If you’ve been in business before, you understand the challenges of getting customers through the door. In theory, it sounds easy. But in practice, it’s tough.
Luck has nothing to do with your success in marketing a new business or making sales. Incorporating creative ideas into your marketing strategies is the way forward.
The internet has broadened the options for new businesses hoping to reach more customers. In addition, it’s made it easier and more affordable. A simple Google search will reveal numerous case studies of successful start-ups. Many prospered by driving thousands of sales on a shoestring budget. However, the success stories don’t reveal what goes on behind the scenes – how innovators used their creativity to attract customers.
Whether you run a brick-and-mortar operation or an online business, the following ideas can help you pull in customers. The plan is to entice potential customers to inquire about your new business.
1Invent a viral hashtag
Brands today are likely to make more sales via social media than any other channel. Instagram and Facebook are two platforms customers use to discover new brands and products to follow. Those who find a way to go viral have the best chance to be discovered.
A business that invents a trendy hashtag can become the social-media darling everyone wants to patronise. Here are just two types of hashtags:
- Controversial. If you think it could work for your brand and customer base, follow in the footsteps of Daniela Bregoli. She now has more than 8 million Instagram followers who key in to her #cashmeoutside catchphrase (still a popular meme).
- Sensual. Nusret Gökçe is known for treating his meat affectionately. It earned him the nickname “Salt Bae.” His #saltbae Instagram videos attracted global attention when they went viral and earned him 5.9 million followers.
2Guest-post for free
You can extend your reach by seeking out and contacting top online publications in your industry. Offer to guest-post in exchange for having your name and business featured in their bio. This will expose your content to a larger audience and direct more attention to your website or preferred platforms.
3Cold-call potential leads
Reaching out directly to new customers might sound scary at first, but cold-calling is a proven way to make sales to customers who might not even know they needed your products or services.
Just identify your target buyers and hit them up. Practice your sales pitch until you perfect it.
4Meet new customers at events
Because people are curious about new businesses and what these companies have to offer, attending events can be incredibly beneficial. Moreover, events often offer the opportunity to meet journalists and secure some much-needed press.
Find out how to set up your own booth or stand. Display your products, hand out business cards, and distribute flyers advertising your services or products. This is your chance to chat with the crowd, network and exchange contact details with potential customers.
5Start a blog about your business
Business blogging is similar to regular blogging. The difference is you’re sharing details of your company’s products or services with your readers.
Your business blog is an ideal platform to answer customers’ questions and give discounts, freebies and special offers as incentives and rewards. Sharing high-quality, compelling content targeted to your ideal customers will drive traffic to your website.
6Use Facebook ads to reach customers
Facebook ads are an effective means to reach new customers. Even better, these ads are cheap. Start with a daily budget of $5 and target a very specific audience to keep your costs down.
To nail this platform, learn how to run a successful Facebook ad campaign.
7Build email funnels
Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to get repeat customers. Use your business blog to build a mailing list by encouraging your readers to subscribe. Nurturing your subscribers prepares them to become paying customers in the future.
Ideally, you’ll start collecting emails before you launch your product or service. This allows you to start building a relationship with these ground-level potential customer base and move them down the sales funnel as soon as possible.
8Speak at events
New business founders can get exposure by speaking at events. It’s easy to get a speaking gig if you’re able to demonstrate a great understanding of the event organiser’s goal.
This tactic not only creates value-added exposure for your business but also builds your credibility as a founder and a trusted resource in your industry or market space.
9Rent a festival booth
Cash in on spring and summer festivals. Start by researching local festivals, and speak with organisers to learn whether your customers are likely to attend the events.
It’s rare for a business to get a booth at Comic Con and come back without being swamped with sales and requests for press interviews.
Entice customers by giving out freebies in exchange for their email addresses. Promoting your brand at a booth while employing ingenuity and marketing savvy could produce a significant turnaround for your business.
10Volunteer under your brand’s name
Doing good for your community also benefits your business. Through a corporate social-responsibility campaign, your new business can open new doors to opportunity.
