You can find us everywhere

Here is just a quick reminder that you can reach us on all almost all social media channels:

Clevertim.com on Facebook

Clevertim.com on Twitter

Clevertim.com on LinkedIn

Clevertim.com on Google+

Clevertim.com on YouTube (BRAND NEW!)

We are going to give Instagram or Pinterest a miss for now because, let’s face it, we are not about beautiful photos and visuals. Yet. Snapchat is also not our thing.

If you want to know more about how social media can help your business, read our previous posts on the topic here, here and here, and some tips on using video to promote your business here and here.

In the meantime, like us, follow us and keep in touch.

 

 

Using video to promote your business (part 2)

Before you venture in the world of video making, check out what your competitors are doing. If your business is food and you decided to film some of your best recipes, you will find million of videos online, from “chefs” showing how to make a dish to just hands making it all, with voice over or just on screen instructions. A video recipe tutorial needs to be visually attractive and simple to follow. You want your customers to want to eat what you are preparing, to prepare it, to share it. Take your time to rehearsal, to test the lights, the audio. Record the video once, twice, five times if needed. You will eventually get used to it and things will come more naturally.

If showing your face is not your thing, don’t worry, not all videos require a person on camera. The recipe idea using just someone’s hands we mention above is just one example. If you don’t like your voice, but your video require voice over, why not test other people in the company or ask a friend to do it for you (to keep costs down)? Can you use on screen graphics instead?

Once your video is edited and you are happy with the final results, all you need to do is upload it to your company’s channel, assuming you have one, share with your customers and friends via newsletter and your social media channels, upload it on your website. You want people to watch it and to react to it. Your video can also be used as your digital advert, if online advertising is something you are considering.

Make sure your next videos are better than the previous one; change what you don’t like, add things you have missed, tweak the script if you think it’s needed. Don’t upload a video if you don’t think it is doing something for your business. In most cases, it is not about reaching millions of people, it is about reaching your target audience. This is not a cute video about a cat playing a piano; it is your brand, your product, your service and at the end of the day, you want to promote it.

Producing a video can be simple, but do not ignore best practices. If using music, make sure it is cleared. You don’t want to end up having the audio of your video removed because you used the latest hit in the charts. There are plenty of library music available online – even YouTube share a few – if you absolutely don’t want to spend any money, but music is key for your video. The same goes for using clips of other videos -absolutely do not use clips of TV series, films, or third party videos without seeking permission and clearance, in writing. Even if using another product or brand, make sure that you are ok to do so.

Ready to give video a go and take advantage of the millions of viewers out there? Have fun!

Using video to promote your business (part 1)

A decade or so ago, creating video content to promote a brand or product was time consuming and expensive. Then came YouTube and the likes as things have changed massively. It has allowed everyone, big or small, businesses and individuals, to create and share content with everyone, everywhere. The way we consume visual content has changed and in some ways, it has become much easier for smaller businesses to create their own content without big budgets.

Is video for everyone? Is it worth investing in this area to promote your business? The answer is yes. Let’s just clarify that making videos to promote your business is not just creating ads for products. It is not even just about having it on YouTube and hoping it will have thousands of views or become viral. Videos can be used to support a sales pitch – imagine a punchy, upbeat video with some great stats and information about your company, short and sweet. You can create video-tutorials on how to use your product. If you are in the educational sector, you can have short samples of your classes. You can actually have a whole online section on your website with your lessons. If you own a restaurant, or a bakery, you can have videos of the behind the scenes – all the action taking place in the kitchen – or even post recipes.

It might take some time to get a few videos off the ground, especially if you are going to do it in house. If your plans include a series of videos, they have to be added to your planning calendar (together with your social media and online advertising strategy). Don’t be put off about that though, because making a video is much easier and simpler than it used to be and you don’t need fancy equipment to film your videos or hire specialists to do edit them (if you have extra budget, getting someone to do the work for you might be a good idea though). In some cases, all you need is a laptop and a basic video editing tool (and an extra dose of patience, if you are going to do it yourself for the first time).

Different types of video require different types of equipment and structure. If you are planning to have someone on camera, you will need a camera (or a good smartphone) and well-lit space with decent acoustic – remember that the sound has to be clear and the subject needs to be visible. If you are recording a tutorial that only shows a how-to on screen, you will need a software that captures images on your laptop and a decent microphone, if you are recording voice over. It is a good idea to have a plan of what you are going to say, to reduce on recording time to a minimum. It will also help massively with the editing process.

So how about checking your business goals to see if you can add a series of videos to your marketing plans? Make sure your calendar is updated with themes and content you want to record and don’t forget to come back for the part 2 of Using video to promote your business.

Making social media work for your business (part 3)

Now we know that maintaining an interesting presence on social networks is not for all type of businesses and it is also hard work. More often than not, small businesses don’t have the means to hire a digital marketing person to do it all, so they end up doing it themselves. The good news is that you can scale it down or up according to your strategy, needs and capacity. Sometimes it is about quality, not quantity. And about persevering.

