One of the toughest challenges an entrepreneur faces is marketing. You can have a great idea and you can have a great product; but if you can’t effectively market your idea, you’ll never be as successful as you were meant to be. With so many other competing entrepreneurs and ideas, marketing can be a tough nut to crack. We asked some successful business owners and entrepreneurs for their tips on marketing, and how their strategies led them to success. Here’s what they had to say:
#1 – Cross Platform Digital Channel Content Marketing
Generating content that is educational and demonstrates your expertise on a subject, then distributing that content in formats specific to each digital channel (social media platforms, blogs, websites, online publications, video, etc). This approach lets you maximize the reach of the same content, but is more effective when adapted per the specifics of each channel. Length, use of visuals elements, hashtags, etc. the are native to each platform make audience engagement per platform higher and more productive. A/B testing helps you dial in your audience preferences per channel to even more effectiveness. Use a small amount of paid placement (boost or extend) per platform to continually grow audience who are highly likely to connect and engage. It’s not about the number of followers but the quality of engagement. Listen to input, questions and feedback to determine your next great piece of content.
Thanks to Kyle Golding, The Golding Group!
#2 – E-mail Marketing
Despite the immediacy of social media, email marketing still remains one of the most effective marketing tactics for businesses. Automated email marketing allows you to follow-up with customers and web visitors at critical points in the sales journey with more customized messaging that drives a specific action, like post-sale follow-ups to build brand connection and loyalty, follow-ups with idle past customers, and follow-up reminders about active discounts and coupons. This automated, customized ability of email marketing remains a very important and useful method of supporting specific online sales goals.
Thanks to Mark Goetze, Motion RC!
#3 – Great Looking, professionally Done, On-Brand Website
Invest in a great looking, professionally done, on-brand website. This is particularly important for e-commerce-only businesses. The majority of small businesses today rely entirely on their websites to drive sales and increase brand awareness. Your website IS your storefront so it's critical that it reflects your brand identity. Make sure it looks professional (great photography and graphics are key!), is typo-free, and intuitive to navigate.
Thanks to Termeh Mazhari!
#4 – FREE Products & Partnering at Local Events
Providing something free as a ‘thank you' to customers can really go a long ways. Whether it's just a sample, or maybe even a t-shirt, studies have shown (as well as our experience) that free add-ons increase repeat purchases.Currently at Colorescience, we're offering three free samples with any purchase from our website, as well as complimentary shipping and returns for orders over a certain dollar amount. This tactic provides the customer with a product that they most likely never knew about and may purchase in the future after trying it; plus it will bring a smile to their face because let's be honest, who doesn't like something for FREE! Last summer, Colorescience teamed up with Kaaboo, a music, food, and arts festival in Del Mar, CA. Since the festival is held outdoors in the strong San Diego sun, we decided to partner with Kaaboo and set up a booth at the festival to help concertgoers protect their skin. In general, I would encourage companies to look at different events around their area that they could possibly team up with in order to promote their products. Whether it be a marathon, food festival, concert, or public sporting event, community events are usually excited to partner with local companies that can benefit their attendees. Another benefit to this marketing tactic is the possibility of added links directing to your website. As a result of our Kaaboo partnership, they created a page on their event website talking about Colorescience and all of the ways our product can help their attendees.
Thanks to Jameson Slattery, Colorscience!
#5 – Sell Brutal Honesty
My best marketing tip: Brutal Honesty, even if it does not reflect well on your Industry. In 2010 – I became an Insurance Agent and signed up to work with a big household named insurance carrier. What I found was not pretty. Never had I been part of an industry were more sales people were transacting business based more on what was best for them, rather than what was best for the client. This was appalling to me, and I left. I set up my own shop as an independent insurance agent and created a specialized website to help future clients sort out the misinformation concerning life insurance. Sure – a majority of people need life insurance, but not the over priced, complicated, antiquated, cash value life plans that most agents push. Most Americans just need a simple level term life insurance policy. My site tells stories the way they often unfold from the clients eyes. It provides honest empowering information
that helps clients make their own intelligent decisions. My marketing tip Sell with Brutal Honesty – sets me apart from the pack and brings instant credibility with future clients who like speaking with someone that ‘tells it the way it is.' In this world of mass communication and information one small misstatement can be detected almost instantly while the customer is on their iPhone. Brutal Honesty is not just a marketing tip though – its also a corporate philosophy and a way of life. If you are going to succeed in life, stand behind what you claim.
