Dealing with the 3 “No” Objections to Social Media Marketing

sm window logos One of my favorite authors of business and motivational books is the late Zig Ziglar. Frankly, I would not be where I am today in my professional life without the influence of Ziglar’s books and tapes. He was a master motivator, encouraging us to realize “you can have everything in life you want if you will help enough other people get what they want.” Before he was a world renowned motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar excelled as a salesperson. Ziglar’s work in the area of motivation is so valuable that his teachings on selling can be overlooked.

Overcoming Objections

One sales topic that Zig Ziglar addressed in his teaching can be applied to social media marketing: Overcoming objections. The difference is that Ziglar’s teaching on overcoming objections pertained to external buyers while objections that businesses grapple with in social media marketing are internal. The three objections to social media marketing can be described as:

  1. No time – Social media is not a replacement marketing tactic in most cases. It is an additive task that can be particularly challenging when the social media manager is also marketing manager, sales manager, operations manager, HR manager… you get the picture. However, saying “I have no time to do social media” is in effect saying “I have no time to market my brand or business.” Doing social media well takes a time commitment for sure; to suggest otherwise would be disingenuous. However, social media represents an interactive communication channel that can connect your business with customers and others interested in what you sell. Do you still have no time?
  2. No money – This objection may be the easiest to overcome. Social media offers an attractive low-cost alternative to media advertising buys. Social media is not a free alternative as some suggest. Related to the no time objection, it may be necessary to hire a part-time employee to manage your business’s social media presence. And, you may incur modest expense to produce content to share on your sites. But again, we can turn the no money objection around- Are you saying you cannot afford to market your business? If no, there are bigger issues that need to be addressed to fight for survival.
  3. No understanding – This objection is the one that is most acceptable… provided you are willing to deal with it. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are usually good at what they do- the product or service they create- but may not be adept at implementing marketing practices. It is not an indictment against them; it is just that knowing how to use social media for business purposes falls outside their expertise area. This limitation can be overcome by hiring talent that possesses the desired skills, either as a company employee or outsourcing to a marketing firm.

Don’t Let Objections become Excuses

Is developing a social media strategy challenging for many businesses? Absolutely. The social media landscape continues to evolve rapidly in terms of new social networking sites and new features on existing networks. The three objections to implementing a social media strategy identified here- no time, no money, and no understanding- are threats to your business. Why? Accepting these objections as excuses for not being engaged in social media channels can keep your brand from being more prominent and relevant among the very audience you want to influence.



Seizing Big Opportunities in Small Business Saturday

The weekend after Thanksgiving shopping period has evolved into distinctly branded days that are crucial to retailers’ success, not only during the holiday season but impacting their profitability for the year. Of course, Black Friday started it all, a frenzy of sales and deals that have many shoppers standing in lines for hours and rolling out of bed in the wee hours of Friday morning to begin Christmas shopping in earnest. Black Friday is creeping into Thursday as retailers battle for customers and attention. For those of us who find Black Friday shopping too crowded and stressful, we have a safe haven: Cyber Monday. Online retailers found the cure to the shopping hangover that is Black Friday- more deals that can be had conveniently via computer, tablet, or phone.

The newest branded entrant into the Thanksgiving weekend shopping fest is Small Business Saturday. American Express established this event in 2010 to support local, independent merchants upon whom shoppers relied long before the days of big box retailers. Small Business Saturday is not a publicity gimmick; it has the marketing muscle of American Express and other firms with a stake in small business success including USPS, Constant Contact, Twitter, Foursquare, and FedEx. In 2012, it was estimated that $5.5 billion in spending occurred on Small Business Saturday.

Not All Buy In
One might think that participation in Small Business Saturday would be a no-brainer for merchants. After all, there are no costs and marketing of the event is being done largely by American Express and its Small Business Saturday partners. While many small businesses have aligned their marketing with Small Business Saturday, a surprising number of local businesses have not. According to a study sponsored by Constant Contact, just over one-third of small businesses surveyed indicated they had participated in one of the three previous Small Business Saturdays. What about the other two-thirds of business that have not participated?

