Six key communication points for small businesses

Every business, large or small, needs to have a comprehensive and focussed online presence, but while this may be relatively easy to achieve for a company with access to good resources and budgets, including specific people allocated to these tasks, it becomes a more arduous operation for a small business.  In small businesses other priorities tend to crop up all the time and inevitably communication issues get pushed to one side.  In the following few lines I am hoping to provide small businesses with some of the key issues to consider in order to maximise their online presence.

Establish clear objectives and key performance indicators

This is vital for any business.  You need to know what your goals are, in which direction you want your business to grow and how you measure this.  If you are aiming to attract visitors to your venue, for example, you should have profiled the appropriate market segment and established how many of them you can cater for, what exactly you are going to offer them and how much you are planning to take from specific tasks.  Stick your

Local businesses

Local businesses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

business plan on the wall where you can see it all the time, don’t bury it in your pending tray or in your hard drive!  Your goals can change, they will as your business evolves, but provided you have clear performance indicators you won’t go far wrong.  Also, don’t forget to use the SMART format for ALL your business objectives…. Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Relevant and realistic, and Time based.  In short, be focussed and set up a realistic timetable with achievable and measurable actions – simple.

Audit your current communication channels

Take some time to look around your office and gather together all your offline communication tools (from headed paper to brochures etc), then move on to the online presence and create a short spreadsheet where you undertake a quick critical assessment of each of them.  Once you have done this create a wish list (for example, we want to have an effective social media presence and so on, we need a new brochure or a web site, etc.) and compare to the audit in order to identify shortcomings and opportunities.

Establish your communication priorities – don’t run before you can walk

Never attempt to take up more than you can chew.  Having done point 2 you will probably come up with a long list of activities.  You may feel exhilarated and because things have gone reasonably well you may wish to do everything at once.  Please don’t.  Even in the best possible business growth scenario demands on your time will increase further.  If your list of communication activities is too long you may not have sufficient time to spend on each of them.  This will result in errors or unfinished tasks at best. Don’t be tempted to pass the buck to someone else either in your organisation or outside in the hope that they can get on without any input from you.  Even if you commissioned the work outside to the best specialists around you would still need to sit down with your agency on a regular basis to set up objectives and review performance – you can never wash your hands completely.  So please establish realistic communication priorities from your own personal perspective too.

Set up a realistic budget and don’t forget ROI

When you have identified your priorities create an actions list and then allocated a realistic budget for each task.  You should really always place a monetary value next to each of these actions, even if you decided to do everything in-house – after all your time is money and you’d be surprised how expensive your own time may turn out to be.  So if you decided to tweet regularly set up a calendar action and an appropriate cost based on the time you are planning to spend, including research of course.   You need to know at the end of each period how much return this investment will bring. By the way, the ROI formula is very simple: how much you have earned from your investment, less the cost of the investment, all divided by the cost of the investment again, and multiplied by 100 so you get it as a percentage.  Don’t be disheartened, however, if your ROI is little to begin with – with all kind of communication you need to persevere and what matters is the trend, if positive stick with it and continue to refine until you reach your goal – or ditch!

Be consistent in the delivery of  your communications

By now you have established  clear priorities, have identified specific actions and have set everything in place – you have a battle plan.  The temptation now is to slacken the delivery pace. Messages gets sent out less frequently than at the outset, you get distracted and soon your twitter feed gets used once every few weeks or so, and you never retweet or follow anyone else, for example.  With online media you need to keep up your efforts.  If you neglect your online channels you will struggle twice as hard to reinstate them as your reputation would be dented.

By the way, consistency also applies to how good each message is (is it engaging, targeted and informative?) – you’ve got to strive for excellence to stand out from the crowd.

Regularly assess and review

You have followed these points to the letter, well done.  Now you need to review the way the way the entire communication plan works, regularly.  Failing to do it until things go wrong,  or when your stats show that your online presence is plummeting and it’ll be much harder to put right as you would have moved from a simpler tactical adjustment to a crisis situation.  But don’t expect instant success either, as we said before, you just need to keep an eye and apply the necessary adjustments if and when required, unless of course your business models changed drastically.

