CT Expert Insights: 8 Marketing Resolutions for 2020 with Rieva Lesonsky

The start of the new year is the perfect time for business owners to reevaluate their marketing efforts and to experiment with a few new techniques.

Rieva Lesonsky, President and CEO of GrowBiz Media, presents eight resolutions for marketing more effectively and efficiently in 2020. She addresses best practices (ex. leveraging technology) and some common mistakes business owners make when it comes to content marketing. She also discusses marketing trends—such as using micro-influencers—and provides tips on messaging and strategy.



Greg Corombos: Hi, I'm Greg Corombos. Our guest this week on Expert Insights is Rieva Lesonsky. She's President and CEO of GrowBiz Media. She's also the author of a new column for the Small Business Administration website entitled Eight Marketing Resolutions for 2020. And Rieva, thanks so much for being with us.

Rieva Lesonsky: Oh, it's my pleasure, Greg.

GC: Well, let's begin with the challenge of marketing as we enter a new decade here for small business owners. How overwhelmed do they feel by the ever-changing and ever-advancing approaches to marketing?

RL: Very overwhelmed. There was a survey from Mailchimp that said 31% of business owners say marketing is their number one challenge. I think that's actually an underestimation. I think the more marketing channels we discover, the more overwhelming it gets. It's like, what do I do? How do I balance? You know, how do I make this all work?

GC: And that's exactly where your column comes in, especially with the first resolution. You say it's not only a new year, it's a new decade. So let's get ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing. Number one on the list is to resolve to integrate that marketing. So you don't do it in what you call silos. And so post over here add over here. But interweaving everything from social media to search engine optimization to emails and advertising. So the big question is, how do you do that? How do you interweave at all, so you don't have to keep doing a million different things, but you can kind of do it and it all fits together?

RL: There are certain things, there are certain third-party apps you can use that will help you bring your social media together. So that you can do one post, and it'll post to Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and in some cases Pinterest, in some cases Instagram, at the same time. So that's saving you a lot of time, and you can customize those. There are other third-party apps that actually, like you would take a blog that you've written and connect it to this app. And it will, it takes parts of the blog out and creates its own social media posts. So you have to go in and edit those. But you're basically...half your work is done for you. Because you're not writing like, “Okay, what do I say about this one?”

Explore the different apps that are out there to help you integrate that. And then also, the first thing you really have to do is, like, what are you using? And what is working for you? Not every marketing channel is necessarily going to work for you. Don't spend your time chasing channels that just don't make it happen.

GC: And that leads into our second resolution here. You say resolved to broaden the definition of content marketing. And as we've just established, there's lots of different content you can do and we'll talk about that even more in a future resolution here. But where are the areas that a lot of business owners are stuck now and where do we need to be at this point?

RL: The thing about content marketing is it's not optional. If you have a website, you have to put new content on your website or the search engines are just going to ignore you. And that is the worst thing that can happen. So you, one, the first thing with content marketing is making sure you have new content on your website.

But it doesn't have to be articles. It can be infographics, it can be...content includes videos. It includes podcasts and includes actually social media that leads to something else. It's all about what your audience wants from you, and how do you want to reach them.

I think one of the big mistakes that a lot of business owners make is they think that because that is the word marketing, it's all about promotional messages. And that's not really the case. You want to have some in there. But the whole broader definition of marketing is really establishing relationships with your clients and customers and that's about helping them more than necessarily promoting what you do.

GC: Actually giving something that you don't want their money in exchange for might actually be a very good way to do that once in a while. You do need to make the ask pretty frequently, but not all the time. And giving them some stuff that doesn't directly benefit you in that particular moment is a good way to build that rapport.

Another way here to broaden the content marketing is through video marketing. And that's number three, increase the commitment to video marketing. And I guess it depends a bit on what type of business we're talking about here, Rieva. All of us have a video camera now. They're called our smartphones, and we can do that pretty easily. And of course, other folks might say well that doesn't look all that professional. If I want to do it professional, that's going to cost a lot of money. So what are the smart tips here?

