Is Your Business Ready for Change?

They say the only constant in life is change, and for startups and businesses, that rule is practically written in stone. Today, social media marketing is that change and many businesses are finding that to remain relevant, they need to ride this wave wherever it takes them.
Below are 3 reasons to embrace social media (and tips on doing it well)

1. Visibility
If your business is not online, then for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. When even the Yellow Pages is accessed via Google search, if your business isn’t taking advantage of social media to promote your products and services, there is no guarantee that your customers will be able to pick you out from all the competition. A good social media strategy allows you to stand apart and see a direct result as shown by your customers’ responses, whether it be sponsored advertising on Facebook, or dedicated brand promotion and customer engagement through Twitter or Instagram.
Using search engine optimization and Google Analytics on your website is another good way to know that your customers can in fact find you, while also allowing you to track how they behave on your site when they do. This allows you to learn and improve your products and services, while learning the best ways to place yourself in front of the right customers. 

2. Customer Engagement
This is a big one. Social media has made it easier than ever for customers to tell businesses exactly what they want and how. They do this through patterns of behavior while browsing or purchasing goods or services through your business website, but also directly, through social media. 
Social media has brought back the ability of word of mouth to make or break a company’s image, because most customer service interactions with brands take place on public platforms like Twitter. According to J.D Power, 67% of customers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service, and 42% of them expect a response within 60 minutes. 

The savviest companies know how to use this to their advantage for the best customer service interactions. An example of this is the airline, JetBlue, which is renowned for quick and efficient customer service responses on their dedicated support Twitter feed. They are known to respond within minutes compared to the average 5.1 hour response rate cited by Simply Measured in a recent study done of the top 100 brands. 

Another great example is Xbox which holds the Guiness Record for “Most responsive brand on Twitter” (who knew that was a thing?) This is a feat achieved by having 27 dedicated Twitter support staff known as the “Elite Tweet Fleet” who respond almost round-the-clock to customer issues, while keeping their 400,000-plus followers up to date on new releases, tech and games news.

3. Cross Promotion
Different social media platforms can be used by businesses in fresh and unique ways depending on your services being offered. 
Instagram, for instance, allows for an ongoing stream of visually engaging content that reflects your business image and brand identity, while taking advantage of trending topics through relevant hashtags. 
Twitter allows you to quickly and directly connect with customers to resolve complaints or receive compliments. Facebook and Tumblr allow you to engage with a variety of user demographics, and newer platforms like Vine and SnapChat allow brands to participate in the latest social media trends in order to maintain brand visibility and relevance across the board.
The best thing about social media is how versatile it allows your business to be when it comes to engaging with your customer base. Once you understand what content works best, and where, you become more than simply a source for purchasing a given product or service. 
With an effective, wide-ranging social media campaign, your business can transcend the boundaries of your products and become a touchstone for an entire way of life, in much the same way Red Bull is now synonymous with extreme sports, and the Virgin group with innovative business practices.
The question now is, are you ready to make the change?

How Much Should You Spend On Marketing?

One area that entrepreneurs and start-ups may ignore is marketing.  Marketing is an essential part of any business plan, but is often neglected because we erroneously perceive marketing to have no tangible results. It is however a vital part of your business and your start up growth.  A Good marketing campaign includes brand development or refinement and will expose your product or service to your target audience in a meaningful way, it can also have measurable desired outcomes when properly tracked and proper metrics are used.

How much you should spend on marketing depends on what stage your start up is currently in, and is an investment with measurable results; you get back what you put in.  The first step is defining your target audience and learning about your target audience. Secondly, you should study how your competition markets and advertises their product and/or service, doing this will not only inspire and refine your own marketing strategy, it will also highlight new and creative avenues to target your audience. It is important to remain realistic when studying the competition, especially if your competition is more established. Start-ups are initially cash strapped so having a tight and realistic budget is imperative to your long term success.  Your marketing budget should take into consideration the amount of time you or your team members will take away from other tasks to focus on marketing.  Here are a few methods you can use to determine your marketing budget:

1. A Percentage of  your Total Operating Budget
This number will vary greatly based on several factors.  The business that you are in, the product that you offer, and the stage your start up is at will all play a role in your marketing plan and budget.  There is a long-standing rule that on average you should spend somewhere between 1 and 10 percent of the annual sales or projected annual sales.  If your start up is brand new and potential clients have yet to recognize your brand, this amount should be higher and more along 15 to 20% of your operating budget.  Always be realistic about what your start up can afford, and try to save money by doing some of your marketing yourself.
2. A Percentage of Sales
This method is better suited to a start-up that has been operational long enough to have sales and sale forecasts.  Basing your marketing budget on realistic sales expectations is effective because it can be based on actual unit sales. A problem with this method is when faced with a decline in sales spending on marketing is usually decreased as well, and this can be a mistake because focusing on marketing may help recover your sales.  The general rule for this method is to spend 7 to 10 percent of each sale or anticipated sale on your marketing.

Your spending on marketing should also be based on an accurate anticipated return on your investment.  Over spending can substantially harm your business, but not spending enough can be equally detrimental.  Your marketing budget should be constantly re-examined. Using measurable metrics to determine what works will help refine your budget and tailor it to your specific needs.