Small business owners have a lot of options for developing winning strategies in the new year. By Tasha Cunningham The New Year is just around the corner and for small business owners the often daunting task of developing a solid online marketing strategy for 2012 looms ahead, too. What should small business owners focus their marketing efforts on in 2012? What marketing strategies will yield high conversion rates and generate lucrative sales for small businesses in the New Year? To find out, BizBytes turned to Roberta Backus, chairwoman of Backus Turner International, a South Florida-based branding firm, and Guido Gaona, director of the technology practice at Burston Marsteller Latin America. Backus has been in business for more than 32 years and her client roster includes such companies as Lowe’s Home Improvement and Trump International. Gaona’s clients include Sony, HP and Intel. Backus and Gaona have identified five trends that small business owners should consider when developing their marketing plans for 2012. Online reputation management. “Your company’s online reputation is going to become more important than ever in 2012,” Backus said. “You’ve got to monitor and maintain your online reputation closely. You don’t want to lose a sale because of a negative post that appears about your company in a search result. It’s imperative that you take control of what’s being said about you online. You’ve got to spend time each day putting out positive content about what you do.” TIP: Backus recommends spending at least one hour each day putting out positive content about your company. Once you’ve created quality content, get your friends and clients to share it on their social networks as well. Using Google + . “The most important thing small business owners can do with Google + in 2012 is to first have a social media plan in place regarding how they are going to use it,” Gaona said. “Small business owners need to ask themselves what they want to do on Google + and what kind of content they want to put out. The tool they use, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google +, is irrelevant if a good social media plan is not in place. Also, remember that Google + is in its infancy and we need to see what is going to happen with it to determine if it’s a viable marketing tool.” TIP: Gaona recommends adding Google + as a tool in your social media arsenal. Update your Google + as often as you update your Facebook or Twitter pages. But don’t use Google + as the only social network presence for your business. Using mobile apps to make marketing easier. “If you’re a small business, you don’t need a mobile app,” Backus said. “Instead what you need is a mobile version of your site. You also need to start using apps that make it faster and easier to market your company. There are countless apps online to help you streamline your social media updating. There are also apps that will alert you when someone posts something about you online.” TIP: Backus recommends that small business owners use mobile apps like TweetDeck to manage all of their social networks at the same time. Local search. “In 2011, geo-targeted local search exploded and it’s going to continue to be a major trend for 2012,” Gaona said. “More and more, people want to know what is near them. What restaurants should they go to? What stores should they shop at? Everyone wants this information, especially on their mobile phones. That is why geo-targeting your company is so important.” TIP: Gaona recommends placing geo-targeted ads on Yelp, Foursquare and other popular social platforms to promote your small business in local search results. He also recommends running special promotions and discounts on Foursquare, one of the most popular location-based social media tools being used today. Online Reviews. “I don’t think a bad online review is a death knell for your business,” Backus said. “In 2012, change your thinking and look at a negative review instead as an opportunity to engage with a customer. If they’ve had a bad experience, offer to make it right. Give a discount on a future purchase or give something away free. This goes a long way in repairing the damage of a negative online review.” TIP: Backus recommends spending at least 20 minutes a day combing online review sites and social networks to see what people are saying about your business. Use a free tool like SocialMention to help you aggregate the posts, status updates and online reviews about your company online. For more marketing trends and tips for 2012, visit
By Tasha Cunningham
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