Facebook’s little-known weapon for SMEs

“It’s the secret that I really want to let you guys in on,” says Facebook’s head of brand – and most SMEs are oblivious to its existence and potential.

“Business is like relationships: you don’t just jump in and scream 'DATE ME!'. You want them to get to know who you are and what you stand for first, so give them a little bit of what you are about,” Naomi Shepherd, head of brand at Facebook and Instagram, told the Sensis Digital Marketing Forum.

According to Naomi, business owners should work on their business plan first and foremost, not their social or digital strategy, because the latter is simply a tool for helping a business connect and engage with its customer base.

“It’s no longer about building readers or followers; it’s about targeting who you reach,” she explained.

These five digital marketing tips – including Facebook’s secret weapon – can help you push your brand and connect with both old and new customers.

1. Use the tools available to youFolder marked Top Secret

According to Naomi, SMEs in particular are under-utilising the social and digital tools available to them, which can go a long way towards achieving growth.

One of the reasons she put forward is that many people in business view Facebook solely as an inbound sales channel. However, she says it can also be used as an outbound tool, pushing your own and customer content out to different audiences, and then measuring which audience segments respond to what.

“Globally connected people are becoming globally connected consumers,” she said, adding that this is why Facebook has developed a tool that profiles your existing customer base and then scans its network for profiles in other regions and countries that match those profiles.

“There are a lot of people in other parts of the world who are connecting to small and medium businesses here in Australia.

“It’s the secret that I really want to let you guys in on … this tool that we have called Lookalike Audiences is probably the most under-utilised but most valuable thing that we have for small and medium businesses today.”

2. Know your data

According to another panellist at the forum, Adore Beauty founder and CEO Kate Morris, customer data is the most important tool you have as a business owner.

“Trust in God, but everyone else has to bring data,” she said.

Advertising expert Dan Gregory of The Impossible Institute explained the importance of understanding what your customers actually want, rather than what you assume they want, using the example of a DIY turf seller.

“Our initial strategy was just based on what they told us that people wanted – so we designed some marketing material that had pictures of little old ladies like [Hollywood actress] Betty White, with the line ‘If you see a tradie in my front yard, he’s not laying the lawn’,” he recalled.

“But then when we sat down and had a look at the purchasing data … and we looked at the data from the big box hardware stores, people like Bunnings and people like Masters, and what we found was under four metres squared was the average purchase, which is smaller than the average courtyard lawn.

“Which means people aren’t buying lawn from hardware stores because they want to lay a lawn – they are buying it to repair a lawn they already have.”

3. Define yourself as a business

Man holding a small blackboard which reads "Who are you?"The very fact that the forum panellists couldn’t agree on the most important aspect of conveying your business demonstrates the different ways consumers can understand your company.

While there was no consensus on which was most important, everyone agreed that it is important for a business to clearly define the following aspects:

  • Who: Who are your customers? Really drill down to who they are and what their needs are.
  • Why: Why do you what you do? Everyone has a story behind their business – don’t be afraid to share that with prospective customers, as it personalises your business and helps people connect with you.
  • What: What do you actually deliver to customers? A food retailer may say they deliver food, but dig deeper than this – is the food you offer actually delivering nostalgia, convenience, nutrition or a customer experience?

4. Attraction isn’t everything

It’s all well and good to focus on attracting new leads to your website and social media channels, but if you can’t keep them there, then your efforts will be in vain.

“Once you’ve lost them, it’s very, very difficult to get them back to your site,” said John Allan, CEO of Sensis.

As Adore Beauty’s Kate Morris noted, customer experience should be the fundamental reason for everything you do in business.

“The edge SMEs have over big business is the reactiveness they have to customer comments,” she said.

According to Kate, many big businesses have made bad decisions on new forays or product launches because they were trying to add value or boost revenue, rather than putting their customers first.

5. Invest in a mobile-friendly site

Many small businesses feel that a standard website is good enough to reach customers. Yet, according to Mr Allan, this oversight could be costing you more in lost sales than the initial investment in developing a mobile-friendly site.

Research by Sensis shows that not only do 70 per cent of Australians make purchases via mobile devices, but mobile-friendly sites actually rank higher with Google than those that aren’t.Woman doing banking on her laptop with her mobile phone

This alone allows SMEs to compete more effectively with larger businesses.

“In the old world, you could be excused for thinking that an SMB could never compete with a larger business, due to a lack of resources, footprint and scale. But the digital revolution has changed all that. The level playing field exists because businesses who get their online presence right will attract customers, no matter their size,” Mr Allan said.

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