How much would you pay for a social media service for your small business?

Social Media Landscape
Social Media Landscape (Photo credit: fredcavazza)

Did you see that story the other day on how a social media company contracted a coastal city for 10 days and sent them a bill of R500,000?

The municipality gave out half a million Rand on a contract to promote the coastal city on social media. The reported contract involved paying R50,000 a day to:

  • provide two Facebook status updates a week
  • upload three pictures to Facebook a week
  • send a bulk tweet
  • upload Youtube videos
  • upload 20 images to instagram
  • advertise on its website

A Sunday newspaper reported that the city’s communications department has an operating budget of R48 million a year, a specialist web team and close to 50 employees in the communications team. Continue reading “How much would you pay for a social media service for your small business?”

Innovation in the media – too little too late?

Tabloid Tycoon
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Visiting the city of Cape Town I was surprised to see its afternoon newspaper transformed into a tabloid after packaging itself for 155 years in broadsheet format.

The maiden editorial shouted “Here’s the future” with loud protestations that the newspaper would not become a frothy “tabloid” but a sober “compact”.

Yet you had to thumb through a feature lead story on the front page and several more feature pages until you came across a few news bites tucked deep inside the middle.

Mainstream, traditional media are in a frenzy to innovate because they are bleeding from online media. Today’s wired generation has a short attention span and is addicted to social media. Even companies are battling to know their shareholders, who buy online and are shareholders for as little as 24 hours.

Why is all this important to small business people? How does it relate to the business? I’ll come to that in a moment. Continue reading “Innovation in the media – too little too late?”

Creative heads in the clouds

Creativity in advertising can help catch people’s attention and win customers. Yet some advertisers’ heads seem to be in the clouds when they don’t pay attention to the conversation taking place in their market. Creative approaches need to link with the customer’s world to provide returns.

 Sometimes you just wonder how “creative” advertising can be so detached from its real world surroundings. It’s much too easy to criticize someone else’s advertising so I will mention just one short falling of an advert I saw in a national business weekly. It totally missed a big opportunity.

The advert was about cloud computing and gave examples of its applications in society and ended by mentioning the company’s contribution to global computing. All very good except that this ad was run on the Sunday midway through the COP 17 climate change negotiations in Durban. Surrounding pages in the business section were plastered with ads about climate change and solutions for a low-carbon future. Now, how possibly could the advert fail to mention any reference about climate change? It’s sort of like walking up the road from King’s Cross Station and not being aware that the place has social problems (which we won’t go into here).

After reading the advert on a flight to Durban I asked the passenger sitting next to me: “What do you make of this?” He took a look and said, “They could at least have mentioned something about their e-waste and what they are doing about it.” Later the passenger mentioned that he was the climate and environmental advisor to the presidency of a country in Africa.

Being present to the conversation already taking place

So what is the real message for marketers – off-line and online – with this advert? Simply put, to be present and listen to the conversations already taking place among customers. Surely, the team that put together this advert could have thought about what would be going on when the ad would appear? If they had, they might have recognised that COP 17 would be a major topic of discussion in the papers and online during the negotiations taking place in Durban.

They could have come up with a quick short-list of examples of solutions that their computing is bringing about to help mitigate climate change. It would have then been easy for them to join their customers’ conversation which would have certainly included climate change and the global climate change negotiations. The other advertisers had thought about their timing – some even used leaves symbolically acting as the blades for wind turbines to promote renewable energy.

Creativity doesn’t mean generating ideas that are detached from people and the marketplace. Products of creativity are meant to inspire, entertain, influence perhaps and ultimately sell. Even a five-minute session with a basic idea generation tool would have assisted in this instance with developing the original idea and making it so much more powerful.

Loosen up and fire your imagination

By joining the customer’s conversation, understanding their interests, problems and aspirations, businesses become more relevant and real when they try to connect with customers. Communicating with worn-out come-ons or unsupported authority in a competitive marketplace is just not authentic or meaningful. But to get there companies need to loosen up and become more creative.

