In this exclusive Urban Times series, Business Lessons from an Entrepreneur, serial business owner and Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library, Stephen Fear, examines a different theme each week of 2013 to give the reader useful and usable lessons for enhancing and growing their own business.
Last week I mentioned that I would spend the next few articles discussing ways that you can make money whilst still keeping your day job, and today’s topic continues that theme.
It is only in recent years that social media sites such as twitter, facebook and linkedin are becoming recognised for the business forces that they are. With all that comes opportunity for those savvy enough to recognise it. One of the downsides to social media marketing for businesses is staying on top of all those tweets, whether you are sending them or receiving them, and this in turn has given rise to a new profession – that of a social media professional.
The great thing about becoming a social media professional is that you can run your business from virtually anywhere simply because you are dealing with something that is virtual by its very nature! So let’s have a quick look at what you will need to get started and examine ways of making it simple:
Firstly you will of course need a computer. Personally I only ever use a laptop because I just like everything being in one place. If you back up regularly onto an external hard drive you will avoid issues should you experience technology issues or theft. I would back up every day and always leave your external hard drive at home or in the office.
Clearly you will need a personal account with all the high profile sites such as those mentioned above. Next, you need to develop a business plan or at least a “how to win some business plan” – a simple way to start is in your local area. I would avoid looking too far afield for business because although it is possible to never meet your customers face to face, in reality it is unlikely. Stick to a geographic area you’re comfortable to travel around, that way you keep your costs low and make it more likely that you can meet potential customers during your lunch break, or before/after work without it affecting your day job.
Look on the web for businesses less likely to be currently using social media to promote themselves – building trades are a good one to try because there is more chance that they will employ someone ‘like you’ to do it. I am assuming here that you are already net savvy, but before you attempt to market yourself as an expert it is only fair on your potential customers to go and study some more before promoting yourself as such.
Write an email to the owner outlining why social media can improve their business, explain how effective media such as twitter can be. Use the web to find some statistics to support this; there is plenty of evidence to prove your point but you will need to look for it. Include the links in your email so that they can see how well researched and knowledgeable you are about the web and social media. I would email as many businesses as you can and write a letter to those without email addresses because they may well prove very lucrative.
Meet with them face to face in the first instance, rather than trying to sell them over the phone. Later meetings can all take place in cyber space, but initially do it the old fashioned way. If your potential customer can see how genuine you are over a coffee it may well produce dividends.
Offer to run a social media campaign for them by using twitter etc. to send out tweets about special offers or opening hours. Twitter is brilliant for this type of marketing because in many instances it gets right to the customer’s smart phone.
Imagine being a plumbing contractor who has used a social media professional to obtain 27,000 followers in London who are regularly tweeted to say “brilliant offer on complete new bathroom installation” or a solicitor who wants to advertise for new clients in the same way.
It is quite possible to ask for £500 a month for your standard service, and more as you get better at finding clients. Thus six clients will gross £3000 or more per month which isn’t bad from a standing start with no staff and only a computer.
Clearly you will need to fully understand the way social media works so buy or borrow some books or visit my book review by going to www.feargroup.com and click on book reviews in the news section. This month my review comes direct from The British Library and focused on digital marketing with reviews on several books which will prove useful to you.
Good luck! Remember to only offer what you can genuinely provide; if that’s expert advice, it is important to make sure you are one before selling yourself as one.