Category Archives: Bulmer on Business

Stories, hints & tips on matters of marketing and business in general.

Using Facebook To Market Your Small Business? Be Careful

In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.

But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.

I recently asked, in an online poll on my website (www.kevinbulmer.com) and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).

The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.

However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):

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Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.

And be careful.

If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:

Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:

From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.

But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.

Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.

Facebook says 235 people “Like” this page. A modest amount, sure, but note how immediate is the offer to is promote (i.e., “buy” more exposure) the page. I’d be more likely to consider that if my updates were first delivered to the people who already agreed to see them …

 

In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.

Huh.

I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.

If 235 people 'Like' this page,

If 235 people ‘Like’ this page, why are these posts reaching only 17 and 40 people, respectively?

In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?

When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).

Hmm.

Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.

Here’s what I did:

I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.

Here’s a screen capture of the Facebook page for the yet-to-exist band I call “Mutineer.” Note the “Boost Post” option that accompanies every update. Sidenote: I just now realized how the song lyric that was posted here (which is a real lyric) is very appropriate to this article.

I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.

And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).

I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.

Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.

Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:

– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)

If you want to check these for yourself, go to http://www.mutineer.ca and click on the images of those who like the Mutineer Facebook page, on the widget on the right-hand side of the page

Do you think I’m likely to run into any of these people at an upcoming Extreme or Volbeat concert? I highly doubt it.

By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!

It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.

Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.

I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.

Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.

In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.

Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.

Too Many Cooks? Not in this Kitchen: Why Business Cares Food Drive Has It Right

You may have heard the line, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s a phrase not usually offered as a positive observation when trying to reach a goal.  I’m reminded of it now, in the throes of  an annual collaborative effort to gather as much food as possible for people in need in my community.

This particular “kitchen” is crowded with A-type cooks. And yet it works.

The Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

A whole cast of characters came out to support the Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

I’m in my third year as part of the organizing committee for the Business Cares Food Drive in London, Ontario. It’s taken me until now to fully accept and embrace that this committee runs counter to most others I’ve experienced. While this three-week-plus sprint to raise food and donations for our local food bank has many different activities and agendas as part of it, the whole thing seems to steer itself in a common direction, driven by good feelings and genuine positive efforts.

I believe there is a strong lesson in it.

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

The brainchild of Wayne Dunn (current committee Chair and owner of County Heritage Forest Products in London) and Ed Holder (Member of Parliament, London West), Business Cares was born 15 years ago and has since seen all kinds of companies from this area come together to reach a common goal: feeding people in need. Wayne leads by setting the example, creating the timeline and then empowering people to run with the ball. To his credit, Wayne runs harder and faster than anyone else. But when someone comes along with a new idea that could help bolster the overall effort, not only does Wayne not micromanage them to fit the brand or to mold their efforts into the way he might do things, but he is likely to have encouraged and empowered that person or group within moments instead. By doing so, he gives these people a sense of ownership and pride in their end of it. And so they go, and it all rushes forward in a gush of hopeful inertia that concludes by feeding a lot of hungry people.

As a person who works in marketing, I sometimes get antsy sitting at the committee table as we continue to splinter off the main “brand” (Business Cares) to create other off-shoots that are smaller (but very important) parts of the bigger goal. Usually, you want to keep to one defining brand name and stick to it, otherwise you risk confusing people. But the many cooks in the Business Cares kitchen have their own unique ways of contributing and a lot of terrific sub-brands have been the result. Some examples are “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” (where sports fans are encouraged to bring food donations to the Budweiser Gardens arena prior to select dates for the IBL’s London Lightning basketball team and the OHL’s London Knights hockey team), Golfer’s Care” (a one-night event that gathers local golf enthusiasts for an evening of fundraising and entertainment) and what has come to be known as “Metro Weekend”  (a two-day volunteer effort of canvassing in front of several local grocery stores). Each of these activities could be their own brands and/or stand-alone efforts in their own right. But they aren’t. It could all end up being confusing. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the machinery and magic that is the larger effort called Business Cares. And it works.

