Tag: marketing

Eyes Wide Open: Starting to Take Back Some of Your Personal Power on Social Media

Last week, I wrote about ads, and mentioned that not all ads seen are on social media, but those that are on social media can be a bit “stickier” than others. This week, in our journey through the digital divide, I wanted to come back and discuss this a bit more because in the land of social media, these things take on new life.

 

Ads can be just about anywhere, and today, many of us choose to pay a little extra so we don’t have to watch or listen to them. The shear fact that over a relatively short period of time, we’ve gone from doing things during commercial breaks to paying for less commercial breaks tells me that we are so inundated with ads, we’re exhausted by them.

A Land of Light and Sound With No One Seeing or Listening

 

For a small business owner, the thought of creating something that can compete in this landscape is daunting to say the least. It looks downright bleak. Desolate.

 

So, we attack the devil we know – social media. And try to learn how to work the algorithm while finding our own voice. Which is rarely a smooth or easy process.

 

And for those who are uncomfortable in this setting, it’s often written off for other avenues – such as print or radio rather than working in collaboration with. This then, leaves a distinct disconnect in conversational traffic and often a disruption in the business functions – i.e. the shear act of doing business can be exponentially more difficult simply due to a lack of digital presence- website or otherwise.

Stuck in a Scarcity Mindset

 

This time of year is a particularly difficult time for many small businesses as we struggle for a small piece of the holiday spending pie.

 

This time of year may very well set the business for success or failure in the New Year as spending drops significantly in the first few months of every new year.

 

Every sale, matters. Every interaction, matters. Every person who walks through the door, matters more than any of us fully realize. And after the last year plus, these things matter even more.

 

Adding fuel to this fire is the shear fact that to advertise in any capacity during this time of year, inherently means a higher cost – not only financially but energetically too.

Discounting Ourselves

 

We’ve been trained as individuals to be on the “lookout” for the best deals this time of year. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, and all the pop-up events that happen through December 24th are meant to do one thing – drive spending, typically through the “art of the deal.”

 

Now this is not all together a bad thing if your spending is going back into someone or something you feel passionate about. I’ve spent some serious dough on something that I have wanted without blinking an eye.

 

But as a business owner, I can tell you that I have fallen into the discount trap more often than I’d care to remember. Discounting in the business owner’s mind means discounting our goods or services but at the end of the day, what we’re really doing is discounting our VALUE.

 

From skimping out on business necessities, discounting merchandise, to discounting our own time – we are DISCOUNTING our own value.

 

Which stinks and makes us feel like shit.

Small Businesses ARE the Backbone to Every Community

 

While those of you who read this blog may be wondering what kind of tangent I have gone off on, I want you to know the realities of the battle for your attention every small business owner faces.

 

Things like billboards, radio ads, and even some digital and print marketing ad campaigns are simply outside of the budget. That is why we are almost relegated to a website and social media presence, and even then, these are not always easy to attain or maintain.

 

This is why you will inherently see less ads from small businesses and when you do, they appear to be of lower quality or mass produced – because at times, this is what can be afforded.

Now that doesn’t make the ad spend right – I’m looking directly at you small business owners. Spend your money wisely and intentionally. Treat it as the investment it is.

 

So, what we have when we’re online, especially on social media, is a great mixture of corporate (like Wal-Mart/Wish/Amazon) and large to medium-sized, fairly well-known local entities (like WellSpan/Orrstown Bank/Martin’s Potato Rolls) popping up either as Low Hanging Fruit or Sticky ads, depending on your usage.

 

Stand Out Against the Noise

 

Now, here we have the small business owner. Trying to find their footing in what could be a most precarious time no matter how you slice it. With as much knowledge of how to use social media, or really any form of digital media, as you, my dear reader.

 

To say that we don’t know what we’re doing is an understatement. Because as you will learn through our journey into the digital world, unraveling one string leads to another knot. This journey, however, is very similar to other journeys many others have taken.

 

There’s a reason why so many small business owners compare their business to their child. Because to a very real extent, it is. We’re literally following along by the seat of our pants and hoping that the decisions we’ve made are wise. And if not, our child/business will tell us by shitting the bed (not always metaphorically speaking) in and around the age of 3. We, like most parents, hope to have that shit under control by age 5.

 

Rely on Your Tribe

 

I tell you all this, dear reader, because YOU have a very important and integral role in not only what you see, but also in how well you can help these businesses achieve truly free advertising on their end, that builds and extends the local community experience as a whole.

 

That’s some pretty cool shit right there. Especially when you can do this by doing something you’re already doing any way.

 

Feel those feels because that’s some powerful shit right there.

 

Think BIG

 

There’s a reason behind all this local growth. The capacity for a Page to hit over 100K in Franklin County alone is not difficult. The capacity for that Page to then speak to a greater, larger overall audience is then that much easier to accomplish when proper steps are in place.

 

Think about what that could mean for the small local, non-profit organizations who’s mission it is to raise funds to support our community.

 

Think about what it could mean for voter turnout in our local elections.

Think about what it could mean to the small business owners in our community if more people knew about their goods and services.

 

That’s some pretty big shit.

 

And You, you as an individual, have the power to start making these changes happen. All by scrolling on social media and doing what you do.

 

It Really IS That Simple

 

Two weeks ago, I asked you to start looking at your Newsfeed for your Top 10. [I’d love to hear how that’s going for you btw – hit me up on socials and let me know] This week, I want you to do the same for local organizations and businesses that are important to you.