  • 52% of businesses that have not participated in the past do not plan to participate this year
  • 36% said they would not get new business from the event
The majority of small business have not bought into Small Business Saturday. What will it take to win some of the skeptics over?
Sales Now, Customers Later
Among the B2C small businesses planning to participate in Small Business Saturday, the benefits expected have immediate payoff:
The greatest benefit for small businesses of participating in Small Business Saturday is that it is a rare occasion in which they can ride the coattails of the marketing resources of American Express and its partners. Individual businesses will undoubtedly devise marketing efforts of their own in concert with the Small Business Saturday theme, but awareness for the event will be funded by someone else.

The short run benefits of increased awareness, new customers, and a sales boost are strong motivators to participate. But, perhaps the greatest payoff will not be felt during the busy shopping season. One of the most significant findings in the Constant Contact survey was that among businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, 52% indicated that some of their new customers acquired through the event went on to become loyal, repeat buyers. If there is a 50-50 chance that I could gain new customers by aligning with someone else’s promotion, I would be inclined to take that chance.

Let’s be realistic- Small Business Saturday will not permanently alter the shopping behavior of large numbers of consumers conditioned to “think big” and who look to chain retailers to meet their needs. However, American Express is to be commended for establishing Small Business Saturday to take a stand for the independent businesses that operate in our local communities.

What Consumers Want from Local Businesses

Small businesses have been competing in a defensive posture for most of the past two decades. Competition from corporations and chain companies have made it difficult to attract customers and compete on price. But, small businesses are thought to have an advantage that their larger competitors simply cannot match: customer intimacy. Small businesses often avoid having distance put between them and customers.  Decision makers, including business owners can frequently be found on the front lines serving customers. In contrast, key personnel in larger firms may become removed from direct customer interaction because of greater demands on their time to perform administrative duties. So, small businesses will be able to battle their deep-pocketed competitors as long as they turn on the charm through customer service, right?

Hard versus Soft Traits
Not so fast- it appears that consumers are not as enamored with “touchy feely” interactions with small businesses as we typically assume. An annual survey by BrightLocal, a SEO agency specializing in local businesses, found that the customer service advantage local businesses are presumed to be able to realize relative to larger competitors may not be so important to consumers. When asked to name up to three “reputation traits” influence choice to patronize a local business, the top responses were:

  1. Reliability (71%)
  2. Good Value (45%)
  3. Expertise (36%)

And somewhat surprising were criteria at the bottom of the list:

  1. Friendliness (8%)
  2. Courtesy (5%)
  3. Localness (5%)

Local SEO chart about which reputation traits are most important to a local business

Source:, accessed June 27, 2013

The findings suggest consumers are interested in functional criteria related to performance and benefits received for price paid. The low importance attached to friendliness and courtesy is a blow to the notion that those traits are potentially the most potent differentiators that local businesses possess.

Don’t Change, Just Get Better
Hopefully, local business owners will not look at the LocalBright study’s findings and make a strategic choice to forego friendliness in order to focus on enhancing reliability, value, and expertise. The personal touch that local businesses can offer is valuable; it is just not valuable enough on its own, evidently. I was surprised at the findings initially but then thought about my experiences with local businesses as a consumer. Being local and even being friendly cannot compensate for businesses whose products or services are not as good as competitors. Local business owners may be our friends or neighbors, and they embody the American entrepreneurial dream. But consumers are not willing to subsidize the dream; they have expectations about the competence local businesses should exhibit and value they offer.

BrightLocal – “Local Consumer Review Survey 2013”

10 Ideas for Small Biz Marketing in the New Year

I spend a lot of time at hockey rinks serving as taxi driver, equipment manager, and cheerleader for my 11-year-old goalie, Ethan. Recently, hockey took us to a goalie camp in the Atlanta area. Besides Ethan having a good experience at the camp, I ran across an interesting article in the Gwinnett Business Journal. It was a list of 10 small business trends for 2012. Marketing advice is plentiful, even if not always useful. However, I thought the 10 items on the list was excellent food for thought. The ideas may not be a perfect fit for every small business, but they can be taken as a challenge to refresh approaches taken to marketing in the coming year.

Below are 3 highlights from the list. The complete list can be viewed here.

Listen to customers differently. Take advantage of social media for listening, but face-to-face communication remains vital.

Offer bigger value propositions. Be able to clearly articulate your point of difference and why someone should buy from you.

Identify and pursue new growth opportunities. Whether it is new products or new customer segments, how can you expand your footprint?

Here is hoping that 2012 is your best yet, professionally and personally.