How to utilize social media during a storm crisis

This past weekend, western Massachusetts (tCSA home base), as well we other parts of New England got hit hard by a nor’eastern… in October! As crazy as that sounds, it happened. The aftermath of the storm brought power outages, roadblocks and many civilians without a warm place to sleep. In the time of power outages, social media was the number one news source basically because of mobile devices.

There were several businesses that were lucky and didn’t lose power and opened up to serve the suffered communities as well as staying past normal operating hours. Some businesses were even opened by installing generators. One thing that many local businesses didn’t fully utilize during the power outage weekend was social media. Whether they had any networks they actively used or not, many were unable to release information to the masses.

So what does this teach you? Create a Post Storm Social Media Plan (PSSMP). What is that? a PSSMP is a specific type of social media crisis protocol a business will undergo when the crisis arises. One myth that a lot of businesses tend to believe is that they don’t need a plan. Not true. In fact, you need multiple plans in place. The PSSMP is just one of them. Another is a Brand Reputation Crisis Protocol, giving your business a specific course of action on what to do regarding your business brand and its’ reputation. But this article is focusing on post storms.

Every business should have something in place, especially if you are heavily active on social media. Here are some things that you should consider in including in your Post Storm Social Media Plan:

  • Status of your business: Give your fans and followers an update to how your business was effected. If it was, give them an estimated time of when things will be back to normal. If it wasn’t effected, still let them know. Let them know that you are there for them and ready to provide your services if need be.
  • Status of your local neighborhood: Let your customers know what is going on in your neighborhood. If they have to commute to your place of business or someone from your business has to commute to them, let them know of road conditions, roadblocks, etc to keep them informed.
  • Status of your local community: Let your customers know what is going on in your community. Let them know of any available shelters, gas stations, or open markets for them to pick up some essential needs.
  • Status of other local businesses: Let customers know which local businesses near you are open or closed. You need to keep them informed but giving them a reason to visit your business as well.
There are many reasons why you should have a plan in place. Here are just a few:
  • Engage: Engagement is what social media is for. It connects its’ users to their favorite brands and businesses. During a crisis, you need to be heavily engaged and engaging to your followers. Keep interaction high. On most social networks, you can now see what businesses and brand pages their friends are engaging with. Utilize that to market your business.
  • Market: Marketing your business is a must. With the boom of web marketing and social media, it has become a 24/7 job. Another reason to have a PSSMP is the opportunity to obtain new business. If you are a restaurant, convenience store, grocery market or a place that sells essentials, new customers are very important. You want first timers to come in, be impressed and come back again post devastation. If you are actively using social media during a time of devastation, consumers will know of your business and will be tempted to give it a try.
  • Depend: You want to let your customers and potential customers know that they can rely on you during a time of devastation. If by chance another storms comes your way, those customers will remember what you have previously done. You will instantly create “first time mind”.
In the end, no one wants any sort of devastation. But they happen and your business needs to be prepared for them. If you don’t have a Post Storm Social Media Plan, creating one to utilize now is too late. But creating one is a must. Consult with your marketer and be prepared.
Any questions on Post Storm Social Media Plan or a Social Media Crisis Plan, contact us at info@creativestrategyagency.com

Top 3 Excuses Small Businesses use to Avoid Web Marketing

1. “I don’t have the time”. This is the number one reason most businesses say for the reason of not web marketing. We get it, you have a lot going on between dealing with the customers, managing inventory, etc – we get it. There are a lot of free tools to use to market your business online, but managing your web marketing is just like managing a car- you need to service it to keep it going. The biggest mistake is starting and not finishing. Tip: schedule yourself a block of time every day to web marketing. If you still can’t or don’t want to, then that is when you need to outsource. Web marketing isn’t a fad- its ongoing.

2. “It’s too expensive/Not in my budget”. Besides the time, most people say they don’t have it in their budgets to market on the web. Times are tough, we’re all feeling it, but it really is no excuse to neglect a tool that could drastically help your business. Between the computers and now mobile, people are on the web more than ever, and its only going to be more accessible. You need to know what your customers are saying about you. Brand monitoring is one of the biggest issues small businesses face when they web market their business. Tip: Move some money around. Maybe your budget on supplies is more than you need or put web marketing into your budget for the next quarter.

3. “No, I’m all set, my secretary/admin is handling it for me”. There are a couple of things wrong with this. One, pushing more work to your admin/secretary will not ensure that their regular workload will be accomplished. 95% of businesses that give their web marketing work to their admins, don’t pay them extra. In turn, that create your employee overwhelmed and unhappy. Two, your secretary/admin are most likely not knowledgeable with web marketing practices. They may end up hurting your online reputation instead of growing it. Tip: First, if you don’t have a marketing department, outsource it. If that absolutely cannot be done, pay for whoever it is you decide to put in charge of your web marketing to go to workshops, seminars, conferences etc to learn how to completely utilize web marketing.

