Consultants, coaches, business advisers and circuit speakers can frequently fall into a trap when handing out advice as they touch on subjects that they’ve lost touch with. In the current cauldron of technological innovation and digital dependence that’s not all too surprising because they rarely have time to stop and revisit their thinking or more importantly put their theory into practice.
Just because advice sounds plausible, logical and possible doesn’t make it a cast iron sure bet to work. My view is that we must accept we can’t possibly stay at the sharp end, understanding latest trends, tips, wrinkles and methodologies, without being self-aware and putting those golden nuggets of advice to the test to establish their true value. Instead of sticking with ideas that are possibly past their “sell by date” or untested put yourself in the position of a client. Rather than act as an adviser seek to prove those ideas, strategies and actions by applying them to a real situation.
How to generate new business is one of the most regular questions posed by clients and for obvious reasons. Winning new customers is essential to growth and sustainability and over time owners, directors and managers can become complacent, lose focus and need a guiding hand to put the company back onto a positive footing.
Luckily for me I’ve recently had an ideal opportunity, which was literally very close to home, to test the theory of business generation in a very contemporary field of marketing, social media.
My wife decided last year that it was time, following years of looking after the family, to take up the challenge of running her own ballet school. Being the true professional that she is, my wife ensured that she was fully up to date with syllabi and best practice according to the Royal Academy of Dance. Whilst I had every confidence in my wife’s capability as a teacher I could see as a potential hurdle with her previous steadfast view that she did not “do social media”. No personal Facebook page, no twitter and certainly nothing as exotic as Instagram or Pinterest.
Here was an excellent opportunity for me to not only help my wife achieve her ambition of running a successful school but to also put those many theories to win business through digital channels to the test.
It’s often said that it can be a dangerous, potentially painful process working with your other half but in our experience it proved pretty much straightforward. I know nothing at all about dance let alone ballet and she knew very little of social media and marketing matters.
My first concern was to have a website and to ensure that it was given the right treatment to appear in search terms, to also provide the essential link to sites such as Netmums and Yell.com but also as its essential when creating social media accounts. The website also needed to be fully responsive, smartphone and tablet friendly.
The key target audience for the ballet school is mothers of children aged from two and a half to teenage so my first piece of advice was to establish a solid Facebook page. Starting from scratch it was also going to be important to get matters moving quickly and create a steady flow of enquiries. As with many businesses the primary customer activity when looking for this service/ activity was to go online. A google search for “ballet school” on google would automatically bring up schools that were registered and verified with the search site. To do this the school needed to have a Google account and for the best chance of high profile recognition an active Google+ account.
It was essential that the school became verified and that the map engine within Google had Mrs L’s business linked to the address. That way the school would show up listed with other verified schools and the closer to the target location the higher the ranking. Simple but so many businesses miss his very important step.
After Google+ and Facebook we created twitter, Instagram and Pinterest sites to add breadth and visual impact to the school’s brand.
I suggested that my wife needed to create a regular dialogue with our local community and that was through a localised, gender and age specific “like” campaign for Facebook and a daily news feed of curated stories relating to the art form on twitter simply called “Ballet News”. The latter news update has been a huge success. Why such a success? Mrs L’s attention to detail and regular posts have created an expectation of consistency, entertainment and information which her community greatly appreciate. In response to my prompt on the importance of engagement on Facebook Mrs L launched a regular ballet related picture post and specifically once a week “Tutu Tuesday” featuring a new outfit each week. I take only a very small piece of credit, the genius of the creative idea and execution was entirely down to the proprietor…not me. That signified a watershed moment, the owner of the business owned their media and understood it enough to capitalise on its power.
And what of the results of this test of social media guidance and marital relationship?
Well no divorce…quite the contrary. A thriving business that since launch in April has grown to over 40 regular students and 3 to 4 new enquiries each week 90% either via the website, fed by twitter and Instagram accounts or directly from the Facebook page.
Of course it helps that my wife is a talented teacher and has great rapport with students and parents alike but for me it proved the power of social media. Mrs L has commented that she doesn’t know how she could possibly have managed without Facebook or her website. Interestingly we experimented with more traditional marketing – the results were mixed. The local paper proved the most expensive investment and produced nothing whilst a magazine targeting primary schools more than covers its costs. By far and away the most successful medium for promoting the school is Facebook and the website, searched for on Google.
All of the above and the ongoing success of the school proves that there are advantages in having a strong, well-articulated digital presence aligned to a good product.
Key Social Media Steps for a Start Up
- Research your market and grasp the key actions taken when purchasing/ researching your product/ service.
- In line with the above data create a website and keep the content fresh and optimised for search engines.
- Create social media accounts that are relevant to your target market
- Build a network for each account reflecting that audience, eg other associated interests
- Build content that is fresh, interesting and relevant to your network
- Don’t bombard your audience with sales messages and endless promotions, share useful posts and engage
- Respond – download the social media apps and e-mail accounts to your smartphone and be prepared to react as and when enquiries arrive
- Don’t panic – it won’t happen overnight, it’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint
- If you’re stuck seek advice but be sure to not to simply outsource your activity – that will not work for you in the long term
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself but watch out for cross platform links and potential duplication, best to keep things simple to start with.
- Try new platforms but test the results, if it’s not working ask why – keep up with developments
- If operating multiple social media accounts consider using tools such as Hootsuite to manage your time and posts and measure results.
I’m not ready to don the tights and show you my arabesque but I’m very happy to help you grow your organisation be it in education, retail, manufacturing or the service sector if fact any business that thrives on generating new customers.
Drop me a line via the contact form below.
David Laud @davidlaud