Interviews With Experts #4: Mark Schaefer



(Schaefer Marketing Solutions)

WELCOME BACK to Interviews With Experts (to read past Interviews, click here). This week, we’ve got a really in-depth discussion with Mark W. Schaefer about how a small business can plan and execute an effective Social Media campaign. If this is the first Interview you’ve checked out, I promise you it will not only answer your questions about getting started with social media, but also teach you how to gauge your expectations and allocate your resources.

Mark W. Schaefer is the Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions where he specializes in corporate social media workshops, blogs at {grow} and is the author of several best-selling books including Return On Influence.

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Dan Gallo: Hi Mark, being the fourth expert to weigh in on leveraging social media, what’s your best advice the average Small Business can use to grow their business using social media?

Mark Schaefer: Well Dan, the first thing you have to do is make the transition to a social marketing mindset, which is difficult for companies of any size!

One huge consumer goods company laid-off 1,500 marketers last month because they didn’t have the right skill-set to move into the future. Another global brand I work with has literally tested the digital competency of every marketing person in their company–and even the high scorers are going through re-training. So the question you have to ask yourself is: do you jettison ineffective resources or aggressively re-train them?

But for a small business with very few resources & even less room for error: How do you make this transition? You probably don’t have the luxury of hiring a new team to create a social media effort, so here are seven ways to minimize the risk during this transition:

1) Do a reality check. Before committing to a new plan, conduct a simple survey or get out and talk to your customers. Where are they spending their time? What are your competitors doing?

2) Learn. To move ahead with social media you don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to learn enough to at least ask the right questions.

3) Set real goals. What are your company’s critical needs right now? How can some of these new social media opportunities specifically align with your goals? Don’t get caught up in the hype. Your budget probably doesn’t have much room for “extra”, so think through how this activity will best move the needle for your business.

4) Get professional help. 95% of the companies I see engaging in social media are simply checking a box and not getting much out of the effort. In other words, they had somebody’s cousin create the company Facebook page. For the first six months, it usually makes sense to invest in a marketing professional to give you some guidance and speed you through the learning curve.

(It’s like strapping yourself to an instructor the first time you skydive. After a couple trips, you’re ready to go it alone. When seeking expert help, ask this question: What previous marketing experience do you have and can you show me measurable results? That will weed out most self-proclaimed “gurus!”)

5) Don’t view social media as an “add on.” Before you hire a new social media team, I would first look at where you’re spending your current budget and resources – is it time to simply re-adjust? For example, spending on newspaper advertising has declined by 75% in the US, if you’ve been spending much of your time on traditional forms of advertising, it might be time to move those resources. You have to go where your customers are. Should you re-allocate? If you just pile more work on to existing employees this will probably fail.

6) Re-frame the opportunity. Here is some good news: Ten years ago, you’d take out an ad and wait for something to happen. Today, literally every employee can be involved in “marketing” as a beacon for your company on the social web. It’s a new way of thinking, isn’t it? How can you capture employee incremental time or down time? How can you involve and engage the many networks of your employees, customers, and other stakeholders? For a little bit of time and effort, you can potentially have a very powerful impact and possibly reach vast new audiences–which makes social media a great equalizer!

7) Realistic expectations. For many SBEs, the result from social media marketing is more like the long-term benefits of networking at a chamber of commerce meeting than the short-term benefits of issuing a coupon in the newspaper. Don’t get me wrong — short-term benefits are possible — but in general, aim for long-term benefits such as increasing customer loyalty.

I’ve worked with many small businesses and start-ups so I know how painful and risky these marketing decisions can be, but trust me, follow these steps and it’ll take some of the fear out of the equation.

* * *

Sometimes running an SBE is like a long distance race with asthma: you feel like you can’t breathe! So don’t run the race alone!

Dan Gallo
Managing Director, The Allasso Group


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