Case Studies: Putting the Benefits of Social Media for Small Business in Perspective

How does a small business without a big marketing budget or dedicated marketing staff create a winning social media strategy? By being aware of existing assets and then planning and maximizing resources to formulate a customized system of development and delivery. The assumption I try to quell among small business owners is that success in social media is measured solely in volume, frequency or response. The reality for small business is that social media must be part of an integrated and personalized method of communicating with customers, the community, other businesses and the media. Building a foundational system that routinely sends targeted marketing messages through a variety of channels is the best way to create a synergistic, and ultimately successful social media strategy on a tight budget. What most small business owners don’t realize is that all the social media advice one can pluck from the Internet is worthless unless there is a system in place to manage content development and delivery.

Client profiles tell this story best, and over the next few months I will be highlighting KLCreative Media clients that have reaped the benefits of social media in a number of unexpected ways. One of my favorite client stories is that of SUNRNR of Virginia, Inc., a small firm manufacturing solar/wind/water generators in the Shenandoah Valley.

SUNRNR Inventor Al Mattichak.
When I first met SUNRNR’s owners, I was immediately struck by their commitment and sense of responsibility not only to their customers, but to making a difference in global renewable energy issues. Their story is compelling stuff, as evidenced in this two-part interview with inventor Alan Mattichak and co-owners Jenny and Scott French chronicling the path from idea to marketplace. Question was, what needed to be done to get this great story and unique product in front of the right audience?
Jenny French being interviewed by local TV at a community event.
SUNRNR maximized use of James Madison University interns and free promotions.
We started by creating an infrastructure of content channels for communicating with customers, community and the media and establishing a more consistent brand message. To cut costs, we incorporated lots of free marketing tools, used interns and conducted business owner training. SUNRNR established an integrated system of social media, email marketing, media releases, events, partnerships and website content that could support increased attention when it arrived.

 And in 2015 it did.A renewed interest in inventors and small firms as key players in rebuilding U.S. industry and its viability here and abroad caught SUNRNR in the crosshairs and resulted in several highly visible opportunities. SUNRNR was invited to participate in a Small Business Exporters Roundtable at the White House in 2015 and joined a U.S. Trade Mission that is part of the Doing Business in Africa Campaign in November, as an emphasis on the importance of small companies to the overall economic health of the U.S. has taken center stage. (I wrote a guest blog about this trend:  “The Resurgence of Makers and Small Firms: Innovation in the Energy Sector.”) SUNRNR was featured in a number of publications as well, including an in-depth article in the Daily News-Record and this joint project of the Office of US Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce titled United States of Trade: 50 Stories in 50 States that Show the Impact of Trade Across the Nation.

Jenny French at White House Round Table, photo credit White House Photographer Pete Souza.
Business owners participating in the Canary Islands Trade Mission.

Did social media and an integrated approach to communicating with customers, community and media specifically create these opportunities? Certainly not. There were a myriad of other business efforts in play at the same time. But there’s no denying that positioning your company to be more visible and worthy of attention doesn’t happen by accident, and having a solid communications infrastructure in place contributes tremendously to a firm’s ability to attract and capitalize on opportunities in the marketplace. The SUNRNR story is proof-positive that while in isolation, the benefits of social media and related marketing efforts for small business may seem a lot of work for little return, yet a small shift in perspective can open the door to success. Seeing social media as part of a personalized and integrated system for delivering key information to customers, community, other businesses and media rather than a time-consuming effort of dubious impact can usher in a whole new way for your business to succeed.

“I would highly recommend Karen and KLCreative for small businesses, especially those whose principals are unfamiliar with or overwhelmed in the area of marketing.  She will create/expand a base and structure for your company from which to work and at a very reasonable cost.  It is truly our pleasure to work with her.”  Jenny French, SUNRNR of Virginia, Inc. 

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