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A Social Media Marketing Plan Geared Toward Small Businesses
Posted on January 25th 2013
For the last 15 years or so I have been providing companies with online marketing services to help them improve their sales. I have worked for multi-million dollar companies with big budgets, but have also worked with companies with very limited funds.
When I first started, I worked exclusively for small businesses and I didn't charge much. But, I made sure that every client got more than their money's worth by using guerrilla marketing tactics that produced real results. This gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I just never got really from working with the big guys. Yeah, the larger companies paid me a more money, but it was a much more stressful atmosphere, and there was always so much red tape that it was often not much fun to handle some of those campaigns.
Recently I have gone back to my original focus--back to helping small businesses. I've decided that I would rather help small businesses than big companies that might pay me more money. I'm very aware this means more work in the long run, but I feel that the satisfaction of helping companies grow within the online space will more than make up for it by a kind of “personal ownership” of the projects I create for them. With that said, from now on I plan on writing articles that help new and small business owners to increase their revenue streams by using the same guerrilla style marketing techniques that I know produce great results.
In this article I would like to discuss social media and give you a few tips on how you, as a small business, can effectively use this powerful marketing channel. I will give you a simple plan that you can follow to increase your Website traffic using social media networks.
1 – Your Website.
I am assuming you already have one, right? In my opinion, a company without an online presence has a long way to go before making it to the big leagues. But it's also essential that your Website is professionally developed. Try to avoid those services with instant-Website-offers that provide you with cookie-cutter Websites that you can “create yourself” in minutes.
Your Website is your office or storefront on the Web; you want to portray your company the same way the Fortune 500's do. Those guys spend thousands on their Websites because they know the importance it has in today's more tech-savvy marketplace. Luckily, a professional Website is not as expensive as in the past and you now can find developers to build an inexpensive business Website that shows your company's true professionalism.
In this article I'm assuming you already have a Website (shame on you if you don't), so we'll start with some online basics.
2 – Understand your audience and have a content plan in place
It's one thing to understand who a potential customer might be, but it's quite another to figure out their search patterns and on-line behavior. How are they finding the products or services they need on the Web? What kind of content will they look for, and will yours attract them to your Website? A good content plan will go a long way, but you really have to study this with a little bit of market research.
If you don't write well (or simply don't have the time), hire professional writers on the Web for as little as $30-$40 per article. I personally try to make sure that the Website I am working on offers at least 10 articles written for that particular marketplace. However, you don't need to offer all 10 articles at one time. In fact, I want you to spread 5 of those articles over a set period of time so that we can distribute them alongside your newsletter and via social media networks.
3 – Creating a “Sales Funnel” article series
The idea for this series is to guide your readers into a funnel that eventually turns them into a customer. We start by developing a story that your target audience can relate to and appreciate. For example, let's say you sell a weight loss product. We could write a story about a woman who is struggling with her weight.
NOTE: This example is weight loss, but the principle is the same regardless what product or service you offer. Of course, as regards any health related topic, please check your state laws or guidelines for your industry before writing your articles. Also remember that in the interests of verisimilitude, (in any industry) there are plenty of real-life stories to be inspired by.
Using this example, in the first article, write about what this woman goes through on a daily basis, describing feelings and thoughts, and try to get the reader to relate to her. Important – DO NOT SELL ANYTHING. Put your own needs aside for the moment. Simply set forth the dilemma of a person who has not yet found a solution to a painful problem. Instead, write a story, not an advertisement. There should be no sales pitches or call-to-action in this article. This article simply introduces the series and leads into the next article.
The second article simply updates the story. Perhaps the woman has finally decided to change her own fate by getting back in shape. We don't want to get into great detail here about how she planned to do it, but we of course do give real information on what some of her options are--which leads into our third article where we can begin showing what healthy options she chooses to solve her problem.
In the third article, explain the options she picked (one of them can be your product, of course). You can introduce your product or service to the reader now, offering actionable advice that the reader can use, including bits about your product. You still don't want the article to resemble a sales pitch; it is first and foremost a story.
The fourth article should be a story of success. Describe how her chosen method worked for her and improved her life. This is where you get to explain exactly what your product or service did for this person. Now you can begin to send people to your offer by linking specific words within the article to your sales page. Mostly though, you want to create your “hotlist”. Ask the reader if they would like more information about the product via email, directing them to an opt-in form.
The fifth article is actually a promo. Now that the reader is familiar with your product it is time to write your promo and send it to your hot list and your other marketing channels. Writing a good promo involves a combination of creative writing and direct marketing skills, so it might be worth outsourcing this part to a professional copywriter. Writers have varying talents; writing copy for sales is not the same as writing a story, so make sure the writer you hire (if you decide to go that route) is a copywriter and not just a content writer.
I will cover writing Promos in a future article. Just make sure you keep testing different variations of your promo until you get the absolute highest conversion rates.
To sum up, you must slowly guide readers from a variety of different marketing channels (social media, SEO, newsletters etc.) into your sales funnel, so that they come out the other end as a client. Remember, this formula can be used for just about ANY industry. The articles themselves may be different, but you can always use the same methods.
4 – Distributing your content
On a quick note, I want to point out that you must add the articles to your Website first. Posting your articles to 3rd party Websites before posting to your site can result in you losing authorship of the article, as far as Google's algorithms are concerned. Google likes unique content, so the author (meaning the first to publish the page) gets credit for authorship, and will also get more SEO value for this page than any other sites that may publish your writing afterward.
Distribute your articles to the top social media outlets on a weekly (or daily, if you have plenty of articles) schedule. Start with the 5 articles you created for your sales funnel series. Post the first article from your series to your Website, and post the link for this new page to your LinkedIn status and groups. Tweet it and post it on your Facebook account. Add the link and title (and description when possible) to any social media site you visit often (I like to personally limit my posts to 5 or 6 networks).
You also want to take those articles and turn them into an auto-responder series using an online service such as Aweber or Get Response. Auto-responders send out your series of emails on a set schedule and any new people who subscribe to your newsletter will begin getting your Sales Funnel series of articles as a newsletter (set to a similar schedule as your original posts). After the series ends they will get your regular articles (the next 5 articles and any new ones you create) in their newsletter.
If your series generates leads and/or sales, RINSE AND REPEAT. Keep using this formula to increase your traffic every week. And, make sure you try out different versions of your articles (especially the sales funnel), in order to test conversion rates. See what layouts, copy or images work, and fine tune your pages and newsletter until you have the absolute highest conversion rates possible.