 

Search their social feeds and see what they’ve posted recently. Throw a like, a comment, or a share up there – just be sure to not share too much – no one wants a Spammy Cathy. And even though these things are weighted differently, you can do a lot with just a few likes and reactions. Trust your gut.

 

Now, here’s the sweet part for you – the more you do this, the more you will see from these organizations and businesses.

 

Ever miss out on hearing about an event until it was too late? Not. No. Mor’.

 

And that’s not only powerful shit, but some pretty sweet shit too.

 

Now go out there and help the local guy out. We need it and a few likes and hearts can show our Pages to others who may not know about us that need us.

 

It’s all about those connections. And my dears, that is what social media is all about. Creating and maintaining those sweet, sweet connections that you love to see.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Terms and Conditions Apply

It’s taken me a minute to sit down and write this week’s blog and for a while I wasn’t sure what was going on in my head – it’s not that I’m short on ideas, my sudoku puzzles show that I’ve been thinking quite a bit but the act of sitting down and formulating these ideas into a workable concept seemed a bit out of reach for me. And that’s when it hit me – I’m avoiding the elephant in the room.

 

That Giant Elephant that Everyone KNOWS exists, but few address it head on

 

My friends, it is the official beginning of the holiday season and every single thing we do seems to remind of us this fact.

 

Need to grab some milk? Gotta walk by the holiday section first because it’s right out front for everyone to see.

 

Heading to work? Every billboard and radio ad is trying to sell you on their holiday cheer.

 

Scrolling through social media? Everyone and their damn brother is talking about what they are thankful for.

 

We “Should” Be Happy

 

It’s a near constant reminder that this time of year, is supposed to be the “happiest” time of the year, yet in reality many of us find ourselves in a scarcity mindset where we overbook and overextend our time and finances to show others how much we care.

 

By January, we’re exhausted and usually a bit more in debt than we had been previously and not exactly setting ourselves up for success in the New Year and then wonder why our resolutions are so difficult to stick to.

 

This, like mentioned in the previous blog, sets up a vicious cycle where we are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And this is when digital can become dangerous.

 

Let’s talk about those Wish Ads

 

Remember how it only takes ONE second for the algorithm to register your attention? Because of how much or how little we share on Facebook, the ads we are shown can be HIGHLY individualized.

 

This becomes dangerous in the hands of advertisers because ads are created to address two functions: build the brand awareness and address/answer a “pain point”

 

A large yellow M and certain chime reminds young and old that there’s a place to go when we’re hungry

 

But ads aren’t just to remind us of a place we can go when we’re hungry. That may be how they function, but not how they work.

 

For ads to work, they need to utilize our emotions while fulfilling their function. This is why ads are longer – in 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 second integrals and sometimes longer on streaming channels – to give them time to engage our emotions.

 

Ads are meant to capture, maintain, and engage our minds

 

The more we hear, see, and recognize a brand, the more we establish and emotional connection to it by the pain point solution offered. This is where two digital giants of the modern age reign supreme: Google and Facebook.

 

As the top used search engine and the top used social media platform, these two know a good thing when they have it – a space where we both research future purchases and where we ask friends and family for their recommendations, all from the convenience of one portable device that 85% of Americans own.

This is why we feel like our phones are “listening” to us – because they kinda ARE

 

It just isn’t in the way we always think. And that’s when the creepy feeling starts setting in.

 

As a marketer, I enjoy “playing” with my Google algorithm, asking it to “find the REAL me” like it’s a digital version of the game show, To Tell The Truth. But Facebook, damn. There are times I feel like just posting that I bought the damn thing in an effort to stop seeing those ads.

 

Like an algorithm “reset” for ads

 

And what’s wonderful, given time, ANYONE can do this – without having to share on Facebook that we purchased the damn thing UNLESS WE WANT TO.

 

Take a moment and feel that power, that feeling of control. Envision it, think about what that could look like – because like any planted seed, it takes time to grow.

 

Now to begin, there are some things we need to know going in:

 

  1. Not all ads are created equal

Some ads are what I call the “Spaghetti at a Wall” type and can encompass anything from low-rate insurance to pay-day loans. These are typically found on websites and are listed as “sponsored content” and can be found either cleverly concealed within the text itself or at the bottom of the page. Spaghetti ads frequently use “bait and switch” tactics to get you to click on the “articles” which are nothing but more ads.

 

Next up are the “Low Hanging Fruit” – goods and services just about anyone needs. This includes insurance, banking, clothing, food, service utilities, housing, etc. These are ads you’ll see again and again and can be so familiar that the brands may poke fun at one another on Twitter (and elsewhere).

 

Finally, there are the “Sticky Ads” – those that when you stop to think about it, make you go hmmm. These are the ones to be on the look out for. There’s a digital link somewhere and is frequently tied to a “real life” interaction.

 

  1. Yes, your phone is listening to you, but often not in the way you think

Ads are a reflection of what we search for, who we communicate with, and any of our shared connections – be it financial distress, basic human needs, or something more tangible or emotional.

 

The Spaghetti ads, if treated as anything, should be for a good laugh at their attempt.

 

Low Hanging Fruit can also be humorous at times but all in all, they are fairly easy to block out unless it’s during the Superbowl.

 

Sticky ads are sticky because of the convenience of our phones and the software and hardware built into them to function. Every time we have our Wifi, Mobile Data, GPS, or Bluetooth on, our phones are sending and receiving signals. Now, consider how many of us have the voice command system on – Siri or Google (and BTW, Facebook has one too).

