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.
4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts
Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.
Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?
Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.
Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.
1. Craft an enticing title
The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.
Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.
For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:
- The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
- Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
- Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.
2. Fulfill your title’s promise
Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.
When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.
Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.
3. Make it scannable
Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.
If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.
To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:
- Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
- Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
- Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.
4. Add a call to action at the end
The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.
Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:
- Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
- Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
- Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.
The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble
If you don’t want your cash flow to turn into a drip, you’ll want to take a look at these mistakes you might be guilty of.
I am often confused by the decisions normally very smart entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing and sales, and growing their companies. It’s as though logic flies out the window and emotions rule the day when we start talking about sales and marketing.
Of course, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs need to be perfect – in fact, I personally made one of these mistakes last year. My issue is with the entrepreneur who doesn’t realise when they are screwing up and continues to let their mistakes hurt their business’s long-term ability to grow.
I recently read a study that looked at businesses’ cash flow. It found that only 12 percent of businesses never have a cash flow issue. That means 12 percent of businesses can consistently pay their bills, pay themselves, and have profits left over. Of the others, 47 percent of businesses say that cash flow is sometimes a problem, and 41 percent of businesses surveyed said cash flow was a consistent problem.
To be fair, this study didn’t publish any additional info about the business owners – for example, did all of these businesses have less than $1 million in annual revenue? If so, I would assume those businesses would have greater cash flow issues than a group of businesses at $1million-plus in revenue. For this discussion, let’s assume this is accurate (based on my experience of working with small businesses, it is pretty close). How do you fix a cash flow issue for any business?
The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of cases, your marketing is linked to cash flow issues. The mistakes many entrepreneurs are making with marketing, sales and business growth are the same five mistakes that are causing their cash flow issue.
1. Not making customer retention a priority in your marketing strategy
I’m going to start with the one that is most near and dear to my heart: customer retention. You don’t have to use a newsletter to grow and maintain retention (although that is a good idea). But, you do have to do something, and that something needs its own budget. Retention is not a portion of the marketing budget. Without customers, your business is worth just about zero.
The reason so many businesses struggle to grow is they invest nothing in retention. These normally smart entrepreneurs have deluded themselves into thinking that their product and services are so amazing and life-changing that people will continue to buy over and over again without prompting.
So what lie do these same entrepreneurs tell themselves when they have 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars spent on marketing, and only 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? If you’re a large retail chain, that isn’t bad, but for dentists, lawyers, financial advisors, or anyone in a service-based business, that is far from good.
Starting today, you must have a customer retention budget. Use the budget to increase retention, and from there, upsell the existing customers. The longer a customer is with you, the greater the chance for a referral. Their customer lifetime value goes up, too.
Done correctly, your retention campaign can increase sales and create more prospects. Regardless of how you use it, you must have a retention budget.
2. Getting bored with things that make you money
As entrepreneurs, we are prone to getting bored, and that even happens with our marketing. Regardless of how well it is working, we get bored with it and want to try something new. This is a toxic practice on many levels. I understand wanting to try something new, but you never cancel marketing that is working (even if it isn’t exactly crushing it) to try an unproven new thing. When people do this, they are basically saying, “I hate money.”
How many times have you tried a marketing program, only to have it not work out as promised or as quickly as promised? Do not cancel good marketing to chase unicorns. You can also call this tendency “shiny object syndrome.” It’s particularly severe when it comes to hip cutting-edge marketing tactics, like influencer marketing.
If you want to try something new, create a budget and try it. Don’t kill a pipeline of incoming cash to drill for a hopefully more profitable pipeline, because when it doesn’t work, you are screwed. If you can’t afford the new marketing without killing the old marketing that is working, then you shouldn’t be starting the new campaign until you figure out how to pay for it.
These are two huge mistakes that I see small-business owners make all the time that destroy your cash flow.
3. Not investing enough money into marketing
I was chatting with a dentist from the greater New York area a while ago, who claimed to be getting patients with this one type of marketing for about $175 each. That is good in the greater New York area because of all the competition. However, just because you hit a home run doesn’t mean you can expect to hit a home run every time you’re up to bat. In that area, it costs $250–$450 to get a new patient in the door.
You will never grow if you’re not willing to invest a realistic amount per new customer. I’ve chatted with entrepreneurs who want to get 50 new customers per month, which should require a budget of at least $12,500, but currently, they only have a budget of $3,000 per month. I hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to hit your goal. If anything, the $12,500 per month you have devoted to marketing may not be enough, because as you scrape the low hanging fruit, you often find you need to increase the amount you’re willing to pay to get a new customer.