Thanks to Scott W Johnson, WholeVsTermLifeInsurance.com!
#6 – Diversify
There's this misconception among small business owners that if they feel they're doing well in organic and/or local search results, there's no need to try other digital strategies. But so long as you know what a certain result is worth, you should be willing to pay for as much of that result across various channels as you profitably can. For example, if you're not currently trying display advertising, paid search or paid social, you have no idea what the cost per conversion from each of those channels is, and therefore how much incremental business you could be driving. On a search results page, think about paid and organic results as two different audiences. Some users will only click on organic results, others more on paid. If you're not present in both, you're potentially missing out on a lot of potential clicks, especially if you don't rank in the top three organically. These clicks might be well under your threshold of profitability. Moreover, various channels tend to benefit each other's effectiveness. A display ad might not generate many clicks, but it might boost your paid search conversions. I recommend entrepreneurs test a diverse set of channels, track performance carefully and take advantage of the winners.
Thanks to Jacob Dayan, Community Tax!
#7 – Strategize Long & Short Term
One of the best marketing tips I can offer is to strategize for the long and short term. Consider all that you're doing in six or more months from now including events, campaigns, and promotions with partners and then have tactical discussions on details that are short term and happening within the coming weeks. Establish an editorial calendar to organize and schedule everything in, but leave room open for surprises, like creating content around sudden trending hashtags that are universal for everyone.
Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!
#8 – Get Rid of the Box
Don't just think outside the box; Get rid of the box! Be creative. Think Guerrilla. And if that doesn't work, sometimes it just doesn't hurt to ask. I've ended up on the news many times by just calling up the news channels and asking them if they'd be interested in featuring my business. It's sometimes that simple. I would say the most crucial thing in getting Media Coverage is a subtle yet persistent approach.
Thanks to Lori Cheek, Cheekd!
#9 – Deeply Understanding Your Customer's Struggles
Everyone of your clients has something that keeps them up night. A nagging problem they can't figure out. An issue that makes them cringe. A process that makes them want to run screaming from their office. You need to be the remedy to their problems. When you're working on marketing messages, marketing plans, putting together ad campaigns or other business communications, start with deeply understanding what your customer struggles with and then market the products/services you offer as THE solution for what ails them. Doing this communicates you understand your customer, that your goal is to make their lives easier and better. If you can help your customer sleep better at night, you'll have someone who will come back again and again to get help and buy from you.
Thanks to Aurora Gregory, Aurora Gregory Consulting!
#10 – Few Things
1) Business cards with text on the back allowing the card bearer to one free class and a spot for my signature authorizing it. 2) Partnering with local business like coffee shops and juice bars to get a drink on their menu called The Mekanix (name of my gym.) 3) Food truck on property to attract walk in traffic. 4) Regular social media activity.
Thanks to Justin Singer, Mekanix Calisthenics Gym!
#11 – Build a Community & Create Value
Build a community, and create value for your members. This is exactly what my company did on Facebook for real estate agents. Over five years, we successfully built the largest social media marketing platform ever serving the real estate industry, now used by over 500,000 agent-members! Our Real Estate Agent Directory on Facebook connects homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents (Click “Find an Agent” tab on page to see most recent member total). We launched it by providing agents complimentary customized profiles for their Facebook business pages and marketing it as a place where they could promote themselves and their listings, to harvest leads and referrals from consumers and other agents. We launched in 2011 and over the years expanded the platform, even pioneering the use of IDX Home Search websites on Facebook. Today, the directory serves as a gateway to a variety of other free and paid marketing apps, groups and services that help real estate professionals grow their networks, businesses and expertise. By creating a vibrant community and providing value, we effectively created a marketplace- both for our community members, and for ourselves to market new products and services. There are many ways to go about this, but leveraging Facebook remains the best option, in my opinion.”