 

And all that is before we start searching for the “best” whatever, comparing two different products, or searching for somewhere to eat nearby. All before a conscious emotional connection can created.

 

  1. The idiom of “what has been seen, cannot be unseen” will take on greater meaning

This phrase is as old as the internet because in the early days, there was quite simply, a lot of shit that could be seen. And not always, ideal shit at the ideal time. So, once it was seen, it didn’t need to be seen again. Period. Done. Still in the memory bank and doesn’t need to be revisited.

 

As you begin to start to look at the different types of ads, you’ll start to notice some consistencies outside of the branding, consistencies that associate the ads to the 3 types: Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, and Sticky.

 

Your brain will start to automatically process these without you needing to think about it and categorize them based on what is already known. Which allows the thinking brain time to find these digital connections that make the sticky ads so sticky.

 

  1. We are continually being sold to and sold

This last bit of knowledge is the double-edged sword of convenience in digital. People go to great lengths to have an ad-free experience when online and only then come up with less ads getting through. Most of us don’t have the time to devote to this experience, and for some of us, it’s a price we’ll happily pay for said convenience – in the “devil you know” kind of way.

 

But remember, the devil’s we “know” and how much they know about us. When you stop to think about it, it’s quite a lot and for some, that’s quite scary.

 

Now, I find the scary things are a whole lot less scary once we take the time to learn about them. Like how a haunted house is a whole lot less scary once you see the mechanics that go into making it. You might come out with more questions, but you’ll definitely come out seeing things differently than you did before.

 

Going Forward: Start Looking At Your Ads

 

So, this week, I want you to do something that is going to feel strange and counterintuitive – but I guarantee you isn’t – I want you to start looking at the ads you see when your on your phone. Start recognizing where they fall – Spaghetti, Low Hanging Fruit, or Sticky and begin to categorize your Sticky ads.

 

By categorizing your Sticky ads, your brain will be able to process them faster and you will begin to see more intentional ad placement for you.

 

Now, if this has made your skin crawl just a bit more than you thought, you can take this a step further by asking yourself if the Sticky ads are based on demographic information (age/race/sex/location) or if it is related to a search, an online chat, or an in-person conversation. If it is the latter, be sure to fully close out of running apps on your phone. Hitting the home button is not enough.

 

Know that the idiom of what has been seen cannot be unseen has ruled the internet for so long for a reason. The lessons to be learned are not always pleasant, but it’s best we go in eyes wide open.

Let’s Get Started: Breaking Down the Digital Divide

To begin our journey through the digital divide, we must first look at how we are using and consuming digital media. As I discussed in the previous blog, we have quite a mess on our hands – with negativity spreading rampant on social media, leading to all kinds of concerns from mental health (in the form of anxiety and depression) to real world violence – what we have is a problem.
 
Right now, our problem looks like either a large on-going math equation that has yet to be solved, or a hoarder’s house that may become condemned if it isn’t cleaned out – choose your gross.
 
And if you have the distinct pleasure of needing to use social media for work or business, that gross scale multiplies like rabbits in spring. Is it any wonder why, we as business owners, simply do not want to devote our time to this succubus?
 

And that, my friends, is where we become stuck.

 
Our personal feelings toward these platforms and media bleeds over into our professional voice, whether we realize it or not.
 
Those who are less comfortable with their own news feed, their own friends list, their own experience on social media will inherently be less comfortable in finding their voice in the same platform in a professional setting – be it a professional or business Page.
 
Leading to inconsistent posting and lack of overall awareness.
 
Which then leads to a lack of following and lack of engagement.
 
Which ultimately leads to a scarcity mindset within the digital sphere, leaving business owners “fighting” the algorithm and struggling with where and how to best invest marketing dollars.
 

It’s a vicious cycle.

 
Much like how my anxiety, when not in check, will lead to depression, which then fuels my anxiety, this issue can also seem to be cyclonic in nature – almost like a tornado of shit, destroying everything in its path. But what is a tornado other than extreme energy brought about by significant shifts in pressure?
 
I think I speak for everyone when I say that 2020 was the epitome of significant shifts in pressure, as I have yet to find anyone who isn’t suffering from pandemic fatigue in one way or another. Our energy is depleted because we’ve been so wrapped up in these shit tornadoes, that all we see around us is more of the same.
 
Exhausted seems to light of a term for the way we’re feeling, not only individually but collectively as well. We’ve worked in ways and conditions none of us ever expected. We struggle with an overarching fear because so much has changed so quickly, we’re now afraid to become “too comfortable” in our own surroundings.
 
So, we shut down. Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, we just don’t have the energy to do anything but shut down.
 

And this is where digital can become dangerous.

 
Because an algorithm’s base function is to show you more of what you consume, to keep you coming back for more, even when your own satisfaction may be diminished, so it can “learn” more about you. The more the algorithm “knows” about you, the more “tailored” your unique experience is.
 
This becomes a dangerous area with those who are uncomfortable with the platform and sharing information as it leads into two distinct forms of extremism: Ghost-like behavior and Soapbox behavior. Whether you are engaging primarily in reactions, gifs, and avatars or treating your profile page as your own personal soapbox, you are creating a vacuous state for your algorithm.
 
As it cannot learn more about you, your experience will be much more simplified and based on known information: your gender, location, age (all of which is given to start an account) and anything that has captured your attention for ONE second or longer.