You have your business strategy, decided where you want your business to focus, planned your 6-12 months worth of content calendar and now what?

No, you cannot just forget about it and focus on doing some actual work (like baking your delicious cakes). The key of any marketing activity is keeping track of its results and adapting it – if needed – to meet your goals. When starting in this social media business, you will have to test your different posts, images, call to action you are using until you are comfortable with your way of writing, posting, etc. Analytics will be a key ally to you. It will give you more information on what is working or not, so you can adjust your plan accordingly. You will then compare results with your own business goals (was it to get more likes, followers, shares? More people coming in to your shop? More online orders?).

Remember that these channels are also your eyes and ears to your customers, it is where you will have a conversation with them. And as you can imagine, it requires some dedication to reply to them, listen to their suggestions and complaints, make sure you answer their queries. And it is also a good idea to encourage them to write a review, share your posts – as long as the content lends itself to sharing,  etc.

In summary, social media might not drive huge sales, but for some small businesses it will be key to put their names out there and generate a lot of talk around their services and products. It is also where your clients can easily find you. Make sure you are making the most of it.

Keeping up with the trends

Isn’t it fantastic how in this day and age you can almost immediately react, adapt, create something new for your business, based on a piece of news, a campaign that has gone viral or a life changing event? Thanks to social media and online news, we can be constantly monitoring and riding the right wave. From a marketing point of view, it is refreshing to be able to experiment and try new approaches. And unlike popular belief, when something goes wrong – as long as it is not terribly wrong – it is possible to control the damage and move on.

A year ago, the ice bucket challenge, a campaign to raise awareness of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, went viral on social media, got loads of people that had never heard of the disease involved, celebrities took part of the challenge (and those who refused where criticised), lots of money was raised. Some brands – including biggies like McDonalds and Energiser were quick to use the opportunity to promote themselves, I mean, help with the ALS cause. Samsung went ever further, and challenged its competitors Apple and Nokia to take the challenge as well (watch the video here). And because it’s hard to predict how long a topic will be trending, the marketing teams have to be quick, bypass high management approvals, and go for it.

As with most of the things online, people tend to forget quite quickly about these things, which makes this “exercise” a challenge in itself. Big companies, global brands, they have the bucks, they have the teams, they have the brand to put these actions in place. They will select the right picks as overdoing it can also damage the brand, but they have the means to react quickly. Now how about small business? How can the small players take advantage of the immediacy of trends to help boost their businesses?

There is more than one answer to this question. One of them is “they don’t. Just ignore the buzz and move on”. Sometimes it is not worth the effort and the investment, just to be out there with everybody else. Does it make sense to your business? Is the topic something related to your brand or to your heart? Is it related to your clients? Luckily, there are ways to be part of it, without breaking the bank or diverging half of your team to implement it. Words, for example. You can write a nice/funny/powerful message on your Facebook page, you can donate money for a charity, you and your staff can form a team and run the half marathon to support a cause, you can share someone else’s story or activity that you think your customers will like.

For us, here at Clevertim, sometimes we like to have a giggle and wonder what we could have done around one of those moments, like with the ice bucket challenge, for example. “How about getting Tim, our mascot, to take the challenge?”. We have a laugh and focus on making our product better for our customers, implementing new features, reading reviews, asking for feedback. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t have a great product or offer a great service, what is the point in even promoting it?

Making social media work for your business (part 2)

Now that you have decided that having a page or profile on some social media channels is good for your business, what to do next? As we said in the previous post, keeping these channels up to date is not that easy. It requires planning, creativity and… time. Do you have time to do this yourself? Do you have someone to help you? Do you have budget to hire someone?

As with anything, there are tools that will help you do the job. You will find a few social media management softwares that allow you to plan a long term calendar and schedule posts to almost all networks. Some might even give you some insights and analytics. A few are free to use (with limited features) or operate on a try-before-you-buy basis. As you will do with your contact management software, always do some research before you choose one.

For me, the hardest part is finding what to talk about – and writing about them. Some businesses just lend themselves to social media. Going back to the cake business. You can write about your cakes and new creations, about a special offer for Mother’s Day, new designs that you are planning for Christmas, post recipes, create a one off cake workshop, run a competition. All with amazing photos, clear call to action messages, driving to your website where people can place orders or reminding them where your shop is. You can do this on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat… but you will need to tailor your posts to each channel. Twitter will only allow you 140 characters (which you can use to drive to your Facebook page), Instagram is more about photos and less about text, Facebook is more democratic.

The “social media network best practice guidelines” (someone came up with these probably based on statistics from those channels) says that we should work on a post calendar for the next 6 to 12 months. Then it says that each social network has an ideal number of posts to keep your channel/page relevant and interesting and this is in average 3 posts per day. Let’s do the math: we are talking about 540+posts for a 6 month period that you have to write and schedule. Not to mention the impromptu ones, like “50% off our cupcakes for the next 10 costumers to show up at our shop today by 4pm” when you want to clear out stock. That is a lot of planning and writing, isn’t it?