RL: First of all, take yourself away from that last thing you said. That people today, because they want to kind of feel authenticity. It shouldn’t be bad, but they're okay with you not maybe being perfectly lit or perfectly, you know, coiffed to do a video. They want to hear from you. And the key to video here is the younger your audience target, millennials in particular, 25 to 44 year olds, they actually say, we want to see more video content from companies. And so if that's your target market, you have, again, you have no choice, you really need to amp up your video marketing. And there's a lot of companies out there that can help you do that. Explore the resources, if you're not on your own, necessarily, when you're doing any of these things.

GC: What do you need to convey in your video message? Obviously, it's not just what you're saying, which would be the case in a written form, but you need to have a certain demeanor, you need to have a certain energy that a lot of folks will try to coach you on. So what works and what doesn't?

RL: Yeah. Again, it's about being genuine about being authentic. Videos are great for walking somebody through how to do something, right. Maybe you're selling some kind of device. How do you hook that in? How does that work? Maybe you're an interior designer in your video is just about, you know, how do you put pillows on a couch? I mean things that maybe business owners think, “Oh, it's so simple. Why would anybody want to see that?” But that's because you're the expert. Your customers are not. So anything that can be explained and shown visually is great for a video

GC: And Rieva, as much as younger consumers want to see something in video form, emails are still very, very effective way to market particularly as you say here in resolution four. Personal emails. Resolve to do more personal emails. What exactly do you mean by that? And why do they work so well?

RL: They work really well because people feel like they're being talked to. Like that you're addressing their needs, and not just, “So here's this broad message again” where you're selling something. Email is still the number one way in terms of ROI of getting money back in marketing, and depending on who you look at their numbers vary. The [indecipherable] says, you get 32 dollars back for every dollar you spend, I've seen others that say you get 140 dollars back for every dollar you spend.

So email marketing is definitely worth your investment. So personalizing it is saying when you get the email, it says like, “Dear Greg”. It's not just “Hey customer” or “Hi there”. So it’s “Dear Greg”, and then it's based on your using your knowledge of what people want from you before what they're interested in, in what you're pitching to them. So if they're a customer and you're collecting data, which you should be, and you know, that they bought, let's say, you know, a sweater in the past. Maybe it's January, you would hit them with a “Dear Greg”. Hey, it's, you know, it's January and we're all looking forward to the end of winter, but it's still cold. Here's, you know, here's some new sweaters that we have, that we just got in”. Or something that towards the end of the time. It’s getting warmer, but you still need to, you know, protect yourself from the cold here, some lighter weight sweaters that might take you into springtime.

So it's about knowing the customers' name as well as knowing what they've ordered before. And then they feel like, oh, you're doing me a favor. Thank you so much. You're not trying to sell me what, you know, come into my store and buy something.

GC: Let's move on to the next resolution now, and that is resolve always to test and to test what marketing methods in which avenues are being effective for you. So what are the best ways to gauge how well your efforts are working in various ways?

RL: Let's say, let's talk about email. We take the email that has worked most effectively for you. And you then come up with another email, and you test against that, right? So some people do A/B tests where you, “A” gets the email that's working. You take your list and you split it in half, and “B” gets the other one. And you send them out, and then you look and see what works best. If it's “A”, the one that's been working for you, that's fine. You just keep using that. And then, you know, maybe a month later you test the different “B”. Sometimes “B” is going to win. And now you have, okay. I wouldn't take that just on once. If you have where “B” wins, you might want to do that again. Maybe reverse the list split to make sure that really is effective. And now you have a new piece of marketing that, you know, is more likely to win customers than anything else.

So don’t ever sit there and say, you know what? I have this I'm done. I don't need to explore anything differently. Because consumer behaviors are changing all the time. So you can't rest on your laurels and think oh, this is working. I don't have to change my language, change whether I use photographs, you know. When social media first started, for instance, it didn't matter. Okay, here's the social media posts, people reacted. Well now, social media posts with an image get far more interaction than one without. So you always are constantly needing to test whether you do, you know, test your message, test your graphics, test your headlines, and things like that.