At this past weekend's Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

At this past weekend’s Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

You’ll sometimes hear negative things about big business. You may hear some not-so-nice things about small business, too. And yet I believe that the world of business remains similar to people in general: most of them are good and decent. A select few sometimes cloud it for the rest. But when something like this rolls around, I’m reminded of just how kind-hearted and hard-working most people can be.

Businesses of all kinds get involved. Over 400 companies find a way to contribute what they can to Business Cares. Some challenge other industry competitors to raise the most food. Some rally their staff and adopt the cause as their own. And some simply display a poster and drop box for food. All of it is valuable.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

It will all wrap up at County Heritage Forest Products on Tuesday, December 23rd. There will be last-minute cheque presentations and other eleventh-hour surprises that morning. There always are. It is, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas and a reminder that the true spirit of the season does still exist. It is genuinely heartwarming.

Wayne says that “Taking care of business means taking care of people.” Ironically, it’s people that have to take care of any business. And in this case, the businesses come together to help more people. And when those people are empowered and truly believe in what they’re doing, they work, put their egos aside, and are well-equipped to successfully arrive at a mutual, positive goal. Business Cares is proof of this, and I give Wayne Dunn and everyone who participates loads of credit for it.

In my experience, it usually doesn’t work to have “too many cooks.” But this is a crowded, happy kitchen that thrives because it’s driven by genuine good feelings and honest efforts.

You’re welcome to join us.

Please bring more food.

Business CaresFor more information about Business Cares and to learn how to donate or participate, please visit www.businesscares.ca or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Bulmer on Business, Vol. 3: Fairness, Flow & Fun (Life Lessons From an 8-Year-Old)

One of my favourite things to do is to watch my youngest son, Jaden, play hockey. In fact, I enjoy watching him do just about anything, but I’ll use hockey as the example for now. I recently realized that, in watching him play, I was also getting a great lesson in how I could better run my business, and my life.

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Believe it or not, Jaden is almost always smiling like this. His attitude is, Why wouldn’t he be?

Jaden, who is just turning 8, has a remarkable gift for going with the flow. He almost always seems to be happy in the present moment and, more often than not, he gets great results. Or at least, he seems to be consistently satisfied with the results he gets. But this isn’t about the results. It’s about how he gets them.

Jaden’s pretty good at hockey (or, as is currently the case, indoor ball hockey). But I sometimes wonder: Is he good at it because he loves it, or does he love it because he’s really good at it?

Consider that question for moment, as it relates to your business, or even your life in general.

Meantime, here are some of the things I’ve noticed from watching Jaden that got me thinking about how I might better conduct my own day-to-day work life:

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With or without ice, JJB just loves to be at the rink. And he approaches just about everything else the same way.

He seems to take the ups and downs almost effortlessly. He enjoys, but does not boast over, his victories. He shrugs off losses as if they’re inconsequential, other than considering what he might be able to do differently next time. It’s as if he just doesn’t see any value in expending energy or thought on anything other than something positive. What a concept.

It’s as though he inherently understands that he’s going to win some and he’s going to lose some, so he may as well enjoy the experience of actually playing the game, regardless of the result.

Jaden encourages others and celebrates their successes as if they were his own. He observes his peers and competitors who are more skilled than he is and he picks up their good habits almost as if by osmosis. And yet, he never beats himself up for not being as strong a skater or stickhandler as someone else. He’ll just notice what the others are doing, he’ll work on it when he feels like it and the new skill will come along when it’s ready to. Or not. He seems content with who he is either way. He just learns through a natural sense of curiosity and always seems to be happily moving forward.

 

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Jaden (no. 3) loves his teammates. He learns from them, as well as from his competitors. Pretty good recipe.

He always tries his best but does not become so competitive that it robs him of the joy of playing the game. Sometimes, he and I will be watching others play, and he’ll see someone become very upset, throw a tantrum or use some other kind of antics. When that happens, he’ll look at me, chuckle and shrug his shoulders, as if to suggest, “Why play if you’re not going to enjoy it? Why get so worked up?”

