The great news for business is that emerging technologies are making possible a return to earlier times when business owners and their customers knew each other and had personal relationships that extended beyond the tight boundaries of buying and selling goods and services.
The public face of a business has moved from the corporate to the personal. These days the word on the street is that people like dealing with people. They want to know specific names and faces. They want their business dealings to be with other humans. The upside is that they might be more loyal because they like and trust you. The downside is that they might not buy a perfectly good product because they had a bad experience with you.
Taking this on board, and acting on it, might seem counterintuitive to those who are trying to avoid tying their business too closely to their personal brand. Will it become harder to remove yourself from the business when you want to sell it? Well, no; you still need to make it a priority for your business to have the systems and processes in place to run without relying solely on you. Blame automated phone answering services, with robotic voices offering so-called “customer service”, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s become essential to personalise your business. This means that when you are picking the name you are going to use on Twitter or other social media, in most cases, you should consider using your real name. Similarly, don’t upload your logo, show your real face. If you are the person with the vision behind your business, be proud of it and use yourself to promote it.
Do you believe that customers in your industry aren’t really into social media? Statistics indicate that even if they’re not now, it’s only a matter of time. Remember we just mentioned that people want to deal with the people in the business, NOT the business. Social media is a clear offshoot from that trend. Social media is about building communities and relationships. In the business world, that translates to making connections with customers and prospects. It’s marketing 101 upgraded by a new style of technological support.
If your competitors and your customers aren’t there yet, grab a golden opportunity to get ahead of the curve and start finding your feet in the social media sphere using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Grab a spot before your competitors do and be ready to greet customers and prospects when they arrive.
Video marketing – pictures tell a thousand stories
YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google these days; people are searching for what they want online and the great news for business owners is that YouTube allows you to upload your videos for free!
YouTube visitors don’t expect to watch an Oscar winning movie; in fact they’re well trained to viewing all sorts of home grown efforts. Any business person can purchase a decent video camera at an affordable price and start shooting testimonials, behind the scenes at work, interesting tidbits and information about their product or industry, and visual demonstrations of just how their products work.
It’s an enormously powerful way to connect to your prospects in a very personal way. 80% of page visitors will view a video and 52% will act as a result of watching it – these are statistics you shouldn’t be ignoring when planning your marketing mix.
The average small business doesn’t have an entire IT staff or the budget needed to fiddle about building a code-heavy proprietary network – open the door to “Utility computing”.
Utility computing allows you to ditch a number of IT related expenses such as backup systems and servers and reduce support costs. You aren’t tied to your office for access to emails or files. It can all be done, even storing your data, by using applications that are stored and delivered via the internet. It’s called cloud computing, and as long as you can access the internet, you can view your data, collect emails and run your business – from wherever you are.
If you’re a newbie, try sampling Google Apps. The free version – which is more than adequate for a small organisation – allows you to host your email on Google’s servers, store documents, and even create intranet sites and share calendars. Aside from Google, there are many other service providers, offering everything from hosting your customer relationship management system (such as Capsule CRM) to your accounting records (xero.com).