Finally, if you don’t have the time to do all of the above on your own, but you have come to conclusion that something must be done don’t be scared to look around for companies or people that could help you.  Not every organisation out there would suit you and selecting the appropriate expert will be the topic of a next blog.  But outsourcing needn’t cost the earth either, especially if you have done your homework correctly and put a value next to each of the necessary actions.   A clear vision and good will is all it takes in the end.

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Top Google SEO tips

Have your site at the top of page 1 of Google search – or every marketer’s holy grail.  I get calls almost on a daily basis from companies who are looking for SEO expertise and who want to beat their competition by being the number 1, right there at the very top.  The trouble is that when it comes to SEO you have to follow a number of rules, but not just those that suit you, all of them!

Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail

Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These rules are essentially, yet rather simplistically for the purpose of this blog, split into a three pronged strategy: a technical approach (the way your page is built); a responsive tactic based on how each search engines work (e.g. Google and its latest algorithm and therefore links and so on) this of course feeds into the technical arena and finally a sound content strategy.  Each of these three areas is complex and require careful attention to details. You can find lots of resources online mainly as by the time books are published their content is likely to be obsolete.

I have just come across this video by Sparka and though a year old most of the recommendations are still applicable to these days, it’s like your personal map to the fabled holy grail, so don’t miss it and there’s loads more on his playlist page too!  Have a Merry Christmas too!

Google+ and Facebook – the battle goes on.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago I wrote a very positive blog on Google+ and on how this channel was going to be much more significant to businesses than Facebook.  Generally, I remain of the same opinion that in relation especially to content management and SEO there is no doubt that a Google+ presence is infinitely superior to a Facebook one, from a business perspective, but perhaps not in terms of general audience engagement as I am trying to explain.

On this particular count Google+ has consistently failed to create sufficient ‘buzz’ and to attract a lively level of engagement in any way similar to the one of Facebook.  At least away from specialist B2B sectors, such as IT or similar, or in the few instances where brand new communities, that previously may not have existed on other social media channels were set up first on Google+.

The reasons for this lack of traction from Google+ are really quite simple and as ever are based on sociology and psychology, rather than just technology.  Let’s look at how  most of us interact across our personal social media channels.  I bet you that most of you have a personal Facebook account in which you have gathered the usual motley crowd of ‘friends’.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a passive reader of status updates or an active contributor, you are highly likely to be on Facebook as this was one of the first social media channels of this kind.  When you looked for old friends, or old flames, you instinctively searched on Facebook (way before you would have gone on Friends Reunited, do you remember that?).  I bet that even if you did so now I very much doubt you’d first check them out on Google+.  So, from a purely social perspective at least Facebook wins, by far, but as of late the battle has become even more fierce from a business angle.

Creating a good Facebook company page takes a matter of minutes, including very high levels of customisation. More importantly, finding appropriate audiences to advertise an update or to acquire ‘likes’ is a doddle.  With Facebook in just a few clicks you can search exactly for the geographical area, interest, gender and more, targeting your advert as accurately as possible.  This is not just because over the years Facebook has polished and enhanced its database exponentially, but also because they were clever enough to create a highly intuitive and user friendly interface.  Try comparing this with Google AdWord for example and not even Adword Express (apparently designed for small businesses) comes anywhere near to the ease of use of Facebook.  Beside, creating an advert on Google will simply expose you to the might of the competition and unless you’ve very deep pockets you are likely to see little benefits from it, when you could just as easily achieve similar results with some high quality content management for example.  On the other hand, Facebook can expose your brand to a well segmented audience, but it’s fair to say that this kind of audience may not be appropriate for specialist B2B sectors being much more potentially rewarding to consumer brands or campaign organisations instead.

So who wins?  Well in the end it’s the usual story of finding the right channel for you, one relevant to your audience.  However,  in terms of usability and B2C engagement, despite the growing number of Google+ users, Facebook wins.

I conclude with some anecdotal evidence. A year or so ago, when Google+ came out,  I asked all my Facebook friends if they would consider joining me on that channel.  Only one out of 200 replied in the affirmative.  Maybe I don’t have very good friends, but I suspect that most people are simply used to Facebook.  They have it on their smartphone, is bookmarked on their PC or laptop and they too have all their friends there who are equally unwilling to move.  How could they possibly consider switching over then?

