Every week I conduct interviews with experts on #SmallBizChat. In honor of my 200th episode of my Twitter talk show, the tables have been turned and my co-host Amanda Miller Littlejohn, decided that my fans might want to hear from me. #Smallbizchat takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my interview on branding and social media marketing. Don’t forget to grab a copy of my latest ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online and join my #Smallbizchat group on LinkedIn to get even more information on building a strong business brand online.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: What is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to branding their business?
Melinda Emerson: The biggest problem small business owners have is they market their brand too broadly. If everyone can use your product or service, no one will. Don’t be generic with your small business; be specific in your branding. Your message must speak to your target customer. Your brand should say what you and your business are all about. I’m @SmallBizLady and my mission is to end small business failure.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: Can a business be marketed effectively without a strong brand?
Melinda Emerson: I do not think a small business stands a chance without a strong brand. Keep in mind your brand is everything you do. How you dress, who answers your phone, are you always late. Your brand is also your website, which is your welcome mat into your small business. You must make sure it’s tight and helpful. Check out a recent article I wrote for the New York Times on having a strong website.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: What steps should entrepreneurs take to identify and define their brand?
Melinda Emerson: First, they need to define their target customer. Then, they need to carve out a specific niche and secret sauce to stand out. The niche can be geographical, product specific, or it can be based on a segment of your target customer. If your target is audience is women, drill it down because that is not specific enough. It can be tween girls, young adults, single moms, professional women, soccer moms or baby-boomers. Just pick one and become the czar or czarina of that niche.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: I’ve heard you talk before about how important business cards are to a brand, Can you elaborate on your philosophy?
Melinda Emerson: Social media is great, but business cards are still important. Small business owners should invest in a real logo. Word art or clip art or those dreadful free business cards you can get from a template will not cut it. Your brand should also be at least two colors and use quality paper to print them on. A cheap looking business card will kill your credibility.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: Can a small business be effective in social media without a strong brand?
Melinda Emerson: It’s even harder to distinguish yourself in social media with a weak brand because there is so much noise online. No one will pay any attention to a “me too” brand. You must distinguish yourself online and offline. How you conduct yourself in social media makes a brand statement. Is it clear who your customers are from your tweets? Well, it should be very clear.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: How should your brand influence your content strategy for social media marketing?
Melinda Emerson: Once you have a defined target customer you need to focus in on that customer’s pain. People are moved to buy when they have pain. As you think about the content you want to develop, you should start with a list of your customer pain points. If your brand speaks to your solution for solving the pain, you will have customers for life – if you can deliver service based on your brand promise.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: What are the signs of a well-defined brand?
Melinda Emerson: When you become top of mind to anyone who needs what you do, your brand is well defined. When you get prospect calls and they already have decided they want to hire you, and all you are discussing is their budget and your availability, your brand is well defined. When you stop needing to explain what you do or what your logo “really” stands for, your brand is well defined.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: How does branding relate to the broader marketing strategy of a business?
Melinda Emerson: Marketing starts with a well-defined brand. You must know who you want to speak to first, then you develop your sales goals. Now you know I tell my readers to only focus on 30 day sales goals, which will help you focus on weekly sales goals. Once you have your weekly sales goal, you design your marketing tactics to meet your weekly goal. How many calls, emails, tweets, handwritten notes, and networking events do you need to attend each week to reach your sales goals.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: How important is it that a marketing strategy be tied to measurable results?
Melinda Emerson: If a marketing tactic is not measurable, it’s useless. But keep in mind that you must have a realistic goal for what you want to achieve. When you start using social media, it’s not going to start raining money in your business immediately. It took me 18 months of daily tweets to get noticed and respected.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: What are the marketing tools that should be in every entrepreneur’s tool kit?
Melinda Emerson: 1) Create a helpful website. 2) Develop a fantastic free giveaway to build an email marketing list. Some affordable email marketing services are @mailchimp, @constantcontact, and @aweber. 3) Update your LinkedIn profile to speak to your target customer, you are not looking for a job. Especially – secure recommendations from customers like the ones you are trying to pursue. 4) Focus on only one social media site! Too many small business owners are killing themselves trying to do too many social media sites. Claim your profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube but spend your time where your best target customers hang out online.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: How can social media add to the effectiveness of a small business sales strategy?
Melinda Emerson: The #1 thing social media marketing can do for a small business owner is drive traffic to your small business website. That said, social media doesn’t deliver results overnight. You must use the HELP Mantra consistently for 18 to 24 months to start seeing results. HELP stands for Help others, Engage people, Listen first, and Promote yourself with care. That last one is really tricky because it’s the one people really do not understand. Do not start selling too quickly before you have a relationship. Just be helpful and position yourself as a resource and your best target customer will beat a path to your door.
Amanda Miller Littlejohn: What are the top 3 priorities for entreprenuers who want to build a social media brand?
Melinda Emerson: 1) Develop some specific goals for your social media marketing campaign. 2) Know your best 5 keywords that people use in search engines to get information about your product or service 3) Conduct a listening campaign to figure out where your best target customer hangs out online and then join the conversation.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works and the ebook: How To Become A Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.