I don’t think the older gentleman cutting my hair saw the light bulb go off over my head as he cut. “Platforms for small to medium sized businesses,” I fat finger typed into my iPhone’s notepad. Reading Phil Simon’s excellent book Age of the Platform has more than confirmed my September 2011 Platforms vs. Websites post on ScentTrail Marketing. Phil’s book and my cutter’s problem got me thinking how to apply “platform-y-ness” to small business sites like my soon to be unemployed hair cutter.
My new hair cutting friend can’t afford to create a true web platform with a content generation engine below complex Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) powered by Google Analytics or Argyle Social or Hubspot. Marketing automation isn’t available for businesses this small (yet). My hair cutter friend is an army of one. Even as an army of one he must think in terms of platforms and not web sites to win enough traffic to make time spent on Internet marketing turn into positive ROI. Here are suggestions discussed as he cut my hair slower and slower:
- Platforms – Use Already Scaled FREE Platforms (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter)
- Gamificaiton – Create Contests and Games
- Loyalty – Develop Loyalty Programs
- Diversification – Diversify Revenue In Low Cost Ways (Affiliate, ecommerce)
- SoLoMoE – Social, Local, Mobile and Email are important
OPP – Other People’s Platforms
My hair cutting friend can’t afford a 10,000 page web site. He doesn’t have the time to write the content or the money to create such a content engine. He should create a 5 to 10 page WordPress site. If he is broke create on the WP platform for free. If he has $500 to spend on Internet marketing then use goDaddy, or someone similar, to create a quick and simple site based on an available template. Here are some other quick tips:
- Buy a URL with his name and a keyword in it like HairCutsbyMartin.com
- Use Adwords Free Keyword Tool to check search counts for keywords
- Create Gmail, Facebook, Twitter accounts for HairCutsByMartin
- Create Pinterest, Scoop.it, Flickr and Hunch.com accounts for HairCutsByMartin
- Create navigation to reinforce key ideas such as haircuts Q&A or great haircut tips
- Create an account with Constant Contact or some other email marketing provider, costs a little but email is too important to ignore and $50 a month is worth it…or we can make it worth it by keep in touch, making specific time sensitive offers and curating content across a growing content network
By using OPP (other people’s platforms) my hair cutting friend extends reach quickly and for little or no money. Once his multi-part and much larger platform is in place, a platform made up of pieces of other people’s platforms, it is time to create some cool, cheap gamification.
Gamification Not Internet Marketing
My hair cutter doesn’t have the cash to be an Internet marketer. He is unlikely to do A/B tests, to create complex campaigns over time or develop different creative for different customer personas or segments. He is not an Internet marketer, but he can benefit from simple gamification ideas such as:
- Flickr – ask people to share pictures of their haircuts in exotic locations (or any location) to win a prize (free haircuts for a year) ask community to vote on finalists but never award a prize off of community vote (too much chance for spam) use a tool like PollDaddy.com to create the voting poll and include it, if you can, on your site
- Facebook – create a “HairCutsByMartin” club that “meets” once a week to answer questions received on the Haircuts Q&A portion of the site, make this “team” your most trusted advisers and give special recognition and whatever they want (see 1:10:89)
- Twitter – Tweet 50% content links about haircuts and 50% deals that are short lived and immediate (may want to create a Free Hair Cut option when $100 or more of products are purchased since such an offer tends to help build both businesses – cuts and products)
- G+ is behind Facebook and Twitter but not for long, so feed your G+ page with unique content and offers too
- Pinterest – pin great haircuts you’ve done, ask people to share their “dream haircuts”
- PPC & Local Search Listings – PPC may not be out of the question since we can narrow the search set with exact search criteria and local
- Make sure HairCutsByMartin.com is listed in every relevant location and that can be hard in a place like Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill since Google tends to give only ONE location not three, local search is so important consider paying an Internet marketer if you don’t get listed fast (remember to drive links from social to your site and ask for Facebook LIKES and SHARES)
- Crowdsource – make everything you need a contest so have a competition for the new HairCutsByMartin logo, to be a summer intern, to become part of the HairCutsByMartin Cutters Team, whatever you do make it a contest or a game
- When stuck go to your social net and ASK what to do or, better yet, as for a preference in a quick poll you can host on Facebook or create one and add it to your blog with PollDaddy.com
- Get into the habit of asking questions, listening and then creating something based on what you hear giving credit to those who helped in your social net since credit primes the pump for next time and drives social links
Since our hair cutter doesn’t have days and weeks to do nothing but social network he should use widgets to pull his Twitter and Facebook streams into his site. Social content can increase a static site’s relevancy (makes it look “current” to Google). By using a social widget we depreciate work already being done instead of creating new curation or content, we kill two birds (social and site content) with one Tweet or Facebook update plus a widget.
Consistency of message across all social platforms is a good idea, but Facebook needs a different rhythm (less frequent) than Twitter and G+. Plan to spend an hour a day working social nets to help spread the word, create feedback loops and tune HairCutsByMartin.com to be a semi-authority on “haircuts in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh”.
