Many entrepreneurs when embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, rightly focus on solving a problem and developing a product or service to provide a solution to that problem. What a great start!
One of the first slaps in the face for many entrepreneurs is the realisation that if you build it, they don’t necessarily come. If you build it, and no one knows about it and no one knows how it can add value to their day to day lives, then you end up with a potentially fantastic solution, with very little customers to use it.
Generally, the next step for these entrepreneurs is to begin tirelessly scouring the internet, researching the most effective marketing methods, cherry picking the most accessible methods in an attempt get customers. Marketing is hit with the proverbial sledgehammer, Hours are spent writing articles (content marketing), thousands are spent running ads (SEM), offshore companies are engaged to attempt to improve website visibility (SEO), meanwhile they’ve signed up to every social media under the sun and scheduled posts across the next few months (Social Media), perhaps even had some fliers created and delivered to local mailboxes en-masse (Direct Marketing).
The result of this is many wasted hours and many wasted dollars and while not necessarily having no results, generally poor results. Sound familiar? If you know someone like this or you yourself have suffered, fear not, you are not alone!
So what is the issue here? Why is this so wrong?
For anyone attempting to start a business or presently running a business, it is important to clearly define and remember exactly what the purpose of marketing is –
To Generate Customers.
That is all.
What many entrepreneurs confuse is the difference between getting exposure and actually turning that exposure in to leads and one step further, turning those leads in to customers. The result of this is focussing too much time and money gaining exposure, but not necessarily spending an adequate amount of time and money ensuring that the mechanisms for turning that exposure into business is in place.
How entrepreneurs should look at marketing?
When I used to do photography, I asked an experience photographer – How much should I spend on my camera? I believe his answer was a great one, he said, take your budget and spend two thirds on the lens and one third on the camera.
I believe that in business it is much the same, marketing (arguably including sales) should make up a majority of attention, money and efforts. This should cause you to either a. Increase the total capital you have for your project. Or b. Rethink your product and service, perhaps minimising some aspects to allow more capital to go towards marketing and sales.
After realising that you will need likely more time, money and effort than originally anticipated, then before taking any steps towards generating exposure, you should start by thinking about the mechanisms which will convert that exposure in to leads.
For anyone that has been around the scene for a while, you have likely heard of the funnel strategy – Reach, Engage, Convert. There are many variances of this strategy, but ultimately all of them are trying to say the same thing. First you cast a net to bring in as many of the target audience as possible, you then further engage them with aspects relating to your product, solution or business and finally, for those ready to commit to your product you convert them to a customer.
Essentially this is the process of taking a person from being suspect to a prospect to a lead to a customer (and then ideally a repeat customer or referrer).
The mechanisms that we are talking about predominantly sit in the engage and convert areas of the funnel. Most of the reach mechanisms are powered by your budget, so we will get to them in a different article. The most important thing is that the mechanisms are in place so then when you have reached your audience you have the highest chance of actually benefiting from that reach.
So what are some of the most important mechanisms we should focus on before trying to reach as many of our target audience as possible?
Clearly defined sales process
It’s often a big debate whether “sales” is part of marketing or if it sits by itself in a different department. As the world shifts towards digital, the role of an actual sales person can somewhat become diminished (certainly not for non-digital). We believe that for the purpose of effective marketing it is paramount that sales process is considered a part of the entire marketing process.
Leads will most likely come through a phone call or a website enquiry. For that lead to be successfully turned in to a customer, they often need to be guided in a friction free manner towards being able to commit to your product. Make sure you define for your business:
- What happens when an enquiry is made?
- How is an enquiry advanced towards a sale?
- In what timeframe will each step happen?
- At what stage does a sale occur & how do they get there?
This should be defined for each type of sale – phone enquiry, digital enquiry, digital sale. A clear path should be defined a sale and your customers should be gently massaged towards that end goal.
As a part of this sales process, it is mandatory that you use a CRM to keep track of all enquiries, leads, their details and any notes (We recommend Hubspot CRM, but there are many out there). Additionally, to that, there must be the use of some sort of calendar with reminders to ensure that tasks, calls, meetings and enquiries are all completed when required.
