Why don’t you integrate your marketing efforts?

I don’t get it. What is your marketing all about?

  • You have a website.
  • You have a Facebook page.
  • You have a Twitter account, an Instagram account, a Reddit account etc.
  • You are running a survey on SurveyMonkey
  • You are emailing your clients or subscribers.
  • You have an app on another website for running your event registrations or you are using Eventbrite
  • You are creating a course on Thinkific or something similar.
  • You are participating in a community event next month.
  • and what else?

But you aren’t taking the time to integrate all of these efforts!!!???!!!!

I have three words for you – Strategize, Simplify, Support

Think out and plan what your goals are and what your marketing campaigns will be.  Focus on what and when you use each type of tool…. Use those tools necessary to do the job and that your clients are going to use – and frankly that you are going to use…. Take effort on each tool in a way that supports the efforts in the other tools.  All of which are meant to forward your goals…. to bring in revenue.

This is actually one of the reasons that I love a content management system like WordPress or Drupal – for solopreneurs, microbusinesses and non-profits, you are able to do so much within one platform.  There are excellent plugins and integrations with most if not all major tools that will allow you to maximize the power of your website – and keep your followers in your space!

Let me explain

1) Strategize your marketing approach

Have you ever heard of “hope marketing”?  That’s when you send out random pieces of marketing and advertising that are not linked to your business goals, and ‘hope’ that you will get a response. In this age of pretty sophisticated marketing and promotion, you need to be more strategic about your efforts. If you are a solopreneur or a micro-business, chances are you also don’t have a lot of money or time to spend right? 

The goal is to maximize your efforts by thinking ahead about things like

  • why am I doing this effort?
  • what do I hope to get out of this effort?
  • how much time/money/resources do I have?
  • who can help me?
  • what points do I check on my progress and decide on changes or stopping?
  • what works best together for this effort?

Pull it all together into a mini plan and then take action! Don’t waste all your beautiful marketing content on ‘hope marketing’ – follow through, review progress, make tweaks, and etc. Basically think things through, plan steps out, and follow through from a big picture that feeds into your business goals!

2) Simplify your marketing tools

Seriously, if you do not like taking photos or have the time to source out images that you like, why are you on Instagram? If you don’t like being on camera, why are you spending money on creating videos for YouTube? Because some guru out there told you that if you weren’t using those tools you won’t get as much traffic? Ok, yes, there are some social media tools out there that are phenomenal – but if you don’t like them, won’t use them, and don’t want to learn how to use them, why are you wasting your efforts?

Pick tools that work for you and with you – master them and rock them to your advantage.  Better to be a master at Facebook then a novice at five different tools. Those five different tools will dilute your efforts.

Do you know what social media your target clients use?  It used to be youth used MySpace, then it was Facebook, and now they are on Instagram and SnapChat and are moving to TicTok- but are youth even your target market? Email is still the number one common tool in our digital age – every time someone signs up for something they have to input an email account right?

3) Support your marketing efforts by integrating!!!!!

Think of your website as your organization’s client outreach hub. You want people on your website so they can see what else you are up to. You want them to get to know you and interact with you, and buy something from you.  The longer they are on your website, the better.  Think of it as a house party versus a neighbourhood block party – people in your house are a captive (and if you have done it right, entertained) audience whereas people outside in the neighbourhood block can wander off at any moment as there is so much around them distracting them.

Not only that, you own your website, and have control over the information you collect from the visitors and your clients.  What if Facebook or Google change their rules again and you have built your marketing program around an approach that has been canceled? If people are interacting with you exclusively through Twitter, are they your clients or Twitter’s – because where does their contact information reside?

So, when you post to social media, the goal is to get them to take action – on your website, preferably.  Sure post it to YouTube, but include a link to your website. Are you telling a story on Instagram, great, include a link to your website and make sure your story is reflected in some way on your website. All your marketing activities should be reinforcing each other. This is how you build that traffic, and make each piece of marketing reinforce the other.  This will strengthen your brand and build momentum for you.