When to step up your marketing

Marketing seems to always be the first thing cut when budgets are shrunk. When business is slowing down is the time to really step up your marketing. Some businesses are seasonal, for example: ski shops, farms, ice cream shops and many others. How do you know when you should step it up? With our past experiences, here are some industries that should step up their marketing by seasons:

Fall

Accountants – with the winter coming and the New Year shortly after, people will be going tax crazy. Filing taxes are one of the most important things a person has to get done. Targeting a specific demographic needs to be done months prior to tax season, not weeks. To have effective marketing efforts, your campaigns should be starting in the Fall.

Bars– Although summer is perhaps one of the slowest seasons for bars, the winter is when it can be the busiest. Bars need to market themselves for the winter heavily in the Fall. With many options for people to go to, you want to make sure they are going to your bar. Showcase drink specials, events, contests, etc. to entice people to go in to your bar over the bar down the street.

Clothing stores/boutiques– For a small business competing against corporate giants, promoting the stores, products and customer service are going to be huge for the holiday shopping season approaching. Although there are people that always shop local, give those others a chance to come in before the holidays start to see your store and products. If you market in advance, it will be easier to target current customers to come back in for the shopping season.

Auto Dealers– the winter is coming and some people are already thinking snow. For a person who has an old car and looking to upgrade to a SUV, it is best to market to them before the snow comes. Showcasing inventory and customer service will get you ahead of the pack, especially if you are a small dealer.

Winter

Gyms/Health Centers– the time to start marketing/promoting is right at the beginning on November; the beginning of holiday season. You have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in a short span of time. You have people saying “I need to start living healthier…after the holidays” and the beginning of November is the time to start marketing to those people. You want to showcase your facility and make sure you make them feel comfortable being there, especially if it is their first time going to a gym.

Golf/Country Clubs– This is THE time to market your club. Spring comes with new registrations and people gearing up for the golf season. This is the time to start per swaying golfers to join your club. Although you can’t physically show off the course, you can promote the club and the benefits of being a member.

Landscaping companies– most landscaping companies also do snow removal, so they would be working during this season. The reason they made this list is because during the winter is when they need to start marketing/prospecting new clients for the spring and summer.

Colleges/Universities- During the winter is when the high school seniors make their final decisions on what school to choose. Most students apply to multiple schools and decide after from the ones that accepted them. What is your school doing to market to the high school seniors, and potentially, the juniors as well. During the winter, a lot of students also decide they want to transfer from their current college/university. This season is prime marketing season for colleges and universities.

Spring

Restaurants/Bars- Spring time is the busiest time for restaurants and bars. Winter is over and people are tired of being in their homes. So why should they market in the spring? For the summer! Summer time is the worse season for restaurants and bars. Vacations, BBQs, out door parties, holidays and many other reasons keep people at their homes during the summer or away from home. Start marketing your busy heavily in the spring to attract new customers to have them start coming in in the winter. Share specials, menu items, events and anything else your target demographic would enjoy at your restaurant/bar.

Ice Cream Shops- although ice cream can surely be enjoyed year round, summer is by far the busiest season. Start promoting flavors, toppings, upcoming specials and more starting in April. Start promoting samples, giveaways and contests to get new customers through the door in the springtime to have them come back during the summer.

Local Breweries– two works: beer gardens. Beer gardens are very popular during the end of spring and throughout the summer. It gives local breweries an amazing opportunity to target new customers. Beer gardens are normally held at other events, or it can also be done on its’ own. March is a perfect month to start promoting. You need to typically give people two weeks to a month prior to an event to get the word out and an estimated attendance number.

Salons/Spas- wedding season begins. From May to September, salons are booked for multiple parties almost every week. But what comes before the wedding? Bridal shows, jack and jills, engagement parties and more. Most women and the bridesmaids select a salon months and months prior to the big day. So what is your salon doing to market to them before they get married? Start marketing to the new brides to be as soon as March. Also, don’t forget, many couples become engaged from Christmas to Valentine’s Day. So women start thinking as soon as during the winter and decide in the springtime. 

Summer

Office Furniture/Supply Stores– come September, almost every business owner comes refreshed from the summer. Between days off, vacations, etc., the summer is the most laid back work season. In the fall, businesses look to update, stock up on products for the fall and winter, and if the summer went well, new furniture. Although office furniture and supply stores should definitely market heavily through out the whole year, they should give it that extra push during the summer.

Carpenters – Carpenters should definitely start marketing their efforts heavily during the summer. Come fall, many people want to update the interior of their homes for the upcoming holidays.

The above industries are just examples. There are many more companies. Now this by no means any company should market only during one season. You should be marketing your business 24/7. But there are certain seasons that you do need to give your business an extra marketing push. What industries do you think need to market more during a specific season? Let us know and comment below.

