Your Small Business Marketing Guide in a Recession

Your world will never be the same.

Sounds like a bit of an ominous statement doesn’t it?

Considering the amount of bad news that flows throughout our daily lives it’s nearly impossible to look at the above statement and attach a positive meaning to it, however I see great opportunity in what I am writing to you.

We are witnessing our world undergo huge changes almost daily. In the past few years, we’ve seen an historic shift of technology and economy unlike any other, and the transition is not near completion.

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
– Isaac Asimov

Change will always occur, that’s inevitable. As Asimov reminds us, a lack of acknowledgment or understanding of this change can make or break businesses [and lifestyles] forever.

Where Did The Money Go?
The advent of global economy and technology-enabled business practices are in a rapid state of flux. Growth and change are a given in business, but we’ve never witnessed such rapid transition in such a short time period, the effects of which are being felt on every streetcorner of the world.

The recent economic events and credit crunch are moving the tectonic plates of business and the cozy confines of national or local economy are shifting to a global platform. These shape-shifting occurrences are too large, too rapid and there are too many moving parts even for the experts to comprehend.

How does this effect you?
For starters, just look around your neighborhood, listen to your neighbors or friends. The global housing bubble has popped. This part of the puzzle will directly effect you, me, and every citizen on this planet as millions upon millions have based so much of their personal wealth, retirement, and family around their homes.

Next, consider that just recently the first of the Baby Boomer generation retired and a trickle began the first stage to what will certainly turn into a raging river of generational change. A large portion of the Boomers base their retirement on two major components: housing and the stock market. This is the largest generation we’ve ever seen. They will be transitioning to their golden years and many will be forced to retire due to health problems, job competition, etc. The problems we’ve experienced in both housing and stocks and the pressures felt by Boomers will shape the future of business significantly.

The massive transfer of wealth and earning potential from Boomers to Generation X is underway. Further, more jobs will be handed down to a smaller group of people, which will cause a ripple effect of opportunity. On the other hand there will be less total disposable income coming from the Gen Xers vs. the Boomers because of this. Many businesses will be effected as their sales are forecast on a premise of Boomer spending that simply will cease to exist.

You + Me + Technology
The advent of web technology and tools such as laptops, e-commerce and social media are contributing to a massive global population shift. We aren’t uprooting and destination-bound like people were in 1849 during the Gold Rush, but the tides are changing nevertheless. We don’t need to move houses, we have moved into a new virtual space in our minds and the impact is huge. We don’t do business like we used to, we don’t shop like we used to, we don’t interact like we used to, we don’t write letters, we don’t do a lot of things that were commonplace as little as 10 years ago.

In addition the growing trend of crowdsourcing will effect every aspect of life from politics and religion to science/technology and business. It’s also becoming common for corporations to listen in and have their customers or focus groups do the thinking for them. This is not a case of the evil overlord manipulating his pawns – many are willing to do the work – they’re even passionate about it. This is smart for businesses and brings about a more community-oriented, inclusive customer relationship in the process.

Do you think the Twitter trend on Capitol Hill will have an effect on politics? Do you think social networks such as Facebook will or the gravitation from television to online media will change business? You bet it will.

Your local shop
The speed and connectivity of web-enabled business has given consumers a power unlike they’ve ever had in history. This will continue to make a huge slice of the business pie disappear. A product seller or distributor will have to really take a look at their business model and ask themselves how they will be able to compete or how they add value. Many local storefronts have already become casualties of this movement. The reality is many store owners will be expecting customers to travel to them in addition to paying the shop overhead when often that same customer can compare dozens of prices, offers and customization options for the same product in an instant online.

Here’s where you’re wondering about the great opportunity I mentioned earlier…

As you’ve probably come to expect from my blog posts I am an eternal optimist for your small business. True, I see many doors closing and many businesses becoming extinct, but these shifts are being nothing more than opportunities for you. These shifts are part of the natural ebb and flow of the business life cycle. They are a reminder that the world will always change.

“Necessity, who is the mother of invention.”
-Plato

When we look to the future we can feel comfort in the fact that we as people always do our best work in times of need. Right now business needs to change. Right now business owners are seeing their profits drop and necessity is staring them in the face.

Pattern-recognition is a survival method innate to many a living creature. The patterns are difficult to detect in the business world because it’s changing by the minute. Not having the time or knowledge to recognize these patterns might overwhelm some business owners into making a bad decision for themselves. The single most important work a business owner can do is to spend time on their identity. What is my business? Who are my competitors? Where is the business world going? How can I be positioned for where it’s headed? These are a handful of a hundred questions to answer for business success. The prevalent pattern is one of flow, of a shift in power from corporation to consumer, from passive television watching to active internet searching. That’s the pattern you need to see here. In addition, if you’re waiting for things to get back to normal, I’m here to tell you, they won’t.

