Does Your Business Have an Exit Strategy?

Does Your Business Have an Exit Strategy?

Why would I ever need an exit strategy? You may be asking yourself that after seeing the title of this post.

 

In the past six weeks I have been asked that by three separate potential clients while we were meeting. Of course they prefaced it with, “we don’t expect it, but just in case.”

 

They all had a great point. You never know what is going to happen. People move. People die. Not all businesses live forever.

 

For me, with the work ethic I inherited from my dad, I could do this until I am old and gray (ha!), but most likely not. Whether your plan is to have your business for 10 years, 20 years, or build it to where you can merge with another, you need to know what the plan is when that days comes.

 

Having an exit strategy in mind will help you run your business better. After thinking about it, I did a little research and found some great insight into this.

 

Having an exit strategy will make you document everything – including your processes.

 

Imagine trying to explain 10 years of doing things to a person in a week. Without having anything written down. Documenting what you do and how will help in the end – it will also help if you hire people and delegate or if you have to step out of your role short-term.

 

Having an exit strategy will help you know how to value your business in the event someone does make an offer to buy your business.

 

Even if you have zero plans of selling your business, you never know who is watching you. I’ve had a few people over the past six years casually mention the word ‘partnership’ to me, but that isn’t something I am personally in it. I would love to buy another marketing agency and merge into that if the stars aligned (major long-term goal here). THAT would require an exit strategy.

 

Having an exit strategy takes some of the stress off of you, the business owner.

 

I am a plan-for-the-worst type. I like to have all bases covered, just in case. So knowing what my exit strategy is takes some stress off of me because I know what will happen and how things will go. Now, I do not plan for that to happen for MANY, MANY years (my husband has to retire first!) but it’s there… just in case.

 

All that being said, hopefully it’s given you something to think about. So, what is your business’ exit strategy?

 

 

References:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249065

http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/business-planning/5-reasons-why-you-should-start-with-your-exit-in-mind/

THIS is the Facebook Content Your Fans Want You to Post

THIS is the Facebook Content Your Fans Want You to Post

Let me ask you a question, and let’s be honest, how many times have you seen a business post on Facebook and you wished there had been an eye-roll button to click?

 

Don’t lie – there have been times we have all wanted to respond to a post that way. I’m going to be brutally honest – some businesses still just do not get it when it comes to what type of content to post to Facebook. Here is what I am seeing in my newsfeed, and see if any of these match what you are seeing too –

  • Misaligned posts that do not match the brand’s message
  • All sales pitches, aka broadcast messages
  • Posts with spelling and grammatical errors

 

Facebook, in May, released a guide for publishers that clued us into what Facebook is from it’s users. Here is what they found:

 

People on Facebook value meaningful, informative stories.

In their algorithm, Facebook looks at a user’s personal signals, such as “how close someone is to the person or page posting, stories they’d want to talk to their friends and family about, spend time reading, and videos they’d spend time watching.” Also taken into account is the post’s overall engagement. People value content that is informative as well. Think about what you take time to read or share, or even comment on. It is content you find meaningful and informative. You should put yourself in the your audience’s shoes and post the type of content they will spend time on, much like you would.

 

People on Facebook value accurate, authentic content.

With the wave of fake news on Facebook, accuracy is SO important more now than ever. Facebook users have told Facebook that authentic stories are the ones that resonate with them the most, so Facebook ranks those types of posts higher in the News Feed. Some tips from Facebook include:

  • Clear headlines – do not mislead the person viewing the headline.
  • Spam – “do not deliberately try and game the News Feed to get more distribution.”
  • Accurate Information – make sure what you are posting is true.

 

Around the same time as the Facebook release, Sprout Social released its Q2 Sprout Social Index. This edition of the quarterly social media insight report focused on what consumers are looking from from businesses on social media – and it echoed a lot of the Facebook release.

 

Every business wants to be ‘cool’ on social media – they want to relate to their fans, but there is a limit to that. According to the Sprout Social Index, social media users want brands to be honest online, you know, authentic. They also want you to be friendly and helpful, not snarky and sarcastic. You can leave that for your private personal channels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, where else do social media users want to see this honest behavior? Overwhelmingly Facebook. If anyone, professional or not, tells you Facebook is dead and you need to look elsewhere, run and run fast.

