26. March 2013 15:42
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As a small business owner in a niche market I continue to walk a fine line in terms of marketing investment and return on investment. Without a huge budget – or even a substantial one – my team relies on a wide variety free and low cost tools to support our sales and marketing efforts and ensure that ReloTrans remains active in the growing digital marketing and social space.
Whether networking with peers or other local small business owners, I am often asked about the marketing tools we use, how much we invest, and what works and what doesn’t. Happy to share our experience, I always start with the free tools we benefit from most.
Twitter – Business owners today and even senior level executives still struggle with social media and news syndication and the payoff of the time investment, even when the tool itself, like Twitter, is free. While the relocation industry primarily relies on Twitter as more of a news syndication device, we have found that it’s a great resource to share what we find relevant, externally from our generated content and general news, and internally as a mechanism to aggregate news and important trends for our team.
Facebook – Nearly every American has at least heard of Facebook and, while originally designed for the college aged crowd, growth continues amongst all generations, especially Baby Boomers. Additionally businesses, through new features as well as targeted advertising – note the advertising is a paid service – continue to find incremental value in terms of both content marketing and customer service through this ever-expanding social network.
LinkedIn – Aside from being the ‘Facebook for professionals’, LinkedIn has grown into a leading online recruiting site and is now expanding in the area of news syndication, social share and more. LinkedIn groups, which now 1.5 million, offer a phenomenal communication medium for small and mid-sized businesses, especially those that engage directly with corporate human resources like relocation. Additionally, it’s becoming a critical point for thought leadership syndication and aggregation and, as always, an important point of connection with existing, former and future business acquaintances
Hootsuite – If you’re using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, then Hootsuite is a tool you’re definitely going to want to check out. The free version, which allows for up to five social network connections allows you to track activity feeds in one location, schedule outgoing posts and provides basic analytics. Hootsuite is an easy to use tool, especially for small companies that have one full or even part-time person focused on marketing. Within one location, you can pretty much manage all of your profiles and activities and they offer a mobile application as well, making on-the-go activations even easier.
MailChimp – Most companies already rely on an email marketing tool to communicate with both prospective and existing customers, but if you’re not using an online tool and are looking for a starting point, then check out MailChimp. MailChimp is a free service (up to 2,000 contacts and 12,00 emails), easy to use and it offers all of the basic analytical metrics you will need to evaluate your efforts out of the gate and remain within CAN-SPAM regulations.
There are literally hundreds of incredible free tools in the market today and, thanks to technology, more continue to flood the marketplace. Take the time, investigate, start small and capitalize on these tools to support your business goals, grow your brand and improve your bottom line.
9. March 2012 11:33
It’s not often that I find myself wanting to revisit a blog topic, but, as the economy continues its slow recovery and businesses face tighter and tighter budgets, I felt the need to share some of my additional thoughts on making the most out of trade shows. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, there are more than 13,000 trade events each year in the U.S. with an additional one million meetings. And, it’s estimated that businesses spend over $100 million annually on trade shows. While organizations have definitely cut back in terms of spend compared to events in the early 2000s, trade shows and events are still a key part of marketing, at least for the short term.
As I mentioned in my post from June of last year, “My past experience with trade shows has been that you ‘have to be there’ because if you’re not, your industry often thinks you are out of business, and that most are filled with competitors and not real business opportunities.” Rather than continue the deliberation of whether or not to attend, I wanted to share some of my simple success tips to making the most out of any show.
Prior to committing to any event, we weigh the pros and cons for our team in attending the event.
What is our estimated budget for attending and exhibiting at the event? What is our view of a successful show? The latter may not always be closed sales, as we also consider current customer interaction as well as developing new relationships.
Will this be an opportunity to meet and/or follow-up with new prospects?
Which of our current clients will be attending?
Are our competitors attending? If so, who?
After the initial discussion, we establish a goal for the team. For example, in an industry event it may be to hold three client meetings, follow-up with four existing prospects and cultivate five new relationships.
Once we make our final decision to exhibit, we talk about our pre-event, in event and post-event strategies.
Do we have the email/mail list of exhibitors? Is it worth an additional financial investment to purchase a list? From there, we develop our pre-event marketing communications plan.
Is there a speaking opportunity at the educational sessions for any of our team members?
What will our in event presence look like? Booth, collaterals, giveaways (always key to select levels of giveaways and ensure that they are valuable enough that the individual wants to bring them home), and any interactive demonstration (iPad, laptop, etc.). What is our staffing strategy for the booth – two working and one floating through the aisles?
What is the post event follow-up strategy? Who is the primary contact for follow-up? Is there a post-event offer? Giveaway? Communication medium (phone, email, mail)?
Finally, we do a post-event debrief. During this meeting, we discuss what worked, what didn’t and we include other individuals from the team as well as those who attended so that additional questions may be asked and ideas cultivated for the next event.
While virtual conferences continue to gain popularity in many industries, I am confident that it may be a few years before those fully infiltrate relocation and transportation. Until then, we will continue to make prudent investments, improve our experience and that for our customers, and work to ensure we meet or exceed our goals at each event.