QR Codes 101

Unless you live under a rock, you know what a QR Code is. But for the ones who don’t, here is our QR Code 101 post. Enjoy.

What is it.

    • QR is short for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone)
    • Comes from Japan, first one was created in 1994 (just recently became big in U.S.)
    • They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone
    • Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet

Benefits.

    • more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including url links, geo coordinates, and text.
    • Instant information
    • you can run a QR Code marketing campaign and publish a QR Code on a brochure or business card. Three months down the road, some details about the campaign changed. Instead of changing the information you have on the brochure and reprint, all you have to do is to change the link’s destination.
    • QR Codes can be a URL shortener – When used in email marketing or banner ads, that URL code (looking like a postage stamp) can link directly to a “private page” on your website.
    • QR Codes in your statements, service reminders and other “monthly” email or mobile or snail mail:  Embed that QR code and have it link directly to special rewards pages, to VIP offers and more.  Make being a customer interactive and rewarding!

 How to Use It.

You might auto generate one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, the number to call and the URL link to the page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so its easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print marketing material, print ads, etc containing:

  • Product details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • Coupons
  • Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos
  • Websites

How some are using it.

    • QR Code in Business Cards:  the scan can go directly to a special landing page that has a 1) sign-up for email 2)sign-up for mobile 3) instant coupon reward and other offers.
    • QR Code in flyers:  Same as #1 above and include event registration such as for grand opening, showcasing new products and more.  Even a link to social media special contests (Facebook pages etc.)
    • QR Code in or as stickers:  same as #1 above
    • QR Code in posters:  Perfect for event marketing and used as in #2 above.
    • QR Codes on package or in POS:  seasonal and timely offers can be provided to your customers to drive revenues or for special promotions.
    • QR Codes can generate an immediate request for information (like a quote on a vehicle etc.)
Want to test it out? Scan our QR Code below and follow us on Twitter!

Hiring a marketing firm?

Hiring a marketing firm is a serious business decision that should involve a critical look at your business right now and what it will look like in the coming years. You need to know what is involved, with your business and the marketing firm’s, when you decide to hire a marketing firm, and what your expectations are when they are engaged. Don’t hire a marketing firm without doing your own research first.

The main objective of the marketing firm is to bring your product(s) or service(s) to market. Marketing research, campaigns, advertising, PR work, social media, branding, R & D, trade shows, public sampling and education and other avenues all fall under the umbrella of marketing. Most of this you should already be doing in your business.

We comprised a list of three things to consider when looking to hire a marketing firm:

  1. Expectations. You need to know what your expectations are as far as what you would like to gain from hiring a marketing team
  2. Commitment. Short term? Long term? You can generally hire full- or part-time marketing resources by the hour, week or month without committing to long-term employment. This allows you to cover temporary holes (i.e. maternity leave) or limited workload surges (i.e. a new product launch) without affecting headcount.
  3. Why you should:
    1. Fresh perspective. Hiring an outside marketer can bring new ideas to the table that you may never think of because of your limited knowledge
    2. Small staffs that may not specialize in effective marketing plans.
    3. Save costs. Instead of hiring a full time marketing professional, hiring a marketing firm to handle your marketing can save you money on insurance, worker’s comp and more.

Any questions regarding this article, contact us at info@creativestrategyagency.com

The don’ts of branding your business

With the growth of social media, more businesses are branding themselves than ever, even the small businesses. Creating a successful isn’t easy and does not happen over night. It does take some time. Here are a few things to help you in creating your brand for your business or products.

Ignoring real strengths: We always see companies who overlook their real strengths. Some businesses even make fake claims in their branding campaign. Be honest and avoid making false commitments. Find out your real strengths and stick to them during your entire branding campaign. Working on your business’ weakness is a good thing, but be careful when publicizing it.

Over promising, Under delivering: Don’t over promise to your clients and then under deliver and destroying their trust in your brand. Over promising can help you in creating an initial buzz but the inability to deliver what you have promised to your customers can put you in danger of losing credibility, and more importantly, harm your brand reputation.

Vision: Not having the right vision can harm your brand, and ultimately your business. Your branding strategy should always be driven by your vision and not by your short term goals.

Copying competitors: This is a big no no! This is one of the most common mistake businesses do while creating their branding strategy. Just because a campaign works for another business, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Branding is to stand out of the crowd, so doing the same thing as your competitors won’t help you. To stand out from the crowd and leverage the real benefits of branding, you need to do something unique. Being different is beneficial, when branded correctly.

Inconsistency: Branding is a long term process. Do not expect overnight results from a branding campaign for your business or product. Many companies stop their branding campaigns when they can’t see quick results they were expecting, and wonder why they fail. Branding is not a quick solution. Don’t expect it to be.


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