A tool that every shop needs

31_feature_01Most agree that social media is good for the bottom line of your business. But how it affects profits, and what applications you use, reveal differences in opinions. No wonder then that the small-business owner — the woodshop owner, the sole proprietor woodworker — becomes confused and often backs off from using these new means of marketing. There is even a question about how to define the bottom line.

In his book, “The Newww Rules of Marketing and PR,” (Wiley, 2010) author David Meerman Scott writes that “bottom line goals vary,” and he lists four possibilities: adding revenue, building traffic, gaining donations, generating sales leads. All, of course, serve the ultimate goal of growing your business.

Carlen Lea Lesser (www.about.me/carlenlea), a digital marketing strategist at RTC Relationship Marketing, thinks that “a smart social media approach can be hugely beneficial for sole proprietors and artisans.

“The trick is to figure out both what you enjoy,” she explains, “and what will build the business.”

Lesser has a good sense of what woodworkers need in terms of social media since she is married to Art Drauglis (www.adrauglis.com), a professional woodworker in Washington, D.C.

31_feature_02“The website/blog is a huge driver for us,” says Drauglis. “The current site combines my blog and my portfolio site more seamlessly. The idea is to present more of me as an artist and person rather than separate products.”

Lesser and Drauglis report that the site gets 300-500 visits per month and close to 1,000 page views. That means people who do come to the site are looking, on average, at two to three pages. This is good for the bottom line because the longer a person stays at a site, “sticky eyes,” the greater the chance of finally making a sale.

The sales spiral

“It’s challenging to align any form of marketing or communications to the bottom line,” says Maria Miranda, owner and creative director of Miranda Creative (www.mirandacreative.com). The ad agency, with a staff of 12, is located in Norwich, Conn., and handles marketing, websites, social media and other marketing/creative campaigns. “Any purchase is actually a tightening spiral process.”

What this means is that you can never be sure which sales message — an article in a magazine, a business card, a referral — makes the cash register ring. What is more, says Miranda, is the message “at the end of the spiral is hard to predict” for every purchase, since it will vary almost every time.

Where to start

“If you’re a small business,” says Jamie Turner, chief content officer of the 60 Second Marketer (www.60secondmarketer.com), an online magazine, and co-author of “Make Money with Social Media,” (FT Press, 2011), “you have to ask yourself two questions: 1) Are the people in your target market using social media? And 2) Can you devote 25-50 percent of a full-time employee’s time to social media.”

32_featureTurner says that if you can’t answer yes to both questions, then social media “might not be for you.” Note that he says “might,” since 10-20 hours per week on social media is a large chunk of time.

Lesser’s advice is not quite so demanding, and she points out that if you are doing something you enjoy, then it’s difficult to say what is work and what is pleasure. For example, her husband is also a birder and uses Twitter to connect to the birding community.

“He also definitely uses it to show off his work, too,” she explains. “The nice thing is that it’s really a natural community for him, and when he does show off his work, it’s to people who are actively engaged with him.”

Lesser advises woodworkers “to build some time into your day and stick to the schedule.” Miranda has similar advice. She reports that most of her clients “find it most effective to spend 15 minutes at the opening and close of each day.”

Audience management platforms

As is often the case in the world of Web marketing, there is software to help you with coordinating all of the different social media. Miranda states that “one of the best ways to manage the time that social media can occupy” is with an audience management platform, sometimes known as a community management platform. These platforms allow the woodworker “to combine all social media tools in one place,” says Miranda.

33_feature_02“More importantly,” she continues, “these tools (Sprout Social, HootSuite and others) provide options for scheduling messages and makes it possible to organize a whole month’s worth of social media messaging in one sitting.”

But this is where Miranda puts up a red flag.

“Robo-posting is not the ideal way to increase relationships,” she says. “Social media must be sincere, meaning it must be the voice of the business (or business owner), otherwise it simply won’t thrive.”

“Art knows that blogs and engaging in online conversation can drive traffic,” says Lesser, “but you can’t do it disingenuously. You have to really pick sites you are interested in and engage in conversation for its own sake. Keep in mind that you are representing your brand online, even when you aren’t talking about your work.”

