about it.

So what was Adrian missing from his content marketing strategy? What was the vital missing ingredient?

Personality

Adrian’s website was delivering plenty of value; the content was high quality and it was getting traffic, but it was obviously boring people to death. There was no personality to engage readers or make them care about who was writing the content; it was just another faceless company blog, so the visitors took the information they needed and bounced. Nobody wanted to share it because it wouldn’t make them look cool if they did.

The posts were attributed to the company blog rather than to individual authors, and the language was just bone dry – even the most seasoned readers found it tough to get through.

I can imagine people reading it and thinking, “That’s nice, pretty dry but I got some good information,” and then skipping away into the abyss of the Internet – probably to go look at cat memes and never to return.

Seth Godin alludes to this fact in his book, The Icarus Deception, when he notes that connection is the key in this connected economy. And I believe a great way to create connection online is through personality.

So, what are some ways that you can add some personality to your content marketing strategy?

1. The author is the key

Make the blog post from a person, not a company. Bring the author to life. Create a profile for the author, write a good bio that gives the author a personality, use a good, friendly photo (not in a suit with a serious face on) and make sure people can connect with them on social media.

What makes them tick? Is there something quirky about them that you could share?

People emotionally connect with people who have a ‘real life,’ so don’t be scared to provide some information that isn’t just “Adrian is a stiff director from XYZ Company with 30 years of experience blah blah.”

“Adrian loves bungy jumping off 50 story buildings in his wife’s favourite bikini.”

(Maybe that’s not so real, but you get what I mean.)

2. Ease of reading is a must

Write the blog post in a conversational manner. Make it easy to read and don’t use technical jargon. You want people to be able to breeze through the post making it easy for the brain to absorb.

If they get through the blog, quick endorphins will be released in their brains and they’ll feel good about themselves because they have accomplished something.

3. Include personality in your writing

Don’t be scared to add some jokes and create some stories. Occasionally, I’ll even put words that people don’t expect to see in my writing.

Why would I do that? Well, did you know that William Shakespeare would use words in his writing that weren’t actually part of the English language at the time? An example is his use of the word “ungodded” in one of his writings. One theory suggests that he did this to get his readers attention – throw them off a bit.

When we read, our brains actually make predictions about which words are coming next. By using unexpected words or writing something the reader doesn’t expect to read it actually causes us to think, it unconsciously makes the content stick out in our minds because it increases brain activity.

If one of the greatest writers in history used this strategy successfully, there must be some merit to it. So why not give it a go? Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll negate efforts to achieve #2 – ease of reading.

4. Promote sharing and discussion

At the end of the blog post, content marketers will often include an offer, call to action or opt-in. And yes, you should use these tactics to enhance your conversions, but before that, you could weave something into your writing along the lines of: “Hey, if you liked this post, I would LOVE it if you let your friends know about it. If you agree or disagree with what I am saying, give me a yell in the comments box below.”

These are just a couple of little strategies that I like to employ to give my content marketing strategy a bit more personality. Hopefully, you can implement them and start seeing more sharing of your content, too.

And hey, if you liked this article and have some buddies who would benefit from it, I would love it if you could share it with them. If you have any other hot tips that make mine look like Willie Nelson at a Justin Bieber concert, let me know in the comments box below.

middo-150-150Mark Middo is the author of 5 Minute Business and founder of Social Empire, a brand dedicated to helping people brings ideas to life online. After fueling the growth of some of the worlds largest brands including Formula 1, Mizuno, Renault and McDonalds, Mark launched his own start up called Reminisce, an online voting system built for nightclubs. Amazed by it’s instant success, Mark formed Social Empire so he could help people do exactly what he did – turn an idea for a passion project into a lifestyle business in quick time, and for minimal cost.

5 Ways Your Offline Marketing Efforts Can Improve Your Online Reputation

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Andy Beal – Enjoy!

reputationAn ongoing theme in my new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, is that your offline actions greatly influence your online reputation. No matter how hard you work to improve your social media engagement, online reviews, or customer satisfaction, it can all be undone if you don’t follow these five important offline marketing strategies.

#1 – Offer a Congruent Experience

The brand experience you sell online should match up with the one which you offer customers in real life. A flashy web site, engaging Facebook Page, or a content-rich blog will only lead to disillusion and disappointment, if someone visits your business, or meets you in person, only to find that you don’t live up to the hype.