For example, give something free to your community. Helping people in need will get the attention of local newspapers. They’ll write about you and showcase your brand in the process, attracting even more supporters for your worthy cause (and your leads file).
11Give away samples
Costco knows the power of giving away samples. The retail giant has gained long-term customers from this practice.
You might offer a free trial (e.g. “first month free”) or send a free sample in the mail. Bite-size versions of the real thing can prompt people to spread news about your brand, resulting in free publicity and personal testimonials.
12Hire affiliate marketers
When done correctly, affiliate marketing can boost sales considerably. It’s one of the most cost-effective types of marketing because you only commission only after a successful sale. Affiliate marketers do the work for you by linking up with appropriate websites to promote your products or services.
You part with your cash only after they’ve managed to convert visitors into paying customers.
13Give samples to product critics
Criticism usually is perceived as negative. Instead, try to think of it as constructive input – a positive element. Criticism can become an effective way to refine or reinvent your product. If all you hear is good reviews, how can you tell if your product is faulty or missing a vital element?
Offering product samples to critics enables them to do a deep dive. Use that feedback to improve your product or fix components that don’t work as well as they should.
Workshops bring you face-to-face with potential customers. Use these events to share your professional expertise. Surely, there are aspects of your business you can tap into to connect with people on this level.
Providing value, increasing knowledge and sharing good practices raises brand awareness and builds trust. You’ll be viewed as an authority in your industry while developing the skills of potential customers.
15Post a video review of your product
A number of platforms feature video or live streaming content options to help you educate prospective customers about your products. Facebook Live videos are trending. One of this platform’s benefits: Viewers can comment and give feedback in real time. While they’re seeing you live, they’re beginning to develop a relationship with you and your brand.
You also can create a YouTube channel dedicated to your product. Incorporate these videos in your business blog and create circular references: Drive traffic from YouTube to your website by embedding a link within the video and its YouTube description.
16Secure a spot on product-review sites
Positive reviews can boost your brand’s credibility. They highlight your products and pique potential customers’ interest. Reviews based on unbiased opinions are the most likely to influence prospective customers.
Investing in review sites such as Yelp typically yields a healthy ROI. According to a BCG study, business owners who paid to advertise received typical yearly profits of $23,000, generating $15,000 more than those who used only the free Yelp Business Page.
17Post your services on Craigslist
Established in 1996, Craigslist has grown to become one of the most popular advertising websites. The average monthly page views in November 2016 were 50 billion, with a turnover of 60 million users.
Capitalise on this free platform to get your brand out there. Post your ad under the Services section to reach customers in your niche. You can list your ad under a specific region, city and type of ad.
Still, be aware you’re up against competition. Study Craigslist to find out how to stand out from the crowd, and position yourself accordingly.
18Send cold emails
The beauty of sending cold emails is that your customers can access them wherever they are. No longer are they restricted to a desktop computer. Modern technologies – mobile phones, laptops and iPads – make it a breeze to check emails on the go.
On the other hand, people are bombarded with emails every minute. How do you make yours stand out? Develop a strategy, and carry out A/B split tests to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Research your target audience, then use the right language and the right messages to make sure they click.
19Hire a human billboard
Human billboards are a growing craze. Although they certainly won’t work for free, part-time help won’t cost an arm and a leg. You’ll want to target students, retirees or anyone looking to earn extra cash.
A human billboard in colourful, full-body paint can craw attention to your brand – provided it’s an appropriate move for your company’s persona. Even wearing a sandwich board instead of the Pantone rainbow, your human billboard will be available to answer questions from potential customers.
20Wrap your car
Imagine the number of people who will see your brand as you drive your local streets and high-traffic areas.
Your car becomes a moving billboard, that drums up notice wherever you go. Even when parked, it attracts attention. Vehicle wraps help your brand gain recognition, and that top-of-mind awareness could drive a high percentage of direct sales.
21Hand out flyers
Although businesses started using handbills to promote their brands as early as the 18th century, flyers still are having a marketing impact in the 21st century.
Don’t limit yourself to handing out flyers to passersby in your neighbourhood. You can display these versatile materials in shop windows, mail them to specific contacts or leave them in shops where members of your target audience are sure to show up.