Someone moved the cheese. Let’s find some new cheese.

I see great opportunity for businesses that create their own product. Today’s business world demands not only something to be created but it must be unique in what it offers or it will get lost in the shuffle. Give your business a unique product, something with value and it will be given every chance to succeed. Your business has a global reach. You have the ability to put your product in the hands of someone halfway around the globe. That is mind-blowing. You just have to put a product out there that will do the work for you. You can’t physically travel the globe in ways that your product can. Create a product that will do the walking and the talking for you.

I see great opportunity for unique service-based businesses. The key word here is ‘unique’. The ‘me too’ business doesn’t differentiate itself so it’s already going to have a harder time standing out. Create a service or add to your service by latching on to the wants or needs of your customer. What does your hotel customer need? What does your technology offer to save them time? How can you be unique? There are many free tools available online to help you gain the answers to these questions and distribute your message to your target. The sheer volume of social tools available to you on the web is incredible. These tools are essential to your service. Again, create something that will walk and talk for you.

Now is the time to spend as much time on strategy than ever. Now is the time for you to stop the busy part of business and really ask yourself how you can answer the questions I’ve raised.

The shift is happening.

Your world will never be the same. That’s a good thing.

Using Twitter For Business: Why You Should Be Limited to Five Tweets a Day

I’ve found that most people using Twitter for business purposes fall into three categories:

1. They hate it
2. They love it
3. They understand that it has value, but can’t figure it out

While you may fall into one of those categories, I’ve quickly found that a lot of people that “love it” are using it for the wrong reasons. On the surface, using Twitter for business reasons does seem like a great idea. You can easily get thousands (sometimes even tens of thousands) of followers very easily, and blast short little promotion messages for your businesses or product.

The problem is, a lot of these little tweets are lost in the shuffle of everyone else mass posting their messages. Everyone is taking advantage of the ability to spam their brand out there, making it hard for anyone’s message to be heard.

In the last two minutes (since I started this article) there are about 30 new tweets in my newsfeed. I would literally have to be on Twitter all day in order for me to get through all of the tweets, and even then it would be a challenge (with clicking on links, reading the articles, etc). My personal research confirms the fact that tweets are often lost in the shuffle.

I’ve been burned by social networking websites in the past, so I spend a lot of time trying out different methods to figure out how a website actually works. I carefully track my inbound website traffic and link clicking, trying to find out what is working and what isn’t working (or if this is even a website that can benefit me). I found out right away that mass tweeting didn’t increase me inbound traffic at all. I tested all the way from once an hour, to once a day, and my good traffic (people who stayed on my website more than 1-10 seconds) didn’t increase at all.

This is where the five tweets a day idea comes along. I quickly found out that more than 90% of my inbound website links (good ones that is) came after I used direct messages and @ tagging to connect with people. As I began to talk to people (and show and interest in THEIR company or being) my website traffic began to grow. People made a point of checking back on my tweets, and it wasn’t a gamble on whether or not a tweet would be read.

I know that I might get hate mail from John Mayer or Lady GaGa, but I truly believe that limiting users to five tweets a day will stop a lot of the massive spam on Twitter, and force people to focus on connecting with their followers. Tweets will start to be read more often, and you’ll see a lot of the invaluable followers disappear. Even though it is a micro blogging website, Twitter is still a social networking site. Meaning, that even though you’re using twitter for business reasons, you still need to be social out there, and not just load up tons of tweets to unleash on the unsuspecting world.

The Beauty of My iPod Shuffle

There are many iPod mechanisms that millions of people like. But when you think about what you really like you find one that works for you and your stick to it. For many people it is the iPod that also plays videos (I have that one too) because it can do so many things and if you are a traveler like I am you can use it while on the plane to entertain yourself. But for me, for my everyday use, I LOVE the iPod Shuffle.

This tiny little device (no bigger than a matchbook and really light) holds between 250 to 500 songs depending on gigabytes that the device has. I have the 2 GB one so I have a lot of songs on mine. It has this little clip (like one of those big black work paper clips) that you can use to clip the device right on to your cloths and then g about your business. For me I clip it on, put in my ear buds and go jogging. It is the best.

Music is an important part of my workout, I love listening to the playlist that I put together just for the purpose of jogging and they all fit on my tiny iPod shuffle. This little baby comes in a multitude of colors although I prefer the pink one that I have. But if you like blue, silver, green, purple or ice blue you can find one that you will like. And if size is what you are looking for you will absolutely love this one.

Now granted, the only thing that the IPod Shuffle is good for is playing music and has a great size but if you want more functionality than that you need to move up to another device. I like the classic iPod because I can also record on it and listen to video on it. But for everyday bopping around and having some musical company, I will always choose my shuffle.