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  • If you lose your reputation, your business is dead

    Your online reputation is probably only second in importance to prominence on the Internet.

    Newton and the apple that fell

    People don't buy from you unless they trust you.

    There are many advisers, coaches and self-proclaimed gurus on the Internet, and some of them have such a prominence that their online footprint drowns out the competition. They usually have two things the small business owner does not have - deep pockets and teams who promote them around the clock.

    If your reputation becomes just as prominent as your name, your business will only survive if you have a good reputation. If you have a bad online reputation, high prominence could kill your business. Many gurus have prominence but their reputation is difficult to evaluate because they use aggressive promotion to dictate what is visible on the Internet about them.

    The small business owner does not have that luxury which means your reputation becomes more important than prominence.

    You have little control over your reputation, but there is a way in which to control it. It is easy to define but difficult to attain, mainly because your reputation is largely dictated by the lowest common denominator. That dominator is the most negative testimonial available.

    People use the worst testimonial to define what is the worst they can expect from your product or service. Then they use the other testimonials and information to balance the negative. If the balance between negative and positive views of your business is acceptable, they will do business with you.

    Reputation is what the world thinks of you.

    It is said that reputation is what people say of you when you are not present.

    When you deal with clients or customers, reputation needs to be earned, but is eventually conferred by those who use your products or services. It means reputation must be earned every day.

    Business owners try to manage their reputations by managing what information becomes public. That is an old attitude that were only effective where even small businesses could manipulate the flow of information by using advertising budgets and personal connections to influence what the local newspaper wrote about them.

    On the Internet, you need to be very large and have very deep pockets to exercise that kind of control. Even then, success is not guaranteed.

    The small business owner benefits more from avoiding the use of tricks, and aiming for delivering a product or service that makes a good story which clients want to spread. It is in fact the preferred method because small business owners cannot divest themselves from their business as easily as the owner of a multi national business. A small business is such an integral part of who the small business owner is, that the two becomes one. That is why small business owners often experience criticism of their business as personal criticism.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

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    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

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    Social media marketing tools

    There are a range of social media marketing platforms. There are very little, if any, social media selling platforms. Spend time with clients to get to know them better

    The fact that you sold your second hand fridge by posting it on your local Facebook group, does not make Facebook a social selling platform. A test for a successful platform is whether you can repeatedly act successfully. In other words, whether you can build a business on it. Some social platforms may be a contributor to a company's sales, but rarely is it the sole selling platform.

    If your small business post a sales message on social media and people go to your website to buy or book, it makes the social platform a marketing platform, and your website the selling platform.

    Social media is a conversation tool. Most people and businesses use it as a broadcast tool. But their reach as broadcasters are very limited.

    If you understand the difference between marketing and sales, and you use social media for what is is, you can have business success. Social media grew to what it is because people have a need to communicate, which, for average individuals, mean to be heard. Dale Carnegie proved long ago that people who listen, are considered good conversationalists, while people who talk are considered boring.

    Social media does not consist of audiences. Audiences are passive receivers. Social media consists of conversations. People who converse are active users. Most businesses fail at social media because they treat it as a sales tool, not a marketing tool.

    Sales is about the exchange of money for your product or service. Marketing is about developing a market for your product within which a sale can take place. Sales is based on the perceived value a product or service has for a buyer. Marketing is about the trustworthiness a brand enjoys in the mind of a customer.

    If you want to sell, don't use social media platforms, or rather, use them if you want to fool yourself that you are doing marketing. If you try to sell where people search for solutions, you will mostly be considered a push marketer or a spammer.

    If you want to do marketing:

    Social media tools by utility value:

    Social media marketing tools is one of the sections in my "Time-saving social media course" as well as my advanced social media course for small business owners, "How to learn social media in 15 sprints". If you want to order these downloadable courses, register here.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

    FREE!

    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

    Unsubscribe at any time

    "Professional" - the most misunderstood, misused and abused word

    You may be professional, but what do you actually DO that makes you professional? How can people see you are professional?

    If you Google the definition of professional, you find an eclectic mix of definitions, most not contributing to your understanding of what the term means.

    In the accommodation and tourism industry people often define themselves as professional because of how they greet guests, or how they dress, or whether they show respect to their patrons.

    Service businesses tend to view themselves as professional if they deliver on time or on the agreed standard.

    Product providers call themselves professionals if their products have a low return rate, or a high satisfaction percentage among users.

    If all these were true, most businesses and people would be professional, or professionals.

    Surely the general standard of service delivery in any industry cannot be the requirement for being considered professional? Average can never be professional.

