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Small business marketing is both hard and smart work

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 13, 2013 11:12PM



Marketing is the No. 1 challenge beyond cash flow for at least 90 percent of all small businesses that I have encountered. The hard reality is unless people know about you, your company and your solutions, you as the small business owner or even sales professional will remain pocket poor.

Recently at a Speed Networking event hosted by the Service Doctor/U Cook in Merrillville, I was asked this question by another small business salesperson:

“How do you manage your marketing? You attend business-to-business networking events; you write your blog almost daily; and you are very active on social media. Where do you find the time to do all this marketing?”

For the first eight years of my small business, I must admit I was not very good at marketing. Thankfully, over seven years ago I realized this significant business growth limitation and made the necessary course corrections within my strategic plan. For the next year, I invested one hour a day learning about marketing both outbound (traditional) and inbound (Internet, social media and referrals).

Today, I am more knowledgeable, but in no way shape or form do I consider myself to be an expert. What I know for sure is marketing is both hard and smart work.

For example, when I was a new entrepreneur I was told your “list” (think Rolodex) was everything. Now 15 years later, I have learned the effectiveness of one’s list is measured by the not only by the breath (the number of contacts), but by its depth (how responsive are those contacts to your marketing messages).

In December, I competed in a contest to be named most Influential Social Media Dame in Indiana for 2012. As a nominee, I had to encourage my contacts to vote for me. Even though I am not a big fan of these types of contests, I saw it as a unique marketing opportunity to do some split testing.

First, I sent out a personalized, bulk email message to 55 contacts including clients and colleagues. Then I direct messaged through Facebook another 70 of my more active contacts.

What I learned is around than 5 percent of the email respondents returned a message to me confirming they took action. This response rate was about what I had expected.

The Facebook response rate was 75.9 percent and took me by complete surprise. My contacts on Facebook were far more proactive and more engaged than those I emailed. Additionally, these response rates were in alignment with the overall vote total minus the votes that did not count due to failed instructions and some technology issues.

Given how I constructed this test marketing, it was hard work as each Facebook message was personal, one on one. Thank heavens for the technology of copy and paste. Also, it required another direct Facebook message of thanks when I received notification the contact voted for me.

Now the smart work begins as to how to take this knowledge and apply it in the future.

Effective marketing is very hard and smart work. This is why it is so important not to engage in the role of Captain Wing It where you spray your marketing actions all over the place and then pray something will stick. Those actions are very hard, but not very smart.

Today’s small business owners and sales professionals can no longer rely on those marketing firms engaged in the old marketing behaviors such as creating 500 glossy printed brochures that for the most part end up in the trash. They must take more ownership of the marketing and remember people buy from people not from glossy brochures, “fancy dancy” websites or endless streams of social media updates.

By taking this ownership and engaging with their target market, they will realize that effective marketing is a continuum of both hard and smart work.

P.S. Mary Jane DeMichele of McColly Real Estate in Lake County and Dave Woodson of Prime Real Estate in Porter County can support you in finding or selling that next great property.



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