4. Feast or famine marketing
This is actually the mistake I made in 2016. We had so much going on in the first half of the year (the feast) that I didn’t plan well enough for July, which is typically a slower month for us (the famine). In July, I need to do more marketing and even spend more money on marketing to make up for all the business I lose when people go on vacation and forget about their campaigns. But, I was planning a vacation myself in July, and in turn, I actually ended up cutting marketing because I didn’t want to do the work that was needed.
Bad planning and a cut in the already planned marketing for July tanked the month. It was our worst month for new sales in nearly two years. You can’t allow a busy period to take your eye off the ball. If you have traditionally slow sales months, you must do more, spend more, and market more, in those months.
5. Cash flow issues demand more marketing, not less
This is the last of the bad ideas for today, but when you are having cash flow issues, shutting down the pipeline that is bringing in the cash you do get is just dumb.
Of course the argument I always get is that the marketing wasn’t working anyway. Well, if that was true, why didn’t you cancel it earlier? Typically, the entrepreneur doesn’t really know whether their marketing is working or not. All they know is they need money, so they cancel marketing to free up cash. That may help the problem this month, but it creates a new problem next month when no new customers show up.
When times are hard, you need to reinvest more in marketing, not less. You must figure out how to close more sales, not get fewer leads. There are lots of good ways to shore up your cash flow situation, but cutting off revenue-generating marketing is not one of them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers
Be available when they need you, wherever they need you.
One of the top challenges for startups is more than just how to market their brand. It’s how to build customer loyalty, especially with millennials.
Customer loyalty is a big deal. Companies invest millions of dollars to get loyal customers – customers who will repeatedly buy their products or services and generate more revenue and ROI to their business. Because Generation Y has an estimated purchasing power of up to $600 billion, it makes sense for you not just to attract them with your fancy products, but to build a loyal, lasting relationship with them.
Here are three ways to make that happen:
1. Be obsessed with quality
That’s what matters.
Regardless of how sophisticated your products look or taste or how successful your marketing campaign is, if your products are substandard, your customers will neither buy them again nor stay loyal to you. Being obsessed with building quality products is about loving your millennial customers and having the passion to build products that will improve their lives.
They require quality products that work. They need quality products with great features. They want quality products that are beautifully designed. Your millennial customers desire quality products that will make them proud to use and recommend to their friends.
It doesn’t matter that they’re expensive. If your products are of superior quality, millennial customers will buy from you and stick with you for a long time.
2. Be there when your customers need you
You have no excuse to stay silent, irresponsive or completely absent when your millennial customer needs you. You must be around and ready at all times to assist them if you want them to fall in love with your brand and stay loyal to you. One of the best ways to be accessible to your Generation Y customers is to be active on social media.
For example, my friend told me that he buys his glasses from Warby Parker because “they respond to my tweets in minutes,” he says. “They delivered my eyeglasses on time after many companies have frustrated me.”
Never underrate your customer. If you truly want to create a loyal customer base full of millennials, be there for them when they call, text, email, tweet or message you. Understand that building a business is not just about trying to sell your products. It’s about helping your customer with the information they need at the right time to solve their problems.
3. Be social
There are a number of ways to put a human face and character on your startup and attract massive millennial prospects, clients and customers.
- Constant communication. Reach out to your millennial customer anytime to say hello or ask their opinion about your new product. Don’t just reach out to them only when you want to advertise your product. Communicate with them freely, with an open heart. Be their friend. That will build trust, engagement and loyalty.
- Reach out to them on their favorite hangout media. You need to understand their favorite hangout spots. Do they frequent Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat? Develop a social media strategy that you’ll use daily to reach out to your target market and share emotional stories that touch their hearts.
- Make them look cool. Remember that most millennials are not just buying products because they need them; they’re buying them because they believe the products will make them look good in the circle of their peers. For example, Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke campaign makes people feel special. By printing individual names on cans and bottles of its products, the company makes its consumers identify with the product. Be creative. Do something similar to the Share-a-Coke campaign – in your own style.
The goal is to keep your millennial customers satisfied with what you are offering. Only when they’re satisfied will they come back to buy, become loyal to your brand, talk about it with their family and friends, and help you expand your customer base and cash flow.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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