    If we could remove the general "watering down" of terms by giving it content based on the minimum standard we are comfortable with, many words, including "professional", would not just enrich our language, but also give us a proper structure within which we could evaluate people's contribution to promoting excellence in our society.

    If your product or service is not outstanding, there is little benefit in misusing language that describes the outstanding for describing the average. Your product or service is below average, average or above average. They cannot all be professional.

    A definition of professional I heard long ago but don't see any more, is "professionalism is when you continuously, without fail, do something above the prevailing standard". That definition requires you to be on top of your game without fail. The moment you act in a way that is the same as what is already available, or below the available standard, you lose your professionalism. Then you need to start working towards becoming professional again.

    In general, professionalism would mean that you do something to a standard that is not prevalent in your industry, business or area. And you can only be the most professional if you alone act on a certain standard. Other people can be professional if their actions are above the standard that is generally available. But everyone who acts to a standard already reached by others, is not above, but on standard. If you act on standard, it may be acceptable, but it cannot claim professionalism.

    A service can be professional but I still look for an example of a professional product. It may be professionally manufactured (on an unequalled standard) but in itself, a product does not seem to me to have the ability to be professional.

    It seems to me professionalism can only exist if it can be measured to enable comparison with something that exists. If it can be measured and compared, it can be classified.

    Example of professionalism:

  • we deliver faster than our competition
  • Example of claimed professionalism (but isn't)

  • we deliver on time
  • Professionalism seems more something we strive for, than something we possess.

    What has professionalism become?

    If you Google "examples of professionalism", you will find something completely different from what I discussed.

    It seems "professionalism" has become a description for "expected" as in expected dress code, expected reliability, expected competence, ethics, etiquette, honesty, specialised knowledge and a host of other descriptions. Professionalism, it seems, has become the new word for "up to standard".

    Then the question is: what am I if I constantly act in a way that is above the industry standard?

    So, what is the one thing you are going to do to make your service professional?

    My course "How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

    FREE!

    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

    Unsubscribe at any time

    How to choose social media platforms to promote your business

    There is no advantage in indiscriminately using social media platforms if you don't even know who use the platform. Choose an appropriate platform for a given social media goal by looking at user demographics.

    Your users

    Who use your product or service?

    Internal records

    External records

    Google the client's name - all results, images and news

    Social media profiles

    Social media is where your customer is.

    Social media users

    Who are the users of each social media platform?

    At the time of writing, 30% of South Africans use Facebook - that is 16 million South Africans - with 5 000 000 in Johannesburg.. Fourteen million use Facebook from mobile devices.

    There are more than 8 000 000 Twitter users in South Africa. Tweeting activity spikes on Thursdays and all days between 08:00 and 09:00, with a spike around 18:00.

    There are more than 6 000 000 Linkedin users in the country while Instagram has around 4 million users.

    Statistics by Worldwideworx

    If your potential clients use something else than social media platforms, you may need to reach them via email or WhatsApp.

    Where you meet your potential customer is dictated by them, not you.

    Once you have a good idea who your potential clients are, you will be able to use the best social media platforms to reach them.

    Then it is important to use social media correctly so you will attract potential business and not deter them from communicating with you.

    To use social media most effectively, you need to understand the difference between marketing and sales as well as the needs which social media fills.

    SEO that excites Google

    (Based upon Google webmaster best practices)

    People ask questions which your brand can answer

    When you need to find information on the Internet, you search.

    People ask questions in search which your brand can answerThe information you receive is provided by search engines which index all the information they can find on the Internet, and provide it as search results based on the search query you provided.

    Google is the main search engine and "to google information" is a description of the search activity. We talk about Google when referring to search in general.

    Keywords related to search engines include:

    Help search engines find your content

    Google offers webmaster guidelines which web designers can use to create search-friendly websites.

    The first step is to ensure that your website can be found by Googlebot. You make your website "findable" by

    When you evaluate the potential of your web content, keep in mind that your information should fill a need that someone may have. It is best to offer your information in a format that serves as an answer to a question people ask about your product or service.

    Which pages should search engines not index (crawl)

    It is wise to include a robots.txt file on your website if there are pages you don't want search engines to index such as internal search pages. Most small business websites are small enough so that there are no pages to exclude from the SERPS.

    Do not use a robots.txt file for sensitive information because a robot created with bad intent will not honour the instruction. Rather use sign-in with user names and passwords for information you don't want in the public domain.

    Help users and search engines understand your website content

    When Googlebot crawls a page in your website, it is important that it sees exactly what a human visitor would see. If not, you may lose out in a number of ways. Modern websites use JavaScript and CSS to enhance the user experience. Search engines are becoming ever more effective in interpreting JS and CSS in order to understand better what humans see when they visit a web page. It contributes to better indexing and better search results, which makes it easier for Google to return the best answer for your potential client's search query.

