In episode #52, hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks answer the question:

“I create balloon crafts for parties. Animals are just sculptures. Just as a side gig. I rely mostly on word of mouth marketing. If I want to get into social media marketing, where would I start?”

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Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. Gene, how are you today?

Gene: I am doing okay today, Elizabeth, and how are you?

Elizabeth: I’m good. Tell me what you had for lunch.

Gene: Have we ran out of things to talk about? Is that what it is? We talked about a few episodes ago about some of my favorite moments in our 50 years of doing this.

Elizabeth: 50 episodes.

Gene: And- I’m sorry. 50 episodes and it’s always going to The Hartford cafeteria. Today, I had a delicious salad at The Hartford cafeteria.

Elizabeth: That’s great!

Gene: Yes! It was fantastic! So any of you, if you’re ever visiting Hartford, Connecticut you have to stop by this. It’s a beautiful place, The Hartford corporate complex.

Elizabeth: We have two Starbucks.

Gene: Yes. There is Starbucks in here as well.

Elizabeth: Okay. Today we’re talking about a very serious topic. Social media marketing.

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: It’s very serious for a lot of small businesses, because if they’re gonna spend money on something they want to make sure it’s impactful. So after the break, we will be talking about where to get started with social media marketing.

QUESTION: Where Should I Start with Social Media Marketing for My Crafting Business?

Elizabeth: Okay, our question today… Oh, I said okay again. Our question today comes from Steven in Hawaii. Well, that’s very nice.

Gene: What’s Stephen doing there?

Elizabeth: I’d like to be in Hawaii.

Gene: You ever been to Hawaii?

Elizabeth: No.

Gene: Yeah, it’s beautiful.

Elizabeth: Have you?

Gene: Yeah, it’s really nice. I went to Hawaii for a day.

Elizabeth: Why?

Gene: I spoke there, and I arrived like on a Tuesday, spoke Wednesday morning, and then I left.

Elizabeth: Why did you-

Gene: And I traveled. It took me 18 days to get there. I remember I traveled… Like three connections. It was a thing. People wanted me to come out and speak somewhere, and so I did. And it was a… And the day I was there, it was absolutely beautiful. I’d like to go back.

Elizabeth: So, why didn’t you just extend it?

Gene: ‘Cause I have a business to run, so I had to do that and I had to get back because stuff I gotta do.

Elizabeth: So here’s Steven’s question.

“I create balloon crafts for parties. Animals are just sculptures. Just as a side gig. I rely mostly on word of mouth marketing. If I want to get into social media marketing, where would I start?”

So, word of mouth for a business like that is obviously your number one marketing vehicle.

Gene: It is. And by the way, I think in my opinion… He wants to get into social media marketing. When you’re in a business of his size, just him, and he does balloon crafts and he does parties and all that kinda stuff. I think he hit it right on the head. If he as right here in front of me I’d be like,” Dude, you’ve got limited time and resources. Should you even be social media mark-” You can’t do it all. Right?

Elizabeth: You can’t do it all. So if this is a side gig, but let’s say he wants to build this into his main gig.

Gene: That’s a different story, but even if he wanted to build it into his main gig, people ignore… You get all caught up in the romance of social media. If you’re doing a local service, he’s a guy that’s doing balloon animals for parties in his local area, right? That’s very localized. Remember social media is for national and international. He’s not going to be doing balloon animals at a party… Where is he from again? Is he from-

Elizabeth: Hawaii.

Gene: Hawaii. He’s certainly not going to be going. He’s stuck in Hawaii. What he needs to do is become fairly well-known within his community. The fact that he’s getting references or referrals, that’s absolutely enormous. Rather than that, I would probably be spending my marketing money on postcards believe it or not. Old school.

Elizabeth: Really?

Gene: Yeah. Old school like direct mails to party stores, youth organizations, schools letting them know that I’m out there and I provide this kind of service. That gets looked at a lot more. Of course I would have a website that people can go to.

Elizabeth: Definitely a website.

Gene: And then I would probably, rather than social media I think… And again correct me if you think I’m wrong here. Elizabeth, I would probably be investing in Google AdWords localized for my area so that when people… Think about it, say you’re running a party and you want some entertainment for your kids party. Some people are going to say, “Hey Elizabeth, who did you have at your kids party?” So that’s where the references come from. But I think some people will go in and they’re gonna Google: party entertainment, kids party entertainment. You would want to be found doing that. Yes of course, having a Facebook page or being active on Twitter, that could all be good. But that would be lower down on my marketing arsenal if was in that specific business. Does that make sense?

Elizabeth: Yes. So you’re saying direct marketing via postcards.

Gene: Yeah! I really do-

Elizabeth: A website. And I know I say this, I probably sound like a broken record, but you can just have a really simple website. Don’t pay someone $10,000 to put together a website if you can just set one up on Wix or Squarespace. If you are gonna get into social media marketing, first of all, Gene do you consider Yelp to be social media?

Gene: I was just gonna say, Yelp would be my first place that I would go. It would be some type of a directory service, some type of a review place like Yelp is where I would be very active in and asking my customers to leave customer reviews and all that kinda stuff. By the way, the other thing is there’s… People ignore the sorta grass roots. If you’re going to do a balloon animal business, think of something you can give away for free or hold a raffle or something like that. So remember, the kids that are coming to this party all have birthdays themselves. So what you want to do is you’d like to get the information of those party kids that are coming there, particularly their parents so that you can reach out to their parents with a postcard or a message. Or even the person that hires you. Saying, “Hey listen, if you could refer me to a friend, I’d give out a $20 gift card.” You work that network of parents. Every party that you do that has 20 kids, that’s 20 prospects at that one party.

