Firstly, Happy New Year from everyone here at Vesess! 2009 was a tough one for small businesses, but we got through it with your help, and are raring to go in 2010. To start the year off with a bang we’ve got an interview with someone who really knows his SMEs. John Joyce is the one man band that runs The Small BizNest, an outfit that specialises in developing marketing plans for small businesses. When John came to us to have his company’s web presence developed, we had no idea what kind of experience we were in for. As we put together the The Small BizNest site, we slowly realised that we were working with one of the best marketers in the field. Today, we hope to share that experience with you via an interview we recently conducted with him. On your website, you say that The Small BizNest develops ‘online marketing eco-systems’. That’s an interesting concept – could you tell us what it means? The days of outbound marketing are over and, for any business to attract new customers, they must embrace the concept of inbound marketing. Many people mistakenly believe that simply building a website will instantly attract new customers or that just signing up for a Twitter account will generate new business. The truth of the matter is that you have to establish your messaging and then build an entire ecosystem (website, blogging, SEO/SEM, social media, networking, list building, etc.) that will consistently deliver your message to the largest number of “qualified” prospective customers. You’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the business. What made you choose SMEs as your field of choice? After a long career working with large corporations, l decided it was time for a change. I was fortunate enough to join GotVMail (now Grasshopper) when they were a small company (less than ten employees) and that experience sparked my passion for empowering small businesses. How is marketing for SMEs different from marketing for bigger companies? In most cases, the SME doesn’t have the financial or human capital to effectively and consistently market their business. SMEs need to be educated on low cost, no cost marketing solutions as well as solutions that are as automated as possible so they can focus on their core business. What do you like most about the work you do? If there is one thing you could change about how the game is played, what would it be? The most rewarding aspect of the work I do is being able to quickly see results and share in the success of my clients. The greatest challenge is the speed at which technology like search engine algorithms change. Your goals don’t change but your strategy and tactics are always a moving target. There are tons of publicity firms out there. Why should SMEs come to you? Marketing, advertising and publicity are all beginning to merge. They are all components of an online marketing ecosystem. I don’t just offer hype or buzz – I build a strategic vision that encompasses all aspects of attracting new customers and building brand equity. ‘Internet marketing’ is a term that’s bandied about a lot these days. What similarities and differences does it share with traditional marketing, and how does The Small BizNest take these into account when creating strategies? I equate traditional marketing with outbound marketing and, although there are outbound components of internet marketing such as email, it’s no longer an effective strategy. The days of blasting your message to the disinterested masses are behind us and businesses now need to engage in ‘inbound marketing’. We develop strategies that help clients identify (1) who their target customers are, (2) what their needs are and (3) where they can be engaged. The resulting tactics can be a mixture of inbound/outbound and online/offline components but inbound online efforts currently offer the best ROI. Which Internet technologies have affected online marketing the most, and why? Search engines, most importantly Google, have really leveled the playing field. More than 80% of consumers use a search engine to research a product or service they are planning to purchase. SMEs are able to create a comprehensive business profile on all of these search engines for free. I also think SaaS, cloud computing and open source paved the way for the huge number of powerful yet affordable solutions available to SMEs today. As someone who has a passion for SMEs, what are your resources of choice for keeping up with the latest developments in the sphere? What should new SME owners be reading these days? Books:
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael E. Gerber
- Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media) – Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah
- Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion – Gary Vaynerchuk
- Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust – Chris Brogan, Julien Smith
- Web Analytics: An Hour A Day – Avinash Kaushik
- Guy Kawasaki
- Chris Brogan
- Duct Tape Marketing
- Gary Vaynerchuk
- Tim Berry
- Seth Godin
- Bizsugar On a related note, what has changed the most about the SME game in this post-Internet era? What are some of the new challenges a new SME has to face today?
- The barriers to entry (for starting an online business) are extremely low so there’s a greater likelihood that there will be a steady stream of new competitors.
- There is an extremely steep learning curve when it comes to online marketing due to the complexity of the solutions and the speed at which they change.
- Although there are many free marketing products/services available to SMEs, many of them require a serious time commitment to make sure there is plenty of care and feeding while you grow your ecosystem.
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