    Create unique and accurate page titles. Every page on your website should have a unique "title" tag of the page's html code. It is best if the title tag reflects the question the page content addresses. Google could use the content of the "title" tag in the search results, which will give your page a better chance of being noticed by searchers.

    Use a description meta tag in the "head" element of your HTML code to give search engines a summary of what the page is about. Google often uses that as a snippet in the search results. Every page on your website should have its own meta tag which concisely describes the content of that page.

    Structured data

    You can add structured data to the pages of your website to describe to search engines what the page contains.

    Structured data is usually used on product pages, marking up opening hours, business location, videos, events listings, recipes, a company logo and many more. Due to cost, time and small numbers of pages, small business websites often do not use structured markup.

    How you appear in search results

    Use separate URLs (names) to enable search engines to show your pages or products as separate results, thereby increasing your online footprint.

    Site hierarchy

    Search engines use URLs is a certain way and your website designer should keep that in mind when naming pages, images or products in a shop.

    Navigation, usually reflected in your site's menu is not a big problem for smaller sites, but gets more important as the number of sections and pages increase. Navigation is based on your home or root page. and extends into sub-sections e.g. home page >> related topic >> specific topic. It should create a natural flow through your website.

    "Breadcrumbs" is a row of internal links that shows previous sections. It is usually omitted in small websites.

    Show 404 pages when content does not exist - a user followed a broken link or typed in the wrong URL. A 404 page usually directs visitors back to the home page.

    All content on your website (pages, images and documents) should have proper names to ensure user-friendly URLs.

    Optimize website content

    Quality content that serve users' needs, will benefit your website because it entices visitors to return and share your content. Good content assists in word-of-mouth spreading of your information. Answering questions that people may have about your product or service makes for good content if well-written.

    Use Google Keyword planner to assist in discovering keyword variations and keyword search volumes.

    Google says content should be easy to read, topically organised, fresh and unique and optimized for users (which means it is automatically optimized for search engines).

    Use descriptive link text to link to information on other pages or outside sources. It should tell users what they can expect on the page linked to. Use "nofollow" attributes in your link code if you do not want pages linked to, to gain from the reputation of your site (discuss the concept of inbound linking with your web designer or learn more by researching it)

    Optimize website images

    Images are optimized by using the "alt" attribute in the HTML of your website page. Alt text is shown when an image cannot be shown for any reason. It is also used by search bots to know what the image is about.

    Make your website mobile

    Most Google searches are done on mobile devices and Google gives preference to mobile enabled sites in the SERPS. There are a number of ways to make a website responsive but the most popular is responsive web design, which is automatically enabled in most web software.

    Promote your website

    Promote your website by including social share buttons on all content. Promote it off-line by including it on all your business printing. Add your business to Google MyBusiness which ensures that your business appears on Google Maps and in search.

    Analyze web statistics (analytics)

    Search engines provide tools to analyse your website. Google offers Google Search Console. It evaluates your site and provides feedback on issues that may burden your site's performance and appearance.

    Google Analytics provides insights into the use of your site by analysing user behaviour, popular content, the impact of optimization and how visitors interact with your content.

    My course How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.

    Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.

    How to increase traffic to your website

    Social Media marketing is pull-marketing

    You're a small business owner.

    You started your business because you had experience in a specific industry. Or you started it because you stumbled on the idea or the opportunity, or you were looking for, but couldn't find, a job.

    If you didn't start your business because it was something you love doing, you probably learned to enjoy it.

    Most people sort of "drifted" into whatever they are doing for a living. One responsibility, which is probably not the reason they started the business, is to manage.

    As a small business owner, "management" probably means doing everything. You are the bookkeeper, bill payer, rep and janitor. Somewhere in-between everything you must be the marketing officer and, find time to do what you started the company for.

    One day you realise that you have a business website, but that it does not make your life easier. It is not the effective silent salesperson the web designer promised you. So, you promise yourself that you will find time to do something about it. You can't "cancel the website" because everyone has a website.

    When you eventually find the time to Google it or ask your IT guy - because you don't realise that IT people are machine people, not design or SEO people - you hear the phrase "search engine optimisation" or SEO.

    You ask a web designer and is told that it has to do with using the right keywords so people will find your website on Google. Your web designer changes the website text to include your keyword on all pages and you wait for the orders to start flooding in.

    Complete silence.

    One day you look at the books and start panicking.

    You post your website address on Facebook and every other platform you can think of. You send emails to your contact list and ask them to visit your website. You hear about Facebook Messenger or SMS marketing and spam everyone you can find.

