strategies

From Brick and Mortar to 0's and 1's: The Importance of Social Media in the Digital Era

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We’ve all heard how important it is for small businesses to connect with consumers. Anyone who’s seen a 90’s TV sitcom is familiar with the local café owner who knows the name of every Tom, Dick and Sally that comes through their doors. “Just the usual Bob?” “You betcha Sally.” This type of personal connection is one of the biggest competitive edges local small business owners have against larger competitors. But as you make the transition to digital, you’ll inevitably find yourself getting less and less face time with the consumer. When growing an online presence, you might not always have the chance nor the time to make the quality connections you can in a storefront—there’s content to produce, logistics to map out, inventory to stock, and books to keep (of course, we’d be more than happy to help you with the latter). But as you find yourself figuring out the in’s and out’s of your online storefront, social media will be there to help you recreate that intimate experience you’ve experienced during your personal interactions with customers. Social media is primarily a story telling platform, and it’s a chance for you to tell your story. 

How you choose to use social media will influence the emotions consumers feel when purchasing your products. What makes you unique? Are the things you share relevant to your niche? Are you highlighting your creative process? Are you showcasing products without becoming a spambot? And most importantly, is there a human element to the picture your painting? Of course you’ve heard about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But are you using Periscope, Snapchat, and RSS Feeds? And if so, are you tailoring unique content to each platform, or are you just shoving the same content through different pipelines? 

In today’s world, mastering social media is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. But before you start pumping out content you need to have a plan that includes a self assessment, the development of a brand voice, and a well thought out schedule. If you struggle finding things that make you unique, ask your customers what it is they like most about your business. Once you’ve come up with a plan and you’re ready to take the world by storm, you’ll arrive to what is for many the most difficult part—gaining followers. Social media and Marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuckpoints out that the most important step for a brick and mortar hoping to push foot traffic to the dot-com space, is to tap their in-store base. Using old school methods such as signs, word of mouth, and informative receipts—you can push some of your most loyal and share-friendly customers to your digital outlets. This will be your most plentiful well in terms of immediate followers. 

But even with an intelligent plan, creating an online community will take time. For many businesses this will mean 1-2 years of patient and consistent content production before they see a “brand cult” begin to form. Taking into account all of these considerations can be a daunting task. But as you learn what resonates with your new consumer base, you’ll come to realize that content is just as important as product. There is plenty of room in the digital space for the brick and mortar, but for you to succeed it will require a social media plan that brings that old fashion personal touch to new and exciting platforms.

Winning Fall Strategies for Your Business Type

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The weather is cooling, the leaves are transforming and your favorite coffee shops and craft breweries are all releasing their pumpkin-flavored concoctions. And depending on the type of business you run, your strategy may be changing up in a major way.

While not all of these strategies will work for your individual business, these general guidelines will. 

If you run a product-based business 

Whether you manufacture and sell your own line of organic jams or savvily source garage sales for items to resale on eBay, you’re probably gearing up for the most wonderful (and profitable!) time of the year. 

Business wisdom says that eCommerce sellers should begin preparing for the holiday season as soon as the last holiday season is over. But even if you’re just now getting in the mood for holiday cheer, consider these fall business moves: 

Get the timing right

“Fall” may not feel like the holidays to you, but consumers are doing their shopping sooner than ever. Be sure your store is ready for the holiday season as early as September! 

Stock up on best sellers

Read the industry trend reports and stock up on inventory. The last thing you want this holiday season is to have customers clamoring for an item you can’t get your hands on. 

Revamp your website

Spruce up your website for the holidays. You’re your predicted best sellers easy to find, add suggested secondary items or even include gift-wrapping as an option. Be sure to widely publicize the things that customers want to know, like holiday shipping cut off dates and the best way to reach customer service. 

Consider discounts and promotions

The holiday season can be a cutthroat retail environment. Consider discounts, promotions, special offers for signing up for email lists and more to keep customers clicking “buy now.” 

Line up extra help

Make sure you’ll have all the help you need sourcing, fulfilling orders, shipping and answering customer service queries. 

Know your numbers

It isn’t enough to simply make lots of sales. You want to make sure that Q4 is a profitable one. Make sure your products are priced competitively but profitably. If you’ve been in business more than one year, try pulling your weekly profit and loss reports from last year and then set yourself a goal to beat those numbers! 

The holiday season can be a nerve-wracking time for year for a product seller. But a little planning and forethought can make it an extremely successful one, too! If you run a service-based business

Service-based business owners sometimes run into the opposite problem than their product-selling counterparts. Many clients wind down around Thanksgiving and don’t pick up again until after the New Year. Others, who might operate on the calendar year, simply run out of budget to hire service providers. 

That’s not to say that seasonal or holiday-based service providers won’t experience a banner winter. Imagine how much a plumber could charge to come out and fix backed up sink for a house full of family on Christmas Eve! 

If you do find your business winding down around the fall, though, try these strategies:

Invest in marketing or advertising

Now is the time to start that Twitter account or buy that ad on the website where your target audience hangs out. 

Sharpen up your skills

Take a class or learn a new skill to supplement your business for when things pick back up in January. 

Follow up with past customers

It’s much easier to keep a customer than find a new one. Let past customers know that you are available. 

Beef up your network

Now is the time to catch up with old friends, clients and colleagues, whether over email, coffee or dinner. You’ll have a more flexible schedule and they just might have some work to send your way. 

Rest

If you consistently see slowdown at a certain time of year, perhaps this is the time to plan for your vacation or sabbatical. Save up throughout the year to cover gaps in cash flow and let loose a little!