Flyers raise awareness of your brand and provide ample “real estate” on the page to give the reader or viewer a picture of who you are.
In addition, if people tuck your flyer away in pocket or snap a quick photo with their smartphone, they can refer to this info when they need to contact you.
22Run viral contests
Regular contests can ramp up your business quickly and build engagement with your audience. Plan them properly to ensure success.
Qualified winners should get free products as prizes. Contests should involve participants who can highlight your business on their social-media channels, so shares and likes quickly can go viral.
Another option: Invite participants to enter a contest with their email addresses. Follow up by sending sales emails.
23Build a product-page website
A product-page website is essentially a landing page. Showcase your product with images that display its best features. Choose a design that complements your brand, and include captivating copy that emphasises how your product or service solves a problem.
A combination of professional design and appealing images will attract target visitors and can help convert leads into sales. Make sure your product page includes an opt-in offer so potential customers can access your giveaway in return for giving up a few contact details.
24Create a punchy elevator pitch
Know how to sell your brand, and entice potential prospects in 30 seconds or less. Create a short, memorable elevator pitch. Then, practice until it’s perfect. Make it punchy, relevant and full of benefits. Use it to impress likely customers when they ask you about your brand. You never know when you’ll have an opportunity to pitch your products or services. Always be prepared.
25Send out press releases
What news can you share? What’s interesting? How do you differ from your competitors? Write a compelling story about your business. Submit it to various free public-relations sites to let the world know about your business.
Marketing your business doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. With creative thinking and a few tips in this article, you can grow your business more quickly. Choose which tactics would be most at-home in your industry. Plan properly, and don’t be afraid to step a bit out of your common comfort zone.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How Laughter Can Be Your Gateway To New Business
If you want to make sales, you need to connect with your clients. This is the secret sauce that great marketing gets right, and it has nothing to do with how big (or small) your budget is.
Like most kids, in my final year of high school I had to make a decision about my future; make a call about my career path. My head proclaimed: ‘Law!’ My guts rebelled: ‘Acting, yeah!’
My folks shrieked: ‘Acting? Do you intend on having a mortgage in your own name in your lifetime? You’ll never be able to afford a medical aid.’ Aside, but purposefully audible: ‘He’s never going to move out of home. Is he?’
So, I made a compromise. I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in marketing communication and when I completed that formality, I chose ‘acting, yeah!’
Google: ‘Acting school Los Angeles’.
Result: TVI Actor’s Studio just outside Hollywood, paid my deposit, packed a large, hard-coated Delsey suitcase and moved to The Valley for six months, to ensure that Future Mike couldn’t resent the decisions made by Past Mike.
Those six months comprised: Drinking sake and barbecuing with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz while he orchestrated acoustic magic on his guitar; eating home-made chocolate chip cookies baked by the sweet hands of Teri Hatcher when Desperate Housewives was the most popular TV series on the planet; smashing Grey Goose on the rocks during road trips to Vegas, ululating: ‘The Goose is looooooooose’, with my housemate Chris; ordering Animal Style Double Doubles from In-N-Out Burger but, most importantly, falling in love with the natural narcotic of stand-up comedy.
What. A. Rush. Pit of your stomach sickness, churning from line delivery, converting into convulsions of laughter, or the agony of the opposite side of the spectrum — the silent onstage assassination. Hopefully it’s the former.
Connecting with your clients
Stand-up and marketing are inextricably linked. This premise is how I live my career.
Every meeting is an opportunity to leverage humour in order to make an impact. Laughter is my gateway drug to new business. Also, the road to branded content creation is paved and then signposted in the fork of either ‘Emotion’ or ‘Humour’.
A decently written story — TV or YouTube commercial — with a quality DOP at the helm, accompanied by an orchestral score, can elevate a mediocre concept to Cannes Bronze status. The line between funny and farcical, however, is so fine.
Consider a comedian standing on stage at a club, squinting out into the blinding lights and judgemental faces of a multi-demographic audience, about to open his mouth and croak on stage for the very first time.
