The Small Business Marketing Catch-22 (3)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PART 3: In the first two parts of this series, it was demonstrated that most small businesses don't have an adequate basic web presence in the first place, nor does the average small business person have the time or ability to fix this problem. As if this Catch-22 wasn't enough, the situation only gets worse. Social media, in all it's forms, is only growing in significance and impact. But this is not the end, either. Mobile marketing ups the ante further. What is a poor business owner to do? Fortunately, there is a solution.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

small business marketing catch 22 - Yossarian says: "Let's ignore social and mobile. Maybe it will all just go away." From
It's easy to have a bad attitude when it comes to flying missions with a high probability of disaster, and when one Catch-22 after another foils your every move to avoid same. Doing your own small business marketing can be like that. Captain Yossarian's comment could be coming out of the mouth of thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs today. And while denial can make you feel better in the short term, in the long term it's neither the way to win a war nor even survive it – whether it be a shooting war or an online one! The good news is, there is a way out of the Small Business Marketing Catch-22!

The ground truth and facts, as they are today, is that the vast majority of small businesses are not using social media at all (according to research by Network Solutions, less than 20% at the time of this writing). They are in denial about it's efficacy, usefulness and power – to their own detriment.

Further, of those firms that “do social media,” most are not doing it right. But this should come as no surprise, because as noted above, most small business websites are what I call “dead sites” anyway.

Despite this, the majority of marketing experts would agree that you simply must have a social media presence today. The problem is you’ve got to be a expert at it to do it right (not to mention allocating the necessary time and resources). There’s another Catch-22 for you.

We’re now witnessing the rise of mobile and mobile marketing. The increasing importance of smart phones with graphical interfaces and 4G surfing capability, as well as iPads, tablets and the like, means that small businesses need more than a just website – they need a mobile-ready website. And yes, this means further effort.

Don't assume your website works right on mobile, because if it was built a few years ago (or longer), it probably doesn't. And if it's a Flash-based site (all the rage once upon a time), it simply won't work on a vast swath of mobile devices!

More and more people are searching for what they want to buy online, even if they would prefer to buy locally (and most do). 1 in 3 of those searches are taking place on mobile devices, and that ratio is only going to shift further towards mobile. But if searchers and surfers can’t find a business – or worse yet, can’t access the site even if they can find it – that’s lost business that's probably going to the competition.

Then there’s SMS (texting), which has an 85%+ open rate and gives small businesses the power to reach customers instantly, in real time. SMS can be a business owner’s best friend. But you’ve got to capture that precious cell phone number first, and that requires smart marketing on the front end and careful follow-thru on the back.

A Catch-22 is a paradox. A double bind. A no-win situation. The Small Business Marketing Catch-22 is now a nested one – a series of of Catch-22s, one hidden inside the next, in turn hiding yet another. Daunting, isn't it?

The hard, ugly reality is that most small business owners do not have the time to embark on the very, very steep learning curve to get up to speed with happening in marketing today – much less to try tackling it on their own. Nor do they have the desire or the time. After all, most are already working a more-than-fulltime gig. Which effectively means that most small businesses will either have no marketing at all, or a half-assed hodge-podge at best.

Vertical Response did research on this subject in 2012 and found that:

“Small businesses spend more time on social media, but may struggle with the added workload…. [they] realize the value of content, but again, time is an issue.”

In today's business environment and increasingly competitive local web marketing space, not having a strong online presence is roughly akin to committing business suicide. But having the knowledge and capability to “do it yourself” is a near impossibility, too. Remember the Catch-22s?

Unless your business is a special exception and/or you are exceptionally gifted and/or have more hours in the day than the rest of us have – you are going to need expert help.

You don't try to do your own taxes, do you? For all the same reasons – and many more – it's not a good idea to try and do your own small business marketing these days either. The solution to these modern small business marketing Catch-22s is simple: find and retain a competent and professional marketing firm!

And if you're worried about the costs, don't be. First, modern inbound marketing techniques are far less expensive than traditional marketing – and far more trackable. Second, modern web-based marketing should pay for itself in fairly short order. If it doesn't, it's not working.

In conclusion, a properly implemented small business marketing campaign is far more than just a necessary evil. It should help you expand your business, improve your brand, increase your market share/presence and… of course… make more money!

