Archive | January, 2019

10 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

28 Jan

When most people hear about standard operating procedures, or SOPs, they often think about a large corporation with hundreds of employees and pages and pages of documented processes. Rarely does one hear the words small business and SOP in the same sentence and we think that is a BIG business mistake!

Regardless of the size of a business, establishing SOPs can make life simpler for everyone involved – the entrepreneur, staff, business partners, and ultimately the customers.

What Is a Standard Operating Procedure – or SOP?

An SOP is essentially a step-by-step guide for handling routine tasks and recurring events in business. Along with the sequence of performing an activity, SOPs also usually include a timeline for completing each step. Some examples of where you might use an SOP in your business include:

  • New Customer/Client Onboarding SOP: Steps you take as a business to add a new customer
  • Customer service SOP: Steps to handle common customer requests and complaints
  • Blog Management SOP: Instructions on how to post on your website, standard components of a post, frequency and time of posting, steps to promote new blog posts via social media etc.

As a small business, following standardized operating procedures can save you time, allow you (and your team) to be more productive, eliminate a lot of errors, and improve compliance with industry guidelines. Here are ten reasons why every small business should have SOP.

10 Reasons Every Small Business Should Be Using Standard Operating Procedures

1. Better Manage Your Team

SOPs are a highly effective tool for managing your team. Here’s how you can use them.

Train New Employees Faster
For new employees, providing SOPs allows them a start point to learn about the business. It helps them understand the frequency of each process, what is entailed in completing, and the responsibilities of each person in the business. This allows them to get up to speed much faster and relieves you, or another team member, from having to spend countless hours training.

Improve Employee Productivity
After the initial training, SOPs act as a guide for staff to ensure that they perform tasks correctly and within specified timeframes. The more they follow the SOP, the more confident employees become in their skills. Improved employee productivity means you save on work hours, and at the same time reduce chances of errors in performance.

Prepares the Business for Delegating/Outsourcing
Once you are confident that a standard operating procedure is working well, you can delegate the work to a newer recruit, or outsource to a virtual assistant. This frees you up to work on higher level tasks to build the business.

Useful in Writing Job Descriptions
It can be difficult to evaluate the contribution of employees in a small business. SOPs form the basis for listing critical business processes as well as daily tasks and assigning responsibilities for each.  Therefore, they become the baseline document for drafting job descriptions of each member of your team.

2. Maintain and Improve Quality

Ensure Product Quality
How do you deliver the same product quality consistently? One way is to have quality checks at different phrases in your process. The other is to ensure that everyone understands the specifications of the final product. Manufacturers, as well as service organizations, can use standard operating procedures to communicate effectively with their staff on how they want things done to meet desired product quality standards.

Create a Benchmark of Service
While your customers may never catch a glimpse of your internal SOPs, they will certainly know how professionally you run the business. Having ‘Service’ SOPs ensures that each member of your team has a clear understanding of the expected outcome of service interactions. This could include the way a customer is spoken to on the phone, the resolution to a customer problem, or the time it takes to complete a customer order.

Ensure Business Continuity
To ensure continuity of business, it’s essential to identify a backup staff for each task. In the absence of the key staff member, someone else can refer to the SOP, quickly get up to speed and ensure that the work is completed correctly.

Identify Areas for Improvement
Over time, SOPs becomes a source for identifying opportunities for improving your internal processes, which could save additional time and money and further improve customer experience. Ideally, you should review critical SOPs at least once every three or four months to assess if you need to make changes.

3. Reduce Business Risk

Improve Compliance
If you are in a business that is highly regulated (e.g., food business, medical billing, financial advisory), you need to ensure that you continually follow the laws and regulations at every step. Documenting these requirements in your SOP serves as an important reminder for both you and your staff on steps crucial for compliance.

Reduce Risk of Accidents
Compared to many businesses, restaurants and bakeries, and manufacturers are relatively more accident-prone places of work. As the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and SOPs can help you achieve that. As an example, at a restaurant, you can create SOPs for cleaning the work area, handling and maintaining dangerous kitchen equipment, and expected handling of any accidents.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the notion of creating a massive SOP manual for every single process in your business, start small. We suggest you start by noting down the steps you take the next time you perform a work task. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate form or follow any special formatting – it’s just a recording of each of the steps that need to take place to complete the process successfully.

Alternatively, you could make a video-based SOP for sharing information with your employees or contractors on the tasks that you handle and want to delegate to others. From the video, they can take over the process and write out the steps as well, so you have an official written SOP and the video.

