Two weeks ago, Network Solutions hosted the Rock Star Entrepreneurs and Your Business webinar and introduced many of us to the State of the Small Business report, a study which uncovered a number of promising stats for SMB owners in the United States.
However, the news wasn’t all good for small businesses. The study also revealed an area where SMBs continue to struggle [emphasis added]:
Although American small businesses are admired for their ingenuity and aggressiveness, this is another area where they struggle, earning the equivalent of a ‘C-‘ in the Marketing and Innovation sub-index. Small businesses are not as successful as they would like to be in effectively marketing themselves to grow their business beyond their current size.
Interestingly, the same study also found that only 12 percent of small businesses are engaging in social media. Restated: Only 12 percent of small businesses are taking advantage of a targeted, absolutely free way to market their business online. Sounds silly, right?
How about this: Earlier this week, 5,000 influential marketers were sent chocolate covered grasshoppers to snack on and blog about. The grasshoppers were blogged, tweeted, and linked to all over the Web. It was a viral marketing campaign used to get the company attention and to tell people what Grasshopper.com was all about. And in just 24 hours, people learned that it was a phone system company that cared about entrepreneurs. In one day, thousands of people knew their story.
Marketing is storytelling.
Stop thinking of social media as Twitter, as blogs, Facebook, MySpace or any of the other sites on the Web. Yes, those are social tools, but social media is about telling your story. It’s you talking directly to your customers and telling them who you are, why you’re better and what you believe so that they remember you and feel connected to you. It’s you making them associate something with your company.
- Grasshopper is a phone systems company that believes in entrepreneurs.
- Zappos is an online shoe retailer that cares about customer service and its employees.
- Dell is a technology provider that offers resources to small businesses.
Those are the stories those companies are telling in social media. What’s yours? Why did you join the marketplace? Who are you? Use social media to tell that story.
If you’re in the landscaping business, are you the company that cares about being green and using green products? Or are you the company that donates 15 percent of your earnings to buy cars for needy families? Or maybe you’re simply the company with the most advanced equipment? Once you have your story spread it.
Blog about ways to help the environment by being green and picking a green landscaper. Tell people what to look out for, what products to use, what to avoid, why it all matters, and why you can help them.
Use Twitter to promote other green initiatives that compliment what you do. Find green enthusiasts in your area using an Advanced Twitter Search and reach out to them to form a real relationship. Organize local tweet ups to meet people and encourage them to help spread your message with you and become your evangelists. Not only will they spread your message online, but you can bet they’ll spread it offline, as well.
Grab your Flip camera and use video to appeal to people’s emotions and bring them in. Grasshopper.com used a quick video and peppy background music to show their adoration of entrepreneurs and they’re dedication to standing by them. They lifted them up to subtly promote themselves. It’s the most powerful type of marketing there is.
Social media is not Twitter. Social media is you connecting with your customers to tell your story. It’s how small businesses can market their companies on the Web, not only effectively, but for free. Every small business has a unique story. If you want to successfully market and grow your business, focus on telling yours.