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The Small Business Marketing Catch-22 (2)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PART 2: In the first part of this series, the dilemma facing the most small business owners – in relation to their web marketing – was made clear. Some continue to make use of traditional media – at least to some degree – while others rely on world of mouth and having a business in the right location. But in the age of the internet, social media and mobile marketing, this is no longer sufficient for those that wish to be prominent in their local marketplace, or which wish to grow consistently and rapidly. Effective small business marketing techniques have changed dramatically in recent years. Unfortunately, the environment grows only more complicated and confusing with every passing day – yet harried business owners and entrepreneurs have less time and attention for keeping up, much less “doing their marketing.” This is a terrible Catch-22 for most businesses… but not the only one.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

small business marketing catch 22 - "You're telling me we have to do what now online?" by
In Catch-22, The Boss (a general, if I remember correctly) is an out-of-touch, self-satisfied nincompoop, surrounded by toadies and yes men (oh, and hookers). When ugly reality comes uncomfortably close to home, he goes into denial until there is no more denying it, then into incredulity phase at realizing he must – finally, really – do something. This is much like most business owners and entrepreneurs today, dealing with the nearly endless complications of small business marketing.

Today, it’s all about the web. Tomorrow (and I don’t mean a distant tomorrow, either) it’s about mobile. Let’s deal with “today’s” Catch-22, before dealing with tomorrow’s.

Ever since the rise of the internet, the ground has been shifting beneath the feet of the vast majority of small business owners, and most are only vaguely aware of it – despite the accompanying upheavals! Case in point: according to research, about 50% of small businesses don’t have a website at all, or have one which is out of date, busted or hasn’t been touched in years.

In the year 2013!

Do you find this shocking? You should. And it's a shame. Because the web can be a small business' best friend. And it's a cheap date, too! So if it's your business (and website) that fall into the above category, then I humbly submit that you need to make some changes – right quick!

Small businesses need to appear on page one of Google (which still gets 70%+ of all search traffic) for the keywords people are searching for. This is done through a combination of great onsite content and proper offsite promotion and linking. Proper SEO (search engine optimization), in other words. If Google Places/Maps are present in the search results (which is not always the case), businesses need to be showing up there, too.

Why? Most web surfers never go past page one, and about 70% of the clicks go to the top three listings. If the Google Places/Google Maps boxes are present, many consumers never look beyond them – which is exactly what Google intends. That's great for you, of course, if you're “on the map” – and not so great if you're not!

NOTE: The Small Business Marketing Infographic Series posted on this site has three free tests you can take to evaluate your web presence and assess just how well your online marketing is doing. Or not, as the case may be. We recommend you check it out!

Whereas the Yellow Pages can print as many pages as is needed for a section, there are only a very limited number of slots on page one of any particular category. The good news is that in many markets, page one is wide open and ripe for the taking. The bad news is that this will not obtain forever, and permanent victory will most likely go to those who “seize the high ground” now.

Wait a while, and it will be really, really hard to break into page one. Wait long enough, and it will be nigh-on to impossible!

So even as small business owners struggle to adapt to the critical need for a strong basic web presence in order to “rank” on page one – using their site, Google Places/Maps, various listing directories, articles/blog posts and videos and SEO (search engine optimization) – it’s not nearly enough anymore, either.

Email remains one of the most effective and powerful means of reaching prospects and customers. There are so many ways to monetize email lists, it's actually astonishing. Serious internet marketers have been doing this for years. But most small businesses do not collect email addresses from site visitors or customers or build a list at all. This represents not only lost traffic, potential and revenue, but a missed opportunity for long-term relationship building as well.

The advent of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus One, etc. – has entirely changed the small business marketing game. Again. It’s no longer sufficient to have just a website and call it a day (not that it really ever was). Google is now looking at social activity (“social proof” in the trade) as a prime indicator of the value of your site and other web properties.

According to the Search Engine Journal:

“Social Media has become a critical piece of the overall SEO puzzle. Shares, likes, follows, and +1′s are all known to positively impact overall ranking for a website.”

Get lots of social activity and you'll be rewarded with better search engine results. Get little or no social activity, and you'll be penalized. Period. End of story.

In Part 3, you'll see why new media marketing is not just an “should do,” but a must do!