Let’s use the example of a survey:

First you decide why you want to run a survey – what is it that you are trying to learn from the respondents?  Are you testing out a new product idea? Trying to find out which of your products you should keep and which you should let get of

  • You can use a form on your website to run a simple survey where the system automatically sends you an email for each respondent.
  • There are also survey plugins that give you a bit more functionality like collating the responses into a table as well as sending you emails.
  • Or you want more advanced analytics, you can create one in SurveyMonkey, or similar, and then embed it into your website.

Once your survey is set up, you can then post your website url to your social media accounts, encouraging people to come back to your website. You can send an email out to your subscribers, asking them to complete the survey.

If the survey is in your website, then your visitors are staying on your website, and not going to a different company’s website where they may get distracted and not come back to your website where you want them to be.

There are many different ways of approaching a survey – and this is just the start of one idea. Please, book a time with me to discuss how you can be more strategic, simplify your tools, and support your efforts by integrating!

What does Mid Year mean to you?

Mid-year – time to pull out the business plan and review if we are on track for our goals this year.

What? Don’t have a written plan? Then my question is – are you in business for yourself or are you pretending your hobby is a business?

Yes, I’m guilty of this too.  Many solo-preneurs don’t think they need a business plan, never mind that they should review it at mid year. 

I believe it doesn’t have to be complex or long or anything.  Just get clear on some of the fundamentals.

  • what kind of business do you want – earn a salary, grow and hire, build an international empire?
  • what is the purpose of your business – as in why are you in business (beyond earning money)?
  • who is your ideal client (s) ?
  • what are the list of services or products you provide and their prices?
  • what are the tools and systems you need to deliver your products/services?
  • what are the steps in the client’s journey with you? from getting, to keeping, to selling more to them
  • what promotional / marketing activities do you need to do?
  • who are your competitors and what makes you different?
  • what are your fixed costs and what are your variable costs?
  • how much money do you have to earn?  how much do you want to earn?

What do you need to do during the last half of this year to achieve your goals for your clients, your staff, your family and your earnings?

A few of the things that I realized as part of my own mid year review:

  1. Most of my clients email me their requests, so having an online support ticket system is not helpful to them and adds extra steps for them and me.  So, I’m doing away with my support ticket system and retaining a form instead – https://www.onlinewebadmin.com/submit-ticket/
  2. I’ve been procrastinating on fixing some things on my own website! So busy working on other people’s priorities that I’m no longer in love with my own web presence.
  3. I’ve been less methodical in my approach to admin tasks in the last 6 months and if I get on top of things now, tax season will go much better.

Your own mid-year review doesn’t need to be a three day retreat, although you might want to do that of course! At the very least, I challenge you to ask yourself:

What do you need to do during the last half of this year to achieve your goals for your clients, your staff, your family and your earnings?

If you have realized that you don’t have a plan, or need someone to ask you the tough questions that you won’t ask yourself, book a time with me to discuss your needs and get some coaching that will move you forward.

Do clients only want your content?

In this linked article, Chris Brogan talks about customers wanting a “better path” – that they need a solution to their problem, and content is not necessarily that solution.  Chris goes on to suggest that the use of some emerging technology, plus content, may be what businesses need to implement to improve client experiences. He challenges his reader to consider how to use technology with content:

“look beyond content marketing, digital marketing, social media marketing, and *just* marketing as a way to drive more sales and retain more customers” (Brogan, Chris, posted April 26, 2018)

I think his point is well taken especially after an experience this last few weeks with one of my clients.  Unbeknownst to me, my client (Inherent Wellness Inc) had planned to attend a networking event over the weekend to prospect for new clients.  His business just launched so he’s pursuing a client acquisition strategy quite aggressively.  He has website content in the website I put together for him, he has created an Instagram account, a Facebook account, has looped in his Linkedin account, and is learning about Google Analytics and Search Engine Strategies.  We have been chatting about content, building momentum, and marketing locally since his primary service is an in-person one.

Sounds good right? He’s doing all the right things to get his business launched and off to a great start.  I’m so excited to be on this path with him and so pleased to see him already having success in getting paying customers in the door. Yeah!!!!

