I’m very excited about attending the 4th Annual Social Media Examiner’s (SME) Social Media Success Summit 2012 next month (May). As one of the benefits of attending, Michael Stelzner invites you to participate in the Social Media Success Summit 2012 LinkedIn Group. One of the discussions that is taking place right now is advice on how to start a social media marketing consulting business when there are so many marketers and experts out there already.
Fact: Good marketers never think anything is impossible.
In this economy, many people out of work are tired of looking for opportunities and instead are creating their own opportunities. This is probably the one good thing to come out of a bad economy – entrepreneurship!
I left my corporate job almost two and a half years ago to start Social Strand Media. In my quest to do something different and something I enjoyed I had the same questions you do – how do you get started? Here are some tips for how I got started that I hope may help you.
1. Pick a URL.
Picking the name of your marketing business is only half the equation. You also need to make sure that the URL is available. The shorter the better. It should roll off your tongue. You shouldn’t have to spell it for anyone.
2. Create a website.
Even if your website is a free website on WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, or Google Sites, in the very least you need a URL that points to a website that says what your business does and how to contact you for further information.
3. Register your company.
You may not need to do this right away if you work through a third-party consulting firm. However, if you want to start your own company, you’ll need to eventually register your business with your state. Check your local state government website for small businesses. Regardless of your state, however, you’ll need to register your fictitious business name. A fictitious business name is a name that you are “doing business as” (d.b.a) other than your own name. For more information on this, see SBA.gov.
4. Pick your niche.
You can’t be an expert in all things social media. Pick your niche from your topic to which types of businesses you specialize in such as: small business, Fortune 1000 companies, nonprofits, industry specific such as real estate, etc. You’ll find that the more specialized you are, the more business you’ll gain and the more quickly you establish your expertise by having the same types of clients. For example, look at Facebook guru Mari Smith. (That’s Mari like Ferrari). She only does Facebook Relationship Marketing and she has carved out a space for herself in this area.
5. Splurge on business cards.
With so many options today to print business cards, it’s easy to skimp on them and go for the cheapest bargain. Don’t do it!! Business cards are your calling card when you are at networking events. If you skimp on your business cards, it reflects that you may skimp on your work. To get quality business cards doesn’t cost that much. You can get 200 quality business cards on Moo.com for under $80.
And of course be sure to include all of your social media networks on your business card.
6. Price accordingly.
This always seems to stump people. How should they price their services when getting started without working for free? Well, if you have connections, then this won’t be a problem. But if you are really starting from scratch you may want to consider offering your services on Guru.com, Elance.com, or other similar sites to get some experience. If you want to charge what you’d like to get paid, then you need to build your reputation. Sure, you’ll undersell your services at first, but you’ll gain experience and eventually be able to charge what you’re worth.
7. Market yourself.
You always need to market you and your company — always. This is non-negotiable. You need to showcase your expertise and demonstrate thought leadership in your niche to a broad audience. Building those relationships online are just as important as off-line. Being top of mind when someone needs a social media marketer is your goal. Ways to do this are: blogging, commenting on other blogs, sharing industry news, tweeting, posting on your Facebook page, public speaking, teaching, offering your services as a prize in a contest, etc. Don’t have time for all of this self-promotion? Check out these 19 social media time saver tips.
8. Build your email database.
Email is your bread and butter. You may not think email is all that important when starting out, especially if you don’t have a newsletter or much to say. But believe me, in your near future you will need to do a mass mailing and wish you had gathered those email addresses. Incorporate a widget on your website or blog to do this even if you don’t use the data right away.
9. Combine your passion for marketing with charity.
I know, no one likes to work for free. However, if you offer your services for free or a deep discount to a nonprofit/cause you care about, you’ll not only gain experience, but exposure, which can lead to future business if you do it well.
10. Boost profits, not sales.
When you spend time marketing to break-even customers, you are losing valuable time and money that you could be spending on customers who actually grow your business. Atlanta marketing consultant, Michael King says “More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP.” So take a long look at your customer base and make sure you are concentrating on your customers who count.
These tips and more are what you’ll get by attending the Social Media Success Summit 2012. It kicks off May 1, 2012. If you can’t afford to go, you can follow the conversation on Twitter and still pick up a few tips. I know I’ll be tweeting throughout the event. The hashtag is #SMSS12.