At Sala Social Marketing, we are BIG believers in the power of standard operating procedures for every business. Don’t get intimidated by the process, though. Just pick one task (heck – it could be how you order supplies!) and get started. You’ll be glad you did!

The Best Tools For Planning Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

21 Jan

There are numerous great social media scheduling tools out there – depending on what your needs are, you’re sure to find the right options easily with enough research. However, when you also account for planning and all that entails – collaborating with numerous people (including clients), coming up with ideas and getting them approved, creating workflows – things start to get a bit more difficult.

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about some of the best tools for planning your social media strategy.

A good workflow will help you come up with better ideas for your social media campaigns (good collaboration often brings out the best ideas) and to make sure that everyone on the team (whether it’s your manager, a client, or simply your other team members) is on board with the proposed social media calendar/strategy.

Here are some of the best tools to help you create powerful workflows and better plan your social media marketing:

ContentCal

ContentCal is built specifically to aid in the planning and approval stages, as well as help you put together your entire social media calendar in one place (plus, it’s a social media scheduling tool too).

There are a few reasons why I had to put it first in the list: it’s super easy to use and set up (which is very important as you don’t want to lose time trying to understand how it works, especially when you’re collaborating with others who might not be as tech-savvy) and because it’s very versatile.

To start with, you can add your entire team, your managers, clients (and anyone else) to the tool; then, assign specific roles to each person so it’s very clear who does what and what limitations they have. Not only, that, but you can also create approval workflows; for example, someone creates the content, another person reviews the content and makes any suggestions, while the manager or client can approve the content to be scheduled and/or published. Without the express approval of the manager/client, the content can’t be published via the platform; this way, if there are any mistakes, you know you’re covered as the right person had to approve an update before publishing it.

You can also add multiple social media accounts to your ContentCal and separate them in different calendars; otherwise, if you’re managing several social networks for one account, you can view them all in the same calendar, add media to each update and easily categorize with the update type.

As I mentioned earlier, you can also plan your content here; simply use the pinboard to “pin” any update ideas and once finalised and approved, drag and drop them in the calendar on the days/times you want. Then, they can be scheduled to be published.

You also have access to social media analytics to track content performance (as well track follower growth, best posting times, etc.); this then comes in useful to identify top performing updates to be republished – it takes a click to repost your content.

And finally, you can also respond to comments and messages, as well as monitor your social media activity all within the same tool.

CoSchedule

If, on the other hand, you want a solution for all your marketing campaigns, CoSchedule is a great option. It’s not as easy or straightforward to use, but if you invest the time to learn all the different features and how to make the most of them, it’s definitely worth the effort.

The idea behind CoSchedule is to help you create a planning calendar for all of your marketing projects, whether it’s social media, email marketing, or any other marketing campaigns.

In terms of workflows, you can easily create workflow templates for your campaigns where you outline each step.

Then, in the Workboard, you can plan and create your calendar before actually scheduling anything.

Outline each phase of the project clearly and then start proposing ideas; once done, you can drag and drop the best ideas in the calendar to be scheduled and/or published.

In terms of the social media calendar, you can schedule your updates in bulk easily, as well as share any great content you find online, without leaving your browser.

If you’re the manager/editor, you’ll be able to track all progress and actions made by your team, including any scheduled messages so you can review them and pull them if necessary.

Other useful features include Best Time Scheduling (leave the tool to schedule your updates for the best possible times, based on analytics) and ReQueue which uses artificial intelligence to fill any gaps in your schedule with your top performing social media updates. This way, you’re automatically republishing your best content with basically no effort on your part, which is especially useful when you don’t have any new content to publish or you don’t have the time to create and/or schedule any new social media updates.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite needs little introduction, as its one of the first and most popular social media management tools around. And, it’s also a pretty great option for teams, but you will need to get certain plans to get these features – the business plan allows for 5-10 team members to be added.

Once you add users to your Hootsuite account, you can then set their permissions; unless you want them to have complete access to all your networks, you can create custom permissions for each one so that they can only access certain profiles and networks, and so that they can only take certain actions.

In terms of planning and collaborating, you can use the Drafts space to have everyone suggest their content ideas and upload different assets before they’re approved for publishing.

Plus, you can assign social media tasks, put together your social media calendar, and schedule your updates – not to mention, of course, all the other social media management features as well (like seeing all of your comments and mentions in one place and responding to them, social media monitoring, analytics, and so on).

