Not Just About the “Like”

“Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be…”

 
Gallup Inc. summed up their recent report on social media and its influence on buyers’ decisions with those words. The report shows that 62% of consumers say social media has no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. That is staggering considering the amount of time and resources many companies, especially startups, are investing into social-media marketing campaigns. So what does this mean for companies going forward? Let’s dig into Gallup’s report a little further.
 

Social Media Marketing Shouldn’t Be Just About the Numbers

 
“Of the consumers who reported “liking” or following a company, 34% still said that social media had no influence on their purchasing behavior, while 53% said they had only some influence.”
 
Many of us are probably guilty of simply seeking a substantial social media following by simply focusing on quantity. But just because somebody “likes” a Facebook page does not mean that they are more likely to purchase from that company. In fact, polls find that people are still more likely to seek advice from family, friends, and experts before they seek advice from a Facebook page. This isn’t all that shocking, but by simply focusing on the number of “likes” companies are missing the greatest potential social media has to becoming a force within marketing strategies.
 

People Talk

 
The old-fashioned tune still rings true, people talk. Conversations among friends and family are still the driving force in customer persuasion. Social media facilitates these types of conversations and provide an opportunity for companies to take part in the conversation. As Gallup says, “Yet, many companies continue to treat social media as a one-way communication vehicle and are largely focused on how they can use these sites to push their marketing agendas.”
 
Social-media marketing should be a conversation that companies appear honest and informational without pushing an agenda too rigorously.
 

The Need for More than Social Media

 
One last interesting idea presented by Gallup is obvious, yet very important. Customer engagement needs to take place online and offline. Gallup states that time and time again that the success of customer engagement is determined by how well they “align all their touch points.” Customer purchases are still driven more by in-store displays and interactions than social media and will probably remain this way.
 
A large part of marketing is creating an experience for the customer through your product and service. It still remains difficult to do so through social-media channels. As we shape our social-media strategies, we must understand that social media is only a small portion of an overall strategy that must include the creation of a customer experience. The priority must be quality over quantity so that our online and offline interactions match to create a single, memorable experience that users will share with their family, friends, and acquaintances. Possibly through social media outlets.

Performance Measurement is Vital to a Meaningful Business Plan

Hours and hours of time are invested in constructing business plans for start-ups all over the globe. Innumerable amounts of similar blogs and articles are written about the value of these business plans. And, yes there is value
in them. Especially if they include well-defined performance milestones across business functions.
 

A Common Planning Mistake

 
A huge error made by many entrepreneurs is seeing their business plan as a one-time use only document. This is simply not true and here is one reason why: The plan should include financial forecasts and a business life-cycle timeline of some sort. Investors and lenders want to see this in order to determine their own Return on Investment. This is one area where the business plan becomes much more than a one-time use only document. While you may see those numbers only being important to obtaining that needed capital from investors, the opposite is true. Quality forecasts and timelines can be your own internal performance measurement baseline.
 
This is how performance measurement works. First, a baseline must be created and then actual performance is measured against your “planned” performance. That creates the ability to have meaningful analysis and really flesh out why your start-up is on track, over-performing, or under-performing. A good baseline makes it easy to find focus areas later down the road. The more detail included in your own internal and original plan, the better.
 

Keys to a Good Baseline

 
First and foremost a good baseline requires specific milestones both financially and chronologically. These will be different for each business depending on your industry and business model. Milestones may include breaking even, staffing upgrades, product development, market expansion, conversion rates, capital investments, and many more. Most importantly, no matter your industry, is to create specific, measurable, and meaningful milestones. They should be driving factors in business development and success. Be careful not to get bogged down by performance indicators that have no meaning or are not driving your business. Such things may be variables in other, more important milestones.
 

Performance Milestones Help Us Make Informed Decisions

 
Strong performance milestones with a plan built around them will aid you in knowing how to allocate resources and budget to individual areas within your company. When things go good or bad this will help you make more informed decisions about how to reallocate resources and budget because of the framework in place that tells you what is important and where over-performance and under-performance are taking place.
 

The Extra Work is Worth It

 
Anyone who has created a business plan before understands that creating quality forecasts and timelines is difficult and time consuming. Often a rough forecast seems sufficient. And honestly, in the short-run, will probably get you what you are looking for. But in the long-run the extra effort is extremely worth it as your company matures and begins to grow. Time and money will be saved because a framework is already in place for recognizing progress and problem areas. Starting from scratch months or years down the road can be even more costly than doing it at inception.
 
As you begin your business plan, see it as a long-term investment and take the time to establish meaningful and measurable performance milestones. The milestones you create and the performance measurements taken from them are going to bring true value to your business plan and bring true ROI for the time and money spent on constructing your plan.

Is Growth Synonymous with Success?

