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20 Entrepreneurs Explain How They Learned about Marketing Their Business

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Marketing your business may require that you do it yourself especially when you are on a constrained budget. You may also be lucky to have someone guide you through the marketing process at a little or no fee. The truth is, our journey to marketing our businesses can be different. What matters is what get’s you to the desired regardless of the time it takes.

We asked entrepreneurs how they learned to market their business and here’s what they had to say.

#1- Testing continually

Photo Credit: Ben Harper

I learned to market my business through testing continually. Test everything – from ad copy and images used in advertising, through to how you speak to people and your elevator pitch. Every element of your marketing can be improved upon over time, so set up a testing framework that you can work to in order to succeed.

Thanks to Ben Harper, Clarity Stack!

#2-  Trial and error and lot of failure

Photo Credit: Robert Weigel

I learned to market my life insurance agency through trial and error and lot of failure. Asking people who contact your business is key to finding out where to double down your marketing efforts so I always make an effort to ask everyone who calls me or emails me where they found my information. I’m committed to being an online insurance agent which means I have to generate leads and traffic to my website completely online. I don’t do any antiquated methods of marketing like direct mailings, newspaper ads, networking in civic groups, etc.—every sale I make is generated online. I’ve been able to do this by writing blog articles 1,000 words rich and designed to hit the Gen X demographic, and through social media marketing through Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

Thanks to Robert Weigel, Weigel Insurance Agency!

#3- Started with content marketing

Photo Credit: Stephen Hart

As a brand new company, I didn’t have tens of thousands of pounds to pour into a huge launch campaign. Instead, I looked at what I did have: time and experience.So I began thinking about how I could use my extensive experience in the payment industry to market my company. After not very much time I stumbled on the idea of content marketing and started writing blogs that lifted the curtain on the payment industry and re-empowered our audience.The reaction was immediate and new users started flooding to our site.

Thanks to Stephen Hart, Cardswitcher!

#4-  Ton of calculated risk

Photo Credit: John Crossman

I’ve tried many things and I am still experimenting. One example is social media, when social media first started to ramp up, I decided to go all in. Many companies my size were afraid to try it. I took all kinds of risks with posting things and reaching out to people. About a year later I was contacted by a Fortune 500 company who said they were trying to figure out social media and were watching what I was doing. They were so impressed that they asked if I could come to their headquarters and train them. Which I did and ended up doing a significant amount of business with them.

Thanks to John Crossman, Crossman & Company!

#5- Learnt from two resources

Photo Credit: Shawn Breyer

We focus solely on SEO for our marketing in our house flipping business. We wanted to dig really deep into SEO and be top in the Atlanta, GA market which is a large feat with hundreds of investors attempting the same goal. As a startup, we didn’t have a ton of money, so we found lots of free marketing resources like the SEMrush Academy, which really breaks down technical aspects of SEO in more simple terms, and cheap resources like Udemy for SEO. These two resources have provided us with enough knowledge to be in the top 3 searches for most of our keywords, which is now free marketing assets that work even if we are not spending money on them. When people are intentionally looking for what we have to offer, we show up vs trying to convince them with interrupt marketing. We show up, educate, build credibility, build a relationship, and follow up heavily to land larger deals.

Thanks to Shawn Breyer, Breyer Home Buyers!

#6- In four ways

Photo Credit: Syed Irfan Ajmal

I learned how to market my business by (1) Ensuring I stick to prioritized items (2) Focus on one media channel/strategy at a time (3) Test my own data and (4) continuously take action so that I can learn from my own mistakes. Also, less is more; No need to read 7 books each month if you ain’t apply their lessons. Lastly, always focus on long-term results; that will help you avoid all those fake gurus promising quick returns through unethical marketing means.

Thanks to Syed Irfan Ajmal, Ridester!

#7- From a like-minded person

Photo Credit: Chetan Mahajan

I had started the HImalayan Writing Retreat thinking only about the operations side of things. I expected to have visitors from all over the world, but I hadn’t thought enough about how I would reach them. I expected that the universe would step in. It didnt. Luckily, In my early days I also hosted a blogging retreat. One of the attendees – Sumit Bansal – came simply because he was bored working from his home office. He was looking to spend some time with like-minded people. As I got to know him, I realized that he was an expert blogger and his own blog, Trump Excel, received 350,000 hits every month. He helped me build up my web presence and market my programs much better. We now work as a team to co-host the Himalayan blogging retreats, and I continue to learn from him. It was one of those rare occasions when someone paid me to teach me something.

Thanks to Chetan Mahajan, Himalayan Writing Retreat!