    Nothing happens.

    Eventually your business runs in the red and you find an SEO consultant to do your search engine optimisation.

    It is too late because SEO takes time to show results. You close your business.

    You could have evaded all this trauma if you had acted in time.

    SEO starts with the design or redesign of your website.

    SEO is not part of how beautiful your site appears.

    SEO is part of the technical design and content of your website. It has little to do with what you like, and everything to do with how people search for a solution to a need they have.

    With your next endeavour - you will try again because you are an entrepreneur - make sure you understand what SEO is about. It will enable you to defend yourself against "consultants" and web designers who do SEO because it looks easy.

    You don't have to be an SEO (a person who does search engine optimisation), but you need to understand what it is about, just as you must understand other rules of business to be successful.

    What you must know about SEO

    Next time we'll discuss what SEO is, and the different types of searches people do.

    My course "How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints" walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.

    Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

    FREE!

    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

    Unsubscribe at any time

    Karen Roos, Karma Foods Centurion

    Karin Roos Karma Foods Centurion

    Karin Roos owns Karma Food and Services in Centurion and as can be gathered from the name, she is in the business of providing food, catering and cakes to the people of Tshwane.

    She is a well-known figure in the community and her business has a well-followed Facebook Page.

    One of the main challenges Karin experiences in her line of business, is people who decide on very short notice that they need catering. Food needs preparation and preparation takes time. This poses a challenge, but Karma Food is known for being able to deliver, as long as it is possible.

    Businesses with which Karma Food and Services integrate well, are

    Karin prides herself in her ability to garnish every event with exceptional dedication.

    Karma Food caters for every taste and preference, not only in food, but in event. Whether it’s indoors or out, a big corporate lunch or an intimate private dinner, whether it’s boerewors or caviar, whatever your needs, Karma Food promises to exceed your expectations. Karen handles every detail to ensure the standard of the occasion is what you deserve. That may be why so much of her business comes from returning clients.

    Recent Karma events include an exclusive Moroccan garden celebration, a lekker Shebeen party and a terrifying Murder Mystery event.

    In the case of event planning, Karma Food and Services visit the client, to ensure attention to detail from the start.

    At Karma Food and Services they pride themselves in offering a variety of choices to suit all clients. That is why all of their menu can be adapted to suit personal requirements.

    As Karin says: "We can help you make any event a success, from Inception to Completion.”

    At Karma they have dedication and a passion for great ideas, and they are equipped for hire for any occasion, big or small. They supply a large variety of decor, tables, chairs, cutlery and crockery, as well as a variety of related services including photographers, venues, entertainment and music.

    You can reach Karma Food and Services via their Facebook page or their website

    Don't try to be unique, just be different

    Social Media marketing is pull-marketing

    In the city where I live there is a landlord that has quite a large office portfolio.

    When a business moves into one of his offices, their fibre-optic cables are already installed and telephone and Internet services are available within 24 hours. If you need a wall plug moved, it happens within 24 hours. You don't need to get an electrician to come and do it for you. All vacated offices are repainted.

    He has nearly 300 businesses in his office parks and an Intranet to which all tenants are connected. If a business moves into any of the office parks, it immediately has a potential market of nearly 300 other businesses and a few thousand individuals. And then he also offers a few other add-ons.

    Is this landlord unique? Possibly. Possibly not.

    Does he offer something different in his area? You bet.

    Is his business model flawless? Probably not.

    Is his business faultless? No.

    Is it good enough? You bet it's better than anything else that is available.

    Does he have something to market? For sure.

    Business owners are often urged to find something in which their business can be unique. I question that wisdom.

    Finding something in your business that makes it unique, is quite easy. Finding something unique that matters, is another story.

    Every business has at least one aspect in which it is unique. Probably the most basic unique characteristic of a business is where it is located - its physical address. It is not often that one finds two businesses in the same office and you will have to look hard to find two competing businesses in the same office.

    If we accept that the word "unique" means "one of a kind" or "unlike anything else", you can start listing your business' unique characteristics by writing down your address.

    Location

    Your location can be unique and can be less or more important, depending on what people expect.

    Examples of when location can be important (not unique):

    Quality of service

    Fresh ingredients in restaurant dishes are not unique. It is a requirement.

    Quality of service is rarely unique and if it is, it rarely stays unique for long because success is quickly copied.

    Specials

    Less 10% on the price is not unique and in fact not even a convincing sales tool. Less 70% may be!

    Areas in which you may be different:

    Forget the unique hype. Rather just find or create something that makes you different.