 

ONE second is all it takes and then you’re inundated with Wish ads.

 
But it’s more than just those kooky ads that make you stop and look, it’s also political and spiritual posts. It’s posts that touch our core values and beliefs. And while some are from real-live people with honest and pure intents, not all are.
 
Some are cleverly created ads meant to fool the eye, leading to more of that product or service to be seen and then purchased. While others are significantly more dangerous, especially when personal profiles and bots are involved.
 
Bots are nothing more than fake profiles. The account is set up to look like a person but isn’t. While most of us have heard, or maybe even know someone who has set up a fake account, the bot’s function is to interact with the algorithm and find other profiles to extort information from – Real profiles, from Real people.
 
Creating a chain of bots, all interacting with the algorithm as real people can spread like a virus within those who are uncomfortable with the platform because, so little is known about them as individuals. And from here, it spreads out into those networks, where even if only 10% of an individual’s friends list picks up that bot as a friend, it grows exponentially to the next network, and the next. All feeding one person’s ill intent.
 
And like the shit tornado this tends to be, this then feeds into our professional and businesses pages as rarely is the person of ill intent located in or near our own backyards. Then rather than a local awareness, our pages are now shown on a global scale and potentially outside of your sales radius.
 

And we’re back to where the vicious cycle began.

 
Stuck. Frustrated. And above all, tired. So, freakin’ tired.
 
But we must start somewhere, so let’s start with what we know. Whether tackling an algebraic equation or pile of shit, we all start with what we know, so let’s start there.
 

Look for the Good Shit.

 
This week, I want you to begin a review of your friend’s list. See who gives you the most joy when you are on and spend some time on their profile. Most people have a Top 10 that they really want to spend time with and keep in touch with.
 
Find your Top 10 and engage with them. Comment on a post, share something to their profile that is important to the two of you, or just hit them up with a message. Really make it a point to connect with them and watch your Newsfeed and notifications start to change – because it will.
 
It’s important to find the pleasure first, because what we need to do is to clean up after this shit tornado. To find the lessons that need to be learned and grow from them. We are going to grow through what we’ve gone through, but first, let’s focus on the positive shit.
 
Go spend time with those who give you happiness and communicate with them. It’ll start to feed your algorithm the good shit you want to see from the people you want to see it from.
 

You’ll begin to take away the power of the bots and they’ll naturally start to drop off.

 
And if this gets your OCD tingling, or would like to take a more definitive step toward eliminating bots from your friends list, I suggest taking the Spot The Troll quiz and reviewing your entire friend’s list to see if anyone fits the profile of a bot and then drop them like they’re hot.
 
Know that little shifts and changes make for significant long-term changes. These lines of division weren’t created overnight but the more aware we become and the more we focus on real-life connections, the more positive and beneficial the experience will be overall for everyone.

I’ve Been Quiet: Here’s Why

It’s taken me a while to write this. In fact, I started and stopped several times before scrapping and starting over completely. This is partly because I have so many things running through my mind, so many wonderful things that I cannot wait to share, yet I struggled with how to share these with the current social media campaign. The campaign, in my mind, seemed to be regimented, but still valuable. I was stuck wanting to continue to provide valuable content, yet my posts were becoming exceedingly long – a bit too long to read on social media in my personal opinion.

 

These posts, it seemed in my mind, to take on more of a blog feel to them, just broken up into segments throughout the week. But I hadn’t written a blog in over a year. They have just been sitting on my WordPress site with nothing uploaded or transitioned to the Wix site that went live a year ago this month. Where to even begin with such an undertaking inherently meant that I needed to address these two significant issues – I have a WordPress site with old, outdated branding that matches all of the print material I have yet to update, and a Wix site with the new branding, and a distinctly different feel from the older, more widely known version.

 

While each of these sites hold value to the business in varying capacities and spoke to similar audiences, the voice was inconsistent across different digital platforms and in real life encounters – those outdated business cards have a different email address and website from what is on social media. Which then brought in another layer to this ongoing pile of shit that I knew needed to be addressed, but it’s difficult to address these things when you’re busier than you’ve ever been.

 

Symbiotic Marketing is currently working on more websites than we have ever had, our social media approach has shifted to a more coaching than management approach, as businesses and organizations have found the importance of speaking to a specific local audience with resounding success for clients, and for the first time ever, the business has been financially able to support not only my own family but also organizations that are important to me personally.

 

To be a primary sponsor for both Pride Franklin County’s Taste of Pride and the Franklin County Literacy Council’s Puzzlemania is simply a dream come true. But there’s more than just the ability to support my family and support those organizations with whom I personally believe in. There’s also the intangible things that bring purpose to what Symbiotic Marketing is doing and keeps me moving forward every single day.

 

These include seeing my clients excitement as a project comes together, whether in person, Zoom, or over social media fills my heart with such joy that I can barely put it into words. And watching my clients grow and become more comfortable with their own voice through the power of social media and be able to then extend that into other digital areas fills me with such pride that it’s difficult to stop me from smiling all day long. Because through this process, their business is growing with them. They are learning and understanding not only the value of digital, but also how all these pieces fit together with the real world around them.

 

And that, my friends, is my ultimate goal – to be able to show others how and where digital and the real life collide and what we can do about it.

 

I am OVER hearing about how the algorithm negatively affects us, like we are pawns in an elaborate game of chess. It is such complete and utter BULLSHIT that we, by the shear means of communication, are now relegated and controlled by these devices – and it isn’t our fault. So few of us know what we’re really doing when we use them because no one taught us.