But you know what?  There was a technological problem this weekend with his online appointment booking software.  We’d been having some troubles with it for a few weeks, and while I thought I had found the problem and resolved it, between Wednesday last week and 8am Sunday morning, something went horribly wrong.  My client went to book a client using the online booking tool on his website and got the dreadful looking page I’ve used for this post.

It took me a few hours to sort out a short term fix and thankfully my client was gracious and kind and understanding.  Obviously I’m now looking for a different tool for him, as he has lost faith in the one I originally recommended.  Even though its working on two other websites, that’s not the point – it didn’t work for this client. His needs were not being met and he lost at least one sale that we know of. I don’t feel so good about the whole thing, but I’m grateful that my client trusts me to let me work through fixing the problem and making it right for him.

The lesson here, going back to Chris Brogan’s point, is that the content my client had written wasn’t enough – the sales process was reliant on a technological tool (in this case a piece of code in the website) and not the content he had written.  While it wasn’t AI or blockchains, technology was supposed to be enabling the sales process.  When that scheduler worked well, it worked great and led the client right into the specific call to action of the business, automated an onerous process, and integrated email notifications for both parties (etc.).  The technology was an enabler to helping the client move their solution forward – not the content.

As someone who works on websites regularly and is always looking for ways to automate processes that support my clients, I totally get what Chris is saying – aside from offering content that is useful to your clients and that establishes you as an expert, also look for technology (old school or new) that enables and supports your sales process and that enhances your clients’ experiences with your services. Don’t waste their time or yours if there is good technology out there that will ease your client’s path to solving their problems and making it easier to do business with you.

After all, as its been said elsewhere, for clients to do business with you, they need a great experience; and without paying clients, yours is not a business but a hobby.  You will have more paying clients if you find smart solutions to add to your content.

What should I blog about?

You have a website and want to use blogging to build up your web presence and offer value to your followers.  Obviously you will be blogging about your services – but how many times can you explain that without getting boring? Not that many, right?

So what can you do instead of writing the same-old boring, old-school sales copy that doesn’t inspire anyone to do anything?

Focus on the real life problems that your products and/or services solve
  • These types of articles shouldn’t be “benefits” write-ups – tell a story about how people are actually using your service. What have they learned? how have they adapted it? what did you help fix?
  • This type of post is a great way to also get really clear about your ideal clients – by writing about real ways your ideal clients are interacting with your products and services, you are improving the focus of your marketing too.
  • Do your products need to be disposed of in a particular way? Maybe write an article about recycling in your community and why you chose particular elements in your product – then explain how your product packaging can be recycled.
Focus on people connected to your organization
  • Do a highlight piece on your board of directors, or one of them each quarter
  • Highlight each of your team members and what they bring to the clients
  • Focus on one of your service providers or strategic partnerships
  • Maybe you have some awesome volunteers who would be interested in talking about why they volunteer?
  • If you take donations, some of your donors might really appreciate a feature story about their contribution to your organization – time? money? in-kind? all count as donations in this type of story.
  • Do you have a client who has an interesting story about the use of your product or service?  Maybe they’d like the chance to tell that story.  You can give them author credit and link to their website if they have one! That can help you both.
Focus on your charitable and community activities
  • If you donate money, time or resources to any non-profit or charitable efforts, you should talk about why you picked that organization, how you support them, and create links to that organization. Let them know so they can link to you
  • Are you participating in an event in the community – write about it pre or post or a combination of the two!  why are you participating? what did you offer? what did you get out of it? Let the other organization know about your blog post and establish some links back and forth.
Focus on your events
  • Do you offer courses?  why haven’t you got postings about those?  what do people learn? do you have testimonials – incorporate them! Maybe include a survey asking interested people to answer a couple of questions about their desired learning outcomes.  You can both collect their contact information AND get some new fodder for more courses!
  • Do you have Annual General Meetings or other regular meetings that the public can attend?  Feature stories about the purpose and outcomes of these meetings are useful on many levels.  Not only are you reporting back to your community, but you are also demonstrating your effectiveness and transparency.  People are drawn to organizations’ “behind the scenes” activities when the stories are well written.
  • Perhaps you have an upcoming team meeting.  Why not write a story about some of the topics, some of the challenges you are working on? If you did a team building event, you could write about the relationship building and team culture that benefits your clients!
Prompts from other sources
  • Did you read something that you totally disagree with? Write about that and why your approach is different.  Likewise if you agree with someone else, you can write about that and link to that article.
  • Are there books or resources that you regularly use or recommend?  Write a book review that explains your perspective or how its influenced you.
  • If you ran a survey, report back on the results and what you are going to do about it.
  • Did you mess something else and get a learning or ah-ha moment from it? Write about that!

