Dear Colleagues:

Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are a major force in the U.S. economy with over half the workforce employed by businesses with fewer than 500 employees, according to the SBA. That means that most corporate domestic growth strategies likely have or want to figure out how to tap into this market for customers: new, retained and with deeper relationships.

Many marketers have turned to social media and direct marketing, including email marketing, to communicate with SMBs for the full spectrum of business needs: to educate, sell, service and support SMB relationships. In this issue of Marketing Coach, The Technology Therapist, Jennifer Shaheen has written an article about strategies for leveraging social media with SMBs. Since so many of us use the Constant Contact tool to reach SMBs and so many SMBs use it for their businesses, I interviewed Wendi Caplan-Carroll to enlist her insights about strategies for success.

So, whether you are a large company with SMB customers or an SMB looking to market to similar sized businesses, I hope you will find useful ideas to bolster or validate your plans. If you have an example of a successful SMB marketing strategy that hasn't been widely reported on, please let me know about it so we may consider it for a future issue.

Enjoy!

Ivy

"People conduct email marketing because it works."

Wendi Caplan -Carroll Constant Contact

Biggest Loser, Marketing Giant

email Marketing Best Practices

An interview with Constant Contact's Wendi Caplan-Carroll

With over 147 million people using email for communications, email marketing is the most effective and cost efficient tool in the marketing mix. According to the Direct Marketing Association, for every dollar spent on email marketing there was a $45 ROI. Email marketing has green appeal as well.

SMBs are using email marketing daily and they may be receptive to your emails to them, providing they meet their needs. Given the busy day in the life of an SMB, email is appealing because each person has control over who they send emails to, and how they respond with the option to enter into a two-way ongoing discussion.

The likely objectives for an email marketing campaign targeting SMBs are to inform, promote or relate.


For B2B marketing, presenting yourself as a resource with information or a newsletter is great for establishing expertise and relationship building. If you are looking to promote, you'll use different types of emails to offer a special service or discount. A relationship approach could use greeting cards or a special gift. Regardless of the objective, it is best to differentiate the tool and strategy and not combine them. Consumers have similar needs from email marketing as SMBs.

You should find ways to ask your customer what they want. You can send a survey to enlist feedback using Constant Contact or otherwise. By reviewing click-thru data for your emails you can assess what information and offers your audience is most interested in. Then, you can tailor your services and communications to meet those needs. It is in your self interest to take this seriously. For example, some businesses may spend tons of time creating newsletters, but the type of customers they have are more interested in product offerings. So knowing what customers want and what value you have to offer them is very important.

The #1 difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign is effectively presenting yourself as an expert at what you do, sharing expertise and value rather than pounding people over the head selling services.

Also, rather than purchasing lists to test, when you email people who know you - recognize your name or business - and send them useful information, people will open your email.

A cross-platform strategy between social media and email marketing is highly recommended. Find a social media vehicle that is right for you - Facebook fan page, LinkedIn, Twitter - and marry it with email marketing to generate more prospects, acquire more permission-based contacts, drive more traffic to your blog, or share content with a larger audience.

Hot Tips

SMBs are extremely busy, so it is important that your email marketing program meets these characteristics:
  • Content should reflect SMB target needs
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Don't over communicate
  • Provide value
  • Send on the schedule you promise, e.g. monthly, weekly, other
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 am - 3 pm are the best times to send email offers
  • Only send to people who give you permission
  • Send the emails from the person they signed up to hear from

Beyond Social: Social Media for SMB Marketing

By Jennifer Shaheen, The Technology Therapist

Today's small businesses are just as active using social media as consumers; however, the way they approach social media is very different. Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are learning to use social media to communicate with their customers, discover new trends and generate ideas. They are finding social media platforms to be an effective and efficient way to get their message to the right people.

The best way to connect with small businesses is to start with what they need most:
research and information.

Information is available through many social media applications - from blogs and podcasts to LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages. When evaluating the channel for reaching your SMB audience, I recommend focusing on the specifics regarding the business you target:

  • What type of industry are they a part of?
  • What social media tools are they using to connect with their own customers?
  • Who are they looking to for industry information?

This last point is particularly important, as SMBs want to stay in touch with their own specialty. They look to industry-specific blogs, podcasts and online groups, and follow industry leaders on Twitter and Facebook. Recognizing that they are thirsty for information can make targeting and connecting with the small business much easier.

Find Industry Influencers

Begin to identify the information leaders or influencers in your SMB audience; they have the ability to spread your message faster and with greater conversion.

Review what the industry influencers have to say and how they connect with their audience:

  • Do they have a blog where they invite comments from readers?
  • Do they use their Facebook page or Twitter to connect with their customers?
  • What kinds of things are they talking about: updates and information about their business or broader topics like industry trends, tips and fun, interesting tidbits that their audience would be interested in hearing?

Take note of their fans, followers, comments or threads in groups; these will depend on the social medium they use. This will be the audience that you will want to reach. You'll also want to take note of which mediums are the most successful at gaining their audience's attention, which garner the most activity or get the most people talking.

Look for a way to connect with these individuals; reaching out to them to broadcast your message is more efficient and creates a bigger impact than doing it yourself:

  • Leave comments that show your interest on their Facebook pages
  • Follow them on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn
  • Look for "Contact Info" and send them an email pitching an idea for collaboration after you establish a connection

Approaching people through social media is about talking to the individual, not the mass market. Your connection should be authentic, acknowledging the individual's contribution to the industry and offering a specific message that is designed to appeal to their needs as an influencer; this means it needs to have a benefit for them.

So how do you do this exactly?

Here's an example:

You are a technology company with an online application directed toward retail business owners. After taking the time to identify the top retail experts who have the ear of your customer (your SMB influencer), you begin to forge a personal connection with them through social media tools. For instance, if they use tools like Twitter or Facebook, you will want to "friend" or follow them.

Reach Out.

You will want to do this through the platform on which your target SMBs are most active. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or private email addresses are better choices than commenting on their blog. It allows you to make a better connection - opens the flow of conversation more effectively. When reaching out, you need to have a purpose other than to get the individual to promote your product. Your reason for connecting needs to be genuine and most importantly, includes a benefit for them and their followers, such as an exclusive trial offer of your online application tool before it hits stores or is offered to the public.

Talk, Don't Sell.

Talk to them one-on-one and build a relationship. Depending upon your application, this may be accomplished as mentioned before, by offering a private demo or an exclusive offer to their followers, but through a creative twist that connects directly with their own personal message and focus in a unique way.

For instance, if the influencer's focus is giving retailers a competitive business edge, say something along the lines of "Your advice helps today's savviest retailers stay at the peak of innovative business practices. We also want these retailers to thrive, which is why we're giving them the exclusive chance to try it before it's released to the public." This way, you connect with their message and focus, and show that your product will enhance their message and be of benefit to their followers.

Marketing Coach is a publication of Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc. ICCC helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a competitive market. To find out how ICCC might help your company build your reputation contact ivy@ivycohen.com, call 212-399-0026 or visit www.ivycohen.com.