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The Small Business Marketing Catch-22 (1)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PART 1: Some small business owners continue to make use of traditional media – at least to some degree – while others rely on world of mouth and having a business in the right location. But in the age of the internet, social media and mobile marketing, this is no longer sufficient for effective small business marketing, not for small businesses that wish to be prominent in their local marketplace. The local marketing environment grows more complicated and confusing with every passing day, yet harried business owners and entrepreneurs have less time and attention for keeping up, much less “doing their marketing.” This is a terrible Catch-22 for most businesses… but not the only one.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

small business marketing catch 22 - Yossarian talks to himself about SEO, social marketing, mobile, local video, email, content, PR, SMS. by
In Catch-22, Captain Yossarian (the great Alan Arkin) wants to convince the Army Air Corp he is crazy so he can get out of combat duty. If he were a typical businessman contemplating the intricacies of small business marketing on the web, he wouldn't have to pretend!

You may already be asking: “What the heck does Catch-22 possibly have to do with small business marketing?”

First, let me stipulate that the saying “business is war” actually has little to do with it, though that's an interesting metaphor for further exploration. No, in this case, it refers to the no-win situation that many “average” small business people find themselves in.

If anything, what I'm about to discuss describes more of a an internal conflict, both within a small business person himself (or herself), and within his or her organization. But in the broader sense, it could be thought of as a kind of war, since the outcome very often does determine whether the company survives, thrives or dies.

In his justly famous novel of the same name, the late, great Joseph Heller coined the term “Catch-22.” It describes a scenario – specifically, in the case of the novel, a military one – in which a person is caught up in a situation with no clear path to success. No matter what he tries to do, he can’t “get there from here.”

As described by Wikipedia in it’s article on the subject:

“A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules. Often these situations are such that solving one part of a problem only creates another problem, which ultimately leads back to the original problem. Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to but has no control over.”

So I’m sure you’re wondering, how does this apply to small business marketing then? Well, it’s really quite simple, and it goes like this:

The average small business person receives little or no marketing training as part of his or her business education, but then finds him or herself in a situation where marketing knowledge is not just necessary and needed, it is critically important – and at the same time ultimately unachievable!

This small business marketing Catch-22 is very common these days, just as it has ever been. It might as well be described as the small business norm. Except that the longer it goes on, the greater the chasm gets between what is known and what needs to be known!

But why does this “Catch-22” occur? In short, the average business person finds him or herself so busy working on the chores necessary to daily business operations, there is no time for “doing marketing,” must less learning about it. On top of this, there’s no time for keeping up with the rapidly changing and evolving small business marketing environment.

It’s a sad fact that most small business owners find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between not marketing at all, or doing what they have always done. And “what they have always done” just isn’t cutting it anymore – if it really ever did!

As if this primary Catch-22 isn’t bad enough in and of itself, there are secondary Catch-22s appearing on the scene, as described below. The situation has gone from bad to worse, and it’s only getting “worser,” to use some very bad grammar.

Most small business owners rely on the traditional, time-tested methods that have been in use for decades. “Word of mouth,” networking and/or “location, location, location” are still good and valid small business marketing strategies, though they are hardly dynamic and severely limit one’s ability to grow rapidly. Then there’s the Yellow Pages, the newspaper, circulars, direct mail and the like. They’re also fine and good, as far as they go.

But the problem is that most of the “old school” paid methods are losing their impact. This is due to increasing “ad blindness” among consumers, but scarier still, the massive shift in behavior brought about because of the internet and social media. In just the last year, newspaper, magazine, TV and radio ads are down about 12% overall. Advertisers are jumping ship because costs remain high while value plummets. It's a trend which I don't believe will  reverse and will probably only accelerate.

Old media is dying a slow death and, in some cases, is already dead. Think about it: when was the last time you used a phone book?  How much attention do you really pay to TV ads? Do you know anybody who actually reads a newspaper anymore? I think I may be the last one among my peers…

So even as the vast majority of small business owners continue to do what they’ve always done – because they don’t know any better and don’t have the time to learn what’s better – their results continue to deteriorate. Studies show this to be true, and if you’re a typical small business owner, you may have noticed it.

This is a kind of Catch-22 in and of itself. After all, how do you fix your marketing – either by yourself (!) or by hiring the right person/firm – if you don't even know what you need?

Unfortunately, it only gets worse. We'll explore how in Part 2.

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