 

 

Let’s talk content – what TO and NOT TO post.

 

TO Post: Meaningful, informative stories.

This could include tips, articles – items that are relevant to your fans. What this is NOT is sales pitch after sales pitch or “look at what we do” post after post. I see so many businesses doing that and it’s annoying. Stop the constant self-promotion and build the relationship!

Example: You are a pediatrician office. The content that would be meaningful and informative to your fans would be articles that keep your fans informed on the latest research on vaccines or when your office will be having their annual flu clinic.

 

TO Post: Accurate, authentic content.

Example: You are a restaurant. The accurate, authentic content that would be relevant to your fans would be your updated menu and pricing and any specials you may have.

 

NOT TO Post: Political commentary.

According to the Sprout Index, “Seventy-one-percent of consumers surveyed think political commentary from brands is annoying.” In this day and time, the ground is too shaky to endeavor on posting this type of content. Unless that is your business, steer clear.

 

NOT TO Post: Making fun of customers.

You would think this is a given, but some businesses do it. As seen below, 88% of consumers find it annoying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO Post: Responses to questions.

It should be a given to respond to questions to that are asked, however you would be surprised how many go unresponded to (and I’ve had this happen to me!). According to Sprout Social, 68% of consumers want brands to participate in conversations they’re mentioned in, and 83% want brands to respond to them.

 

NOT TO Post: Slang.

You may think it’s cool to use the lingo of a particular generation, but most generations find it annoying. See the graph below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what happens if a business is posting content that their fans find annoying or uninformative? They are unfollowed or marked as spam. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Your mom probably has done it too. The problem is that many businesses just don’t care – or they do not know better to know how to correct what they are doing wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a bright side. If you post the right type of content and you are engaging and responsive, your fans will respond. According to Sprout Social’s research, “it may be as easy as being present and providing value–answering a customer’s question on social prompts 49% of consumers to purchase, 45% are swayed by promotions and contests and 42% say they’d be converted by educational content.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tying this all up, if your business is posting meaningful, accurate content that shows you are honest and you are being engaging and responsive online, you are on the right track. Of course, all of this should relate back to your overall social media strategy.

 

What types of content have you seen on Facebook that has made you cringe or made you want to give that business a high-five? Share with us in the comments!

How To Interview (And Hire!) A Social Media Agency

How To Interview (And Hire!) A Social Media Agency

Looking for a social media agency to ensure you’ve constantly got something smart to say online?

Congratulations! Outsourcing your social media to someone else is often a shrewd move.

However, I can tell you from experience that unless you do your homework when interviewing and hiring a social media agency, you might end up with a giant horror story on your hands.

Lucky for you, we’ve got the hard-hitting questions needed to hire the RIGHT social media agency for your business.

Social Media Horror Stories

Pathetic Posts

One client who came to us reluctantly said that their previous social media agency published posts that were “pretty out there” and didn’t relate to what they did (luxury travel with a purpose).

This client was also unimpressed by the graphics paired with their posts since the social media agency they were using at the time didn’t bother to use the company’s Style Guide to incorporate brand colors, text, and other elements.

 

Actionable Advice

Another client came to us specifically asking about reporting because the social media agency they had recently fired only sent reports sporadically!

And when reports were delivered? There was no explanation or actionable advice about why the numbers had increased or decreased — they just sat there, meaningless.

 

Ghost Town

Several clients have complained that their previous social media agencies are just plain bad at communication.

While their pages are getting posts, if they (the client) send an email requiring input, they aren’t likely to get a response until a week or later.

