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Digital Marketing: Small Business Strategy​

Asian Small Business Expo Key Takeaways

Creating a digital marketing strategy is key for any business success.  It’s even more important for small businesses who have fewer resources to optimize their digital presence.  The question becomes how do you effectively utilize social media to reach your target audience.

The Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program mission is to assist small business specifically within the Korean, Japanese, Thai and Filipino communities.  Recently, they held their annual Small Business Expo at the Montebello Country Club.  The Expo focus: Grow Your Business Online: Standing Out In The Digital World.

I had the opportunity to attend two of their panels and this is my recount of the panel discussions.

Digital Marketing

The first-panel main focus was on “exploring digital marketing strategies from the experts.”

The panel consisted of Issen Alibris, Citaldel Media who specializes in social media growth and small business coaching.

Jeff Bautista, Echo Millennial; dynamic web design and digital marketing firm specializing in digital products like websites, digital media content, and social media marketing strategies.

April Rose Dela Cruz who works at Fuego Living, and was moderated by producer/director Hieu Gray.

Q. How do you decide on a social media manager?  Whether to use an in-house marketing manager or to outsource your social media outreach?

April: Maximize your opportunity to see what possibilities are out there.  See what fits your business.

Issen: I always tell my clients that your time can be well spent on what you do best.  I follow trends so that I can optimize your content and that’ what you get by outsourcing.

Jeff: I ask my clients; what is it going to take away from your business?  You can go online and find how to build a car but are you actually going to do it.

Issen: It doesn’t have to be all or nothing relationship.  I also train small business owners and can help set up their best practices.

Jeff: Outsourcing allows you to execute a better strategy with working with people who have their hands on the pulse.

Q. Key digital marketing tools business owners should use?

Issen: Tools that track who’s coming to your website.  Google analytics and paid advertisements are great for collecting data.  Begin immediately collecting emails so you know who your customer is and who are the people who are already coming to your website.

April: When you’re just getting started using free tools like Canva.  In addition, I listen to the Podcast: Perpetual Traffic.  For more information about DigitalMarketer Podcast Perpetual Traffic check out their website.

Jeff: Growth hacking to track different approaches as your business continues to grow.  Hootsuite is a great resource for your website.

April: Animoto Video Marker is another great resource.  For more information on Video Maker Animoto check out their website.

Issen: Hot Jar will give you the analytics for the last 300 hundred customers.  It allows you to watch customer behavior that is coming to your website.

Q. Buzzwords, SEO, Pay Per Click (PPC), Google Ads.  How can small business owners use them?

Jeff: SEO is a moving target and an ever-changing aspect.  My definition of SEO is where do you rank on a Google page and how can your ranking help generate leads.

Issen: PPC ads is where your audience is hanging out.  Google and Facebook are the two biggest markets to use this service.

Jeff: Organic traffic has a lasting effect.  Paid traffic disappears once your money runs out, but organic traffic builds up over time.  It depends on what you as a business owner is looking to achieve.

April: Test the waters so that when you get to the point of hiring someone, it’s better to know what you want to achieve for the best results.

Jeff: Don’t promote a slow load page, it’s a bad version of yourself and what you’re representing digitally is what you will be known for.

Issen: See yourself as your target customer.  Would you buy a product on your website?

Q. How effective are social media platforms?

Issen: Facebook is a great place to start.

Jeff: Take into account who your target market is; if you’re trying to reach a younger audience than Instagram is where you want to focus on gaining a following.  My clients are not millennials, my clients are people who want to reach millennials.

Issen: Instagram is going to give you more bang for your buck.  Because you can be sure that all of your followers will have access to content that you post.  Compared to Facebook where it’s more of a pay to play model.

Jeff:  Yes, definitely Twitter and Instagram are where you can get your content in front of a large mass of people.

Q. What are your thoughts on video marketing?

Jeff: Try to figure out how to utilize video to market your business.  It’s definitely, here to stay.

Issen: Videos can almost be your advertisements.

April: Facebook Live and Instagram TV are easy to get started.

Issen: If you believe it, then your customers will believe it.  People are going to watch videos for your personality.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be done it a kitchen, it just has to be authentic.

Q + A  Session

Here are the top three questions from the question and answer session.

Q. How do you work with social media consultants?

Issen: Create material for 30 days in advance to plan social media outreach.  Beginning of meeting establish what are your goals.  One of the automation tools I use to be more productive is Zapier.

Q. What is your opinions on Yelp?

Issen: I still believe that Yelp can be very useful and I still use their services for specific clients.  Because Yelp can also be a pay per play business model as well I also recommend using Google reviews.

Jeff: Make sure that when you’re using these services you are aware of how will you respond to negative reviews.  You can’t control how people will respond, but you can control how you respond.  Share your reviews with your current clients and potential clients.

Q. How do you target your customer base instead of your competitors?

Issen: Use influencers and attend conferences that are relevant to your niche.  This will help you reach customers instead of sending out an advertisement to a wide audience on a platform.

