Greetings, Indie Ogden friends, Raylynn here. I am excited to guest blog on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: Marketing Made Simple. Simple, you ask? Yep! Over the years of being a small business banker and a lover of marketing and public relations, I’ve learned a few simple tips that can help you (the business owner) achieve success and respect on a shoestring and, if you’re lucky, a few new clients or customers, because you wow them with the extra umph that no one expects these days.
On my blog, “Let It Be & Celebrate”, it’s pretty common for me to present a Top 5 on a given topic. I don’t know why I choose 5, but as I recall in my early blogging days, that was about as much wisdom as I could pull out of my brain and it seemed simple and people read it so it stuck. You will get the same thing in this post. That’s not to say that I couldn’t give you 50…OK maybe not that many, but I know for sure that I could give you 10 on this topic, but less is more and your time is precious so I’ll keep it simple. Read on!
1. Have a 5 year plan & WRITE IT DOWN (not on a bar napkin)
Are you laughing about my ‘not on a bar napkin’ note? That actually happened to me a couple of times as a banker. I had some borrowers that we took to lunch and when we asked them what their plan was for the next five years, they whipped out a pen and wrote it down on their drink napkin. Another time, I had someone bring me their “business plan”….term used loosely…. on a piece of lined notebook paper and expected me to be all sorts of excited and ready to approve their loan. I will be the first one to tell you that I KNOW that as a small business owner, your life is chaotic and you have to attempt to keep it simple just to maintain a tiny amount of sanity. BUT! This does not mean that you can’t have a plan. Without a plan you don’t grow the way you need to grow. You just don’t. I know a number of small businesses in Ogden that know pretty well where they want to be in 5 years. I also know that a couple of them have a wish of actually taking a vacation without their cell phone blowing up. My recommendation for a FREE and very well outlined business plan template is on the SBA (Small Business Administration) website — HERE. You can create your own log-in and come back to it as you have more ideas. Even if you’re a current business owner, there is no reason not to have some projections for what you want to be accomplishing in 5 years.
2. Let Yourself be Mentored
Some of the best training I’ve ever received in my career has been from someone who either did or was doing my job LONG before I was. If you are a small business owner and you find yourself scratching your head or crying in your coffee, find a mentor to guide you and give you the support and reassurance that you will, in fact, survive the first 5 years of your business and will have a life again. I will be the first to tell you that I enjoy a good challenge, but I’m also human, and having someone who I can always call on to strategize new ideas for marketing and infrastructure has been my salvation. Mentors are also really awesome network connectors because they’ve been in the business longer than you and can say, “oh I know someone who can help you with that….let me get them on the phone or send them an email.” Magic words in mentor world and it helps grow your network too. Win/Win!
3. Social Media Is Your Icing, NOT the Cake
Aw, social media, how we love and loathe thee all at once. As a business banker I had frequent conversations with my clients about social media and how they either loved it or hated it. Most of the people who loved it were approaching it as the icing while those who hated it were expecting it to be free cake and it was not. In an effort to help them understand it better and to experiment, I started my public Instagram account just to figure out hash tags. I know we all love that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are free, but you still need traditional marketing i.e. an engaging website that is easy to maneuver and sells your product or service. Ideally, all of your electronic marketing should be cross referenced with itself; meaning, your Facebook page has your website listed, your Instagram has your website in your profile and your website says in bright letters, “follow us on Facebook and Instagram.” Don’t expect the majority of your business traffic to come from social media because it won’t. The best piece of advice I can offer on social media is consistency. Schedule your posts and plan out your content. That way if you can only post one a week or even once a month, your followers know, from past posts, that it will be worth their time to read it and share it and continue to follow your page.
4. Establish Brand Recognition, Especially in Email
In my most recent role as a marketing director, the biggest challenge I had was brand recognition. Does that sound familiar to any of you? As an independent business owner you are constantly up against advertising overload from the big box stores who offer lower prices and longer business hours. How do you convince someone that they should support your business when they might be able to get the same product for cheaper at the big box contender or online? This is where brand recognition comes in to play. A tactic I implemented was in my email subject lines. If I was sending an email from the company, I started the email with the abbreviated company name (that also happened to be one of our logos). If I was sending an email in behalf of the non-profit I work with, the subject line started with their abbreviated name. The beauty of this tactic was my recipients could search in their email by subject and if they put “Company ABC – email topic” as their search criteria they would find everything that I had sent them. Not only was it easy to find something fast, but they could tell when it was something that was important to read right now. It worked magic. And because I am super OCD at work I, myself, loved that I could do the same search in my sent box. Happy you, happy me, happy we.
5. Take Time to Say Thank You
Last spring I wrote a post on my blog about the power of handwritten notes. While this particular post was referencing personal correspondence; I am a firm believer in the power of handwritten thank you notes in the work place as well. We have been taken over by technology (refer to #3) and sometimes….ok a lot of the time….we forget to thank those who are making our lives simpler by sending us business, serving us, or taking us to lunch on a day when we really needed it. It’s not that it’s done on purpose, but mostly because time is spread very very thin for small business owners. The other benefit of taking time to write thank you notes is that it forces you to feel gratitude when you really are probably stressed and sleep deprived. Now, let’s be realistic, and say that we aren’t all cut out for the froo froo fancy thank you notes, but if you will make it a habit to say thank you, even in an unexpected email, you WILL see results. People like to be appreciated and appreciation is a big motivator in the business world to give back. If there is ever a question about cost…think about it in simple terms: a decent box of thank you notes (10 count) is approximately $6 and 10 stamps are $4.80. For under $20 you could thank ten people for making your life easier. Try it and see what happens. My guess is you will surprise them and they won’t ever forget that you took time to thank them.
And an extra for good measure….
6. Non-Profit/Volunteer Work is the BEST networking You’ll Ever Do
In the banking world, I was regularly encouraged to volunteer in the community that I lived in. The reason for this is a law called the Community Reinvestment Act. Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with The Ronald McDonald House, American Cancer Society, United Way Day of Caring, Local First Utah and most recently the Weber-Morgan Children’s Justice Center. In each of those service capacities I have met some really phenomonal business owners, respected professionals and civic leaders. I have also had the opportunity to network with each of them. The beauty of non-profit work is the fact that you are in the same room with a group of people who are just as passionate or more so about the same cause as you. In order for them to be there, they have to have a level of drive and dedication to their community as an un-paid volunteer. You want to do business with people like that so don’t be afraid to open your mouth at these events or at a board meeting and ask what they do for their day job and how you can help them be more successful. I’ve seen great business connections come about in my time on the Friends Board at the CJC and they continue day after day.
I hope that these tips will be useful to help your marketing efforts. There is a lot competing for your time as the boss, but I know that if you will take a little extra time to embrace these 6 tips, you will will see results that will make a difference. As far as I’m concerned, even small differences are still differences towards the greater good. It never hurts to try.