 

And how could anyone? We’ve been legit holding on by the seat of our pants just trying to keep up with how quickly technology is progressing – if you would have told me 20 years ago that all that music I was downloading on Napster would be readily available ON MY PHONE any time I wanted, I would have made some smart remark about crack. Sitting high and mighty with my T1 line and 2G phone that could text (oh my!), I digress and firmly date myself but I believe a point was made for those with whom I want to speak to. There’s no way any of us could have seen this coming, yet we’re here and it’s time we do something about it.

 

That’s where my personal experience comes in. I was there when Blackberry’s were the THING because they were the ONLY THING. I went through the Palms, Windows, and then Android and Apple devices because I was not only one of those loathsome cell phone salespeople, I was also a repair technician. And I was good at what I did. Until the shift to Android/Apple user, I managed the top performing service center and top performing store in upgrade sales for my region. I was the second to last manager left go before all the stores closed a year later. I was top in my field because I knew the importance of showing others how to use their phones and how I could help them make the most of their phones and plans.

 

It hurt when I was left go. Not only because it was 2011 and the job market was bleak for someone with my qualifications, but because I had built and maintained relationships with small, local business owners for over six years. I looked forward to seeing certain characters coming through my doors because I knew there was going to be a story and it would always be great. All the while, I would be someone that they could come in and talk to, not only about their phones, but their businesses and lives. I learned a lot from them and to be suddenly taken away from all that hurt a lot.

 

Grieving the loss of these relationships was incredibly difficult, and through this, I took a rather convoluted journey of experience that has lead to just such a wealth of knowledge into the intricacies of running, maintaining, and working in a small business and non-profit areas that is both extensive and often shocking even to those who know me well. Through this process, I grieved not only the loss of that particular position, but other positions as well as several of the small businesses I worked with, closed, or moved out of the area. One of which, I started a month after opening and stayed on until the very last shift. I still consider those that I worked with there family, because that’s what we had.

 

I tell you this because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I want you to know that I’ve been there, and when I started Symbiotic Marketing, I did so with eyes wide open and created it to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up with the small business owner and show others the power we have in our local communities. And in that, we need to break down some of these barriers that has lead to our ignorance of just how powerful we, as individuals and business owners can be in the digital space. Because right there, is some POWERFUL SHIT.

 

That’s the feel-good shit that keeps you up at night in all the right ways.

 

That’s the GODDAMN I LOVE WHAT I DO moment.

 

That’s the THIS RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW moment.

 

Because dammit, after what we’ve all been through, don’t we deserve MORE of these moments? And the freaking time to ENJOY and celebrate these moments?

 

I’m all in. But here’s the thing, this is going to take some time. So, over the next few months, you can expect to see and hear a new voice from Symbiotic Marketing that reflects not only my own personal experiences and knowledge, but also the expertise of Isaac Gudgeon whose innate understanding of marketing and visual story telling is simply incredible. While I am realigning with my strengths, Isaac will be showcasing his with not only the digital aspects but also the print aspects that need to be addressed for Symbiotic Marketing as well as our current client load.

 

With that in mind, starting today, you can expect a weekly blog that is written to help you break down this digital divide that has left us ignorant and feeling used, abused, and unheard – because all that is BULLSHIT. And we don’t need that shit where we communicate. It distracts and takes away from all the good shit out there.

 

I’m telling you this, because sometimes what I have to say is going to piss you off. I’m going to touch a nerve and I want you to know that is a part of the grieving process. That is a place that has yet to heal. Treat it as a broken bone, only you know when it’s time to work through the pain. Seek help if you need it, you wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg, please don’t do it with your emotions. That shit builds up in the body and comes out in all sorts of unhealthy ways, and frequently in ways most would not expect.

 

In my last social media post, I shared an old meme – What has been seen cannot be unseen. This is my goal for the blog going forward. It is meant to make you think about how we relate to digital in the world around us. It’s proven to be some powerful-ass-shit, so what would it mean if we could take back some control over what we see and how we see it? What would it look like to have a social media feed that complements your real life and another that complements your professional life? What would it look like to be able to use digital media as an extension to real life rather than an intrusion?

 

Think on that a bit. And know that we are working on addressing our own marketing issues, but like anything of value, it takes time. I’m going big or going home, and I work from home. Let’s do this thing.

Special COVID-19 Announcement

Special COVID-19 Announcement

I have been struggling writing this week’s blog. Not because what I had intended to discuss is difficult but because, right now, life is difficult. I’m struggling. And no, it most certainly is not similar in any way to some of the very difficult decisions my fellow business owners are being forced to make. But to pretend that everything is okay and write in such a way is something that I cannot do.

I simply cannot pretend that everything is okay, because it’s not. While my daily routine has not changed that significantly, my mindset has. And that has me struggling. I have not felt a depression this deep in a long time, but I am fighting it. I am fighting it because you are fighting. Because we all have something worth fighting for.

Ladies and gentlemen, your time to step up and show your community how much you care is here. It is your time to shine and each of you, in your individual ways are doing it. Those of us who can, are continuing to work from home, providing the services we need to keep things moving. Those of us who are needed on the front lines are out there, ensuring our quality of life. And those of you who have closed and will be closing during this time, you are helping lessen the curve.

So many of you are showing your community how much you care, and I am overwhelmed with love for you and for the wonderful community I live in. When I find myself pulling in and allowing the fear take over, I look at you and know that I am not alone. Because we are not. And I believe each of us on social media right now knows this to be true. Let’s be honest. It’s where we are.