It’s blindingly obvious that social media is inextricably linked to day to day social interactions.  Therefore, if you have been going to your local hostelry for several years and you suddenly decide to defect somewhere else, you’d probably end up drinking on your own at first, until you created another group in that specific location.   It’s just the same for social media channels.

This situation might change only in the light of some huge privacy cock up from Facebook, or if there were more freely available and easy to use tools that allowed you to share the same content initially across several platform, without losing the user experience of Facebook. Maybe one day we will be faced with two very serious contenders, but for now Facebook remains in the lead.

Samsung Customer Posts Defective Phone Video, Company Demands Removal – a PR disaster.

See on Scoop.itPR, Social Media and Marketing

A consumer attempting to get a replacement for a damaged Galaxy S4 smartphone details what he claims is a disturbing response from Samsung.

Maurizio Fantato‘s insight:

One never ceases to be amazed by the crass approach of some organisations to basic customer service matters like these and their uncanny ability to turn minor issues into full blast PR crisis.

In this specific instance a call from a competent and senior manager, plus if warranted a brand new phone in the shortest possible time, might have averted this flood of negative publicity.  The opposite might even have happened, with a media savvy customer like the one in question broadcasting his pleasure at Samsung’s service and therefore generating a heap of positivity which would no doubt have resulted in higher customer satisfaction and sales – all at a cost of a few hundred dollars.  As it happens it’s now become  instead the proverbial David and Goliath’s battle, and we all know that as customers we are instinctively drawn to support all Davids.

We shall never know how much this debacle will end up costing Samsung, but for sure it will cost them a hell of a lot more than if they had thought long and harder about PR in the first instance.

See on mashable.com

How ‘innovation’ is getting tired

See on Scoop.itPR, Social Media and Marketing

The Wall Street Journal argues that the word is being stretched well beyond its intended use when it comes to products, including a new variety of Pop-Tarts.

Maurizio Fantato‘s insight:

Do you share these views?  Have you ever been asked to report or publicise  and "amazing innovation", when it was merely an upgrade instead?  Were you honest, or did you just go with the flow? Is real innovation becoming less common these days? 

See on www.prdaily.com

Buying a new droid? Check these two rules.

See on Scoop.itPR, Social Media and Marketing

See which #smartphones last the longest on a charge”

Maurizio Fantato‘s insight:

Today I am going to take a diversion from software and marketing communications strategies focussing on something slightly different: smartphones and in particular Android ones.  There are of course countless articles out there on how you can select your next best phone, but in my opinion these are the two key rules:

 

1. Make sure the phone you buy has the longest lasting battery.  Yes, you may need to compromise on the model, but believe me, if you intend to use your smartphone to its fullest it won’t matter how ‘smart’ it is, if it runs out of juices after a couple of hours.  A phone with a battery that only last 6 hours is pretty useless.  Say you’re attending a conference, or visiting an exhibition, would you really want to start looking for a socket a few hours into the event, or would you want to carry spare batteries?  I dont’ think you would, so pick the one with the longest battery life.  There is no compromise here, unless all you want is a fashion gadget.

 

2. Beware of ‘crapware’ this is software that comes rooted into your Android phone courtesy of either your network provider or phone manufacturer.  Samsung is notorious for filling your phone with unwanted software.  It updates automatically, it can’t be stopped (in theory it can, not in practice) and just eats on resources.  If you can get either a rooted phone, or one with the least software, or a Nexus as this is Google’s own brand and therefore you will receive all the updates as they come out.  By the way, this is another drawback of smartphones as manufacturers want you to change them as otfen as possible, so they will seldom provide you with the latest operating software update even if your phone would be capable of handling it (Nexus being the exception).

 

If you have done your homework on 1 & 2 you can now pick any of the other available options you think would suit you best (camera, etc. etc).  I can now hear Apple fans saying ‘get an iPhone’, and sure enough you could, but do we all want to end up using the same phone?

See on blog.laptopmag.com