Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Jay Bean @jayrbean and @freshlime_inc. Jay is founder and CEO of FreshLime. Heis a focused and innovative entrepreneur with over a decade of online marketing and digital experience. Jay has a proven record of growing digital media technology and online advertising-based businesses with his singular vision. For more information about Jay, visit www.freshlime.com.
SmallBizLady: There are so many options out there to market your business. Where should you start in figuring out your strategy?
Jay Bean: There are more options today than ever before in history. It is important for small business to have a degree of marketing knowledge if they want to tackle this big task on their own. For most business owners they will save a lot of time and money if they outsource their marketing efforts. This can be done through a small local agency or other trusted source. Find out who other similar businesses are using in your area. There are also a lot of online resources that can be accessed for local marketing strategies.
SmallBizLady: What is a realistic marketing budget for when you get started promoting your business?
Jay Bean: A startup should plan on spending 25-30% of their projected revenue on marketing. If it is a business with an existing customer base, that % may only need to be 10-12%.
SmallBizLady: Is it a good idea to go into debt for marketing to land new customers?
Jay Bean: Dave Ramsay always says “you don’t have to go into debt to build a successful business” and it is true. But it isn’t necessarily a bad idea either. Having money to invest in marketing to make money will scale your business faster it just carries more risk. Weigh the pros and cons and decide what your level of comfort is in spending money on marketing. Start small and test what works and then continue to spend in the areas you are seeing a greater return.
SmallBizLady: How can you accurately measure if you are getting a return on your marketing spend?
Jay Bean: This is a million dollar question in the world of marketing. When you advertising options revolved around offline channels, you used to just ask customers where they heard about your business to determine what was working and what wasn’t. Now that customers are online you have better options than ever to track what’s happening with your dollars. Pay-per-click makes it really easy, but now you can track more through search, social and retargeting. If a digital solution doesn’t offer you a way to track results you can absolutely find one that does.
SmallBizLady: Are social networks a good place to market my business?
Jay Bean: People are spending more and more time on social media and in recent years the trend in social media has been mobile-first. This is incredibly important if your business thrives on location-based services or storefronts. You want to spend your marketing dollars where your potential customers are and because they are on social you should absolutely be there too.
SmallBizLady: Is search engine optimization as important as it used to be?
Jay Bean: SEO has changed a lot, but it is still very important for most businesses. Today it goes well beyond optimizing just your website, but you really need to focus on your whole online presence. This includes directory listings, website, and social pages. It may be a lot to keep up with, so ask for help.
SmallBizLady: What are the most important things I need online to optimize my digital marketing efforts?
Jay Bean: Business owners spend a lot of money on equipment, facilities, etc., but when it comes to online presence and marketing they feel those things should be free. To succeed online, you have to have a good presence (Website, Directories, and Social). It is not enough just to get started with these efforts, but you have to spend time and money to keep it updated. What is needed is different for every business.
SmallBizLady: What is a good return on investment for digital marketing?
Jay Bean: The Return on Marketing Investment is also different for every business. If your business’ customers are coming back every month, you can afford to spend more money to acquire each customer. I see a lot of businesses that use gut feel to determine if they are getting a good return. Going by your gut will normally not produce the highest profits.
SmallBizLady: Which social networks should I focus on when marketing my business?
Jay Bean: This question is different for every business, but the big answer is – all of them can be important. The first step is educating you on the big ones like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, SnapChat, Periscope, YouTube, etc. Then you need to ask yourself where your target customer is spending the most time. After that, it’s about creating marketing campaigns that will optimize engagement. Then you are ready to start spending marketing dollars on social media.
SmallBizLady: There are a lot of influencers out there that can spread the good word about your business. How much should you budget for this and is their help effective for marketing?
Jay Bean: It’s always a good idea to have others spreading genuine testimonials online about your business. Offer customers many opportunities to leave reviews, share with friends, etc. You can do that with a discount on the next service, or another incentive. Beyond that, it’s important to create a list of really influential people online – that could be media personalities, authors, experts, other companies, or mommy bloggers. From there you can reach out to them and try to build relationships. Some of them will review your service and product simply because they like the idea and need more content for their own purposes. Others will charge to post a review. If that is the case, make sure you ask for an updated and realistic media kit with impressions and typical ROI, and the rights to also promote their content about you freely. If the influencer is in your target demo or your target customers spend time with them, it just may be worth the cost.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the best tools to measure online and offline marketing?
Jay Bean: The true measurement of any marketing or engagement activity is a sales transaction. Because 93% of transactions are offline, most marketers are forced to settle for lesser attribution methods. No business owner should settle for clicks or impressions. Today we have the ability to track additional actions and sales which are more meaningful. There is no reason business owners should be guessing what is working. Using sales transaction data is the only way to measure true success.
SmallBizLady: Social media is becoming more and more important, but most posts aren’t seeing a lot of engagement or return – how can you use social media to get visibility and attract customers?
Jay Bean: I wish I could say that you just have to have viral content and then you can drive a lot of business on social for free (well, not including the cost of your time). However, it’s not that simple anymore. Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. don’t just share your content with all of your followers anymore. You have to pay for that. And truthfully it’s often worth the cost and they provide dashboards to track how many clicks and sometimes conversions you get from marketing with them. As mentioned before, it’s important to start small, see what is working, and scale from there.
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For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.