This also happens to be an analogy for the scenario facing the rookie social media community manager before he posts a hashtag-TBT, hashtag-blessed, hashtag-yawn piece of unoriginal content from a calendar, signed off by a marketing manager who doesn’t think their target market is on Twitter because they ‘definitely aren’t’.
Judy Carter, author of The Comedy Bible, simplifies the writing of comedic material into two components:
It sounds too simplistic. It isn’t. We like to complicate things in the world and business, in particular, to make us seem more impressive, smarter, to elevate ourselves. It’s about being a big dick, or as someone far more eloquent than I described it — Ego. **Hat tip to Freud.**
Comedy and communication
Back to comedy and communication. In both settings — whether you are looking to connect with an audience in a comedy club environment or engage with a target market in your next advertising campaign — it is imperative that you determine the key insight, truth or premise of your material.
When I started doing stand-up in US venues, I would open on the topic of accents, as my accent was my obvious USP or differentiator when communicating to an American audience.
‘Hi. My name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. And, what’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents’ — truth (premise). Regardless of the background of my audience — age, sex, location, creed, or affluence — they identify with the statement that I have an accent and consciously or subconsciously they agree with my words or copy (if we are referring to a campaign).
The second part pertains to the acting-out of the funny; the crafting of the humour. This requires a slick delivery and commitment to the idea in order to generate audience laughter.
So, we have the premise, then we transition — immediately — into the act-out to connect the dots between truth and funny within the audience members’ minds. Comedy is dependent on what you first tell, then show your audience, and eventually how your performance becomes a catalyst for their own imagination to carry the chuckle to its limits. When we package these elements together, the execution becomes:
- Premise: ‘Hi my name is Mike and I’m from South Africa. That’s why I have an accent. What’s weird about accents is chicks LOVE accents.’
- Premise part two: ‘You can be Shrek, but if you’re packing an accent, you’re getting some ass!’
Act-out. Left hand behind head. Pelvic thrusts while speaking seductively into the microphone with a Scottish accent á la Shrek, simulating a movement synonymous with making sexy time: ‘Oooooh, that’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do.’
Finding a connection
There are few things more powerful in this world than words that disrupt the audience thought process. Donkey-ass puns, turning Shrek’s line of affirmation for Donkey — from its intended feature film usage — on its head, by making it smartly sexual; generating mass hysteria from a group of previously disconnected individuals, now connected through the universal language of laughter.
The best advertising in the world does exactly this. It takes an insight (premise) that connects with you as an individual, forces you to nod your head in agreement, and then leverages a powerfully constructed set of copy lines or imagery to emotionally move you.
Laughter, goosebumps, or the development of a lump in your throat. Effective communication is something that facilitates catching feelings. Whether you are on stage delivering lines, or at your keyboard posting snaps, tweets or status updates, every character that comprises a word of each phrase needs to be a purposeful paragraph composition — not just a tick box on a to do list of monthly KPIs.
We will delve into real experiences throughout this collection of personal anecdotes, because nothing doth a bigger dick make than an ‘expert’ who has all of the theory and none of the practice.
This article is an excerpt from The Best Dick: A Candid Account of Building a $1 million business by Mike Sharman.
In this his debut business book, The Best Dick, Mike Sharman invites you to share in the hustle. From the enthusiastic, entrepreneurial beginnings of a bootstrapped start-up founder — a relatively inexperienced 26-year old — to a seasoned, professional storyteller, who has built a boutique social media advertising agency that has made more brands go viral, globally, than any other studio in Africa.
Find it at all good book stores for R250.
Get your copy today
Email Tracey McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and quote ‘Entrepreneur’ to buy your copy for R200 plus free shipping.
How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives
If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.
Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.
There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.
The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.
These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.
The rise of content marketing
In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.
So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.
The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.
Get the most out of content marketing
Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:
- Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
- Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
- Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.
Bringing it all together
As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.
Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.
- Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
- Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
- Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?
4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank
Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.
Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.
Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.
Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.
1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication
Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.
Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.
2Share industry trends
People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.
Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.
3Edit. Edit. Edit
Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.
It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.
Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed.
4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities
After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.
Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.
Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.
Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.
5Educate the market and build a client base
One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.
When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.
One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.
A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.
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