Small business owners juggle a lot.
There are local, state and federal tax records and filings to be done. Accounting, inventory, board meetings, customer service, advertising and numerous other critical tasks also must be handled.
And recent changes in consumers and businesses communication, research and buying trends are adding more to business owners to-do lists. Now businesses must keep up with an official website, a blog or two and social networking pages such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. They also must monitor user-content review sites such as Trip Advisor and Buzztown. Oh, and, customers expect businesses to ensure their message and involvement is consistent in all those online resources.
Youre trying to run a business, meet payroll and focus on customer service, said Jack Llewellyn, director of Durango Chamber of Commerce. Then you throw in social media its tough to keep up with it all.
The situation has some local business owners pulling out their hair in frustration. Why arent customers as overwhelmed by it all as business owners sometimes feel?
Wheres the information overload? one local business owner wondered during a recent marketing presentation addressing the trend changes.
Its a different mindset for them, said Marcy Mitchell, advisor for the Small Business Development Center of Southwest Colorado and owner of Pagosa Springs-based MTECH Internet Marketing.
The customers arent using the utilities the same way businesses are. Theyre not selling an idea, service or company. Theyre getting easy access to information and a less-complicated and intrusive way to communicate and consume.
It all amounts to a shift in marketing trends, Mitchell said. The advent of Do-Not-Call lists and commercial-free television and radio entertainment through devices such as digital video recorders and iPods have forced businesses to move their marketing strategies from the old interruption marketing techniques to a new concept attraction marketing, Mitchell said.
To compete, businesses are finding they must build and maintain something akin to a utility to get and keep customers attention, she said.
Marketers are starting to think like publishers and socializers, and less like advertisers, Mitchell said.
Consumers want more than a business brochure when theyre online, she said. They want businesses to have information-rich websites, blogs and social-networking pages. They require mobile-friendly applications and quick responses to their online comments and concerns. And theyre demanding interactive and transparent relationships with companies these days, Mitchell said.
There are benefits to the new normal in marketing for businesses, she said. Once owners get past the daunting task of setting up their online marketing pages and systems for the first time, that is.
Businesses can to track their customers, the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and the progress of their sales leads in the sales process with greater ease than ever, Mitchell said.
But first, businesses must determine what online tools their customers are using and get to know those marketing channels well.
Use the social tools your clients are using, Mitchell suggests. You have to know what kind of bait you are using and where the fish are swimming.
She suggests that businesses select the tool they think is most relevant to their business and start from there. Often thats a Facebook account, she said, as its among the most heavily used social-networking site by consumers.
Spend time exploring and perfecting the business webpage, message, maintenance schedule and customer interactions before starting another account. When multiple accounts are set up and the business owner feels his or her message is consistent between the marketing channels, it might be good to consider a software service such as HootSuite to help manage the accounts through a single work platform and better understand the effectiveness of each marketing avenue, Mitchell said.
And for those who just cant get past the getting started part, it could be worthwhile to hire a local firm or consultant to get the accounts going. The owner can then take over the easier task of maintaining those accounts, Mitchell said. Advisors at the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College also can help business owners learn about, set up and maintain the accounts for no charge, she said.
Doing nothing could be a companys eventual death knell, though.
We all have to be aware of how fast the world is moving, Mitchell said. Theres no perfect way to do it, but you have to find your voice in this new world. This is how customers are communicating today, and its something businesses cant ignore.