Nothing will turn a customer away more, than having unmet expectations and their details forgotten.
Your website must be designed in a way that creates the least amount of friction in generating enquiries or requests to stay in touch. With that said, each relevant page should have a prominent call to action (CTA) and a means for users to subscribe to your newsletter. These two aspects at minimum will ensure that if a user on your website is interested then they act on that fleeting interest -immediately.
If an enquiry is too hard to make, quite simply, your users will likely go elsewhere, so make it as easy as possible.
Ensure that relevant pages have easy to use contact forms, gathering as much data as possible without deterring your users. Ensure you include a tickbox in these forms to opt users in to your newsletter and future marketing activities. The data collected (and added to your CRM) will be used in future marketing activities (SMS & Email).
The foundation of your website needs to ensure that it has the capacity to host meaningful and engaging content. The concept of content marketing is beyond the scope of this article, but when a potential customer is interested but not yet fully committed to a purchase, information in the form of articles, videos, explainer graphics etc can go a long way to giving them the confidence they need to sign up with your solution. This content needs to be accessible from your main pages, to ensure that if your visitors do have questions or need more information, they can easily find it. –And if they can’t, then they can always get in touch via the contact forms or CTA’s right!?
Content is king! Content is used to engage your visitors, users and customers. Content should talk to your core brand values and the value your product and service provide. This content will be used later on in the reach stage, but it is important to have a content strategy. Your content strategy should at bare minimum include:
- What type of content?
- How frequently?
Once this is defined it is important to add deadlines and methods to ensure that this is kept consistent so that you can keep your audience consistently engaged and keep your business front of mind when they come to making their purchasing decisions. This is where your calendar will come in to play, stay on top of it to reap the benefits (some people call this a content calendar).
People often underestimate the power of email. You can understand why! Every day your inbox fills with spam mail which mostly you delete. But there are two important aspects a. You mostly delete it –meaning you may browse some of it and b. You will only be sending mail to people that have shown interest in your company’s products and services, this changes everything.
Make sure you have a newsletter platform setup, a template organised and an idea of what content you will include in your newsletter. Then ensure that this newsletter goes out consistently, whether that is weekly, fortnightly or other. Consistency is paramount to success.
Your newsletter will feature, news about your company, products and services, your content & of course a Call to Action. Again, get all of this organised and get it setup in your calendar to ensure you are consistent. Mail chimp offers a great free version of its tool coordinate, design and execute your newsletters.
Tracking codes are like cheatcodes used in a video game. They allow us to take advantage of data collected about our website and visitors and further allows us to use that data to maximise performance of our website and future marketing methods. There are plenty of platforms that offer tracking codes, but its most important that you have it setup for any platforms you intend to advertise on (if available) as well as for any analytics that you intend on tracking with.
In most cases, this will be summarised to webmaster tools, google analytics and facebook. Make sure these are set up before you begin the reach stage of your marketing funnel as with these tools we will be able to see what is working, when, why and how!
Most platforms have fairly easy to follow instructions for getting this done, but failing that, this may fall in to the role of your web developer.
So to summarise, here’s what we are trying to say?
- If you are starting a business expect to need to market your business in a big way
- Allocate a majority of resources to marketing and sales
- Focus on the mechanisms that engage and convert customers before focussing on the reaching the greatest number of target audience
- At the bare minimum ensure the inclusion of the above mechanisms
Marketing is one of the most important aspects of any business. In a perfect world you have the funds to hire an agency or a full time marketing manager. If you are bootstrapping it, prepare for a roller coaster of a ride. Get the mechanisms for engaging and converting in place first to maximise the results of your reach!
Our next article will talk about reach and conversion metrics. Stay tuned, give us some feedback with the comments below, like and follow us on social media (over there to the right) or subscribe to our newsletter (also over there on the right).
Whatever you do stay in touch, because there will be plenty more to come!