Even if we have neglected our business pages, we are still on social media because it is how we can communicate right now. And I am seeing some very beautiful things. Just an incredible use of technology, I am in awe of what some of you are doing to bring some sunshine into our lives.

We are communicating more than ever and with this, we have the opportunity to help in so many simple ways that can make a huge impact. And with this, I am hoping that I may be able to give back to you the support you have given me.

Starting today and until further notice, the Symbiotic Marketing Facebook Page will host an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Come and ask your questions, from social media marketing and websites, to marketing in general. I will PM you with questions so I can fully understand your question and any details needed and then help you with find a resolution to your specific issue. Pick my brain. In addition to this, I will be addressing as many questions as I can in a general format to assist others who may also have a similar question. These will be specific posts because at times, answers can get lengthy.

I know you may be feeling very uncertain right now and probably downright scared, but I want you to know that you inspire me every day. I am incredibly honored to be a part of this wonderful group of crazy small business owners. Because we are crazy. And you are my people.

I sincerely love you all and we’ll come out of this better for having gone through it together. I firmly believe this.

See you on the other side, Ray.

Creating a Marketing Mindset

The statistics of owning a small business are not for the faint of heart. The Small Business Administration (SBA) states that 50% fail within the first five years, 66% in the first ten years, and only 25% make it fifteen years or more. While there are many reasons for this, marketing always seems to be in the top five. It’s a bit of an ambiguous term, that includes a wide range of activities from creating print materials such as brochures and business cards to how you present your business and yourself in public and online. Marketing can be closely tied to sales but is different from sales in the approach. While both are needed, you will want to be conscious of the two and how they differ so that you can set yourself apart from the crowd and raise your chances to come out on top.

A marketing mindset is one of growth and prosperity. While there are many things needed, such as a logo that represents your brand visually, you will also want to focus on your brand’s presence. Whether your business caters to the general public or businesses, to succeed, your business should present that it is successful and will be around in the next year or years. This can be incredible difficult to do when you are trying to make ends meet.

Are you creating a sense of prosperity or scarcity?

Often, many find themselves falling back on a sales mindset to offset this issue. Creating a fast turn around sale or discount can help bridge a gap in the budget or help those on the fence jump for your goods and services but you should only use this tactic sparingly. Additionally, pushing customers to engage with your product, such as continually asking for a meeting so you can sell them on what you do or sell can be off putting for the customer and present that there may be a reason why you are so pushy; a reason you are trying to counterbalance.

Relying heavily on sales and sales tactics or not having proper marketing techniques in place, will make people wary of purchasing your goods or services. It presents that your business may be in trouble or may not be in it for the long haul. But it does not need to be that way. What’s great about marketing is that it can be adjusted and changed at any time but there are a few things to keep in mind when changing your marketing strategy:

  1. Listen to Your Customers: Your customers will tell you what they want and need. Rather than complaining that you are not able to reach them, ask yourself what you can do to reach them. Sometimes what they are asking is not something you currently offer but could possibly in the future. Explore what your customers are asking for and see if you can work it in to your current strategy. Sometimes adding in a particular type of good or service can help build your business and brand in ways you did not foresee.
  2. It Takes Time: In any marketing endeavor, it will take time. Time for people to realize the change, time for people to learn about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and decide if it is right for them. We tell our clients that it takes a good 3 to 6 months before changes start to happen, and even then, they may be small changes and it can take 6 months to a year to see how those changes are reflected within your business.
  3. Small Steps Make For Big Changes: It’s the little things that matter so ensuring you are updating your digital presence including any social organizations you belong to make a big difference. If you are finding that your business is not forefront in your friends and family’s mind or they are not active on your digital footprint, ask yourself if you could be doing more. While it may seem like a little thing to do when you are looking at a bigger issue, remember that creating a sound structure to build on is key.
  4. Marketing Should Reflect Your Values: Everyone who chooses to go down this arduous path does so for a reason, and for many of us, it is following a dream. Sharing that dream with others builds on your brand and provides a plan for your structure. Ask yourself why you started your business and how can you show that in your marketing. This shows your intent, your reasons why you keep going, and builds trust in what you are doing.
  5. Be Where Your People Are: This may be different for every business, so listening to and understanding your customers is key. While most customers are online, you will also want to ensure you are present in person as well. This can include attending networking meetings, learning series, community and service groups. Any time you are in public, you are representing your brand so finding organizations that support what you are doing and actively engaging with those groups can be a great way to increase your awareness. Think outside of the box, perhaps there is an organization that you can support through volunteering.
  6. Marketing Does Not Need to be Expensive: This is a common misconception for many business owners. Hope is not a marketing strategy. You need a plan of action, but it does not mean that with it, you need to break the bank. The most valuable thing you have is your time. Using your time effectively, from ensuring your digital presence is updated to volunteering your time to sit on a board are all means of marketing your business without costing you a dime.
  7. Think Big and Allow Yourself to Dream: When you find yourself stuck or spinning your wheels, it’s hard to break free. Running a business is hard work. At times, it feels as if you have the proverbial quiet toddler and you are bracing yourself for the havoc that may ensue. If you are always on edge and waiting for the shoe to drop, it will. Remind yourself why you started this, reflect on your values, and be grateful for where you are right now, because you have come a long way no matter how young your business is. Ask yourself where to go from here, how you can improve what you already have built, and yes, allow yourself to dream about what could be.
  8. Plan Your Execution: This is imperative to a change in marketing because it all comes down to presentation. Yes, sometimes change comes at us hard and fast but it does not have to appear that way. Planning out the details needed to support your change helps build on what you already have and the improvements you want to implement. Having a plan not only gives you a time frame to work within but also provides smaller, achievable goals to help you feel more successful during the transition. This not only helps you feel more secure, but also makes others feel more secure when working with you.