The problem is that the words “creative” and “creativity” are such catch-all terms that they have come to even have negative connotations. What we mean here by these words is to come up with new ideas that will profit your business. It involves a search for ideas using creative and innovation tools that help you generate a range of possibilities that hold the potential to produce amazing results whether for your product, service or business.

Encourage expansive thinking

Such expansive thinking may itself sound like needing to put your “head in the clouds” but it is vital when your business is under threat or you need innovation to compete against increasingly strong competition, especially in 2012. Innovation, coming up with new products, services and new ways of doing business, is essential for responding and anticipating a changing business environment. For smaller businesses that are much closer to their customers whether on main street or in industrial parks innovation is critical for maximizing returns on any investment.

How to generate embarrassingly low-cost ideas to promote your business

Activate your thinking with these seven low-cost, no cost ideas relevant to your marketplace whether you run your business from home, retail on a main street or shopping mall or trade online. Learn how to position your products and services in a price-driven environment.

In tough, competitive markets, businesses need to come up with fresh ways to promote their products and services. Promotions attract attention to your products and services, help make them stand out from your competitors and give your sales a much-needed boost when customers are looking for strong reasons why they should buy from you.

Rethink your positioning

Some entrepreneurs think promotions mean discounts. They baulk at offering discounts when sales are down more than a third on the previous year, and larger chains are offering incredibly low-priced deals. Promotion doesn’t have to equal discounts. Assess the value of your offer, the quality of your service and guarantee. Think low costs, high impact.

How can you change your offer to a market that is cautious about spending? If you have been selling expensive products and services in the good times, you’ll need to rethink your strategy in a price-driven environment. Your marketing materials also need to reflect and reinforce your cost-value proposition.

Think through your positioning strategy carefully because positioning moves are like those you make on a chessboard. Your move may prompt your competitors to make counter moves. So you need to think about not only your next move but the one you’ll need to make after your competitors have responded to your repositioning.

Quick promotional ideas brainstorm

Use idea generation tools and techniques to come up with new ideas to promote your business. Brainstorm ideas and keep them in a notebook, a journal or on record cards (3 x 5 cards). Choose your best three and try one out.

Check what other businesses are doing by reading magazines, dropping in on stores unrelated to your business and speaking to business people you trust. Listen to customers because they can be your best source of promotional idea.

Gold in mailing lists

Do you have a customer mailing list with both postal and e-mail addresses? How quickly can you mail out a special offer to your customers? A physical sales letter is personalised and can stand out in a crowded market.

Consider acquiring marketing “assets” from businesses that are closing down. Perhaps they have a customer mailing list that you can purchase for a fraction of the cost it took the original business to acquire. Such a list is valuable because it represents people who have bought products before — and may need your products or service.

Social media strategy

Social media such as FaceBook, Twitter and other Internet-based social networking offer low-cost promotional opportunities. But you need to know what you are doing. You must know how to promote your business without turning off prospects. You need to devote time to keep your content fresh. Will your social media marketing provide any follow through for conversion? A FaceBook page may not convert any new business but customers may ask why you don’t have one.

Professionalise your communications

Poorly written and designed marketing materials are a recipe for disaster. Getting in well-meaning family members, friends and secretaries to write with no knowledge of business or marketing is just plain short-sighted. Even blogs for small businesses can be better handled by a professional copywriter or ghostwriter. You may especially need such services if you are in your store or business the whole day and can’t find the time to write blog posts and publish them. You also need to learn how to promote your blog because there are gazillions of then out there (get a number for how many blogs there are).

Network face to face

Networking with your customers at your local chamber or commerce or business organisation is often the last thing on the entrepreneur’s mind. But it provides a strong opportunity to promote your business face to face. Think carefully about driving customers to your business through FaceBook, Twitter or LinkedIn when you aren’t even doing some direct selling by calling on businesses in your town or city.

