Word of mouth marketing makes or breaks your business now

In every generation there’s a basic model of marketing communications required to do business, ranging from our grandparent’s time of posting an “open” sign on a store front to today’s digital marketing frenzy. What’s remained constant is that word of mouth marketing has always been the most reliable for new leads.

Word of mouth marketing is down but not dead

But what happens when there’s less word of mouth marketing happening naturally? Now that no one is physically together anymore, there is less chatter about everything, including businesses. Even Google reviews have been turned off since March 20.

Sure, there are those super happy customers (or our mothers) who will recommend our services online, but even that doesn’t reach the same level as usual. For example, I’m actually THRILLED with the virtual tae kwon do classes our daughters are still getting from Ultimate Martial Arts, but until now I haven’t told anyone. No one’s running around making small talk.

More than ever, it’s on business owners to generate word of mouth marketing. If you haven’t started this already in the past two months, your business is no doubt at a full stop now. But even if you have increased communication over the past few weeks, now’s the time to pick up the pace as some businesses slowly start to reopen.

I’m seeing how COVID-19 has completely changed business communication to be essential. Most customers aren’t using any business right now that hasn’t communicated how they can comfortably still obtain their product or service. As the economy slowly starts to open back up, communication is absolutely paramount to every business’s survival.

3 ways to generate more word of mouth marketing now

  1. Ask customers directly. This always holds true, but now more than ever you need to directly ask clients to spread the word. Make it a contest or offer a discount if they post about your product and tag you. This will build up your user generated content and create buzz for your business. Or offer a discount for referring a friend. Hand out a fun card with your receipt that tells purchasers how to spread the word.
  2. Delight your customers. Your customers may already like or need your product or service, but they also now need your reassurance. Delighting them now means giving them access to what they need in a way that they feel comfortable still doing business with you. Consider making a video to show and explain how they can safely obtain your product or service now. Ask them to share it and spread the word.
  3. Double down on virtual services. The explosion of virtual ways to offer services isn’t going away anytime soon–and it’s not just because we are waiting on a vaccine. If you found a way to reach customers virtually, they may continue to choose this option even when the economy is fully open. No one who’s tried telehealth is taking their kids to the doctor for pinkeye ever again. And those enjoying fitness or music classes in their living rooms might choose to save time and cut down on driving in the future too. Consider making the scrappy online offer you’ve developed a permanent fixture in your business. You can offer a discount if they sign up with a friend.

When everyone is staying home for the foreseeable future, and even Google reviews are turned off, the onus is on you to work harder than ever to spread the word about your business. What’s your plan?

Have you seen a business do exceptionally well communicating and offering services now? I’d love to know about it. Email wendy@sparkrmarketing.com

What to do now in your business when everything’s changed

It’s only been a few weeks since the world turned unimaginable for us.

With the initial shock and horror fading and the eventual resignation that sets in even amidst chaos comes the inevitable question: what now? It’s true for individuals, and it’s true for businesses.

While there are already millions who have lost their livelihood, there are those who stand out with the ability to pivot and emerge with some semblance of their business intact. There are even those who stand to make gains in this uncertainty.

3 content marketing recommendations to implement now during the Coronavirus economic crisis

When everything’s changed, change how you are talking about your business.

While it’s clear that nothing is certain anymore, this much I know: Coronavirus is a reset button for our lives, our habits, our families and our businesses.

If you’re one of the lucky ones still focused on business growth, be grateful. But if that means you’re moving forward and haven’t pressed pause, do it now. When everything’s changed, you risk sounding tone deaf if you’re still promoting your products or services in the same way as before.

Internal communication

You need to communicate internally how your business has been affected already, how you anticipate it will be affected and what you plan to do about it. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Be honest with your team and stakeholders, and you will be a better leader for it.

