Marketing is often approached by looking at the solution rather than asking the right questions. For example we regularly hear statements like:
- “I’ve heard having a Facebook page is enough, no need for a website”
- “I just need a website and to be on the first page of Google for our name”
- “We just plan to email everything as an attachment”
- “Building an App is all we need”
That’s not to say that awareness of the options is a bad thing or that your general gut-feeling and preferences for certain communication should be ignored. For example if you’re happy on Facebook then it might be a great place to start; but this ignores the more important questions such as where are your current and potential customers.
Where to start in marketing
Ideally you’ll do a little research, even if it’s just a couple calls to your first clients who realise you’re starting out or better use a surveying tool like SurveyMonkey and stick to their open questions to get the best unbiased answers. Of course who to ask can sometimes be tricky but the general rule is ‘start with who you know’ as they will most likely be providing your first orders.
- Who are my current customers
- Services/Products they like/ might like
- General level of technological engagement (i.e. early adopter, ‘normal’, beginner?)
- The same again, but for your ‘future’ customers (note: ‘everyone’ is the wrong answer!)
- What can I offer right now
- Where are my customers?
- Are they online? Leaflets can still work wonders if targetted
- Do they check or use email a lot?
- Which social networks do they use? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest?
- Perhaps there are forums that work better? Eg. Mumsnet?
- Is eBay somewhere they would shop? Or perhaps the more craft and homemade-focused etsy.com?
And then get just a little bit of a reality check with someone who knows what they’re talking about, eg. they have run a similar business in the same industry or scale:
- What percentage of their sales have really come from Social Media? It might be lower than you’d think with all the hype
- What marketing techniques are most effective? Email newsletters probably
And then what?
A little research should save you a lot of time and help to narrow down where you should invest your time. Certainly pinning your hopes on a system you’re not yet familiar with, eg. Twitter is going to fail as it will take a little while to get up to speed, while writing a simple email is easier to engage with.
Just a few general tips:
- Having a website is essential, a bit like having a business card – it may not need to have lots of info on it, but a kind of central resource regardless of ‘Marketing Channel’ (eg. social media, email, etc) to which you can reference, even if it’s basically just a set of contact details and a single page about your ‘services’
- Getting to the ‘top of Google’ is an ongoing game, requiring regular monthly work and getting to the top for your name might be fine, eg. ‘Wibble-Wobble Design’ because no-one else has used that, but getting on the first page for ‘Interior Design Guildford’ is another matter
- A Facebook Page is pretty easy to setup, even if all you do initially is post content from your website; likewise getting the Twitter username of your venture is just sensible for brand protection even if you’re unsure about using it. Indeed you can even have Facebook post to Twitter for you while starting out (though later they would benefit from some separation)
- Email is still one of the most effective tools for putting your message in front of people as it requires some form of action, eg. ‘read, delete, forward’ rather than a social media post that can easily be missed. Timing is critical though and hence is knowing your customers, eg. catching stay-at-home mums with a well timed email (say 10am) is different from catching youths and business people
In summary, if you know who your customers are and how they like to be communicated with (a two-way thing, not just talked at) then you will save a lot of time and have a far richer experience.