    Set Yourself Apart From The Crowd

Maintaining a marketing mindset, one of abundance, growth and prosperity is not easy, especially when you are focused on the daily tasks needed to operate your business. But it is necessary to maintaining what you have built and project for the future. While a sales mindset can be tempting, sales are meant to be short-term and scarce. When you rely on sales too heavily, you present that your business may also be short-term, your funds may be scarce, and that your business may not beat the statistics. Additionally, too many changes in too short of a time frame, can also have the same effect. If you have found yourself struggling to find your footing in today’s fast paced world, ask yourself how you are presenting yourself and your business. You may have lost the marketing mindset in the details of day to day but you can change your mindset, your approach, and yes, your business’s success by shifting focus from what is to what could be.

Help!

Help, from the Beatles to Papa Roach, bands have sung about it. As business owners, help is certainly something we need. From supportive relationships to genuine help with running our businesses, we cannot thrive without it. I talk to a lot of business owners about how we can help them because that is what this business is built for, to help.

A little over a year ago, I knew I needed help with my business. I knew I do not possess the ability to photograph individuals well. Give me a landscape or a product and I can make my camera see what I want others to see but when it comes to photographing people, I have a hard time creating the same power. So, I reached out for help from a dear friend.

Around the same time, I was looking for help with bookkeeping needs because putting receipts into Quickbooks was something I loathed. I knew it was important and necessary to running the business, but doing it? Oh, I could put that off for an entire month and then scrambled to get caught up. I had several people who offered suggestions, particularly devoting time to it each week but yet, I struggled to do it. So, I reached out to another friend and she helps me with my bookkeeping and helps me focus on it once a week.

Earlier this year, I knew I needed help yet again, this time with managing everything I needed to do for the business and maintaining a presence away from my computer screen. This was a big one for me, because I know that no matter how much I would prefer to stay home and work, I needed to get out and talk to others to maintain the growth of my business. Again, I reached out to friends to see if they knew of anyone who would be willing to take on the challenge.

Help is something we all need and as a business owner, it is integral to the growth and success of our businesses. At Symbiotic Marketing, we are here to help, particularly small businesses. When I started this business, it was my goal to help the small business owner. While there are resources available to help, but when it comes to actually getting the work done, that’s on the owner or comes at a cost many are not able to afford. Let’s be honest, running a business is hard work and often we are left prioritizing what we do over what needs to be done to maintain a successful business.

With the goal of creating marketing services that small businesses can afford, Symbiotic Marketing has grown into what it is today, and I couldn’t be more proud of where we are right now. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the help I received along the way. With that help, this year we have been able to help business owners build brand awareness on social media outlets and increase audience size and quality, build and update websites, create one sheets and other promotional materials, create logos and assist with purchasing promotional products to match the brand, write and post blogs and newsletters, and offer marketing ideas and assistance.

I am excited to see what the next year brings because of the help I have received along the way. I’d love to hear from you, what help have you received? We’re all in this together, let’s help one another along the way.

Your Website and Social Media – How Does It Work?

Your website is up and ready for potential clients to visit! You also have a Facebook page up and have invited friends and family to like your page. Now what? How do you make these things work to build your business? Much like other marketing devices, it’s all about the relationship!

To understand the relationship, we first need to have a general understanding of a sales funnel. Everyone you meet or who sees your page or website, fall in your sales funnel.  A sales funnel runs from cold (new to learning about you) to hot (ready to purchase). While all fall in a sales funnel, this does not mean that everyone is going to have a need for your product or service. Having an “always on” sales attitude breaks down the opportunity to build relationships.

We’ve all had that person on our newsfeed that is always pushing their gig, always. Always be selling pushes people away, but you want to get the word out about the awesome stuff you offer! Following the 80/20 rule (give more than you ask) is a great way to build you audience and move them along the sales funnel.

Your Social Media

Your social media should be a means of directing traffic to your website but also as a means of getting to know about your business. This is where your audience gets to know you, but what to post? Here are some tips to build your audience, engage you audience, and build your business with social media:

  • Like other pages as your page
  • Tag other businesses in your posts when applicable
  • Share other business posts to your page when applicable
  • Share any blogs from your website onto your page
  • Create visual posts such as pictures or videos especially for holidays
  • Create informative posts that relate to your business

 

When looking at what to write on your social media page, think of individuals who are on the cooler side of your sales funnel. Keep posts short and simple, if your text is too long, people are less likely to read what you have to say. Longer posts may be better suited for a blog or a Note on Facebook, and should be focused more on a warmer audience, those who already know about you and are looking to learn more.