New platform on the block

A new, free social media platform called Roost (www.roost.com) attempts to solve the problem of keeping your social media program personalized by introducing a “campaign creator” with its application. Roost CEO Alex Chang describes Roost and its “campaign creator” as “a social template to follow” that suggests content for you to share, based on selections you make in the “creator.” Besides being able to include messages from your own blog, you can choose to include posts from other blogs or news feeds that are of interest to you and your target market.

“Being successful in the social world means creating and sharing great, unique content that people don’t see in other places,” adds Chang. “Not everyone needs a piece of furniture, cabinets or custom bookshelves on a regular basis, but when they do need these items, you want to be ‘top of mind.’ ”

And, of course, the way to stay foremost in the minds of people is to unobtrusively make them aware of what you do, and that you’re just a phone call or e-mail away.

What Chang has to say of Roost mirrors Miranda’s definition of social media: “the use of technology to share content, thoughts and opinions with an engaged community that has a common interest.” She explains that social media is “intimate and specific,” whereas mass media is universal and general in scope. The example she uses is that television might broadcast one human-interest story a year about a woodworker who makes free holiday toys for children. But with a Facebook page, she points out that you can “share daily photos of your creative efforts with an audience interested in such craftsmanship.”

Choosing social media tools

The choice of which social media avenue to use “begins with an understanding of the target market,” says Miranda. The better you understand your market, or markets, and target your message to them, the better your chance of affecting your bottom line. Miranda is a strong advocate of Facebook since the average Facebook user is 38 years old, spends 55 minutes daily on this social media tool and has 130 friends on his or her page.

“Any business that appeals directly to consumers would be foolish not to be part of this media,” she says.

34_featureOn the other hand, she recognizes that you can be too fine using Facebook to market. She had a client who wanted to reach young Latino men in a particular town. It turned out, by looking at Facebook ad statistics, that there were only 120 matches. “Clearly not enough of a market to justify creating a page or campaign,” Miranda says.

Other tools she thinks are important and mostly successful are YouTube and blogging.

“I think you have to find platforms that are comfortable for you,” says Lesser. “If updating a fan page and engaging with people on Facebook isn’t comfortable for you, people will know.”

She advises woodworkers to think about how they really like to communicate. If you like to write, then she suggests a blog. If you like to post photos, then try Flickr. The important thing, according to Lesser, is to use these and other, tools “to connect with your market, but also to be a real person and don’t just try to sell your work.”

Getting help

Miranda agrees with the need for sincerity in your social media interactions. But, she notes, it doesn’t have to be only the woodshop owner who does all the work. Other staff members can tweet, blog and post as a representative of the woodshop. This is another way to maximize your efforts by spreading the workload. Miranda’s agency does just that with her staff’s contributions to the agency’s ongoing social media effort. In addition, you don’t have to learn social media all by yourself.

“Much like being trained in QuickBooks to manage daily accounting,” says Miranda, “it makes sense to hire professional help for training on how the social media work and how to use them effectively.”

She points out that many local Chamber of Commerce bureaus offer social media workshops. You can also hire consultants, like those mentioned in this article, to help set up your program, train you and check periodically on your progress.

Measuring and monitoring

Not only should you measure and monitor your social media efforts, but these actions are “the biggest benefits of social media, since they give you the ability to measure accurately and timely,” Miranda reports. She recommends that you set up Google Analytics on your website. It provides free data on how visitors found your site, where they were when they clicked to land on your site, and what type of device the person was using. This gives you the opportunity to fine-tune your own efforts for the maximum return.

“With nearly 30 percent of all searches happening on mobile devices,” says Miranda, “you need to know if these visitors are able to stay on your site or if your site has issues causing mobile visitors to be bounced off.”

60 Second Marketer’s Jamie Turner takes a broader view of measuring the bottom line of social media. It’s a return-on-investment metric called customer lifetime value, or CLV. The CLV is the total revenue that your average customer spends during some period of time for your work. For example, suppose Customer X spends an average of $1,200 per year. Most companies, according to Turner, will spend 10 percent of the CLV to acquire a new customer, or $120, in our example. Another way to look at this is that every $120/year you spend on marketing, advertising, and social media should bring in one new customer.

It’s a rough estimate, but one that more directly relates to the bottom line. Turner also says that on a scale of 1 to 10, the amount of “time, money, energy put into social media by woodshop companies should be about a 5.”

“It would be a tool that you would want to have, sort of like a website,” he adds, “but it wouldn’t be the only tool you would use to grow your business.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.