 

via GIPHY

These three social media agency horror stories are all too common and scary. Click To Tweet

 

How To Properly Interview Your Social Media Agency

Ask all of these 20 questions (if relevant to your business/brand) when interviewing your next social media agency:

 

  1. Tell me about your experience. How is your team structured around ours and what roles can be expected to help us with success?
  2. What skills/qualities do you/your team possess that lend(s) to online marketing and social media?
  3. What types of businesses do you currently work with? (May we have referrals from current and past customers?)
  4. Which social media platforms do you service for your clients?
  5. What do you think of our social media efforts? What could we be doing better?
  6. How often do you deliver reports and which metrics are most important to measure?
  7. How often will our team and your team meet to discuss our social strategy and/or progress?
  8. Which social media channels do you think are most relevant to our business; should each channel be used differently?
  9. What tools do you use to manage your client accounts?
  10. Does your service include using social media as a tool for customer service?
  11. Do you guarantee followers or account growth percentages each day/week/month?
  12. How will you help us set goals and key performances indicators for success?
  13. How can you help us generate leads or sales through social media?
  14. Give me examples of social media experiments you have successfully conducted.
  15. How do you handle negative comments on social media; what happens during a social media crisis?
  16. What are some Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. best practices we should know about?
  17. Tell me about your biggest failure.
  18. How do you/your team stay up-to-date since social media changes so often?
  19. What deliverables can we expect during our agreement period (and their frequency)?
  20. Do you perform outreach through social media for potential leads or for influencer marketing?
Use these 20 interview questions when hiring your next social media agency. Click To Tweet

 

Answers Cheat Sheet

It wouldn’t be fair to give you all of those questions with no insight into what the social media agency’s answers should sound like!

So here you go …

 

  1. A respectable social media agency should have been around for at least a couple of years and should easily be able to explain their team workflows and how each team member will service your account. We have several different team members who work on client accounts — no matter how big or small.
  2. Social media means knowing more than just social! Consider skills like marketing, copywriting, advertising, sales and lead generation, communications, and content curation or research (just to name a few!).
  3. A good social media agency will easily be able to list clients AND give you references for both past and present customers. 
  4. Know which platforms are serviced and how experienced the social media agency is with a particular platform. We don’t service Snapchat for our clients, for instance, because it’s new and too difficult for us to “be them” through video.
  5. A smart salesperson should have already reviewed your social media sites before your call! And a REALLY SMART salesperson will already have some feedback for you on how you’re doing. ?
  6. It’s my opinion that you should have reports delivered at least monthly on your social media efforts! As for metrics, those should be customized for YOU during your onboarding (because each company/client has different goals).
  7. We meet with our clients weekly. Maybe that’s a lot but it doesn’t make sense for us to “be you” (done-for-you social media marketing) without you being involved in making that happen. 
  8. Based on what you do, your goals, and your desired audience, a seasoned social media agency should easily be able to make suggestions on which platforms you should use.
  9. Again, a serious social media agency will have a plethora of tools they use to manage their client accounts. We have a tool suite of over $100,000 in marketing and online tools that help our clients with success!
  10. This answer should ALWAYS BE YES! Whether you use social media for customer service or not if your customers are you need to be ready to own that.
  11. It would greatly concern me if a social media agency guaranteed a specific number of followers each day/week/month because that may indicate that they’re buying followers (a huge no-no). You should experience growth each month, but that percentage will vary greatly on several factors.
  12. An experienced social media agency will guide you in choosing key performance indicators and tying social media success to business outcomes.
  13. While leads and sales may not be promised, an accomplished social media agency will have several campaign ideas and work with you to create a process for capturing leads through social.
  14. The experts will have examples for days!
  15. Your social media agency should be skilled in crisis management and have a workflow for handling any negative press/comments online.
  16. Helpful Hint: A really good social media agency will tell you that you need to create your OWN best practices, as some best practices simply aren’t
  17. If they can’t tell you about at least one failure, RUN! Social media is full of failures and requires lots of testing, trials, and tribulation.
  18. Team members should be required to take continuing education or be a part of an organization that provides updates. For Instance, as a Sprout Social Founding Agency Partner, we are updated on changes immediately (and privy to special reports!).
  19. Masters of their trade, social media agencies know that customers require a LOT of education, too. These masters will have plenty of deliverables they give to you. We do not advocate “holding your accounts hostage” — so we make sure you have access to all of the same documents and workflows we do!
  20. Our answer is yes (and we feel this should be the norm for any social media agency). 
Use this cheat sheet when interviewing your next social media agency! Click To Tweet

 

Social Media Agency Red Flags

social media red flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a lot of homework that goes into hiring a social media agency.