External communication

You also need to evaluate all your external marketing content that you have automated, scheduled or planned. Check every post and ad in your social media scheduler and any automated email marketing messages you’ve set up. Your customers have changed so the way you addressed them two weeks ago no longer applies now. Ask yourself what you need to post prominently on your homepage that leads to a whole new landing page with information.

Show up for everyone who needs you.

Much like our grandparents during WWII, now’s the time for everyone to pitch in. Businesses everywhere are evaluating their product or service and figuring out how to solve people’s problems now. Coffee vendors from Starbucks to local ones like Passion House are donating coffee to healthcare workers. A tie company, recognizing that no one needs a tie when they’re hardly wearing pants these days, pivoted and is now taking orders for N95 masks. Auto mechanics are donating face masks to nursing homes.

Figure out how you can help healthcare workers or serve everyone staying at home by entertaining them or providing relief or tools they need right now. Once you determine what that is, talk about that and only that. Again, talking about any other part of your business besides what everyone needs now will be at the risk of sounding tone deaf.

Now’s the time for a project

With everyone stuck at home and scrambling in their businesses, the good news is that the bar has been lowered for the level of professionalism you need to support your target market. Everyone’s getting scrappy.

My all time favorite band, The Indigo Girls, went live on Facebook for the first time ever last week, and 60,000 fans joined. The camera was flipped the wrong way, they lost their connection a few times and restarted, and I’m not even sure they had mics. But it was their largest concert ever, and fans were delighted. As one friend said, “They were so perfectly dorky.”

Now’s the time where you can throw together a course or a Zoom class and ask people to simply pay on Venmo. Just a few weeks ago, I would have said you need to set up your secure website for purchases, promote your product and spend months creating your course on Kajabi.

Figure out what you can offer and jump on it. You’ll help people now and you’re likely to build out parts of your business for the future.

Still need an idea? I’m offering one 30 minute free brainstorming session each day for small business owners. Click here to register.

3 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Marketing Manager in 2020

So, you’re ready to hire a new leader for your marketing team this upcoming year. Or perhaps it’s the only member of your marketing team.

How do you know what marketing skills to look for?

The answer to this question becomes less obvious as the field of marketing and communications becomes more specialized. There’s branding, SEO, analytics (no, those aren’t always one in the same), bloggers, content specialists, social media specialists, graphic designers, videographers and more. With so much to know in marketing for 2020, it’s impossible for any one marketing specialist to have deep knowledge in every area. And even if someone managed to master most of the latest marketing tactics, everything is likely to change tomorrow.

Still, there are some basic, core characteristics that can make some marketing professionals stand out.

Following are 3 questions to ask candidates for your next marketing leadership position.

  1. What’s your core story? Your brand’s story–how you were founded and what you stand for–is instrumental to your success as a brand. You MUST have an origin story, preferably one that’s as short as one sentence, to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. (Think Apple starting in a garage or Facebook launching from a Harvard dorm room.) Your story is one that you should know well, your employees can describe and your customers understand. If you’re hiring someone charged with getting that story out into the world, they should understand the importance of an origin story and have one of their own prepared from their own life.
  2. What’s the best piece of work you ever published? This can be a blog, a lead magnet, a social media ad or a sales letter. It doesn’t matter what the medium is, but if your marketing candidates cannot write, they aren’t the best fit for your job. Writing is instrumental to telling your story in blogging, on your website and on social media. Digital tactics can be learned with a Youtube tutorial or a coach, but writing is a skill that takes time and patience. Find a pro.
  3. What blogs do you read or podcasts do you subscribe to? There is so much to learn about marketing today, and it changes every week. There are marketing influencers keeping up with all of it, and anyone paying attention can learn from them for free. Be sure that someone you hire to lead your team is passionate about learning and spends time doing it already on their own.

Once you narrow down your candidates and find the right fit for your company, consider finding ways to support them by outsourcing the areas where they don’t excel. Some easy tactics to outsource include graphic design, video, social media ads and social media event coverage.

