Friday, May 25, 2012

Black Enterprise Small Business University Marketing Course Review Week 4 by Lashana Thomas

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This week for this week for Black Enterprise Small Business University expert teacher Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, teaches a course on Marketing.

Lesson 1: SOCIAL MEDIA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOUR BUSINESS

If you are launching a new business you need to understand your target audience, go where they are in order to reach them. For example, Marketers looking to promote a product or service for the millennial generation must launch campaigns online. Studies have shown that more than 40% of the millennial generations spend more than 6 hours a day online.  

How can you accomplish this? Social Media. Social Media has drastically change the way entrepreneurs market their products and services, you can no longer rely on traditional tactics to reach your target audience, especially millennia’s’ who are bombarded with hundreds’ of advertisements a  day. To break through the noise and reach out to them to directly through platforms such as Twitter , Facebook, Tumbler, Pinterest,  and the like. Understand what they’re into, who they are and what they aspire to be, and be sure to do your research. By completing your market research you can pick a platform that not only make sense to your customer but that make sense for your business. Decide which ones best fit your business and communicate the message of your brand.

If you are a part-time entrepreneur social media allows you to market your business anywhere in the world at any time, given the ease of technology and its accessibility. You can launch and manage a marketing campaign right on your smart phone, even if you have to be away from your business throughout the day, you can schedule some of your posts in advance, so you’re still part of the conversation, when you return engage with your customers and follow up on any outreach.

If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have the budget to launch a full scale multi-faceted marketing campaigns, you can use social media to create or renew buzz for your business. There is no cost to setting up accounts of many social media platforms we’ve discussed.  The greatest investment will be your time and the return could have huge positive effects on your business. This is something all entrepreneurs have to realize, there’s a saying you can either work with change or work against it. Social media presents an incredible opportunity not a challenge; it’s the modern day marketing tool for businesses to survive today, especially in a recovering economy. Business owners need to be smart workers and use all resources they have to their advantage. Social media can save time, money, and even the company itself, when used in the most efficient matter.

3 Key take-away for Social Media and what it means to your business:

  1. Know your audience and meet them where they are: It’s important to know and understand where your target audience is online. Remember social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumbler.
  2. Choose the most important platforms and decide which one or two helps you to communicate your business message in the best way: For example you may decide that a website like Pinterest doesn’t make sense for your business, that’s fine, just find the key places where you need to engage.
  3. Stay current on trends that may help your business: Technology was made to make life easier, faster, and more efficient, it’s your job as a business owner and entrepreneur to be up on the current trends and to see what really makes the most sense for your business.



Lesson 2: CONNECTING WITH YOUR CUSTOMER ORGANICALLY

It’s all about the connection. Learn how to communicate with your customer in a way that makes them come back to your business again and again.
The first thing to understand about connecting with your customer organically is to know who your consumer is. Think about what they look like? Where they shop? And where they hang out? Are they online, if so what websites do they visit most? Build a profile of your ultimate consumer; even give him or a name to make it more personal. Ask yourself would Rose like this new AD?

As a Marketer you should understand that Technology has changed the game of the industry today. Because of Technology there are so many generationally shared experiences, whereas traditionally, Marketers classified people by age. Now we classified people by their interest, for example, Fashion, Sports, or Technology. However in an era of growing individuality and advance technologies, consumers should now be defined on their cultural habits and mindsets. For example Tina’s business targets Millennia’s. Tina developed a new strategy by categorizing the millennial generation in 4 main tribes:
  • The Wired Techie
  • The conformist, but somewhat paradoxical preppy
  • The always mellow and alternative.
  • The cutting-edge independent


In Tina’s book, chasing youth culture and getting it right, she discusses these tribes in great detail, essentially millennia’s are purchasing products based on their values and beliefs. Consumers don’t have to be 13 to be a preppy or twenty- something’s to be an independent.  If we look at tribes in terms of their social activities, you can easily figure out how to reach them. In this crucial step of understanding your consumer and listening to what they need from their brand of choice, whether they want to feel part of a cause or part of an exclusive brand, it will forge an authentic relationship with your product and target consumer.

Several brands have done this successfully. One example is Coca-Cola, they love to say Coke is 125 years young and this has kept them at the forefront of their competition. American Eagle Outfitters, another example clearly defines their target as preppies and consistently creates product for that demographic. In response to its increasing popularities with tweens and young parents, it recently launched a tween brand called 77 Kids, which first began as online boutique, but has since expanded, to several brick and mortar stores.

When you’re thinking about how to communicate with your customer organically remember these 3 key steps:

  • Understand your consumer and what they expect from your product: This is an essential step in understanding what the consumer wants from your product and knowing what that consist of is key.


  • Market to a mindset: They are several shared generationally experiences now because of technology. The best way to reach an audience today is to understand their values and beliefs.


  • Build an authentic connection, and brand loyalty will be forged when consumers feel their needs have been met:  By understanding what your consumer needs from you and your products, this will help satisfy their personal values and beliefs. Marketers will be able to forge a connection with their audience, just as Coca-Cola and American Eagle Outfitters have done by listening to their audience.