Thanks to Mark Bloomfield, HomeASAP!
#12 – Public Relations
There is a reason that Bill Gates said, If I was down to dollar of my marketing budget I'd spend it on PR! Public relations is all about telling your public your story and creating awareness and consideration for your company/service/product. What makes you different? What makes you better? Why should they choose you over someone else? So many times, entrepreneurs, especially seed funded companies, don't acknowledge that they have any competitors and when asked about their differentials they will say, We are the best.. Hum, that's not much of a story nor is it very believable. Every person, every business, has a story to be told. Think about it this way, the conversations are happening around your invention, your industry, your verticals – wouldn't you rather be a part of that conversation than your competitor? Get our story told. Our favorite line at TrizCom is we are story sellers we sell our client's stories.
Thanks to Jo Trizila, TrizCom Public Relations!
#13 – Define Clear Goals & Metrics
Regardless of the type of marketing campaign, I always define clear goals and metrics. Check progress towards the marketing campaign goals every week, this helps your team stay on track and adjust when necessary. Campaign metrics are the only way to determine the success (or failure) of the campaign, don't get discouraged if you don't achieve your marketing goals, as long as you're measuring the campaigns you can learn from it and keep trying new ideas.
Thanks to Jimmy Rodriguez, 3dcart.com!
#14 – Don't Neglect Your Product
Don't get so caught up with marketing that you neglect your product. Sometimes, and this is especially true online, we think so much about marketing our site or service that we forget that the site or service itself has to be high quality in the first place. Before you can market anything, you have to be sure it's up to the standard of quality you want your name associated with, otherwise what's the point?
Thanks to Michael Banks, FortunateInvestor.com!
#15 – Extremely Self-Aware
To achieve success in marketing, you have to be extremely self-aware of your product. While a strong social media presence is essential to any company’s success, some social media platforms are more beneficial to certain product types. My company Kaville specializes in fashion watches; we’ve found great success using image based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. If we were selling renter’s insurance, though, we’d have greater leverage with blog posts or features in podcasts that allow for extended description and narration. It’s all about knowing how, and through which platform, you can show off your business best. Once you identify your most lucrative approach, the age old saying “Content is king” rings true. But if content is king, consider organic content the ruler of the universe. Images and posts that blend organically with user submitted content perform significantly better than posts that are clear ploys to reel customers in. The best way to generate content that fits with your potential customers’ interests is to use social media influencers. By offering them your product in return for images, posts, or features in blog posts, you’ll gain the trust and attention of their followers – and hopefully, an increase in sales. Most importantly, though, successful marketing doesn’t just benefit your company by creating brand awareness and sales. It benefits your customer. Content that goes out shouldn’t just plug your product, but introduce potential customers to a new solution to their problems. It should show them a new lifestyle, or even better, one that they already desire that they can be a part of if they purchase from you. While the success of marketing campaigns is often calculated in numbers and statistics, successful marketing is achieved through calling on each individual customer’s identity itself. That’s where brand loyalty begins.
Thanks to Seth Smith, Kaville!
#16 – Tracking & Improving the Right Numbers
My top marketing tip is to make sure that you are tracking and improving the right numbers. The “right numbers” vary from business to business, but let me use dentistry as an example. Every day, I have conversations with dentists that are focused on their “new patient” numbers, but have no idea what their reappointment percentage or case acceptance percentage numbers are. Regardless of how many new patients an office is bringing in, it’s very difficult to grow if the patients aren’t coming back! Make sure you aren’t just looking at calls, leads, visits, etc, but really understand your conversion numbers. These will make your marketing dollars go much further!