He has no aspirations of being a super competitive-level player, nor do I wish that for him. Life is going to place plenty of expectations on him as the years go by, so I see no need to start turning the screws on him now. But, perhaps, he’ll find that if the only expectations he places on himself are to show up, do his best and have fun doing it, things will almost always work out over time and life will take him wherever he needs to go. In fact, it seems he already understands this concept and is able to employ it more consistently than I do.

In business, as any entrepreneur can attest, we compete every day. We set goals, we train, we coach, and we hope to move forward. We have all known times when everything is flowing well, confidence is high and optimism reigns. And we each have experienced the intense frustration of wondering what went wrong as our competitors seem to be thriving while we struggle and flail about.

Do we do well because we like what we’re doing, or do we like what we’re doing only because we’re doing well?

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Lessons from an 8-year-old: Life is supposed to be fun. Smile. Play. Repeat.

Storms come and pass. Wins and losses will take their turns. Either way, we’re committed to play the game. We may as well compete with a sense of fairness, fun and flow.

That’s why I want to be more like my son when I grow up. He already seems to have this figured out. If I can too, I believe my business – and my life – will be better because of it.

Bulmer on Business, Vol. 2: Opportunity & the Right People

I’ve seen a common theme from the clients I’ve visited over the past while: good people that are strapped for time, finding it a challenge to engage more of the right people to help grow or get the most out of their business.

And when I say, “the right people,” I mean much more than just employees. Opportunity is everywhere for those who are willing to look.

InvoiceI know from experience that when you own and operate a small business, you live, breathe, eat and sleep all aspects of it. It truly is all-consuming. There is very little that is glamorous about the lifestyle. It is a grind. There is no moaning about “the boss,” because you’re it. There is no room for leaving things undone, because you’ll only be leaving them for yourself to deal with later. Sure, you may have employees, but just as you may depend on them to help with the day-to-day operation of the company, they depend upon you for literally everything else: leadership, work environment, training, safety, compensation, structure, opportunity, direction and so much more.

Beyond that is a web of other service providers crucial to keeping a business on track: accountants, lawyers, inspectors, bankers, landlords, government and city representatives and supplier reps, among others.

Stickmen successFind the right person who really understands you and your business in one of these roles, and you can get a lot of things done. But the wrong person can often hold things up, and even grind certain processes to a full stop.

Typically, the “right person” has empathy and understanding for others and their reality. They are proactive, resourceful and resilient. They take 100 percent responsibility for themselves. They present solutions instead of problems. They look for a win-win scenario in every situation without fail. And, like anyone else should, when they realize the scales are tipped into a win-lose proposition for either party, they keep to integrity and move along.

955464_43530886In order to carry forward in business, we must rely on other people. No one can get the train up the hill by themselves. But you have to find the right people. And you also have to be willing to move on without the wrong people. Have the trust in yourself to know the difference, and the discipline to act upon it.

I see it almost every day: there are so many good, hard-working entrepreneurs out there driving our economy and looking for help in all aspects. They need more of the right people in their world. Can you be one of them?

In all cases, there is more opportunity out there than you may think.

Bulmer on Business, Vol. 1: “The Sun WILL Come Out Tomorrow”

Here in London, Ontario, I think most would agree that, even by our hearty Canadian standards, this has been a relentless grind of a winter.

In business, we’re feeling it, these last eight weeks especially.

536258_64792095When terms like “Polar Vortex,” “Snow Squall” and “Special Weather Statement” are heard (and then experienced)  so consistently, the collective energy of the people grows weary. I can scarcely recall a time when so many seemed so universally worn down as they do right now.

Heck, at the suggestion of a friend, I even looked up details about the phenomenon called “Mercury Retrograde” (and found a great article about it by Gala Darling here ) just to see if there was any further explanation for this current, collective malaise. And it’s interesting.

But I digress.

These kinds of times affect business in a number of ways. We, as consumers, are tougher to reach. We’re staying home. We’re tired. We’re putting off more proactive decisions and dealing more exclusively on matters more urgent to our current day-to-day life.

