Great article in biz journal from bizjournals
Of all the challenges small business owners face, scaling their business is one of the hardest.
You want to capitalize on your success, but fear you won’t be able to consistently offer the personal touch that customers rely on, or that you’ll compromise quality by bringing on additional staff, or you’ll dilute your brand if you grow too quickly.
Picture of a scale
On the other hand, the demand for your products and services is steadily growing and you see even more opportunities if you could just figure out how to scale.
While there’s lots of discussion about the challenges of scaling a small business, here we’ll focus on scaling your marketing. This, ultimately, will put you in a position to scale your business.
Matching perceptions with reality
Before you can dive into new marketing strategies, you’ll want to get a pulse on customer satisfaction, external perceptions about your business, and insight into your current marketing efforts. Here are three ways to find out what your customers really think.
Issue a short survey
The areas you want to focus on are improving the customer experience, product and service satisfaction, and what inspires customers to come back and refer friends. As you craft the 10-12 short questions, keep in mind that they should lead to answers you can’t easily get in person or online.
Analyze your marketing results
Customers leave behind digital breadcrumbs that offer insight into what they want. In email, look at your open and click-through rates to see which content strikes a chord and what’s falling flat.
On social media, most of the popular networks offer free insights into your performance, so take advantage of Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and YouTube Analytics to see how you’re doing. As for your website, here’s a quick start guide to understanding Google Analytics.
Another critical place to look is online review sites. Knowing that there will be always be a certain percentage of customers who are never satisfied, take those comments with a grain of salt and always respond positively. But don’t dismiss consistent feedback that sheds light on issues that should be addressed, especially before you scale.
Ask customers how you’re doing
When customers are at the cash register or come in on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. When you do, be explicit by letting them know that you’re looking to grow your business and would love their honest feedback on what you can do to improve their experience.
Armed with this information, you’re ready to put a plan in place that not only scales your marketing, but also scales your business.
Extending your reach without extending your day
One of the biggest misunderstandings about scaling marketing efforts is that it requires you to do more marketing. It’s not about more marketing; it’s about more effectively using your marketing tools.
Here are seven insider tips for getting the most out of your marketing efforts.
1. Use the marketing tools that offer the biggest bang for the least cost and effort
The combination of email and social media marketing is the most cost-effective way to reach the maximum amount of people in your target audience.
The trick of it is to engage the 20 percent of your customers who will drive 80 percent of your business. Then, expand your reach by investing time in the one or two social networks where the majority of your customers are most active. This strategy will drive repeat business and amplify the reach of your messages through social sharing and word-of-mouth.
2. Define and embrace your differentiators
Based on customer feedback and your own expertise, identify the top two to three differentiators that make your business unique and use them to stand out in in a sea of competitors. Since repetition is the key to remembering, reiterate those key differentiators on your social media profiles, website, and newsletters.
3. Repurpose, don’t repeat, your content
You’ll save time and reach more customers by coming up with specific campaign ideas and building on them through email and social media efforts.
For example, a yoga studio striving to increase enrollment could feature a newsletter with proven facts and stats on the benefits of yoga, customer quotes, a special introductory offer, and an incentive when existing members refer new members. The content can be repurposed into tweets and Facebook posts with videos featuring basic poses and customer testimonials.
You can make it even easier for followers to share your content by including suggested tweets, using a dedicated hashtag, and inserting a sharing bar in your newsletter. Based on this example, you can easily see how creating core content and adapting it for different media allows you to stay front and center and extend the life of a campaign.
4. Maximize your online presence
Along with making it simple for existing customers to spread the word, you also want to easily be found by new customers.
Some ways to ensure a positive, ubiquitous online presence are to complete and update your social media profiles. The more comprehensive they are, including specifics on your location, hours, and prices, the more likely your business is to surface higher in search results.
To be sure you show up in all the relevant online directories, take advantage of tools like Single Platform that make it easy to quickly update and populate your online business profile across the web.
5. Engage customers on a personal level
This includes segmenting your contact list so you can present personalized content and offers to subgroups of customers based on their interests and location. This will boost response rates and inspire them to share it with their like-minded friends.
Also, reach out to your VIP customers with a special thank-you note or small token. And when customers have clearly had a great experience with your business, ask them to share it on review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor and/or social networks.
6. Work your local connections
Network with other local small business owners to drive word of mouth, collaborate on joint marketing activities and stay visible in the neighborhood. All of this elevates your profile as you scale.
7. Bring on additional resources
Hiring a marketing consultant with expertise in email and social media could save you lots of time and money. Since they have a mastery of engaging audiences, they can help you quickly scale your marketing efforts.
Nobody said scaling a business is easy. But if you’re in a position where growth is consistently steady and strong, now is the time to get your marketing house in order so you can more easily take your business to the next level.
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Israel Serna is Regional Development Director at Constant Contact.