Headlines are filled with fairly young, fast-growing, and high-selling start-ups. Stories of ridiculous and probably unsustainable paces of growth capture our ears and lead us to dream of great things to come. We hope we could have such an opportunity to see our business explode overnight. Come on, who hasn’t been there as we scour over the news on a daily basis? It truly is fascinating but is that what we should an exemplary model of success?
 
In the planning stages it is critical that we define our own standard of success. For some it may be light-year speed growth followed by an impressive and gaudy acquisition figure. For others it may be revenue or cost figures, life-span, or their impact on the world around them. Truly it is different for each of us.
 
It would be difficult to determine if one is absolutely better than the others. I know I have my preferences and you have yours. The question is almost philosophical and could be argued over and over again. But to answer the title question I would say; No, growth is not synonymous with success. Growth is a part of success and most likely a necessary step to obtaining success but it is not the one in the same.
 
Growth can be rapid and inconsistent or it may be slower and consistent. It depends on your planned strategies, campaigns, and business model. Frankly, it also depends on some factors that are outside of our control such product demand and economic conditions.
 

Control Your Growth in Order to Obtain Success

 
While growth may occur in several different ways one thing always remains constant for any start-up: Growth must be controlled. Out of control growth nearly almost always dooms any new start-up because of increased costs, inability to meet demand, and other structural/organizational demands. This requires planning and discipline as a company from the beginning. Controlling the speed of growth allows companies to excel at what they do best and in a long-term, sustainable manner. As you create your business plan, consider the pace at which you want to grow and what processes you will put in place to help manage this some-what unmanageable variable.
 

Be Successful

 
At the end of the day it is your business so make it what you want to it to be. Just because you are not one of the fast-paced, high-selling start-ups doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing success. Each industry and niche market is different and leads to different yields and returns. Find what works best for you. Some of the most exemplary businesses across the globe are small to medium-sized firms that no one has ever seemed to have heard. And they like it like that. That is their definition of success and we all could learn a thing or two out to their book. The key lesson here is not to base your own success on what is occurring around you, but to define success early on in your company’s life-span and work towards that. Have a game plan and be flexible as necessary. That will help you control your growth and earn yourself a sustainable and successful business.

Entrepreneurship: A Game of First Impressions

Last month NPR published a story reporting on a recent experiment carried that showed people make split-second decisions on people’s personality based upon their voice. Quoting the article,
 

“From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person’s personality, says Phil McAleer, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, who led the study.
 
In his experiment, McAleer recorded 64 people, men and women, from Glasgow, reading a paragraph that included the word “hello.” He then extracted all the hellos and got 320 participants to listen to the different voices and rate them on 10 different personality traits, such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance and warmth.”

 
Interestingly, it was found the most participants agreed on which voice matched which personality trait; concluding that people begin making snap judgments of others from the very first second they are speaking with them. This study exemplifies the power one word as simple as “hello” can have on perception.
 
Although it would be difficult to be in constant control of the pitch or tone of our voice, this study exemplifies the importance of a good first impression and how much of a lasting impact it can have on others.
 
When building your new start-up you face such situations every day. It is a constant game of branching out, looking for new partners, investors, suppliers, buyers, and customers. Their perception of you matters and ultimately factors in their decision concerning you. Trust is built from the very first contact you have with them whether it comes by email, phone, or in person.
 
Across the internet you can find loads of information about how to make the best first impression possible. Here are a few tips from us;
 

  • Present Yourself Appropriately: Appearance does matter, I once was told by a manager that one factor of why they strongly considered me for a position over others was simply because I was the only who showed up to the interview process in a suit. It shows that the meeting was important to you.
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  • Smile: A smile says a lot about attitude and your attitude is often what sells you more than any other characteristic.
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  • Take the Time to Small-talk: Get to know the person and find out what their interests are. It may seem absurd but small talk is a skill that can be learned. Practice it.
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  • Listen and Contribute Accordingly: Acknowledgement is crucial. Everyone wants to know that what they have to offer is important. Make sure they can feel that from you. Strive to offer something to the conversation but don’t dominate it. Nobody likes someone who talks the whole time.
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  • Remember Names: It is amazing how far it goes when you can recall names from a previous meeting. Whatever strategy helps you accomplish this, go for it.
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  • Be Informed: This can really fit into any of the above suggestions but it never hurts to know a little bit about everything. Use it wisely.
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  • Be Confident: Confidence is huge when meeting new people. Be yourself and be comfortable. People love genuine confidence.
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    These are only a few of many suggestions of how to make a strong first impression but will be helpful for anyone looking to branch out and build a strong network. As shown, first impressions are made within seconds of meeting Do your best to make the most of each one, because you never know which might lead to incredible future opportunities.