All of the team features are included in 3 different plans: team, business, and enterprise.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is another top social media management tool, with several handy team collaboration features. So you get all of the regular social media management features only it’s all built with teams in mind (you will need to get the Corporate or Enterprise plans though to get the full set of team management features).

In terms of planning your social media strategy with Sprout Social, you first have a shared publishing calendar where you can start planning your content; you can be very clear about who gets to approve an update so that other team members can’t just publish or schedule something without it being checked first – once someone writes a draft, they can quickly submit it for approval and even choose which approver they will notify about it.

You also have the option to save your content ideas as drafts so that you can discuss and perfect them with other team members.

Apart from planning your social media, there are a few other useful team collaboration features. For example, you can easily collaborate with your team when managing your social inbox (tag messages, assign them and include a note, and see in real time who is viewing or replying to a message) and you can check your team performance and see how much time they spent on tasks, what their completion ratio is like, and so on (which can help you improve your team’s productivity and find any time management issues that can be easily solved).

Conclusion

Social media collaboration can be prove to be very problematic when you’re relying on numerous tools: one – or several, in fact – for the actual collaboration (discussing ideas, approving them, and so on), one for scheduling and publishing your updates, and one for getting approvals.

Whether you’re an agency, a brand, or even a small business, use a social media planning tool built for collaboration to help you make sure you’re publishing the right updates, to avoid mistakes, and to come up with better ideas. Plus, not to mention, it will save you hours every week for all your planning and scheduling.

5 Major Social Media Marketing Mistakes And How To Overcome Them

14 Jan

Most modern businesses understand the importance of using social media to promote their brand and interact with consumers. Indeed, social media is at the core of many companies’ digital strategy, often delivering measurable results in terms of sales, leads and customer service. That said, there are many social media mistakes that we see time and time again: strategic errors that leave leads on the table and opportunities unexplored.

In this blog post, I will focus on just five of them and highlight why they are dangerous from a marketing perspective. If you’re already using social media for your business, great; but how many of these mistakes are you making? And how much better could your social media marketing really be?

 You’re not listening to your audience

Your audience is speaking; but are you listening? Sure, you might see notifications appear on your dashboard but they represent a fraction of the social dialogue centered on your business, industry, service, products or competitors.

According to Brandwatch, 96% of people who discuss brands online do not actually follow those brands on social media.  As such, business owners have to look beyond their own feeds to keep tabs on that chatter and obtain insights to influence overall strategy.

Utilizing social media listening tools is like turning up the volume on the conversations which represent opportunities for your business. Not only that, but they offer a unique means of researching a market, highlighting consumer demographics, gauging possible interest in new products and lines, reinforcing brand values, tracking the health of your company (and your rivals) and enhancing customer satisfaction.

By utilising a social listening tool, you can start interacting with leads in real time, or at any rate use the insights gained from monitoring chatter to improve your processes. They’re simple to use, too: mostly it’s a case of entering your relevant keywords and setting up alerts. The best of these tools (AwarioMentionKeyhole) have powerful algorithms at their core and can yield valuable, data-driven results in no time.

You don’t have a clear objective

You’d be stunned at how many businesses concede to having no clearly defined goal. For those who manage to turn a profit anyway, it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue; but what if your business is stuttering? Wouldn’t it make sense to set meaningful objectives – to note exactly what you want to achieve in the months and year ahead?

This applies to business in general, but also to your social media strategy. It’s no good simply posting a selection of random updates each day, hoping to attract a steady stream of likes, shares, new followers and sales. Broadening organic reach is more challenging than ever, as the likes of Facebook have become pay-to-play platforms. As such, stimulating interest and growing your audience requires investment in advertising.

With social media advertising, you can forensically track engagements, and as such it is crucial to set clear goals. How will you define the success or failure of a campaign? How much are you willing to spend to win a customer? And remember, it is essential to connect your social media output to wider business aims (and ROI) from the get-go: if you don’t, social media can become a siloed platform, a form of brand waving with no real connection to the company as a whole.

You’re not optimizing for each social network

At this point, you’re probably utilizing a range of social media platforms – and largely that’s a good move, even if some succeed more than others. However, a common mistake business owners make is to simply replicate updates and re-share them on different platforms. Not only is this somewhat lazy, but it overlooks one key point: audiences on different social networks are not homogenous; they are unique, and the content they expect is unique too.