But it’s doable and this is not as rigid as it seems. The great – or worst, depending on how you look at it – thing about the online world is that things evolve all the time. You might plan your posts for the next 6 months, but you need to be flexible. You might need to change your strategy in case you are not selling that much or in case you are selling too much, you might have new ideas, there might be a life changing even that you will like to bank on.

Bottom line is: you can be creative, flexible and have fun with social media, but it requires an awful lot of work and dedication and you need to be up for it. Are you ready for it?

 

Making social media work for your business (part 1)

Back in 2012, when we created our Facebook page, we weren’t sure it was going to  benefit our business (or any business for that matter), help us grow, improve sales. People are on Facebook to be in touch with their friend and family and have some fun, right? Errrr…. not really.

On a basic level, having an up to date and relevant page or profile can help increase the chances of your business to show up search engines, for example. Social media has evolved rapidly and we don’t know how was life before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Going back to 2012, it was the year when Facebook implemented a series of money-making initiatives, and advertising was at the top of the revenue drivers. You probably don’t even remember how your profile page was without the sponsored posts on the right hand side or in-between friends’ posts in your timeline. Since then, many companies have been looking at converting likes into sales. Does it work? Yes, for some, but creating a your business page or profile will not get you likes and followers and drive your sales overnight. If only was that easy.

For starters, not all networks suit all businesses. You know your business, your products or services and your audience better than anyone so, before creating pages and profiles everywhere, set goals against each social network with clear objectives and realistic expectations. You might find that Facebook is great, but Instagram is not. An example: you own a MOT centre in East London, you have your loyal clients that come back year after year, but you have empty slots in the diary that you would be happy to fill in. A Facebook page, with lots of positive reviews from existing clients, posts with tips on how to look after your car to pass the MOT, your opening hours, etc, can help. It makes it easier for friends and clients to recommend your service to other friends or closed groups, e.g. Car lovers in East London. On the other hand, a profile on Instagram or LinkedIn might not add much to your business (only extra work for you).

For a cake shop, though, Instagram and Pinterest, networks all about images, posting photos of your beautiful cakes, some behind the scenes shoots and short videos might grab the attention of cake lovers who are thinking about ordering a nice cake for a celebration at work next week.

We are just talking about pure organic effort here, not paid advertising. Paid advertising is a totally different story and, again, might not be for everyone.

So, how do you feel about having your company on social networks out there? Check your business goals and ambitions before you start signing up for all of them and make sure you have a plan. Keeping these channels updated is not a walk in the park and require dedication and time, but this is a topic for another post.

Web based contact management for small businesses

A friend of mine works for a big company but his department is well insulated from the rest of the company. It’s a small self sufficient (in many ways) department, they have their own small budget – which if they don’t spend they lose next year, they work with little supervision. They have to obey the corporate policies around the use of the brand, logo, etc. but in many ways, they’re free to engage potential customers. He works in licensing.

The scenario above is very similar in many ways to working for a small business. But I didn’t immediately realize that. So I’ve asked him … what CRM do you use internally? I expected him to say Oracle or Salesforce, which is what I associate with “working for a big business”. Instead he stared at me point blank and the conversation went:

He: CRM?
Me: Yes, how do you track your customers, licensees, licensors, etc.
He: Oh, we have one big spreadsheet.
Me: How do you share it?
He: It’s on a network drive.
Me: Doesn’t that make the editing difficult.
He: Oh, yes, if someone edits it, the spreadsheet is locked and no one else can edit it until the first person releases it. If the first person opens it and then goes home, no one can edit it anymore.
Me: That kinda sucks.
He: Yes, but we solved it by asking our intern to keep it up to date. So we send her all the updates and requests for data and she does it.
Me: Isn’t that slow.
He: Only when she’s on holidays or when we need the data over the weekend or when she’s out for lunch and we need the data in a meeting and so on.
Me: Why don’t you get a simple web based contact management that everyone can access at any time, from any device?
He: We don’t have the time to look into it. Plus, a lot of the sales guys are not IT savvy and our internal IT department won’t support something that’s not approved.
Me: Some of the web based contact management solutions require almost zero admin work.
He: You’re preaching to the converted.

Does this conversation sound familiar? The whole thing reminds me of a cartoon I once saw.

Clevertim_CRM_contact magament for small businesses

 

 

CleverTim has a new logo!

For the past week we’ve worked with our graphic designer on a brand new logo and finally we can now reveal it to all our followers. This is it:

Clevertim contact management_Logo

We’re still working on our web based contact manager for small businesses, which we think it’s going to be great, intuitive, easy to use, simple and solve our customers mini-CRM needs without the added complexity of a fully fledged CRM system that requires hours and hours of setup, configuration, integration, support and maintenance.