BY 2020, SMALL BUSINESSES WILL RESPOND TO NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES WITH VARIABLE-COST BUSINESS PLANS, ACCORDING TO EMERGENT RESEARCH.
Small business numbers will have increased by then, with the greatest growth in personal and micro-businesses that flourish in the niche markets untouched by big business.
Actually, one female-owned marketing, sales and communications firm has already begun that process. Nancy Sanders, owner of Three Dog Marketing, works with clients on social media marketing projects, developing solutions and offering strategic plans that build brands and grow revenue. Her niche is serving organizations that value their relationships with clients.
“Many social media companies focus on big brands and large corporations that just want to get in front of as many consumers as possible,” Sanders says. “We serve organizations that want and need to build relationships over a long period of time and create value for their customers.
“The organizations we work with have a larger mission than just marketing or selling products. They want to specialize in specific areas that may be under-represented in their fields. For instance, we are working with a real estate team that specifically focuses on working with gay families.”
Three Dog Marketing also strategizes customer bases by focusing on meeting potential clients in person, face to face. A real-life connection demonstrates what the company stands for—the ability to build long-term relationships and provide value.
Take DrivingMBA, a school focused on providing high-quality, experiential learning. DrivingMBA met with Three Dog Marketing to help it integrate innovation into its marketing strategy. The company determined that social media could be a valuable tool to gain exposure, increase referrals and improve sales by targeting parents of current students.
During one planning session, staff members discussed ways to build relationships with their target audiences by expressing ideas and tips—even suggesting contests. But the truly innovative idea came from an office assistant. She brought up a challenge that she regularly faces: When new students register for training, she provides parents with a list of items needed for class as well as training guidelines and expectations. She then suggested creating an instructional video, addressing the requirements and posting it on Facebook. Parents could watch the video with children at leisure.
This approach encouraged parents to connect with DrivingMBA, permitting the firm to build relationships through online interactions, as compared to one-time emails. Focusing on a specific target market with a detailed social media plan allowed DrivingMBA to create content that was relevant and valuable to its target audience.
The steps, according to Three Dog Marketing partner Kristin Slice, a certified social media strategist:
- Know your target market, make a list of top clients and supporters, decide whether social media is a good tool for accessing and engaging them customer audience, and pick the best tool;
- Do research using the examples of your top clients and look at what your competitors are doing; and
- Ask yourself who you know, instead of focusing on people you don’t.
Three Dog Marketing’s overall purpose is similar to that of social media in meetings—allowing communication through the planning process while providing long-term strategy for building relationships year after year.
“To be successful, it is important to recognize the value of life-long supporters and customers, to be authentic and put a human face on their company,” Sanders says. “Social media are built on a platform of trust, respect and integrity. The organizations that fail are the ones that use social media as one-way profit centers like billboards, websites or advertisements.” One+
One+ January 2012,