by guest author hannah jones
What a brilliant time we live in! Never before as the owner of a small business had so many options for letting hundreds or even thousands of people know about their business – without ever spending a penny!
I had a brilliant time getting to know all of the other little biz owners recently, when Karen invited us to introduce ourselves. Reading through the many comments, I began to see a theme: many of us feel the place we need most help with is marketing and getting our businesses noticed.
And it’s no surprise! Trying to get your business noticed can be like swimming against the current – you put huge amounts of effort in, and just when you’re thinking how proud you are of all your hard work, you look around and realise you haven’t actually got anywhere!
The truth is that using the amazing free marketing tools the internet offers is a waiting game. Most of us need to put the ground work in, spend time talking to nobody and persevering, until the day that all of our work combines with that little bit of luck and gives us the opportunity to shine.
From your comments, it seems most of you know the basics: you use social media to keep in touch with customers. Use a blog to show off your personality, and forums and message boards to speak directly to your target customer (or get advice!). The purpose of this article isn’t to re-teach you these ideas, but to tell you about the eight simple rules you can follow to make sure all of your efforts don’t go to waste.
Seven simple marketing rules
So you’ve worked out which free online tools you can use to reach out to your customers, right? (If not, check out this series of articles about using social media for your business.) Now you have two jobs: finding and reaching out to those target customers who haven’t heard of you yet, and reminding those customers you have already connected with that you’re still here, providing a product or service they want.
The following eight online marketing rules will help you to achieve these aims, and make sure everything you do through whichever marketing channels you use helps you to succeed at your one overarching aim: to make sales!
1. Invest time in research
The biggest challenge you will have in building your online marketing presence is getting people to listen to you. That’s why investing time working out who to speak to is the fastest route to success.
Do you have a good idea of who your ideal customer is? Having a clear image of who you want to do business with will help you to concentrate all of your marketing resources in the right place.
Here are some simple facts which you should know about your ideal customer: their gender; age; general profession (e.g. ‘white collar’, ‘blue collar’, stay at home mum); where they live; how wealthy they are.
Once you have come up with answers to these questions, you can begin to form a more specific picture of your ideal customer. Narrowing down who you are trying to sell to will greatly improve your selling. You’re not ruling out potential customers, but forming an idea of who most of your customers will be, and why they will buy from you.
Think about some of the hobbies, interests, concerns, and ambitions most people in your ideal customer group will have. This is the key to finding where they are on the internet, which in turn will allow you to target your marketing efforts on attracting them.
Now, go to the social media website(s) you use and find groups and people who relate to those interests. If you’re using Facebook, you should put most effort into finding groups which your ideal customers will be a part of. If you’re using Twitter, look for accounts which your target customer will be following - people of interest, organisations they may be a part of or interested in, and so on.
Find blogs and forums which cover similar topics to yours, or which your ideal customer would be interested in.
Go and join these groups, make yourself known, and look for natural opportunities to mention your business. People are 100% more likely to buy from somebody they know and trust. That’s why putting effort into becoming well known and liked by a small number of people will be much more profitable to you than occasionally writing vague messages in dozens of different groups, whose participants don’t know who you are or what you’re about.
2. Have an aim
I have assumed you want to use these online marketing tools to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. Take a moment to think about whether that is the case – perhaps you only want to do one of those things, or perhaps you have another aim altogether?
Once you know your aim, you will have to work hard to remember it as you go on using these online marketing tools. Although it shouldn’t be the only thing you do, you should make sure you are doing plenty of things each week which help you achieve your aim – if not, you’re building an online presence for no reason!
Think about putting your overall aim into a succinct sentence, printing it off, and sticking it up next to your workspace. That way, each time you’re doing some marketing, you’ll stay on track and know what each decision you make has to work towards.
3. Be interesting
It might sound counter-intuitive, but the worst thing you can do when using social media websites for marketing is to continually talk about your business.
That’s because nobody will pay attention to what you’re saying unless they find you interesting – and what’s interesting about 100 comments urging you to do something you’ve no reason to do, be it visit a website, read a blog, or buy something?
If you do this, at best, everyone will ignore you. At worst, you will lose blog readers and social media followers faster than you can gain them!
Not everything you say has to directly help you to achieve your aim. Try to pass on interesting, funny, or entertaining things to your readers, followers, or fellow message boarders. By all means let them know about your new products, or things you are doing which they might be interested in – but tell them about other things too.
If they like what you say, they will be more likely to pay attention next time they see you saying something – this is the first step to getting them to buy from you!
4. Reward your fans
If someone makes the effort to follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, or anything else you ask them to do, what will they get out of it? People are much more likely to do what you want if you give them a reason, so think about how you can reward them for paying attention to you.
A great way to reward people for supporting your business, and attract more people to your social media account or blog, is to offer exclusive discounts to your followers. Before you do this, think carefully about what you can afford to offer, and how many people you could offer that to. Research how similar small businesses make offers without breaking their bank, and get creative – you don’t always have to spend money to make people feel rewarded.
5. Censor yourself
People love getting to know the real person behind a business, and this often makes them more interested in buying from you. However, there comes a point when sharing with your followers is more likely to hinder than help your business. Do you really want all of your customers to see the pictures of your drunken night on the town? What if a private falling out becomes a very public Facebook argument (we’ve all seen it happen!)?
You should always censor what you write about (and upload pictures of) to make sure you don’t become seen as unprofessional – remember, as much as people want to know the ‘real you’, they also need to have no doubt in their mind that they can trust you with their money!
Consider having separate accounts for your personal and business life. This will help you to carry on using social media for your personal life, without having to worry about crossing the boundary towards unprofessionalism.
6. Show your passion
If you’ve started your own business, it’s probably something you are passionate and excited about. This is the biggest factor which will make everyone love you and your products. Let your own passion and love for what you do show, and you will sell your products and services without even trying!
If you talk about your passion openly through whatever social media marketing tools you are using, people will pick up on this. They will be intrigued and look into what your business does, follow you because they are interested in what you say, and eventually form a loyalty – making them the best kind of customer you can hope for!
7. Stop being modest!
As a British female, I am amongst the most modest people in the world. I hate anything which comes close to bragging, and find accepting compliments – let alone talking about my strengths – extremely difficult!
If you’re like me, you need to make an extra effort to get rid of that modesty and start bragging. At least some, if not all of your job is about selling – and there is no room for modesty if you want to be good at that. You need to relentlessly talk about what makes your product or service great, what sets you apart from your competition, and everything you have achieved.
If you struggle to do this, make a list of the three key things which make your business great, and two or three achievements you are most proud of. Every time you are telling someone about your business, fit as many of these facts in as you possibly can!
Hannah is the author of 31Days2…an Online Retail Business: the ultimate guide to help you set up and expand an online business, selling on websites like eBay and Etsy. Find out more at www.31days2.com.