Getting New Customers During the Failing Economy

This morning I was having a conversation on Twitter with my new friend Eva Kaplan-Leiserson about social media and its place within Small Business during this time of economic failure. Let’s break it down a bit so that I can address some aspects of new versus traditional medias and maybe answer some of your questions. 

Looking at Traditional Media

Traditional media ventures are expensive. If you’ve done any research on getting people to hear about your business you’ve probably looked into putting something in the newspaper, pricing radio advertisement and impressions or even looked into a short television advertisement. All of those cost money and with the economy taking a dive into the deep end, the path of those traditional media ventures are beginning to look like you’ll have to put a price on your arm or leg. You can’t give up your arm because then how will you shake the hand of your customer? Lose a leg and you lose your mobility. 

So then how do you fight these costs while still reaching out to new customers?

Don’t tell your customers what they need or what to do. Let them know that you want to give them what they need. They have to be able to tell you what they need and first you have to open the door to that. The best thing that you can do for your small business is to listen. By doing that, you have the opportunity to bring the voice of your customers directly into your organization. 

Social Media is booming right now but reports are showing that half of all social media campaigns fail. Then question then is, why? The answer to that is simple. Many of those businesses are doing Social Media the same as they do traditional media. That’s not what Social Media is all about. It’s not what this space desires. 

Defining Social Media

Let’s define the word “social” so that I can get to my point. 

so·cial   [so-shuhl]

Relating to human society and interaction between its members. 

Traditional media doesn’t interact or relate to society. They might try to hit on something “close to home” but there isn’t interaction involved there. Social Media is a way to publicize the relationships and interactions with others in society. It describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other. 

The Social Media Approach

Social media is still fresh on the scene in terms of the small percentage of businesses that are using these tools to effectively market their product and brand. A social media approach is different from standard advertising campaigns in that those tend to tell you about a product or service and ask the consumer to purchase it: making the sale. Utilizing social media allows the business to communicate and create an authentic relationship with their customers that will build trust and add value to their business. Essentially it allows a business to make the most of their best marketing resource: their customers. 

What Does it Cost?

Realistically it costs the small business owner only time, unless you want to hire someone to do it for you. Time is money, of course, but it is not time plus more money. If you’re a member of your local chamber of commerce, you pay for a membership and then probably take the time to participate in local networking. You’ve taken the time to make that investment. Social media requires your time, honesty and communication skills. Signing up for social networks and using tools like MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter or Plurk (just to name a few) cost absolutely nothing. Then again, it’s not really about the tools themselves but more in how you use them. More on that another time though. 

Your customers can tell you want they need as consumers. Besides the obvious money factor, what can you tell me that you need as a business owner?