Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Holiday retail sales forecast-- Are you ready?

So, it's finally arrived. The first news about the projected Holiday season. I'm quite sure that many outlets will pick this up soon.

The Question is - -How is your business prepared for this Holiday?
Are your inventory levels in good shape to weather this projected downturn?
Do you have a well planned and comprehensive marketing program set up to engage, excite and inspire your customers to make purchases at your store this holiday season?

If the answer to any of these questions is no- I suggest you start planning right now!
And don't stop until you come up with something that will wow your customers and win the $$$ out of their wallets at your store!

Good luck.

Monday, September 8, 2008

You Tube for Your Business?

or How to use Social Media Marketing for Small Business

As a supporter of small businesses, and one who understands the words "limited budget" I think it's imperative that small businesses use any and all ways they can to attract attention to their businesses. That is why I am so keen on including social media marketing to grow even the smallest of businesses.

To get you started, here are six ways small businesses can jump on the social marketing bandwagon with a moderate investment of time and/or money.

1 Start a blog. Blogging is old news to many (Web 1.5, perhaps?), but for many small business owners, there is a lot of uncharted water here. What is a blog? A weblog, or blog, is a great way to open up a dialogue with your customers, and that connection is the reason social marketing exists. There are many blog sites that will help format your blog- WordPress is one that comes to mind that is absolutely free. The time investment is completely up to you, but this truism applies: The more you put into it, the more you'll get out. Still, it's okay-and I'd even say it's recommended-to start slowly and increase your time investment as you get comfortable with using a blog.

2. Comment on other blogs. You can't blog into a vacuum. Blogging is about creating and joining conversations, and that includes reading what others in your industry are saying and joining the discussion on other blogs. It's free, and again, the time investment is up to you. You'll be able to supply your name and websiteURL when leaving a comment, and there's no debate that intelligent comments on other blogs helps build traffic to yours.

3. Make and share videos. Good video cameras are cheap these days, and a short video needs little editing/production. Even if you do decide to add some sizzle to a video, the required software won't break the bank. How-to videos are an obvious choice. "Tour" videos-tours of your business, restaurant, the homes you build or sell, etc. are also a good idea. In addition to using them on your own Web site or blog, YouTube is an obvious sharing destination. Local search is also embracing video: CitySearch recently announced that local video ads will be added to its listings, and is also pursuing video opportunities.

4. Take and share photos. I'm a longtime believer in using Flickr as a marketing tool. The time and cost investment is minimal. And thanks to Flickr's incredibly active photo groups, you can share photos of your products with people who are interested. A pet store owner could share photos with the 2,000+ members of the pet parade group, which is one of dozens of animal-related groups. A company that makes iPod accessories could post nice product photos in the Apple group, with its ~2400 members. And a construction company that makes custom homes could post photos in the appropriate city group, like San Francisco or Chicago.

5. Try StumbleUpon. Of all the discovery-type of social sites (Digg, Reddit, Netscape, etc.), I believe StumbleUpon requires the lowest time investment. Joining groups related to your industry and adding friends from those groups can be done quickly. Once you do that, as you add pages to StumbleUpon-including your own great content-other users will "stumble upon" what you've added. As those visitors give it the "thumbs up", your content is then shown to even more users. Best of all, you won't need to spend several months building up a great user profile.

6. Join groups & mailing lists. Social marketing is about finding your customers where they are. There's a good chance at least some of your customers are using Yahoo Groups or Google Groups to share interests. Much like the Flickr examples above, there are probably groups/lists that are highly related to the products or services you offer. And much like the Yahoo Answers suggestion, being able to help others in this community setting can be a great marketing tool.

Every social marketing opportunity will have its own rules to follow, and you should make sure you know those rules. But here's one general rule for using these sites as marketing tools: Don't spam the system. Flickr doesn't want your entire product inventory posted, and they have rules against doing so. But a few high-quality photo submissions that add to the community are fine.

Whatever social marketing you do, ONE KEY RULE APPLIES-- Be An Active Contributor. Add to the signal, not the noise. When you do that, you're on the road to social marketing success and to driving both sales and awareness for your business- no matter what size it is.