Take away – be congruent in the branding experience you provide your customers. Does your offline marketing campaign sync with your online one?

#2 – Sell the Expectation

On a visit to Seattle, I stayed in a boutique hotel for a couple of nights. Unlike a hotel chain, you never know what experience you’ll receive from independent lodging. The hotel took no chances, and upon reaching my room, I discovered a card that thanked its guests for making the hotel the number one ranked in the area. It also went on to explain, that if I felt the same way, how I could submit my vote.

Bam!

Before I’d even had the chance to make up my own mind, the hotel had used social proof to suggest that I would have nothing but an amazing stay.

Take away – you only get one chance to make a great first impression. Don’t leave that to chance.

#3 – Train Your Employees

Make sure you hire employees that really want the job. Hire those that are passionate about your industry. As part of their training, remind them that they are always representing your brand and its reputation.

I recently shopped at a Mattress Firm store, despite reading some negative online reviews. My sales associate was one of the nicest, honest, and trustworthy salesman I have ever worked with. Not only did he change my opinion of the mattress chain, but I share that experience often—including a chapter in Repped!

Take away – get your employees to buy in to the fact that they are an important part of your brand. If they let down the customer, they risk the future of the company—and in turn, their own job!

#4 – Capture Feedback Early

Most online complaints are the result of a customer being mistreated during their business dealings with you. All it takes is for the manager to be too busy to take a customer’s call, or a staff member too arrogant to apologize for a mistake. The next thing you know, you’re reading about their experience on Yelp—along with millions of others!

Instead put in place a feedback system that ensures a customer never finishes their transaction with you without being asked if they were completely satisfied.

Take away – even an automated email survey could help uncover a festering negative experience that might ignite a reputation attack.

#5 – Improve Your Marketing Messages

All customer feedback can be used to improve your marketing messages. When you see a common trend in positive reviews about you, start highlighting those traits in your TV, Radio, and print ads. Likewise, when you a see a competitor come under attack for a weakness that happens to be your strength, capitalize on the event by adding those strengths to your marketing and PR efforts.

Take away – let your customers—and your competitor’s customers—help you craft your marketing focus and product messaging.

Lastly, remember that your offline reputation is intertwined with your online one. A bricks and mortar business is often reviewed and rated online, while an internet business is still discussed in coffee shops and at water coolers. You can’t afford to ignore either reputation.

andy-bealAndy Beal is the CEO of Trackur and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities in reputation management. His new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation is available now, and you can also catch his “Reputation Roadkill” keynote at ClickZ Live New York.

5 Forgotten Offline Marketing Tactics

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Jayson DeMers – Enjoy!

With the rise in popularity of online marketing, many proven offline methods are simply forgotten when marketing campaigns are planned. Of course, online marketing is hugely important in today’s Internet-connected world, but offline engagement with customers still has unique and distinct value that shouldn’t be forgotten.

If you want to give your business a real marketing boost this year, start looking outside the box. Here are five forgotten offline marketing tactics that don’t require a big marketing budget.

1. Engage in offline guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing is a generic term for the use of unconventional marketing strategies, and because online marketing channels are so narrowly structured, offline is the best arena to flex your small business’s guerrilla marketing muscle. So, starting now, ignore what you know about marketing channels, and let your inner child out to play.

Offline guerrilla marketing ideas:

  • Leave sticky notes in random places (bars, coffee shops).
  • Use chalk to advertise promotions on a sidewalk.
  • “Accidentally” leave a branded pen at the bank.
  • Donate branded bookmarks to your local library.
  • Use sticky notes to create temporary images on buildings, cars, etc.

2. Drop business cards

This is one offline guerrilla marketing strategy that I want to talk about specifically. It’s more of a necessity than an option. If you run a small business, you must have business cards and dole them out! Don’t just share them when you first meet someone new. Drop them everywhere.

Places to drop business cards:

  • Leave a business card with your tip at a restaurant.
  • See a public bulletin board? Put up a business card.
  • Go to the library and place business cards in books related to your business.
  • When you see a contest fish bowl asking for business cards, drop yours in. Always.