Thanks to Jared Feit, OnwardDental!
#17 – Don't be afraid to ask for positive feedback
This is more of a sales tip, most useful once you've already gotten into a meeting room or phone call with a prospective client. So here's the tip: You can never get too much in the way of positive feedback from your clients. In today's world, people are a lot more vigilant before making a purchase or entering into a contract, and are looking for references, testimonials and trustworthy reviews. Being able to point uncertain potential customers to a really positive reference is just about as good a marketing strategy as you're likely to find. For that reason, whenever you're given great feedback from a client, ask them if they mind it appearing on your site as a testimonial, or if they'd mind being used as a reference. Stockpile these positive references and use them when needed. For an even greater impact, provide a positive reference from the same industry, or a closely related one. This can be a hugely impactful sales strategy.
Thanks to Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing!
#18 – Read. Work. Write
I call it read, write, and work. Yep, thats it. Every day, just schedule time to read, to write and then to incorporate your work. If you have an hour at night, then 20 minutes of each. If you have all day Saturday, then 3 hours of each. Entrepreneurs who incorporate a read, write, work approach will see a difference in not only how they feel about marketing, but how it works for their company/project, which will make all of their efforts easier. Read. Yes, you need to read. Ugh! I know, who has time to get past anything but a headline? You do if you want to be able to speak and present intelligibly about the work that you do and the environment in which you compete. You have to read. Read blogs, read newspapers, read industry magazines, read business books, read competitors articles read every day. Set a calendar appointment and keep it. You can do it first thing in the morning, or mid-day when you need a break or to relax in the evening, but read, you must. Read mostly about your industry/category, but also read about the economy, and professional development, and technology and leadership. Read interesting things so that you can write interesting things. I am not going to tell you how much or how long, but to do the next part, you have to read. Write. Yes, you have to write. Ugh! I know, who has time for anything but the main job? You do if you want to be able to speak and present intelligibly about the work you do and market it within the environment in which you compete. You have to write. You can write for your own blog, website or social media. You can write articles or you can write client white papers and case studies. You can write letters and personalized thank you cards or speeches and presentations. Set a calendar appointment and keep it. You can do it first thing in the morning, or mid-day when you need a break, or to relax in the evening, but write, you must. Write mostly about your industry/project, but also write about the economy, and professional development, and technology and leadership. Write about the interesting things you read and how they apply to your work, projects or industry. I am not going to tell you how much or how long, but you have to write. And you have to write in a way that is shareable with your public. You have to create content. This is hard, especially when you work full time. You have to set a schedule. Maybe even consider hiring someone, but I want to be clear if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner this has to happen if you want the power of publicity to work for you. Put in the effort to create a culture of communication for your side gig (even if its in your house) to promote your projects and your expertise, as a way to engage current and future clients/customers. Work. This seems easy. Maybe like I tricked you? Well, yes and no. I do not have to tell you that you have to put in the hours to do the work. But what you have to do is change how you work. Right now, if you are not marketing and/or selling, all of your work is internal. You know the ins and outs of the business or the project, but no one outside your office knows anything about it. Not your customers, not your competitors. Actually, probably half the customers you do have dont know anything about it either. You have to work in a way that creates a culture of communication. You have to work publicly and visibly. You have to share your expertise. It is not easy to do that, especially if your insides are screaming in reaction to my suggestions. But when you create a robust website with updated, compelling content; when you do live posts on Facebook to update the world about your projects; when you write a blog post about the intersection of technology or science or art and your field of expertise, you are working in such a way that communicates the value of the work. When you use stories and photos to show your work, not just once for an award, but consistently, you are beginning to reap the benefits of a culture of communication. I have done this for a long time. I have consulted for over 100 companies and I know it is hard. And I agree, having a full-time job can sometimes mean that your side hustle/passion project gets pushed to the side for more pressing matters. This is why scheduling is so important.
Thanks to Julia Angelen Joy, Z Group PR!