A lot of research and understanding can be gained by asking the above questions. It’s also good to be aware of red flags.

Here are 3:

  1. The social media agency doesn’t use social media for themselves (or it looks awful).
  2. They don’t blog often. (Because original content is SO IMPORTANT!)
  3. You’re told that “good social media” will save/improve your failing product/service/company. So not true; social media only amplifies what you already have.
Watch out for these social media red flags when outsourcing your social to an agency. Click To Tweet

 

When It’s Time To Hire

When you’ve gotten past all of the interviewing and it’s time to hire, there are still some areas you need to be cognizant of.

For instance:

  • Make sure you carefully read your agreement before hiring an agency
  • Ask for extra language to be added if you’re unclear or wary of particular sections in your agreement
  • Be sure you understand any/all non-disclosure language or if your agency provides this for you
  • Know what the timeframe and process is for onboarding you as a customer
  • Ensure you have a meet and greet (in person or online) with your account manager or team liaison
  • Understand the protocol for ending, renewing, or pausing an agreement
  • Get extremely specific and clear about your goals and what you want to achieve
  • Be a good client and deliver your deliverables in a timely manner — and always make your meetings!
Hiring a social media agency? Check these items off your list first! Click To Tweet

 

Finding The Perfect Social Media Agency

Finding the “perfect” agency will not be an easy task. However, you can avoid plenty of heartaches just by asking the 20 interview questions we’ve provided you with.

If you’re serious about your social media success, you should be serious about the hybrid team you’re building by outsourcing to someone outside of your brand.

Do your homework and forego the horror and heartache. Trust us!

What are your tips for hiring a social media agency? Let us know in the comment section below!

 

 

Why You Have to Be Transparent in Your Business

Why You Have to Be Transparent in Your Business

Being transparent in your business is very important in the age of digital marketing and social media. You can Google just about anyone or anything. Dig harder and you can find the truth even if they won’t admit it. Being transparent is more than being honest, it’s building an honest relationship. As in real life relationships, those built on lies (dishonesty) never last.

For my business, I do my best to be as transparent as possible. I will own up to my mistakes, no matter how embarrassing they are or even if they will cost me a client or business relationship. Most won’t do that.

I believe there are four elements to being transparent in your business, and if you follow these, you’ll find your relationship with your community, and your clients, richer.

1. Honesty

“I’ll never tell a lie” is the biggest lie there is out there in society. As hard as it may be to admit, we are not all honest 100% of the time. However in business, you have to be. If you are in a regulated business, dishonesty could cost you your business license or mean jail time. For those of us in unregulated industries, being dishonest gives you the appearance of that shady salesman you try to avoid.

Being honest in your business allows you to get to know your customer and your community, and they will get to know you. Do you love watching The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? I bet someone in your community does too – build on that and start the relationship! The most important part about being honest is knowing you have a clear mind about what you are doing. I’m not just talking about being honest to your audience/customers/community, but being honest with yourself. If you cannot be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?

2. Credibility

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “a man is as good as his word”? From honesty breeds credibility. If you are open and honest, you’ll be considered credible. In any industry, credibility is important. Journalists do not want to cite people who aren’t credible sources. Likewise, doctors are only going to source credible research when talking about the latest advances in medicine.

Credibility should be a part of your backbone. If you’re not credible, no one is going to trust you, and trust is important. If your customers don’t trust you and see you as credible, I assure you there is someone else waiting in line to fill that void.

3. Accountability

If you’re credible, then you’re more likely to practice accountability. Having accountability means you can be counted on – you are honest, you are credible – people can take you on your word and rely on you to follow through.

In today’s society, there is a lack of accountability & responsibility. People do not want to be held accountable for their actions. I could write a novel on it. We see it in white collar businesses as well as our citizens. They want to live their lives without recourse. You can’t do that in business. Being transparent means you want (and should) be held accountable for your actions – both the good and the bad.

4. Your clients will know what to expect up front

This is where transparency all comes together. If you are honest, credible and accountable, your clients/customers will know what to expect from you and your business up front. There’s no guessing what type of business you run or how you conduct yourself as a businessperson. It all cycles to this – your clients/customers.

 

How are you being transparent with your business? Share with us – we love to learn from our community!