#8- Years of experience

Photo Credit : Paige Arnof-Fenn

I started a global branding and marketing company 17 years ago. Before that I worked in marketing for years first at big corporations and then at several startup companies as the head of marketing so I just had to treat myself the way I did the products and services I had been responsible for. I have to admit it is a lot harder to market yourself and your business when you are the brand. I went through the same process I always had doing a full audit of the messages, features, benefits, target audiences, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, etc. I learned to do by doing for many years. I trained to learn my craft well first at very large and established brands then at more entrepreneurial ventures before I turned my attention to my own business. Practice makes perfect, at least I hope so!

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#9- Word of mouth, blogging & PR

Photo Credit: Tara Langdale-Schmidt

One of the biggest challenges that I had to overcome starting-up was marketing my product. I learned to market it organically through social media and blogging. There was some trials and errors, but in the end, we’ve been successful marketing the business with very little cost.Despite the fact we were selling a therapy device, we are prohibited from marketing with paid ads on Facebook and Instagram along with many other media platforms. We were even banned from running ads with the word Menopause in them. It was terribly frustrating and certainly delayed our eventual success. We were forced to rely on word of mouth, our blog and an aggressive PR campaign led by John Goodman to create awareness and sales, which ultimately brought increased traffic to the website and sales.Our website is the lifeline of the business. It serves as a portal for woman to receive important information about pelvic pain. It’s where we create awareness about our non-prescription, holistic, non-invasive pelvic therapy product and share women’s testimonials. And it’s also where we market and sell our product to women all over the globe. Marketing is a necessary evil or expense, whichever way you look at it, but done incorrectly can create a big fat hole in your profitability. When done effectively it can make your profits soar.

Thanks to Tara Langdale-Schmidt, VuVatech!

#10- Self-teaching and discovery

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

After applying the marketing strategies I learned in business school, I quickly recognized that many of the practices they had taught me weren’t the most effective, up-to-date marketing strategies. In the age of the internet, it’s a lot more productive to focus on new marketing strategies, which I had to discover on my own. SEO, for example, is a powerful way to increase your site traffic and one that I’ve spent painstaking hours perfecting for application to our business through trial and error. PPC is also a great tool to use: the Idea is you only pay for the effectiveness of the ad. Clicks are like hits in baseball, the more hits a team has the better the odds are that they turn into runs. In PPC, the more clicks you have the better your odds are of increasing your sales. For the same reasons, I am self-taught in social media marketing, which my school neglected to thoroughly cover. While everyone is on social media, it takes time to figure out how to make it work for *your* specific niche and to get ahead of the curve.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

#11- Doing the work without delegating

Photo Credit: Garrett Smith

It took a few years of trial and error in order to learn the most effective ways to market my business. It took a deep understanding of how my customers liked to buy and where they were looking for solutions like ours. This was something that I could only learn through actually doing the work; articles, and books can help, but when it comes to marketing, there is no substitute for actual hands-on experience. Remember, everything doesn’t working for everybody, all the time!

Thanks to Garrett Smith, RepCheckup!

#12- Through storytelling

Photo Credit: Sarah Braud

After graduating with my MFA in creative writing, I had no plan on how to use it to make money yet $40K in student loans to pay off. While I don’t regret my education, I was feeling overwhelmed, unqualified and unequipped to parley my skills into a marketable career. However, if a world-class education in writing did not prepare me for writing professionally, then what was the point of it all? In order to begin paying off my loans, I realized that I would need to market myself using my craft: storytelling. Storytelling is the single most effective means of connection. People buy goods and services when you tell them a story that offers clarity & connection. As a StoryBrand Certified Guide, I coach others on how to market their companies using the 7 part framework of storytelling. No matter what the venue, platform, or marketing asset you create, the message you are sharing needs to be one told in the form of a story. For me, I wrote my “brandscript,” a messaging guide that helps me remember what story I am telling and, most importantly, who the hero of the story is: my clients! Next, any time I create marketing material — social media post or ad, printed material, an email campaign, a lead magnet, anything — I have a this brand script as the guiding document for it all. This piece of marketing has helped me avoid sending mixed messages into an oversaturated market that has the attention span of a hamster. It also saves me time and money in wasted marketing efforts. Instead I am confident in my marketing game and am on track to pay my last student loan payment this month!

Thanks to Sarah Braud, Braud Creative!

#13- It’s a passion

Photo Credit: Carla Williams Johnson

Marketing has always been in my blood. I have always had a passion for creativity in advertising and communications and, as such, I have worked with top agencies such as Inglefield /Ogilvy, Lonsdale and Mc Cann Erickson, on global brands such as Coca Cola, Nestle, Unilever and Burger King to name a few. I learned a lot in terms of how to create and execute strategy, how to use media to your advantage and understanding the psychology of the customer. This is the knowledge I have used and implemented into my own business as well as helping others to build their brands

Thanks to Carla Williams Johnson, Carli Communications!