3. Take pictures/videos of everything

Because social media marketing takes place online, many business owners and marketers forget that social campaigns can be boosted by offline efforts. One way to do this is by taking photos of company events and daily activities, and then posting those online. Videos help too. If someone from your company speaks at an event, for example, record it and upload it to YouTube.

Real-life photos from the offline world show the personality of your company and increase online user engagement. Facebook posts with photos, for example, receive 84% more clicks and twice as many Likes than text-only posts, according to Kissmetrics. And some of the most popular social networks (Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr) are image-based, making photos ever more important for online marketing.

4. Donate gift certificates or products as prizes

By offering your product or service as the prize for a local contest, you can build visibility for your business while showing your commitment to the community.

If your business provides computer repairs, for example, you could donate a gift certificate for a 2-hour repair to a local non-profit organization. The organization may announce your branded prize to a room full of sponsors. Your business could also be listed in various publications, such as the organization’s website, newsletter, or even a press release.

5. Speak at events

Professional events offer a great way to meet new people, share your ideas, and build brand awareness. They’re even more effective if you speak at them. Find a local event related to your industry, come up with an educational topic you can speak on, and volunteer. If you don’t yet have the level of clout required to speak at an event, attending events can be just as helpful.

Remember, you don’t have to adopt all of these offline marketing strategies. Just try one. Write a promotion on a couple sticky notes, and put them in your pocket for the day. Who knows what could happen.

jayson-profile-google-plusJayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

Why Small Businesses Still Need to Network in the Local Community

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Deborah Sweeney – Enjoy!

Why Small Businesses Still Need to Network in the Local CommunityDespite the rise of social networking and the perceived crumbling of face-to-face interaction it has caused, community is not dead. I have always been very passionate about local small business, but when I talk about real life networking within my community, I often get a few raised eyebrows. After all, I run an internet-based business – it isn’t like we get a lot of walk-in traffic! But establishing roots in your local community, regardless of what type of a business you run, is absolutely vital to your continued success. These relationships can help lead to partnerships and, though the internet has made it easier to market, word of mouth in the flesh is still invaluable to brand recognition.

Local recognition is priceless

A few years ago, American Express sponsored a ‘Small Business Consumer Pulse Survey’ to gauge how the average person felt about local small business. According to that survey, 9 out 10 Americans believe it is important to support local small businesses, and 73% of respondents said that they make a conscious effort to shop at local businesses. If your business is known as a local company, a solid majority of the nearby population is going to try to frequent your storefront as much as possible. However, if you hide behind a computer screen and refuse to connect with anyone within your community, they may very well pass you over. And even if you don’t run the type of business that does a lot of walk-in sales, that local recognition is still invaluable. Whether it is through hosting an open house at your office, offering a scholarship, or even sponsoring a banner ad at a local baseball game, making your name known to your community is a precious marketing asset. People who live in the city you do business in will go out of their way to look you up online if they know you are active in their community.

Small businesses that support each other do better

Are you active in your local chamber of commerce? Well you should be! Studies show that by simply involving yourself with your Chamber of Commerce, you increase customer favorability by 44%, and increase the likelihood of future patronage by 64%. The Chamber of Commerce is also a goldmine of information about local economic trends and policies. Business owners swap ideas, and studies are sponsored to help give chamber members a competitive edge. If you are skipping out on your Chamber of Commerce, you are really missing out on some great opportunities to network and mingle with area leaders.

Trust me, it is inspiring

While I love the fact that both my business and my work as its CEO is bettered by becoming involved in the local community, it really is inspiring to be included in a network of small businesses and entrepreneurs. I often try and give talks at local schools and colleges about becoming an entrepreneur because I want that network to grow. According to the SBA, small businesses have generated 64% of all new private-sector jobs over the past twelve years. Taken by itself, the lone small business may not seem like it impacts much at all. But when we work together to build and foster a network of small businesses, we make our community, and our company, better all around.

Marketing is all about increasing brand recognition and bringing in new customers. And while traditional marketing through television, radio, and the internet definitely works, you are missing out on a real opportunity if you aren’t involved in your local network of businesses. Your company should be recognized as the pillar of the local community that it is, and that only happens when you become involved with your town. So when you’re planning out your marketing strategy, remember to include your local community. Not only will your involvement help you to do more business, it will also help make you a better businessperson.

deborah sweeney headshotDeborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.