Your Website

Your website should be more focused on transitioning a warmer audience into a hot audience. Individuals who seek out your page are there to learn about your specific business. Some choose to use blogs on websites to build a client base. Here are some tips to build a blog on your website:

  • Blogs should be between 200-500 words. If they are longer, use subtitles to differentiate the portions of your blog
  • Use tags – this helps with SEO and brings individuals looking for a specific topic to your site
  • Categories – this helps define what your blog is about, this is very helpful when writing on multiple subject matters
  • Check SEO settings – every builder is different, but all offer some SEO settings on for your blog
  • You are the expert, write what you know!
  • Download Grammerly – you can easily use the free edition to capture any misspellings and grammatical errors

 

Social media is meant to drive traffic to your website and gather an audience who may be interested in what you have to offer. Websites are dedicated to what you are offering and are a platform to sell your goods, to give individuals more information about what you offer, and to motivate the individual to reach out to your business. By understanding the sales funnel and how it works, you’ll be better equipped to handle both digital platforms well and build your business. As always, we are here to help, no matter where you are in your marketing journey.

Branding – Why it is important

Traveling to an appointment this week, I passed a black truck towing a black trailer that on the back door stated, “Quality Lawn Care” with a phone number. This chance encounter started me thinking about branding and why it is so important for a business.

Branding itself is multi-faceted and should grow as your business grows and for a startup, branding is necessary. It shows that you, the owner, care about the appearance of your business. People are more likely to do business with someone who has taken the time to not only know their trade, but invest in in. These investments may be carrying insurance and being bonded or having quality equipment. Your branding is also an investment. This investment may include having quality business cards, having a professionally designed logo, a fully functioning website, and so much more.

Why is branding so important?

It all comes down to assumptions and expectations. When you take the time to invest in your branding, people are more likely to assume you provide quality goods or services. However, if you are running on a shoestring budget and it shows through your lack of branding, people are less likely to frequent your business. Your lack of branding may be giving the expectation that you will not be in business long term or you do not carry the proper coverage on your business should something unexpected happen.

Proper branding shows that you as the business owner have taken the time to care about how your business appears to the general public. It gives a sense of permanence to your specific brand. Depending on your specific business, you may need to employ different branding techniques but that does not mean you need to spend a small fortune doing so.

Here are a few tips to help you with your branding:

  • Have a high-quality business card printed from a professional print shop. While you can create and print business cards from home, they lack in paper quality, print quality, and the perforation marks show. Business cards do not need to be expensive. While many choose to purchase from online print shops, there are also local shops that can print high quality cards at a low cost. We highly recommend Occupational Services Inc. for printing needs.
  • Spend time on creating a website for your business. The days of passing cards and expecting a call are over. In today’s fast changing world, a business needs to be online for long term success. This is more than just reviews and recommendations. Individuals look online to see what you do and how you do it before making a decision. Websites should have different pages that showcase your business, what you do, who you are, and how to contact you. Other pages may include testimonials, shopping, and your list of services.
  • Create a logo for your business. A logo is a visual representation of your business. It does not need to be overly complex, but it shows a sense of permanence and should be on all of your branded materials.
  • Use social media networks that target your audience. Social media is huge and those who are not on a network of some sort are a very slim minority. Take the time to learn about your audience and then post on the network they are more likely to spend their time on. Start with one network and once you are receiving a return on your investment or you are feeling comfortable with posting on that network, move onto the next. You do not need to be on all of the networks, as there are a lot. Just focus on those that your target audience is on. If you need help with Facebook specifically, click here.

 

Taking time to invest in your branding gives people the opportunity to find you and when done well, helps your business grow. As for the truck I passed, I did not take a picture to remember the phone number or write it down as I was driving, but I did search online. I found a lot of landscapers in the area, and one with that specific name. If you were looking for a landscaper, who would you choose? The one without any reviews or website or the ones below it with reviews and a website? I know who I would contact first.

Getting Down and Dirty With Sales

Sales. Oh, that dirty word, it’s a necessary evil to running a business. Or is it? Every business owner will tell you that it is needed but no one likes to talk about it. The term has two definitions in running a business, the first and foremost, it’s how business owners can ideally make ends meet and second, the act of sales which leaves many with a gross taste in their mouths. As sales should be related to your marketing, this week we’re going to talk all about that nasty, gross feeling thing and I hope you come out on the other end feeling a little better about that necessary business process.

Marketing should be closely tied to your sales funnel. A sales funnel is where your audience lies in their awareness of what you offer. To keep it simple, a sales funnel typically associates your audience along a pipeline of cold to hot. This means if someone is in your sales funnel and they are cold, they are just learning about what you do. They are not ready to buy. The more interested they are in what you offer, they move along the sales funnel to warm. These individuals may be interested in what you offer but need more information to be able to take the leap or are unable to afford your goods or services yet. As individuals progress along the funnel, they move to hot or ready to buy.

Now while that’s a bit oversimplified, it’s important to understand where your clients fall within this funnel and to know that while some will move through your sales funnel, some will not. There are times when an individual may not ever make a purchase from you but want to support you in your venture. By being aware of your audience and where they fall within your sales funnel, you are better able to refine your marketing to target those who are more likely to purchase your goods or services.

I like to think of running a business like a football game. Your goods or services, the financials, all the stuff that you do every day that relates to your business are the players in the game. The goal is to get points through a touchdown primarily (although a field goal or safety will work too). The main part of the game is trying to get those points, or in the world of running a business, make sales. Sometimes it’s easy, other times you get sacked, but keep getting back up and playing the game. Whether it’s fourth down and ten or you’re on the line of scrimmage ready to make the play, keep going. You won’t always make the point, but if you are learning while you go that is what’s important. And those that may not buy your goods or services but want to support you, those are your fans, so show them why they should cheer for you and keep coming back to watch you play.

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Chambersburg, PA