#14- Entirely through trial and error

Photo Credit: Ysmay Walsh

I wish I could stay I learned on the job at some fancy company and packaged up my knowledge and started my business like some rogue operative, but I didn’t. I learned entirely through trial and error as I was trying to make sales. I started working as a web designer in the 1990s, and back then my business was generated entirely through word of mouth. As the internet changed I had to learn how to get in front of people who needed my services in a new way. But I ignored the problem for far too long. When I started doing research, testing ideas, examining my competition, and reading every business book I could get my hands on I finally figured it out. For any  entrepreneur who is trying to market their business the best piece of advice I can give is to just try. Test things out. See what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks to Ysmay Walsh, Ysmay, Inc.!

#15- A book I wrote

Photo Credit: Teri Citterman

I learned how to market my business by combining common sense, consistency and working my a$$ off. I wrote a book called “From the CEO’s Perspective” which is the cornerstone of my company marketing, and positioned me as an expert in understanding how executives think. When I launched my company 5 years ago, the book helped position me in my audience’s minds as an executive coach who works with some of the top CEOs in the region. Since then, everything I do, every program I design, every conversation I have or social media post centers on speaking from the CEO’s perspective.

Thanks to Teri Citterman, Talonn!

#16- The book “Blue Ocean Strategy”

Photo Credit: Daniel Nyiri

The book “Blue Ocean Strategy” taught me how to market my business. To be exact it thought me how to separate myself from the competition and create my own market without any competition. This allowed us to go from 2 locations to 5 in just 6 months!

Thanks to Daniel Nyiri, 4U Fitness!

#17- Our weaknesses forced us to realize and use our strengths to compensate them

Photo Credit: Kirill Rebrov

As a bootstrapping startup with limited marketing budget we were faced with the problem of getting first leads. So marketing and PR was our weakness. On the other hand our product was our strength. We’re a data automation SaaS that enables businesses to turn consumer names into demographic data and analytics so we turned to content marketing using content we can produce by ourselves. Becoming our first clients by ourselves. For example, we performed two case studies using our own technology. In the first one we measured Twitter demographics and compared our results with comScore and PewResearch. In another study we measured gender bias in films and compared it with Google’s results. Such original content produced by our own product attracted many early adopters with one international brand among them. Always think how you can use your own product to approach problems in other aspects of your business.

Thanks to Kirill Rebrov, Demografy!

#18- Three ways

Photo Credit: Nadine Smiley

I learned to market my business by not only reading every up-to-date marketing book I could but also taking several recommended online courses. I also joined several Entrepreneur marketing groups. I found that LinkedIn was also a great option for following Professional Marketers who share tips and information freely. As you follow them, they can help connect you with others who will also share information with you. I reached out to several of those people and had wonderful conversations where they shared some of their greatest tips and information. Online networking works wonders!

Thanks to Nadine Smiley 

#19- Coaching

Photo Credit: Tish Gance

As an Experience Designer, I thrive on helping my clients design detailed interactions with their customers during the entire purchase process. That means understanding where, when and how marketing can best benefit the customer experience and their business goals. It’s super easy and fun for me to help my clients, but when it came to my own messaging, I was stumped. I found myself floundering, potential customers didn’t understand my value to them, and my marketing channels were producing pathetic results. Several members of a networking group I attended insisted I should talk with the business coach in the group. Coaching seemed like therapy session to me, so I resisted at first but eventually set a meeting with him. It was the best decision I made, and saved my business. Even though I am an expert in my field, I couldn’t get out of my own head to see myself through the eyes of my clients. It’s funny, because I preach the exact thing to the small businesses I work with. You need an outside perspective to be effective in your marketing, and a great coach will help you without trying to sell you the latest marketing gimmick.

Thanks to Tish Gance

#20- Experimenting

Photo Credit: Brittany EB Hardy

We are in year 5 of our business, and although there are days that I wish we just ‘knew’ what would always work for our business, that’s simply not the case in any marketing. What works one day might not the next, and what works in one industry or market is drastically different from the rest which makes it really tough for small business owners to navigate the massive amount of advice available to them. We are marketers ourselves, so we have experimented with almost every form of marketing or advertising that we can afford. Television, radio, and most print advertising are completely out of our budget (and I would suspect out of the budget for most small business owners), so we stick to what we do best which is all to do with social media marketing (our core service). We provide VALUE with the content we put out on our social media channels and in our email marketing newsletters. This keeps people engaged while building a relationship. Often we want the quick sale, but overly promotional material doesn’t necessarily produce long term results or clients. For us, it’s all about consistency, and pairing the right value-added material delivery with a mix of advertising to generate leads (also on social media) to propel our business forward.

Thanks to Brittany EB Hardy, Empty Desk Solutions!

How did you learn how to market your business? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

About CEO Blog Nation

This is a post from a CEO Blog Nation writer. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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