Idle foot traffic is flagging; we’re moving about by appointment only, and in little mood to browse, or even get to our vehicle and back in such bitter ice, cold and wind.

For retailers, restaurateuers and many other businesses, this is incredibly frustrating.

But, as marketers, we’ve got to look ahead.

This weather will not last. To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We just haven’t see the reaction yet.

But it’s coming.

Zero? That would be a welcome improvement!

Zero? That would be a welcome improvement!

Right now, people are down, cold, weary, and tired. But the flipside of it all is the great likelihood that, once the weather breaks, we will see people out and about in droves. People are aching to get back out and do the things they enjoy, go to the places they like, and buy the things they want.

My question to you, as a business owner, is: Are you preparing for that, or are you moping through the final stages of winter like everyone else?

Now’s the time to get your plan in place. When the surge hits, the greatest percentage of the spoils will go to those who are prepared and have laid the groundwork in advance.

Those who are consistently marketing during these dark, colder times are building their brand and investing in their future. They’ll be top-of-mind when the consumer is finally ready to make a buying decision, or even just that first exploratory internet search. If you’re in this category, good for you. You have a head start on your competition.

But even if you’ve battened down the hatches this winter and have been largely silent, you can still put a plan in place and be ready to invite people to your business for the times when you’re pretty certain they’ll be looking to come out.

So, what’s coming up? Take a look ahead, and think about how your business relates to the many benchmarks we’re about to encounter. To generate some positive momentum, we’ve got to get ourselves into a better head space.

Consider:

883625_24456317March Break will soon be here. For those who will be traveling with their kids, they may need to have their vehicle serviced before they go away, and may even require the purchase of other essentials (swimsuits, luggage, summer clothes) before they set out. If you’re in those fields, are you talking to your potential customers now?

Many more will stay at home and will be looking for things to do with their kids during the break. Others will finally break out to their favourite restaurant, pub or bar to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day or to watch the annual NCAA basketball tournament.

Are you inviting these people to come see you?

Easter is not far off. Family gatherings will be held in abundance. Many forms of retail should see new activity as well.

292906_3638In the sports world, golfers will be aching to get on the course, especially with The Masters tournament coming up soon. Baseball players are already in spring training, and the Memorial Cup should have our downtown core abuzz later in the spring. We’re also soon to see the NHL Playoffs begin, and if the Leafs, Canadians and Red Wings all make it in, there will be excitement; a “buzz” that will make these frozen days of February feel like a long time ago .. once they finally get here.

A few weeks after the snow starts to melt, just watch the “for sale” signs pop up on neighbourhood lawns. Who’s getting the listings? And who’s showing the new homes?

After this harsh winter, it’s a good bet that many people will be in need of home improvement and other contract work to touch up whatever’s being hidden by the ice and snow currently. Driveways will need repair. Eavestroughs will be replaced. Roofs will be re-shingled, decks will be built and pools will be installed.

1431142_42530356Those who enjoy their garden will be starved for their favourite pursuit more than ever.

We’ll trade snow shovels for garden hoses, sidewalk salt for lawn fertilizer, and boots for shoes!

Anyone who enjoys fashion will surely love to explore some new looks for a new season, completely over-tired of being bundled in scarves, hats and mitts for these last many months.

Once the salt and grime come off our vehicles, we’ll see a lot of scratches, dents and dings that local body shops may wish to be fixing. While many of us will finally do those repairs, others, having finally arrived through the other side of winter, will decide to start anew and will finally go and look to test-drive (and maybe purchase) something new.

Tax return refunds will begin to arrive.

Eight weeks from now, wedding season will be ready to begin. Golf will be in full swing. Patio furniture, barbecues and other outdoor accessories will be flying off the shelves.

1436667_82894233It feels better even just thinking of those times, doesn’t it?

Are you ready, or just waiting?

Like the old song says, the sun will come out tomorrow (well … maybe in several more tomorrows, but it will be back sooner or later). My suggestion: put some thought to how you may best take advantage of what’s coming, and put your plan in place now.

When the rush hits (and it will), you’ll be glad you did.

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