For more information on Issen Alibris, and Citaldel Media digital marketing strategies check out his website at 

If you want more information on Jeff Bautista, and his business Echo Millennial you can contact him at

Check out Hieu Gray documentary Quan 13 and business ventures at

I went to the next digital marketing panel after a brief fifteen-minute break.  Here is my recount of the questions and answers from that day.

Grow Your Digital Presence

Women Entrepreneurs Panel

The all-women panel was moderated by Los Angeles Times writer Samantha Masunaga.

The panelist included Fiona Hilario who owns Lay Bare Salons.  She has over 100 locations in the Philippines and The West Coast.

Mylen Yamamoto, who is the creator of Cropsticks.  Mylen was a part of the show Shark Tank, where she wasn’t offered a deal, yet she still managed to get her product into over 75 restaurants; including Disney.

Patricia Tsai who is the owner ChocoVivo which sells handcrafted dark chocolate in the Culver City area.

The panel began with Samantha asking all of the women on the panel to speak a little bit about their journey of how they started their business.  Each story was inspirational as each woman spoke about the obstacles they overcame to get to where they’re today.

Q. What does digital mean to you?  How do you define it?

Mylen: Anything in your hand or on your computer is what digital means to me.  I got my start with a Kickstarter campaign for my initial investment for my business.

Patricia: Efficiency.  What will make sense with communication going paperless and how to get your message out there better.  Digital is great because it provides transparency.  There’s good and bad in the digital space; because you have to ask yourself how much technology is too much?  We have to decide how much information are we giving away as well.

Fiona: I signed up with the Asian community organizations and my first big break came from Groupon.

Q. Has your digital strategy changed over the years?  If so, how?

Patricia: To be effective I think you need to understand the value you gain from social media influences.  Every day I get people stating that they can assist with reaching a wider audience, but I’m trying to figure out their actual influence.

Mylen: YouTube has a dashboard where you can find influencers and it provides age, gender, and audience size.  In addition, I also work with Asian creators Steven Lim and the Asian Bros.  In addition, when I appeared on Shark Tank it really helped with my traditional digital marketing outreach.

Fiona: Yelp reviews and word of mouth, are how most of my customers find out about my business.

Q. As a small business owner how much of your growth is devoted to digital vs. traditional marketing?

Mylen: Advertisements on Instagram reaches an audience that’s not within your community.  I saw a trend and the power of Shark Tank when the episode aired.  After the episode first aired in the east coast tons of orders came in and the same reaction happened once the episode aired in the West Coast.

Patricia: Trade shows are still the way to go for a face-to-face connection.

Q. Do you have a budget set aside for digital marketing?  Why or why not?

Mylen: When I started I didn’t have any money to go into digital marketing.  It’s only recently, that I’ve outsourced my social media outreach and it has been a load off my shoulders.

Q. How do you experiment with social media channels and what are the metrics you look at?

Patricia: What is your rate of return?  Email marketing usually has a 2 to 3% open rate.  I use Yelp analytics since most of my customers are local.  I want to see where they’re clicking once they’re on my website.  Because I’ve found that once customers are on my website they weren’t just interested in the products I offered they were looking for my story.

Mylen: Audiences are smarter and have become savvy to inauthentic influencer behavior.  If you work with influencers here are three tips:

  • Give them bullet points and don’t give them full scripts
  • Let creators speak in their own voice
  • Let creators present products/services how they would naturally share with their audience

Q. What are some challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the small business sense that are trying to grow business digitally?

Mylen: Brands don’t want to spend an equal amount of money on women and men influencers that have the same audience size and niche.

Patricia: Strategize what’s going to be the most effective method for presenting your information to each social media platform.  Use free resources like the Small Business Development Center and Work Source.

Q. How important is networking and mentorship to you?

Fiona: I’m in a program with other CEO’s who come together to strategize and make decisions concerning their small businesses.

Mylen: A program that I used is the Make It In LA program.  It’s a great program that mentors me and my employees.

Patricia: I have a business advisor that I talk to almost every day.  I don’t speak with my advisor to tell me what to do but, to guide me on my journey.  It’s a place where I can voice my concerns and vent my issues.  Just keep going!  Find a group or create a group to be able to get it off your shoulders and talk.

Q + A  Session

For the last fifteen minutes of the panel, a question and answer session was held.  Here are the top two questions:

Q. How to get access to YouTube influencers?

  • Direct Message.  Look in the about section on their YouTube page and most influencers will have contact information.
  • Influencer Marketing Agencies
  • Talent agency and or Manager

Q. How did you raise funds to start your business?

Mylen: Programs that assist manufacturers entrepreneurs is a program the Mayor created called: “Make It In LA.”  For more information on the program check out their website here.

To find out more information on Lay Bare salon service check out their website here.

For more information visit Cropsticks, the eco-friendly bamboo chopsticks website.

Read more information on ChocoVivo handcrafted chocolates and holiday gift specials on their website.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the Asian Pacific Islanders Small Business Program for more information on their small business classes and annual business expo.

Overall the Expo was an excellent networking event and provided great tips on social media strategies for small businesses.

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