Tale of two neighbors

When it comes to marketing strategy it is important to consider your business, especially when it comes to online advertising and social media. Let’s consider two of my neighbors’ businesses.

I have two neighbors that have small businesses and need to do marketing. One is a plumber covering a few towns in the area and the other is a gadget maker selling his products online worldwide. Neither is a large business.

The plumber needs to be well known in the towns he covers and needs to be visible and add value to the conversation in places where residents can be found (online and offline). Social media can help him but he needs to go where the residents are instead of trying to bring them to follow him. Personally I hope to need and pay attention to a plumber as infrequently as possible but when I need one I’m calling the one that is front of mind. A social media channel or page full of plumbing tips is likely to be of moderate value to him at best. That isn’t to say he shouldn’t have a basic presence since some customers will start their search in social media but if the choice is to do a paying repair job or spend another hour adding content to his social streams, he should prioritize the customer. His highest priority online besides being found is probably having good reviews so his social presence should consider positive reviews as a goal and consider how he can engage with his customers to suppor that result. If I have a problem I think I can solve myself I might find a YouTube video on how to do it far more useful than a series of tweets.

The gadget maker makes a variety of gadgets and is always inventing more. His primary products right now are battery eliminators for devices that are battery powered but don’t have AC adapters or even a place to plug in an AC adapter. Basically he sells a battery shaped piece of plastic with battery contacts and a wire that goes to a small power supply. He has more cause to develop an audience of his own as he will introduce more gadgets that will appeal to the same audience over time. He can also benefit from hearing from them about their additional needs. He should also hangout where his customers do. Guitar players’ “stompboxes” are a prime market for him (he’s also a musician and recording engineer) and adding value to the conversation in a guitar player electronics group will yield both new invention ideas and prospects for his current gadgets. When he comes out with something new, I personally want to be one of the first to know. I’ll follow him on twitter and facebook. I’d even hangout with him on Google+ in order to see a new gadget in development or talk about the problem of AC hum in stompboxes and how floating power supplies might be able to solve it.

There are uses for social media for both of these small businesses. The tools that make the most sense and the ways that they can leverage them are not identical. Neither is the way they should measure them. The gadget maker’s primary goals are sales, leads and ideas. The plumber’s primary goals are awareness and reputation. Of course awareness helps leads and word of mouth awareness and reputation don’t happen without sales. Still, beginning with the end in mind leads to better results so we decide on primary goals and build our strategy around those goals.

Both can benefit from online and offline advertising but the demographics will be quite different. Search ads with geographical scope may be the plumber’s best tool. For the gadget maker it may be display ads targeted to specific audiences by interest and a wide open geography. Again, search matters to the gadget maker and interest matters to the plumber but we pick a major to lead our strategy.

All of these things we’ve discussed can and should be measured so we can tune our execution and improve our results.