A low-cost prospecting idea

While everyone is blasting out e-mails, FaceBook posts and Tweets, track down names that you spot in newspapers, magazines and even advertising flyers if you think those people will make good prospects. Call them or pay them a visit — personal contact will stand out from the electronic blizzard.

Arrange a promotional ideas swop meet

Share your promotional ideas with your fellow business people. Perhaps organise an idea swap meet group which involves meeting like-minded business people once a month to share new sales and promotional ideas that have worked.

Promotion helps your products and services jump out in a competitive, tight marketplace. By generating your own promotional ideas, you may not only save costs but you will breath life into your sales when your business needs it most.


“Marketing on a Shoestring: Low-cost Tips for Marketing your Products or Services”, Jeffrey Davidson, Wiley Small Business

“Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”, Al Ries and Jack Trout, Warner Books

Finding time to create # 1: Why it matters

Image by wwarby via Flickr

You want to increase the impact of your work but it’s almost impossible most of the time to raise your game. You believe you should be more creative in your work but can’t find the time to sit down and think. You must start a new project but you don’t want to outline your thoughts at your desk because it just doesn’t feel creative. You try to find the time to get started but you just can’t.

What’s going on here? What’s preventing you from being more creative in your work? Do you need to be more disciplined? Is it because you haven’t established a routine and you are all over the place? Could it be a psychological block? Is it really about not having time?

It’s got harder to find the time to be creative because of the growing number of distractions in the workplace. Some studies say we get interrupted at work every eight minutes. Distractions make it much harder to focus and concentrate on important work, the work you get recognised and rewarded for and which gives you the greatest satisfaction. It’s a lot easier to turn to lighter tasks and amusements. No matter how much you convince yourself that social media will be significant in the future, your important work remains the core of your value to yourself and the marketplace.

So where do we look? Time management. This could be the panacea we’ve been looking for. But wait. We remember all those times we tried time management programmes and what happened? We found that it’s almost impossible to control our time despite keeping detailed time-planners when so many other things demand our attention – e-mails, follow-up work on projects, proposals, projects, people calling us on our landlines and then on our cell phones when our landlines are engaged, sms’s, BlackBerry messages and even tweets to get our attention. Do we really control our time or do interruptions control us?

We know we are smart – we can get a grip on this time thing and take charge of our lives. Our next search takes us into the whole personal qualities trap. We are out of control because we need more self-discipline. We’ll work ourselves out of our trap with better personal qualities. Soon we begin to realise that self-discipline is not enough. The onslaught of distractions, the demands, the deadlines, keep coming. We begin to feel overwhelmed. There must be a better way, we say to ourselves.

If you doubt the need for creativity just consider the challenges of modern living and working. Creative thinking is required more than ever in the past. Economic decline and stagnation means the need for better products and services, more cost-effective marketing with better results. Natural resources under threat requires new thinking for cars, homes, architectural design, consumer appliances and industrial processes. Sustainable products need to be made with less and be functionally superior. Design becomes far more important in a marketplace with many similar products vying for attention. Media and entertainment requires innovation to new forms of pleasurable distraction such as computer games, social media, downloading music, podcasts and videos.

In the next blog post, part of a series on “The secret to finding time to create”, we will further explore what prevents us from making the creative process part of our personal and work lives.

Idea prompt

Below are some questions that may help you to understand better your existing beliefs, processes and habits. Think through the questions that intrigue you and write down the answer to the question that most affects your life right now:

  • What associations do you have with being creative? Does the word “creative” disturb you?
  • What does being creative mean to you – wild thoughts and ideas or coming up with something fresh and amazing that can be put to use?
  • How important is it to you to be more creative in your personal and business life?
  • Where and when do you come up with your best ideas?
  • Where could you benefit most from being creative in your personal and professional life?
  • How well do you control distractions?
  • What controls your time?
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