When using multiple social platforms for marketing the same brand, you need to think outside the box but also reflect the desires of users on those particular channels. In some cases, improving ROI may even necessitate the closing of social accounts which are not performing or are not aligned with your business objectives. Decreasing your post output may also yield better results.

Utilizing the correct platforms by scheduling engaging, custom-tailored content is the way forward. Focus on creating valuable posts that have been shown to work well on the platform in question, and pay attention to the direction of the networks too. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remarked a few years ago that the service would consist mostly of video “within five years.” Twitter, meanwhile, works best with newsworthy items and company updates.

You’re stretching yourself too thin

The pitfall of being active on social media is that you’re, well, too active. So committed are you to driving brand awareness and gaining top marks for engagement, you wind up stretching yourself thin without really hitting the mark on any one medium.

As with any area of focus, you have to pay attention to which social channel is working and invest your time (and budget) accordingly. Using analytics to better appreciate which networks are paying dividends, and which are stagnating, is paramount.

This doesn’t have to be a burdensome process, incidentally: you can leverage intuitive social media management tools to save time handling your accounts, streamline your workflows and ensure your content reaches your target market at the most advantageous time. Importantly, they’ll help you drive meaningful engagement and yield tangible results, thereby ensuring you don’t spread yourself thin.

You’re not offering real value

One oft-cited mistake that remains worryingly common is this: you are too busy pushing your brand without providing value. While you may believe it’s smart to use social media exclusively to build awareness, users gravitate to these platforms to engage and interact – not to buy.

Social advertising has many merits, but you absolutely must mix it up by sharing other relevant, topical or shareworthy content to ensure you’re providing value. Create content – infographics, blog posts, videos – that answers a question or delivers a message that resonates with your audience. Content that humors, enlightens and gives pause.

Content that evokes emotion, a reaction at gut level, tends to play better than direct sales messages. And is it any wonder? Try to remember the last time a sales message on social media had you heading to an online store. Now think of the last time a status update or tweet put a smile on your face or made you mad!

Social is a two-way medium, so establish value by employing role reversal and asking your clients questions. Starting and then stoking conversations will undoubtedly improve your brand image and increase the likelihood of conversions.

Conclusion

Avoiding these all too common social media snags is necessary if you want to increase your reach and influence ROI. While you heed the mistakes, you’re sure to capitalize on opportunities passed up by your oblivious competitors.

Should Facebook still be part of your social media marketing in 2019?

7 Jan

Many small businesses are trying to decide on their social media marketing in 2019. Marketing for most small businesses is often not a priority, but it should be. How else will people learn about your product or services? Word of mouth? Well that might have worked 15 or 20 years ago, but does not work now. Today’s audience does not “talk” to each other; they text, chat, and wave to each other online.

Small businesses can compete in the social media realm so long as they have a strategy.

For the first time in social media history, Facebook is in the number three spot for social networks, just behind YouTube and Google. Facebook still has 1.47 billion people logging in daily with more than 70% in the United States. Therefore, Facebook is still a safe and lucrative place to put your marketing dollars.

So, where do you start with your marketing strategy? My suggestion is Facebook, YouTube and Direct Mail Marketing. Otherwise known as cross channel marketing.

THE REAL DEAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IN 2019

Facebook

Facebook is still a great place for your brand to get discovered. More people go to Facebook first for research and recommendations than any other social media outlet. Paid ads are a great way to get discovered, if you know your target demographics and use the audience selection features to ensure you are reaching your potential customers. It’s also cost effective with a great ROI.

YouTube

YouTube recently surpassed Facebook as the number one social network. Creating video content is a critical part of your marketing strategy. Not just video, but mobile-optimized video is crucial for brand awareness. There is nothing more frustrating to our mobile hungry younger generation than a video that doesn’t load or is not clear in the size screen they want to view it on. Slow-loading video is a quick way to lose potential customers.

Marketing is an ever-changing beast. Your market reach is no longer determined by zip codes. Social media is your marketing stage. Consider the numbers — two out of three shoppers online have purchased something from a business in another country. Does this mean we abandon the local SEO? Of course not, it actually means you have to work harder to get found because it’s not just what’s local. It’s more about convenience. Many of these studies have noted that people are willing to pay more if getting the product or using the service makes life easier for them.

So, how to appeal to the local market? Consider direct mail campaigns. This cross-channel marketing method helps you connect with your local customer in a familiar but new way.