July 29, 2011
The good news is that regardless of the continued massive growth of the Internet, the rules of business haven’t changed – fundamental business strategy still applies. You start with your ideal customer, you find out what their biggest problems are, you then find or create solutions for those problems, and finally you put the solution in front of the customer and the sale is made.
The even better news is that what has changed is our ability to reach more of our next customers at less cost – it is much greater today and is expanding. This comes with its own set of challenges.
When it comes down to it, there are two types of online strategies we can use: 1: free and low-cost; and 2: paid. Free and low-cost go together because even though some of these strategies might be free in terms of cost, they are definitely not free in terms of time. For now, let’s look at the former.
As mentioned before, free and low-cost strategies are those that are extremely inexpensive dollar-wise but more expensive time wise. The most popular and effective in use today are:
* Social media
* Email Marketing
* Search Engine Optimization
Blogging: Every business should have a blog and post at a minimum one article per week. Blogging can help to build or strengthen expert status in your industry. It can show customers that you know what you’re talking about and can really help them. These articles can then be syndicated to a larger audience in social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others.
Many blogging platforms are free. A great way to start out is using WordPress. Out of the box WordPress has a lot of features – everything you need for a blog. In addition, there are thousands of free plugins you can use to add features to your blog that can enhance the search engine optimization, create contact forms, automatically send blog posts to social media, etc. If you can’t find what you need for free, there are many paid plugins for less than $100 that also come with support.
Social Media: As business becomes increasingly personal once again, participation in social media is a must. This doesn’t mean you have to sit on Twitter all day and watch the tweets roll in – that would be a complete waste of time. Rather, you can set up custom searches for the main keywords of your business, and engage with the people that use them. You never know when you’ll be talking to your next customer or raving fan.
There is a new breed of customer relationship applications maturing in the category of social CRM. The purpose of these applications, typically web-based, are to help you cut through all the “useless” chatter on social media so you can focus in on potential customers. One such application currently in beta is Commun.it.
Email Marketing: A cliche in Internet Marketing is, “the money is in the list.” What is meant by this is that if you have a relationship with a large group of people via email, you can make buying recommendations that they will act on, due to the relationship. For the most part that’s true.
A great use of email marketing is for lead nurturing. Not everyone that visits a website is ready to buy. Some people are looking for information and some are comparing competitive offerings. If you’re lucky some will come with credit card in hand, but most don’t. That’s where lead nurturing comes into play.
With most email marketing solutions you can set up an automatic sequence of emails to go out to your email list on a schedule – this is an autoresponder. You can mix in broadcast emails that provide timely information to your subscribers. To get people to join your list you offer them an ethical bribe such as a video, ebook, or other piece of information that offers value. Regardless, the point is to deliver a steady flow of value that builds the relationship to the point where the prospect followsyour call to action and makes a purchase.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This is the stuff of myths and legends and really seems to be a dash of science with a heaping tablespoon of alchemy. Without going overboard though it comes down to a basic principle: Google is in the business of providing its customers (searchers) with the most relevant results so they keep coming back, seeing and clicking on ads, and Google makes billions. So what does relevant mean? It means that the information and experience you provide around a set of keywords or phrases is better than anyone else’s.
Is that a bit of an over simplification? Yes, but we could talk about SEO for months and not go anywhere. So for now, keep in mind that relevant content and user experience is what Google cares about. Provide that to people and you’ll rise in the rankings.
Which Way To Go?
With all these options it’s difficult to see which way to go. And the answer isn’t “it depends” but rather the order in which to do everything you’ve read about. And here’s the answer to that:
* Start with content. Create a blog if you haven’t already and start writing content that will help your ideal customer.
* Create a free report or a video and create an email list. Give people the free report in exchange for their email. Be sure that you limit the amount of sales pitch in this free report – if you want to keep people as subscribers they need to get value.
* Sign up for a free Twitter account. Don’t jump in head first but rather do some searches around the keywords and phrases that best define your business. Take note of how people use those words, and also note who uses them. After a few weeks you’ll know how best to approach people and strike up some conversations.
* Search engine optimization. With all of your content do one thing: write for your ideal customer. Whoever that person is, write to solve their problems. Once you’re doing that, you can dig into more advanced strategies.
The final step with this primer in hand – there’s only one thing left to do – go make it happen! Start a blog, join Twitter, create a free report and set up an email list, and start writing content for your ideal customer. Do those four things and you’ll be well on your way to making many more sales.
Robert Dempsey is the Itinerant Entrepreneur. He combines technology, psychology, and marketing to help his clients build their empires using strategic marketing. Visit his website to start getting more traffic, leads, and sales. http://www.ItinerantEntrepreneur.com/