Elizabeth: And what about entering those community events? We really think about community marketing. Let’s say some charity is having a silent auction. You donate… Like I will do an arch for your garden wedding or something-

Gene: Absolutely right, and you talk about the balloon animals. Look at churches or synagogues or community centers that are doing their own affairs and say you know what? I’d be happy to come on over and do balloon animals for you guys.

Elizabeth: Elementary schools.

Gene: For free. How about if I come to your elementary school and do a balloon animal class for your students completely free? It’s completely… Because then people remember that stuff and for every free thing that you do, hopefully you’ll get five or ten leads out of it. Social media marketing is great, but we’ve talked about this before. It depends on your business. It depends on where your audience is. It depends on your budget and your resources. In the world of social media marketing now, it’s pay to play.

Elizabeth: It is. You really need to be… What Gene means by that is you have to have a budget. You’ve gotta put some money behind that. So if you do want to get into social media marketing, if you want to dip your toe into that. Since you’re creating really visual products like these balloon animals or… He also does arches and sculptures. If you really want to get into social media marketing, I would suggest Instagram.

Gene: Pinterest. Instagram.

Elizabeth: Because Instagram is very visual and if you can get some beautiful pictures or images, that would go a long way.

Gene: Agreed.

Elizabeth: You could just do a couple organic posts a week of like, “I just worked on this wonderful persons engagement party and here’s what the sculptures looked like.” And the other thing you could do is create an email list. I don’t know if people want to hear from you that often, but you know when the popular times of year for big events are. You could always send out an email in November saying book me now for your holiday parties. That type of thing.

Gene: I like again the postcards. Printplace, Vistaprint, those are really great services. They cost maybe a buck a card and if you do that twice a year to a list of 500 people, so a thousand dollars that you’re gonna spend… I think even more so than email, the postcard comes in the mail. People get the mail still. They see it sitting on the kitchen table. They hang it up on their refrigerator cause it’s something “Yeah you know we got a birthday coming up and might want to use this guy.”

Elizabeth: Do not send a letter. You definitely want to send a postcard.

Gene: A nice postcard with a funny balloon animal on it. You can get very creative with that.

Elizabeth: And I’ve included the links to the services that Gene mentioned in the show notes. We will be right back with our Word of Brilliance.


Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: My Word of Brilliance today Elizabeth is cat.

Elizabeth: But we always talk about dogs.

Gene: Today it’s cat and here’s the reason why. You spell cat C-A-T. A lot of people… Yeah that’s how you spell it.

Elizabeth: You are really enlightening all of us today.

Gene: It’s a relatively easy word to spell. I get that, but this conversation has to do with email and emails that are being sent out. I recently wrote an article for The Hartford about emails. What was the title of this article? It was… We had it in front of us before.

Elizabeth: It was “7 Email Rules We Live by at My Small Business”.

Gene: So one of them-

Elizabeth: This is Gene’s company, The Marks Group.

Gene: One of them is about the word cat. In other words, I have a thing about using correct spelling and correct grammar when you send out emails. Now I’ve got seven rules in this article, but I want to focus on this one. When you’re sending emails to clients, to customers, to partners, please I am begging you. You want to make sure that you have no misspellings in your email. You want to make sure that it is grammatically correct in your email as well. Now you might say, “Oh, I’m a bad speller, or I wasn’t an English major.” In a professional environment when you have words that are misspelled, you look like a dope. You really do. And you’re not only-

Elizabeth: You gotta step your game up.

Gene: You’re not only misrepresenting yourself, you’re misrepresenting your company. It has an effect on your credibility. You just look pretty dopey when you have a misspelled word. And that same thing with grammar. Usually the grammar mistakes that are made are just where you forget stuff or you’re in a rush to write an email out and you forget to put something in there. And then it just looks rushed and poor and unprofessional. My word of the day being cat, when you send out your next email, when you send out all emails, before hitting the send button, just take 10 seconds out. Read through the email one time and then hit the send button. That way it will make sure that hopefully you’re catching any spelling or grammar mistakes.

Elizabeth: This is a major pet peeve for me and a lot of other people who make their living with words and writing. But the main things to figure out… The ones that always stand out to me that I think this person really does not know what they’re talking about are there, their, and they’re.

Gene: Yeah that drives me nuts.

Elizabeth: Your and you’re. And this is a big one apart and a part.

Gene: Oh really? That one I should… Wow, okay.

Elizabeth: So, a lot of people will say, “I enjoyed being apart of your meeting.” And they will say-

Gene: That’s two words, right?

Elizabeth: It’s two words, but a lot of people will spell it as one.

Gene: Right. Everybody has their pet peeves.

Elizabeth: Those three just stick out to me like sore thumbs. I can forgive typos, cause I am a huge typo person. But I cannot forgive not knowing the difference between your and you’re, there, their, and they’re, and apart and a part.

Gene: I don’t know the apart, a part thing but the there, their, they’re. The your, you’re. That just drives me a little nuts and I think even if you know the person knows it but they’re being sloppy.

Elizabeth: Well on those, I don’t know if they know.

Gene: Yeah that’s also true.

Elizabeth: Cause that’s so… If I’ve ever done that, and usually I’ll do that in text messages. I just correct it immediately cause I’m so embarrassed that I said there when I meant their.

Gene: Do you ever see on the news sometimes… You’ll watch the local news and they’ll but some banner across and there’s like a misspelling on the banner and you’re like “Oh my god. How did they let that happen?” It just comes across as so unprofessional.

Elizabeth: I have a coworker on my team at The Hartford who used to do that for ESPN. I was like what a high pressure job, because if you make a spelling mistake-

Gene: Everybody is roasting you.

Elizabeth: -You could end up as a meme on Twitter with people making fun of you nonstop. Watch your spelling. We will talk to you in a couple days when our next episode comes out. Thanks Gene.

Gene: I look forward to it.