How micro-enterprises use digital marketing communications

Trying to make a presentation interactive is always a challenge. I gave a 4Sight (a 20 minute presentation) to the Stockport Group of 4Networking. The results were interesting, if not statistically significant.

I might have asked more questions, or different ones, but the results paint a reasonable picture of current practice in digital marketing communications.

Less than 10% of the audience had a digital marketing (communications) plan in place.

Over 60% had an e-newsletter sign-up form but only 15% claimed to be active in email marketing: how does that work? Nearly a third “planned to be active”. Three primary digital tools that smaller businesses can use to get quick results, email marketing, Google+ and a digital marketing plan were used by less than a fifth of the businesses present.

I would estimate that 90% of the audience ran business-to-business enterprises so the low figure for a Facebook Business Page is understandable. It seems to reflect an attitude that what small businesses do in their own time is separated from their business lives. If they work hours like I do, this just can’t be true. In many cases small business owners are their brands, in B2B, anyway. Facebook gets me results and my Digital Supremo Page is in its infancy. Don’t ignore Facebook.

Graph

Results of a recent survey of small businesses in the business-to-business sector

Less than a third of the audience used micro-content, mainly Twitter but we also included Instagram and Vine.

Just over a third were active bloggers, with a quarter planning to be active in blogging.

It is not surprising that micro-enterprises find it difficult to get results from digital marketing. Many of the tools are low-cost but it is time-consuming and it takes time, effort and skill to do it effectively.

The secret is that even the experts in marketing and social media  have been using these techniques for less than a decade.  New tools, networks, and strategies are appearing all the time. The top social media practitioners spend more time learning, than they do working – they need to in order to keep up with the rate of change. I would include myself in this category.

Also, the strategies that work on social media are different to what has worked in the past, in other marketing channels. As a result, even experienced marketers are struggling to get the most out of their social media efforts.

So here are five tips, partly based on the results of my mini-survey:

  1. You need a digital marketing plan. This can be very simple but the old adage that says plan and execute a few digital tools well is much more effective than stretching yourself too thin and doing nothing effectively. You don’t have to “be” on anything. You should identify tools that will work for your business and do them well, with professional help if necessary.
  2. You need a sales pipeline. The pipeline should be on your own website, computer or other medium that you control completely. It should be capable of capturing qualified leads from a variety of digital sources and helping you turn them into sales. Social media is one  source of prospects from your sales funnel (networking is, of course, another) but, as is well-known by now, if you try to sell on social media you will usually just kill the social aspect. A pipeline can be built into a contact management system (like MS Outlook or Gmail) or a CRM system, like Nimble. It could be as simple as a spreadsheet and some of the most successful sales pipelines I have seen are sales dashboards based on spreadsheets.
  3. You must really mean business. Social media can be an enormous time-grabber. Its easy to spend hours on Facebook and not complete anything really concrete. People who succeed on social media do so by having a plan and working their networks in a purposeful manner. This still means being fun, friendly and social but it means working to a plan.
  4. Build an email house list. Always ask contacts whether they would like your e-newsletter (opt them in). Write and send one monthly, even in plain text, and use an economic platform like MailChimp, Sendicate or Constant Contact to send, monitor and measure results so that you can improve.
  5. Build a simple digital marketing dashboard. A dashboard is an information panel which pulls together your main statistical results and measures effectiveness. Use the power of spreadsheet to add data manually, if necessary, and analyse it weekly. It will help you direct your efforts to what works and prevent wasting time.

Make a plan, choose your ground carefully and work the system in a friendly, helpful and businesslike way.

 

 

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