Lesson 3: HOW TO BOOST THE VISIBILITY OF YOUR BUSINESS

Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners should take advantage of programs like Groupon and Living Social to provide discounted experiences to their customers. This is a fantastic way to develop a connection and gain loyalty with your customers. Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners should take advantage of networking opportunities and communities that provide support such as sprouter.com and engage the advice of established business men and women. One great way to get the advice of established business men and women is to join local boards in your community. It’s very important that these boards align with your personal interest but it’s also a great way to create lasting relationships for your business and yourself.

If you’re just starting out create a marketing plan of action, which includes where the product is placed, promoted, the cost, the value, the venue, and much more. My favorite saying is if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Clearly if you’re expanding your business that requires much planning after the initial strategy is set forth and into motion. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I expanding too quickly?
  • Do I have all the key supplies that I need?
  • How am I going to deal with human resources?
  • Do I need long -term staff or short -term staff?


All of these questions should be answered in an updated plan. Also make sure you to take into consideration your audience, the cost behind growing, and what the expected long term outcomes will be. Multi-tasking is key for part time business owners, use all of your resources, contacts, and go to plenty of networking events and conferences, this will create visibility for you as an owner and for your product. Most importantly know your competition and why your product is unique.

Remember these main points when planning to boost the visibility of your business:

First:  Utilize your resources and network. Join key boards, organizations, and anything that aligns with your personal interest.

Second: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail: Remember business and marketing plans are key functions of many different stages of your business development and growth.

Third: Know the value of your product and what makes it unique from the competition: Remember there’s always going to be competition and it’s important that you understand your value proposition and what makes your product or service unique.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Politically Incorrect BOSS By Aundrea Y. Wilcox

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The current political climate couldn't be riper for this topic.
  Office politics takes place in almost every business, and family business is no exception.  When non-family employees feel uninvolved, disempowered or like their rights and interests are ignored, the political arena intensifies.  They turn every situation into an opportunity to choose sides, which may not be best for the business.  The key to minimizing the negative impacts of office politics and maintaining a neutral workplace environment is communication. 

                
Have regular meetings that include non-family employees where everyone can suggest ideas and give feedback.  If there is a language barrier, offer to pay for lessons for non-family employees to learn the family language.  If that is not an option, at least have the civility to refrain from excluding non-family employees by speaking a language at work they cannot comprehend.  Your sensitivity will go a long way. 

                
When I lived in Atlanta, I worked at an Italian family-owned small business for three years.  For me, it was a constant struggle keeping the lines of communication open without coming across as intrusive or disrespectful.  I recall having a lunch meeting with my boss and his father (the CEO) and several other family employees at a public restaurant.  The conversation was mostly entirely spoken in Italian, so I was left out almost completely.  Nevertheless, I maintained my composure and smiled and nodded whenever I thought it was appropriate.  When the meeting was over (just lunch in my case), I had no idea until everyone stood up and headed for the door.  On the inside, I was upset and hurt by this situation, but I kept on doing my job (exceptionally well I should add) despite the alienation I felt, in hopes that things would improve. 

               
A few months later my boss announced he wanted to try a different career path, so he moved out of marketing and into the sales department.  Subsequently, I was promoted to Marketing Manager.  I had been patiently waiting for this chance, since I was told when I was hired that this would likely happen.  I kept the position for two years.  Eventually, however, I started hearing rumors that my former boss wanted to return to marketing, so it was no surprise to me when I was laid off suddenly.  As it turned out, outside sales wasn’t his cup of tea.  The marketing position that I held had been redesigned requiring sales experience.  Go figure!  
               
Actually, it was a blessing.  I learned a lot in the three years that I spent working for an international company, and I was able to secure a better paying job with more responsibility immediately.  My only regret is that I never got the chance to go to Italy, but maybe I will get that chance one day.
                
Government politics at work is categorically a bad idea.   What you do in the voting booth is nobody’s business but yours.  Likewise, respect your employees’ and customers’ political positions.  If customers don’t like what you have to say, they may simply boycott your business.  This is harder to do for an employee who may not have any other job option at the time.  Consequently, they may tolerate it for a short while, but they won’t put up with it forever.  And if you continue to beat them up about their political preferences and views, it can develop into a case of borderline workplace harassment. 
               
To protect yourself and uphold political neutrality, don’t allow candidate buttons, yard signs, posters, bumper stickers, tee shirts, or other political paraphernalia in or around the workplace.  Also, stop the distribution of any politically themed emails between employees on work time using work-issued equipment if you see it happening.  Bear in mind that what you watch on television or listen to on the radio at work also says something about your values and beliefs and it does matter.  If you have a T.V. or radio in your lobby or public waiting area, avoid tuning it to programs that might include offensive or politically-charged content.  Don’t leave the channel tuned to CNN or Fox News all day.  Mix it up from time to time.  It won’t hurt you to hear how the other side sees things once in a while—well, maybe just a little. 


Aundrea Y. Wilcox is also the author of the new book, Startup Savvy: Strategies for Optimizing Small Business Survival and Success.  To connect with Aundrea, follow her on Twitter @StartupSavvy, and Like her Facebook Author Page, StartupSavvy.  Visit startupsavvy.biz for more insights and tips about small business ownership and management.