    You have to be able to differentiate your business by communicating the capabilities that make you different. That makes it possible for potential customers to compare you favourably with the other choices they have.

    How do you find something that makes you different?

    The real question is "What do I have to offer to let my business stand out in the minds of potential customers?"

    Know your customer:

    Make sure that you have a crystal clear image of your potential customer in your mind. Don't be too concerned to have a large number of potential customers. Be happy with less customers who spend repeatedly with you.

    Articulate what you can do to solve the potential client's challenge:

    My course "How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.

    Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

    FREE!

    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

    Unsubscribe at any time

    Adri Neuper, Pot Specialist

    Adri Neuper Pot Specialist

    Adri Neuper works from her home office/showroom in Randburg.

    She offers a consulting and supply service with the focus being on greening your space using pots.

    Adri started The Pot Place 20 years ago and is an expert in the sourcing and use of pots from (mainly) local suppliers.

    One of the obstacles she experienced as an entrepreneur was that, after running a retail store with a wide range of stock on hand, working from her garden boutique with a more focused approach and a narrower stock range, has proven to be more difficult than she anticipated. "Clients still want to touch and feel the product" she says.

    The Pot Place's brand was recently aquired by Adri's "In Eeden". In Eeden is surrounded by ‘pot shops’ in the same area which ensures tough competition for this one-woman business.

    Adri identified a market for large containers, for commercial use. To this end she is always looking to partner with architects and design professionals. In 2018 she completed a range of projects for private homes as well as public areas, working alongside a number of design professionals.

    Interested in working with Adri? Visit her website

    People who complain about your business, don't complain about your business

    Buying is an emotional decision

    You just bought a box of cereal with bold letters on the outside promising "freshness guaranteed!". You open the box and the airtight bag, and find pebble-hard corn flakes inside.

    You know it's not a problem to exchange the box of cereal because the retailer and manufacturer will honour their guarantee and exchange goods that are not what it should be. You dive into the dustbin where you discarded the till slip, find your proof of purchase, get into your car, drive to the retailer, report to a desk manager, wait for them to process a refund, find another box, and drive home.

    While driving home you notice a slightly bitter taste in your mouth. That is the taste of a promise not kept (and the absence of the after-taste of coffee you are conditioned to experience at this time of day).

    The promise part of the brand promise was not kept although the legal part were kept by exchanging the product. But, the legal part is not an emotional experience, the promise part is.

    For a few weeks you buy another product. You may even buy at another shop and tell your friends about your experience. If you are an involved consumer, you go on the manufacturer's or the retailer’s Google listing and post a testimonial.

    What exactly is it that creates the negative feeling against the product or brand?

    It's not the taste - you hardly tasted anything

    It's not the shop - although you are frustrated with the shop

    It's not the brand - you have been using this brand without trouble before

    What angers or frustrates you is that you did not experience what you expected.

    You expected a trouble-free experience from opening the box to finishing your breakfast. So you direct your frustration against the easiest target - usually the shop employee (who had nothing to do with the quality of the product).

    People who complain about the treatment they received from a business do not complain about the business. They complain because their expectations were not met.

    It is difficult, but, as a business owner, you should try and keep in mind that it is never personal. It's not about you or your employees. It is about what people did or didn't do which led to your customer's expectations not being met.

    The dissatisfied customer will complain about a lack of service, or about products that were unacceptable. All these reasons for complaints relate to only one thing: the customer did not receive what she expected.

    Many business owners advertise their products or services in the most glowing terms with their minds fixed on getting potential customers to do business with them. What they forget is that they must meet the expectations they created.

    That is one reason why testimonials or reviews can be a powerful marketing tool. It is not you who create the expectations, it is the people who did business with you before. Their testimonials create an image in the mind of other consumers about what they could expect from your products or services.

    Testimonials on your website or Facebook Page is a good idea, but testimonials on Google itself, is more valuable. Register your business with a free business profile on Google. You can do it here

    So, what people read about you on the Internet or hear from other people, help them decide whether they want to buy your product or service. What they read or hear about you is based on other people's experience of your business. That experience has little to do with facts, or with you, and everything to do with how their expectations were met.

    Take time to define for yourself what exactly the experience is you want to create for customers and, what the memory is that you want them to have of your business, products or services.

    Then create your action plan of how you will attain that result.

    My social media training courses deal with reputation, brand and social media platforms. You can get it here.

    Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.

    Small Business Owners Newsletter.

    Subscribe to my newsletter and receive social media and small business marketing insights in your inbox.

    FREE!

    To thank you for your subscription and help you on your way, you receive my basic Social Media Marketing Checklist for Small Business owners, which you can download, and apply immediately for quick results.

    Unsubscribe at any time