Find bloggers who write relevant local content and let them know you are there, comment on their posts and make an offer to cut their hair for free as an “introduction”. You need links and don’t have the time to create the content spread needed to get links organically, so contact a handful of influencers in the market and see if you can be of service or learn from them. Never be afraid to admit you don’t know much about Internet marketing.
Creating loyalty is the biggest and most important game. No loyalty program overcomes a bad haircut, so create loyalty by cutting great hair. Don’t be above a punch card with every 10 haircuts earning a free cut or 50% off cut since small rewards will keep people coming back to “earn” the reward. Make it easy for customers to share experience by pre-loading twitter options, include Facebook LIKE buttons and counts (on any and everything including each of the pages on the site, products and blog posts). Once you have a functioning loyalty program never make changes without checking changes on Facebook or with your special team of feedbackers.
The web has 1,000 ways you can make money. One quick and easy way to add web pages is to create an Amazon store or an affiliate store of hair care products. Be sure to share your editorial take on why you include x, y or z product. Leave the packing and shipping to someone else. Make sure you sell the “best” products from your site in your saloon so customers can increase Average Order Value (AOV) when they get a haircut by buying goop, gels and shampoo. Initially think of your little ecommerce store as a way to help drive more haircuts, but, eventually, you may sell enough products you need to do FEWER HAIRCUTS!
HairCutsByMartin.com needs to concentrate on creative, viral, fun campaigns with several distinct Calls To Action (CTAs):
- Join our Great Haircuts List (email list)
- Get A Great Haircut By Martin (schedule an appointment)
- Learn About Great Hair Cuts & Hair Care Products (Q&A)
- Join Us and Contribute To Our Social Nets (social badges)
Note I didn’t make “buy now” a CTA because ecommerce is not the critical idea (yet). Ecommerce is a “carryon” we toss in to help do other things so don’t pitch the store as a CTA (yet). Let ecommerce traffic come to the store HairCutsByMartin.com organically from Google and push that traffic to the CTAs above. Don’t use valuable Google juice to drive people away from these main ideas just yet but accept traffic in from your store and convert it over to your list or an appointment.
Make sure HairCutsByMartin.com is findable on Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh local haircuts searches on a pc, mobile phones and iPads. Getting listed in more than one location can be tough without brick and mortar at each location. If you can only get 1 of the three relevant geolocations consider buying PPC to support the other two, but be sure and use EXACT keywords and keep daily spend low.
Ask your growing tribe to promote you on their social nets or have a contest where the best social promotion you DIDN’T create wins free haircuts for a year. Don’t forget to put the voting stage of all games ON YOUR SITE or, if that is too complicated or expensive, on FACEBOOK. Site is preferred because the voting stage is where the Google Juice is, where the real search engine value kicks in. If you must give up such diamonds give it over to a HUGE trusted source like Facebook since you may find many additional benefits. Create all kinds of content out there on social nets just remember to drive some of that juice back to owned media (i.e. your site and/or blog).
Email is NOT DEAD. Make sure you have an easy to use and secure “subscribe” option on your site and make “subscribe to get something cool and special” campaigns part of your usual social rounds with the link driving into your subscription page. Captured emails are money in the bank so get creative, always ask people who get haircuts their emails AND Twitter handles and immediately start including them in your rounds (follow them on Twitter and send them an email on your next blast).
Since time and money are constrained start with a monthly “Great Haircuts Newsletter” and curate content from your social feeds and what you hear from people in the chair. If you hear something cool ASK PERMISSION and take a picture (if they will let you). Never blab something on your social nets that will seem like gossip or telling tales out of school since to do so violates first rule of cutting hair – what is said in the chair stays in the chair. But do share great hair care tips, community events or other things that are public knowledge or should be.
Don’t forget SOCIAL especially Twitter is a form of more immediate email. Check your direct messages and be responsive. Make sure people know they can reach you via Twitter direct message if you aren’t reachable by phone. Make provisions for “hair emergencies” where someone has a critical event or someone else hurt their cut. Share “hair emergency” fixes, products and tips. Create polls for “hair moods” and feed results out to your tribe like this, “@HairCutsByMartin tribe feels inspired by their hair today”. Find unique, creative ways to have conversations about hair and haircuts daily and curate information you see, hear or read to your growing tribe with a tool like Scoop.it or Hunch. Learn how and when to use social tools to support other social tools (I routinely note cool new things from Curation Revolution on my ScentTrail Twitter feed for example).
Don’t be overwhelmed.
The good news is anything HairCutsByMartin.com does in the beginning is fine and costs nothing since there is nothing to lose. Wander around, do stuff and see what happens. When you get a new client or two from an offer or a social net immediately double down and see if the offer and results repeat. If not, file the offer and come back to it later.
Do something every day online. Limit your time if you must, but do something online daily. The future of HaircutsByMartin.com hangs in the balance, hangs on doing something online (even the wrong thing) daily.