GC: Let's move to number six now. And that's to resolve to use technology. And obviously, if we're going to integrate all these different marketing approaches, understanding a lot of different technology is important. So how well are business owners doing already on this front? And if you're lagging behind a little bit, what's one of the easier ways to catch up?

RL: Again, for almost everything I've said here today, there is a third-party app. So those apps are all technology apps that can help you. So one, I mean, I think I...every so often, I will actually, I have a Mac computer. I'll go into the app store, just to see what's new, just to see what's going on. It's, oh, you know, this sounds interesting. But I also, I read a lot of newsletters. I get a lot of information. We published a lot of this on our website at smallbizdaily.com about, hey, here's a great new app that will help you do this. Or here's a new digital tool, which is—an app as a digital tool—that will help you, you know, do this better. And so you have to, you have to keep up to date on this information because there's new stuff coming into the marketplace all the time. And it's going to make your life a little easier. If you use a digital tool, then if you keep doing things the old fashioned way.

GC: We're talking with Rieva Lesonsky, President and CEO of GrowBiz Media, the column on Eight Marketing Resolutions for 2020 is on the Small Business Administration website. And we get to number seven here, Rieva. For many, many years, and I think it's still true, that satisfied customers are a fantastic ambassador for a business. But you also say it's important to use micro-influencers. For those that aren't familiar with that, what are they and how do you use them?

RL: Influencers, in general, are more often celebrities. Not necessarily celebrities of household names, you know. That works obviously for some. But people who are well known in those specific fields, right? So a micro-influencer is someone who is not quite, doesn't have quite maybe that broad a platform, but that they...they're developing it and in that very, in that niche, they're there. They're well respected. It could be one of your best customers. It could be somebody, if you have a retail store, it could be in your, you know, you're selling to moms. It could be someone in town who runs a mom blog. So you want to identify who are people who are talking about your product, whether on their social media pages, you know. You want to monitor that. You can be doing that through Google or...you should be monitoring your social media mentions. Anyway, you should be monitoring your rating and review sites. See who's talking about, one, you in particular, or two, that the type of product or service that you're selling, and then see if you can bring them on board to talk about what you're doing. In some cases, micro-influencers are paid money. And in other cases, they're paid in exchange, you know, for a product or service. So you can work with them very differently. But if...they're just people who other people listen to. And again, they don't need to have a following of millions because you're not...if you're running a restaurant on Main Street, you don't need millions. You just want people in your town to know about you.

GC: Let's finish up strong here with number eight. And for the first seven, we've largely been talking about business to consumer sales. And so let's talk about business to business. And resolution number eight is a review of how you connect to business to business buyers. So what needs to change there?

RL: This is a whole mindset change, right? For many years, people who have, who are selling B2B, have lagged in the adoption of a lot of the digital techniques, because they're thinking it's all based on relationships. But the B2B world has changed, mainly because a lot of people on the buying end are millennials. And they expect to be marketed to basically the same way that you would market to a consumer. And that has changed the whole face of what happens in B2B. Their B2B people are looking at review sites, they're looking at social media, they're looking to other peers for recommendations. So it's not necessarily that old, hey, that old one-on-one relationship that you have. You need to use these digital marketing tools to reach B2B buyers as well. And one of the things that we've known from this, is the buying process has been elongated in B2B because people are taking their time to check your social media, to check what people are saying about you. So the...to get to the “yes” is going to take you a little bit longer in the B2B world.

GC: And Rieva, where can folks find you?

RL: You can find me...my website is smallbizdaily.com. If you have a question, just email me at “Rieva”, R-I-E-V-A. at smallbizdaily.com calm [rieva(at)smallbizdaily.com]. And I'm on Twitter @rieva.

GC: Fantastic. Rieva, excellent advice as we enter, like you said, a whole new decade here. Really appreciate it, and best wishes to you in the year ahead.

RL: Thank you. You too, Greg.

GL: Thank you. Rieva Lesonsky, President and CEO of GrowBiz Media. Smallbizdaily.com is the website. She's also the author of a new column for the Small Business Administration website entitled Eight Marketing Resolutions for 2020. I'm Greg Corombos. This is Expert Insights.

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