Things have been really busy for me in both the online and offline business world of late, and as such I wanted to write this weeks’ post to give an update on the offline business that I have involvement in. It’s been 3 years now since I started to use Social Media to network and create more business opportunities for it and as we’ve just recently moved to our new printing premises, I thought it would be apt to share this post with you all today.
As you may (or may not) know my family business in the offline world is in Printing and Graphic Design I make now secret of how hard this industry is, and during the last 5 or so years it’s taken a really big hit. 3 years ago or thereabouts I decided to give myself a little “project” and that was to see exactly what social media was about for business, and more importantly HOW it could help my family business with more opportunities. I have been working tirelessly investigating new avenues to reach new people, market some of our products and offers too, and when I realised the strength of Social Media if applied correctly I’ve steadily grown the business month on month over the last 3 years now.
Our business handles all sorts of different jobs. Sometimes we just have to design a logo for someone’s website or business, and other times we have to handle printing whatever fliers they will be distributing. We also do poster printing as well as invitations, and signs of all different dimensions. As varied as our business is, it can be difficult at times to let potential clients know we are available and provide these services, which is why I undertook this project.
Before I progress, I just want to let you know, we do not rely 100% on Social Media efforts for getting new business, and neither should any business – it’s just ONE part of the marketing mix.
I’m a firm believer in never putting all your eggs in one basket, our Social Media work forms a part of a much bigger picture, and I only have an allotted amount of time that I can dedicate to this particular business, because of all the other work that I have going on. The business has a clear cut marketing plan that combines both the traditional marketing methods, along with the new, and I think that it is very important for ANY business to not pigeon hole themselves or be ‘closed’ to any opportunity to network / create new business possibilities.
WHY? Because in this world today, all types of marketing has a time and a place, for anyone that doesn’t believe in the power of one method, or places one over another, I would just urge you to research and keep an open mind, not all marketing tactics and plans will work for each business, but without investigating the possibility further, you could simply be missing out that vital ingredient that could transform your business.
3 years in and our turnover has increased by £100K during that time and is growing month on month. Mainly from a promotion of selling 500 Business Cards for the price of 250 (£27) Make NO mistake I am not stating that this is a life changing figure, but what I am trying to highlight is that in a ‘real’ business selling products in an industry that is effectively killing itself with undercutting on pricing, our achievements are commendable. None of those orders are ‘bad debts’ either, we have taken zero risk in selling print, none of those orders taken have been on a ‘credit’ basis. All orders are exactly the kind of clients and customers that any business today who wants to try and do better needs. Payment always in advance / at the time of order.
The great thing about using Social Media to achieve this is simple – it requires minimal effort (in the grand scheme of things), being realistic here, as long as you are there everyday (at some point) you are naturally going to meet people and make connections and build relationships. The biggest bonus of course is that the only real thing it costs is your time (which to be fair is actually of real value – but a lot of people tend to judge “cost” in monetary terms, so in that respect its “free”)
The printing business is a family run business, and my Dad is very hands on in his role as the boss, we sit down and regularly review orders in, who our new clients are, the promotions and offers that we want to run, and the more you throw yourself into getting involved the more momentum builds. He now leaves the running and managing of this side of things to me and across the social networking sites people now know me as the ‘face’ behind the company.
I am a big believer in showing your personality, and I do honestly believe that this has been a big part in developing our online presence. People feel like they ‘know’ me, they know if i’ve been away, TV shows I’ve been watching and all kinds of things on a surface level. On the other side of things, as someone who tweets, uses linkedin and connects with various facebook pages I find I am naturally more drawn to those profiles that I feel I can ‘see’ a person behind the company name.
Without a doubt the work that I have been doing has created brand loyalty, these people that we have printed business cards for and designed logos for will recommend and praise our services to their peers if they ask for a good, affordable, reliable printing company! The best thing here is, we have not asked for a single recommendation. As a consumer, when something is good today, we all love to make a deal out of it and share it with the social networking world. And I think that is a key factor right now.
Social Media encourages ‘sharing’ as much as we might have frowned or disagreed with Mark Zuckerberg at F8 Conference when he introduced timeline and said he wanted to bring the world together to connect and share their life experiences, he was right (to a degree)
If you have immersed yourself in Social Media on both a business and personal level, you want to share stories and experiences with your peers. I have, and will continue to do so. If I get a good service, or I rate a product I’ve used, then I will tell people about it ….. and similarly I do the same when I have a bad experience too!
Do you know what else is great? Out of all the orders in the last 3 years we have generated, a LOT of them are returning customers …. Something that as a business we feel is very important, because it proves that we have built trust and provided a good service with these people, and for a business relationship born out of a ‘virtual’ environment clearly means that we have been doing something right.
One customer who has been with us for the last 2 years is continually growing his monthly spend, and if things continue, he could be spending between £5k a month with us by the end of the year. We are working together to nurture our relationship and build the trust on both ends, and for now, this is a risk free customer, who we are dealing with on a ‘pay as you go’ basis.
I had a conversation only last week with yet another returning customer, and he said to me this ‘its amazing what the power of ONE tweet can do’ And I am inclined to agree with him you know! The facts truely do speak for themselves.
In conclusion to this post, I think the message I want to get out there to you all is this:
If you are wondering ‘can Social Media work for MY business’ or you are wondering whether it is worth the effort, all I can say to you is ‘TRY’ You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain. If I didn’t make the effort to try this out with the offline business, I probably wouldn’t be sitting in the position I am now in (for the opportunities it has opened for me personally is unbelieveable) and more importantly my Dad’s business wouldn’t have reached the amount of people it had, nor built an online following that has allowed us to reach new prospects AND turn them into paying customers.
Finally, like I have said many times before, I am no Marketing ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ I am just a regular person, who saw an opportunity and took the chance to explore and develop it. The printing industry is a tough place to be, and with not much going on around me, I got nosey, and with time on my hands during work hours I decided to make myself busy. So if you think ‘I don’t have a clue’ then trust me you are not alone, because 3 years ago or so, I was that person – I used facebook to upload and tag pictures and talk to my friends! Now I am advising people and helping people to make a start using these free tools that are at the end of our fingertips to establish their business’ online and make a big difference to how they approach marketing, all thanks to the ‘on the job’ research and training I have done with the Printing business.
Check out this timelapse we did last week on an iPad showing our new machine entering the building – again a great use of social media to connect and show people who we are 🙂
I will continue to update you with the progress that we are making with the offline business, but if you want to stay in touch then give us a follow on any of our social channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or G+
Speak to you all soon 🙂