Marketing in 2020 is too much work for one person, but too often small businesses can only support one salary. Consider a marketing coach to support your new hire as they determine what to prioritize and the best strategy to get it all done.

Join my business journey

life with no regrets

💥 F I N A L L Y! This week I launched the official rebranding of Sparkr Marketing. It took over eight years to get here, not counting the professional work I did before beginning my freelance side hustle. This week, family and friends can finally stop hearing me hem and haw about making this move. No doubt, it won’t be long until they tire of all my eager energy as a new entrepreneur.

What took me so long?

Stability, great colleagues, meaningful work and, hello?, a steady paycheck!

There are many reasons I spent the last two years vacillating over when to leave the stability of my part time job to focus full time on this business. But eventually I turned to the rational that has been the biggest driver of change in my life:

🔥 If I don’t do this now, I will regret it later.

This realization lights a fire under me every time. It sparked my passion to use what I’ve learned to help more organizations.

So, here we go. Let’s do this. 🙌

What this blog is about

If you’re still with me here, you’ve probably noticed that this isn’t the typical marketing agency blog. I thought about being conventional – posting 10 social media tips for Tuesday! and 5 ways to level up your brand!

But, here’s the truth. You can learn EVERYTHING in digital marketing online for FREE if you have time, passion, creativity and skills to put it into practice.

And while I do plan to share a lot of what I’ve learned from others in this blog and on my social media pages (give us a follow, will ya?! 👉LinkedIn 👉Facebook 👉Instagram), what I decided to really offer you ME.

My passion is helping small to medium size businesses tell their story. So in this blog, I plan to tell you mine.

My hope is that through reading this honest entrepreneur blog, you will find personal tips and better ways to tell YOUR story. I plan to share the stories of other entrepreneurs, who work with me as well, so leave me a comment, social media post or smoke signal if you’d like to be featured here.

Thanks for joining my business journey! Leave a comment on what your business goals are and what’s holding you back.

If you liked this post, send a little love by sharing and tagging us on your favorite social media channel.

Moving on after 12 years

Like every graduation season, we’re preparing to send off the senior class of Ida Crown Jewish Academy. As communications director there, it’s my job to salute the seniors and their accomplishments across all our digital and print media.

Except this year, I’m graduating too.

After 12 years working part time in the private high school, this year will be my last. I’ve pursued my marketing business over the past eight years, joining many workers today in the “gig economy.” The balance has worked for the most part—offering me both part time job stability and the freedom to pursue my business. It’s time to move on.

Like anyone graduating this season, I’m excited and hopeful for the future while reflecting on the past. I couldn’t be more grateful for my colleagues and for all that I learned at ICJA.

I joined the administration fresh out of JUF News, eager to diversify my work beyond writing and editing and ready to work closer to home. Like everyone working in communications in 2007, I had no idea just how diversified my work would become.

At the time:

  • Marketing was almost exclusively print
  • Ads were in newspapers and magazines
  • Facebook was in its infancy
  • Websites were virtual phonebooks
  • Organizational email campaigns were unsophisticated

I started my job at the cusp of the digital marketing revolution (or at least it felt like a revolution to those of us in the trenches). I couldn’t have been in a better position to sort it all out.

Backed by a boss with high expectations and a willingness to support my professional growth, my job in communications co-evolved with the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Over the last 12 years of marketing in admissions, development and even a capital campaign, I:

  • Created the school logo and style guide
  • Launched two websites, maintained on WordPress
  • Launched a weekly e-newletter with targeted emails campaigns
  • Launched a Facebook page back when it was easy build followers (and reach them) just by slapping up a photo, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages.
  • Produced videos as the most potent form of our digital communication strategy

I’m leaving ICJA in a good position to continue forward in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital marketing age. I have no doubt they’ll continue to forge ahead as a leader in private school marketing. As a parent in the school and no longer an employee, I plan to be among their biggest cheerleaders.

Beginning this summer I’ll be working at Sparkr Marketing full time.