It is a challenge to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and effectively convey the uniqueness of your brand. In a bid to connect with prospects across channels, SMBs get overwhelmed with the available options and the cost associated with exploring and using them to get satisfactory results. In the last segment of our interview with George Bounacos, after taking advice on SEO and tips on online marketing, we tried to understand how SMBs can effectively use various channels of marketing to establish themselves among their industry peers.
We hear a lot about online reputation management these days. What should SMBs monitor, where and how?
The best practical and free advice is to set a News Alert at Bing and at Google for your organization's name, the trade names of all of your products and the names of the individuals on your management team. Make sure to select to receive everything and have items mailed to one person. Make that person your early warning system.
There are commercial packages to buy, but for basic monitoring, you can't go wrong with this free, simple solution.
How effective do you believe mobile marketing is for SMBs and how would you suggest they get started?
Local businesses should already be deploying mobile solutions. The new buzzword in web development is "responsive design," which means that a site will adapt and configure itself to neatly fit on a smartphone display, tablet or a desktop computer monitor.
We see many U.S. businesses serving regular web pages to 10 to 20 percent of traffic across a variety of devices. For usability, a company's website needs to make a good presentation regardless of the device that is being used.
Mobile advertising is also an important strategy especially for local service businesses. Any business from food delivery to consumer-centric services such as plumbers or electricians needs to be considering mobile advertising because the percentage of people looking for those types of services is much higher on mobile. We're even seeing gains by local services such as psychologists and tutoring.
Those businesses are generating additive leads—their old traffic plus new mobile traffic. As devices converge and people consume content in different ways, those numbers will eventually reach a peak, but we're still several years from accurately forecasting that peak.
We tend to think marketing is a creative discipline but, from your perspective, what is the scientific side of marketing?
Great marketing has always been a blend of art and science. When direct mail was used twenty years ago, the science had to wait a week or even ten days before results would trickle back. We can now see results in real time and adapt messaging, targets and any other variables on the fly.
One thing computers and other devices do well is create data. That means online marketers can understand the type of visitors that look at specific messages, how they interact with the messages and the best way to generate the highest possible profit.
That is 100% science—the science of analytics. We're now seeing more predictive analytics. Even small companies generate so much data that good marketing scientists can develop an algorithm that suggests buyer types, sites they visit, messaging, offers and even potential products that haven't yet been created.
The work is very similar to the way Amazon or Netflix suggests a product you might like. With so many data points involved, a business can market to one type of customer in multiple zip codes instead of marketing to multiple zip codes. This concept of micro-targeting is being used everywhere today from banks and credit card companies to political campaigns.
Lastly, since you are an SMB yourself (as a principle of Silver Beacon Marketing), what insight do you have for others looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace using internet advertising, SEO, creativity and other tactics?
Find or create something remarkable about your organization. We're a very high-touch boutique agency. We don't work with everyone who calls us. We look for businesses where the passion to be excellent is present. You don't need to be in an exciting life-or-death field, but we look for people who are passionate about being the best in their field.
There are many differentiation strategies. Quality is one, price is another and excellent service is a third. Anything that someone values is a potential differentiator for your business.
Constantly communicating that differentiator in all of your messaging is one of your biggest responsibilities. Unless you're fortunate enough to have discovered or created something, you will have direct substitutes as competition. Helping prospects understand what makes your organization special is a key component of your communication strategy, including your online channels.
George Bounacos, Silver Beacon Marketing's founder and COO, began an obsession with online businesses in the 1980s. The four startups of which he has been part have sold for a combined $96 million. While an executive at CARFAX.com, he created the company's Buy Back Guarantee program and led revenue generation from more than 20,000 businesses. Later, he managed a lead generation practice for an internet yellow pages firm. He has since launched two online businesses, including Silver Beacon, which focuses on profitability for small businesses and non-profits.
A graduate of George Mason University, Bounacos has been a Google AdWords professional for years. He judged the School of Management's undergraduate business case competition each semester for a decade and has guest-lectured in three other GMU business classes in the last two years. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed Bounacos to a three-year term on the county's Consumer Protection Commission in 2009.
Bounacos co-chaired the American Diabetes Association's Step Out fundraising walk in Northern Virginia and led social media efforts for the International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap. Bounacos and Silver Beacon donate more than 400 hours of work each year to SPARC, an organization helping Northern Virginia adults with disabilities.
Silver Beacon Marketing's clients range from small businesses that receive one million daily visits to solo entrepreneurs.
We would like to hear your thoughts about the tips offered here. Share your marketing experiences with us and other marketing and design topics that you would like us to discuss in our future blog posts.