How Experimenting With Pinterest Can Help Your Small Business

We’re hearing a lot about Pinterest for business these days, and for us as visual marketers, we think it’s a fantastic tool for many businesses. But sometimes it’s trial and error. What will your customers respond to? Will you spend a lot of energy developing a profile, only to find it fall flat? Come to think of it, that’s the fact with any type of marketing.

That’s been the case for book contributor Get Satisfaction. The company helps customers attract and engage their own clients, so it’s only fitting that Get Satisfaction practices what it preaches. Caty Kobe (@catykobe) Community Support Manager for Get Satisfaction, says that the company’s use of Pinterest has been an experiment:

“One of the great things about Get Satisfaction is that we have a strong culture of experimentation…Right now, our Pinterest presence is purely experimental. It all started because I wanted a board on my personal account to show off how great it is to work for Get Satisfaction. My coworker thought it was cool idea, and then asked if he could pin screenshots of custom GetSat implementations to the board as he was looking for a way to easily share the information with other colleagues & customers.”

Since Kobe and her coworker have started their Pinterest boards, other coworkers have joined in the fun, creating a company-wide fever. Sometimes experiments bring the most fun results.

Being Where Your Customers Are

Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn or Quora, being where your customers are is key to a small business’ success. Social media may sometimes be trendy, but that’s all the more reason to hop on early to participate.

“We can’t predict where we will connect with customers but we do know that we have to be where they are so that means we will continue to try new things as well as optimize where we already are,” says Kobe.

Managing Customer Communities

Kobe manages communities of customers every day for her job, and she’s got lots of tips for the rest of us. The first is to follow the Company-Customer Pact (and as you can see from the list of supporters, some very recognizable names agree with her).  Her other tips (below) are essentially what we all look for when we’re on the customer side. A good company delivers on all points, be it through its Pinterest page or customer support line.

  • You need to be human when connecting with your customers online. Be respectful and conversational, show some personality and avoid all the cliche phrases that make you mad when you’re a customer.
  • You need to be personal when communicating… use your customer’s real names, comment on their avatar and be proactive about sending them content they’ll find interesting.
  • You need to be ready for anything. Anticipate the problems that might occur and solve them before they do. Set clear expectations so your customers feel like you care, and not like they’re getting the run around.
  • You need to be accountable for your customers. Customers spend a lot of money with each of our companies each year… the least we can do is make it easy for them to contact us when they have a question or problem. There are some conversations that need to be held privately, but definitely cultivate public conversations to demonstrate your accountability on a daily basis.
  • You need to be earnest in demonstrating your good intentions with plain, candid conversation.

Using Contests to Generate Buzz

We all find inspiration in unlikely places. For Nathan Dube, Chief Social Media Marketing Engineer at Expert Laser Services, his inspiration was borne of his frustration in the office.





“I experienced multiple occasions of extreme frustration due to various devices (namely a particular copier) not doing what I expected of them. Eventually, this frustration lead to a desire to take a sledgehammer to the copier,” says Dube.

Because he couldn’t actually smash the copier, he pitched the idea of holding a contest — The Destroy Your Printer Contest. Four years later, the company’s contest, which involves submissions of videos of people annihilating their printers with cars, fire and heavy objects, has garnered attention on multiple blogs, trade publications, three different marketing books (including ours), the New York Times and more. Dube says the contests have directed thousands of new visits to Expert Laser Services’ website, as well as opened the door for new business.

Turning a Gimmick Into Sales

“I have used the buzz from the contest as a conduit of conversation with new prospects of whom I think will resonate with the idea. Many of these prospects have eventually become retail customers and I have also gained a contract with a local fiber-optics company via our Facebook page, which had it not been for the contest would not be an on-going element of our marketing efforts. As for actual numbers I have garnered around $12,500 in retail/contract sales from our social media efforts namely, the contest.”

How to Use Contests

Contests can be a successful way to get more web traffic and increase sales. Dube says it’s important to get the public excited about the contest so that they vote and share entries. And you don’t have to offer a million dollar prize, if the contest is exciting enough. Here are Dube’s tips for starting a successful contest for your business:

1. Focus on using the contest as a catalyst to transmute negative emotions into positive ones.
2. Get non-contestants involved by opening the contest to a public vote.
3. If possible incorporate the need for contestants to create and submit content which can be re-used in future marketing endeavors.
4. Make the contest itself a rewarding experience so regardless of interest in the prize, people will still want to enter.

Building a Better Business Card

The eyes might be the window to your soul, but your business card is the window to your company. If it’s stuffy, unprofessional or plain ugly, it reflects on how people see your business. Visual Marketing contributor Katrina Hase of Mix Creative has seen more than her fair share of business cards that didn’t do the businesses justice. And that’s silly, simply because it doesn’t take that much to stand out. Hase says:

One thing that I’ve discovered with my clients, and among the small business owners I network with, is that they’ll spend all kinds of money on the tools they need for their business—on sales coaches, seminars, networking events and even designers like me—but when it comes to printing their marketing collateral, they’ll go with the least expensive printing and paper options time and again. Sometimes the simplest way to stand out is to spend the money on a thicker card stock than your competitors, adding a spot varnish, selecting a unique and memorable paper, adding a die cut, or printing them with a pure Pantone color or with letterpress.

Think about the business cards you’ve remarked on upon receiving. Something about them stood out to you: be it the color, shape or texture. A simple tweak to your card can make you more memorable to the people you meet. Here’s a sample of an appealing card Hase has designed:

Hase says many businesses spend a lot up front on brand identity, but then dwindle down their budgets over time for marketing materials, making their business cards the last thing they focus on. But even if you go DIY, there’s no reason to design a bland card. Her tips for creating a memorable business card center around simplicity and uniqueness:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Question how much information is REALLY necessary to include on your card, knowing that most people can visit your website for information.
  • Use both sides of the card. I often use the back side of the card as a sort of ad space: it’s a great place for a tagline, web address, or bulleted list of products/services (no more than 3, please!)
  • Look at cards you like: what do you notice? Chances are they’re doing something more than all center-justified type in capital letters.
  • Leave a generous amount of white space. It serves two purposes: to show that you’re not the type of person to try to get in every word in every conversation, AND it leaves room for the recipient to write down a little note about how they met you.