There are obviously a myriad of other topics you can write about.  The thing is to be sincere, use your own voice, and let your personality or corporate culture shine through.

Or if you’d rather and have the money, you can also hire someone like me to do research and writing for you.

Hope this was a useful article – let me know what you think!

I have a website – now what?

How exciting! Your first website!

Yep, its looking great, it does every thing you want it to do: from offering online appointment scheduling, to a members only area, to links to your Youtube / Vimeo videos, to a live feed from your Twitter account, to displaying your beautiful things for sale, to having a shopping cart for selling downloadable information. AWESOME!

But now what?  You sit there staring at the computer screen and checking your email waiting for something to happen……nothing happens. Why not?

“If you build it, [they] will come”, à la Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, is unfortunately not the case with websites. People need to know you have a website. Makes sense, but how do you do that?

Here are some suggestions, based on my study of marketing for the last ten plus years.  Do note that this is NOT a comprehensive list – this is an overview.

 There is no “one size fits all” – except that EVERYONE must do some form of marketing to stay in business.

Here’s my list:

The Basics

The basics – get the website address (aka url) on your business cards, your letterhead, your business signage, your magnetized car sign, the jacket of your self-published book, basically anything printed! And then get started adding it in advertisements, your social media accounts and your outgoing business email signature. Do you have a store front or physical address, put that website address on the window or hang a banner!

Friends and Family

Yes, its ok to tell your friends and family about your new website.  Be generous though and offer to feature their website, hobby, business or website in a blog post or a free ad.  Maybe one of them is an aspiring author and they could write some “guest articles” about your topic for you. This is win-win as both parties get exposure and backlinks. Lets face it, when the challenges of life knock on your door, who is standing beside you?  Family and Friends.  Be good to each other and reciprocate! For example, my big brother Joel has a bazillion awesome ideas for using websites. He even occasionally sends clients my way! He’s a mortgage broker in Oregon State, USA if you are in need of re-financing, mortgages or connections into the Real Estate market there, give him a shout. (see, reciprocity at work).

Co-Workers

If the website is for a “side-gig”, what about telling your co-workers? Well, for some, that may work with no problems.  They may even become customers or know someone who needs you!

If your side-gig is in competition with your main-gig, I say “Don’t do it” as legal troubles could land at your door step. If your side-gig is in the same industry and doesn’t compete with your main-gig, I still say be cautious about telling your co-workers but it might be okay outside of working hours. Do check if you have a clause in your contract that prohibits you from side-gigs. If you do have a clause like that, best get some legal advice right away.

If your side-gig has nothing to do with your main gig, then it should be totally fine if you are respectful of your main-gig employer. Think of it this way, you could be helping those with whom you spend a great majority of your week!

Referrals

Referral business models have an interesting intersection with websites. Because you are/have been growing your business “organically, through word of mouth”, you may think you don’t need a website. The truth is, common practice is now that people will ask, “oh, do you have a website where I can learn more?” Or, people will get your name and the first thing they do is go look you up on the internet, right? All around the world, people have been trained to look things up on the internet before they commit to moving forward with their purchase decisions.  See that smartphone?  Instant gratification for Q & A – bet you do that yourself don’t you?  

My point is, there is comfort in believing that your business doesn’t need a website or marketing plan. Staying in business or growing your business will require you to step out of your comfort zone.  Use your website to support your referral business. Having at least one page that explains your services and provides a contact form means that you can share it, your tribe and supporters can share it, and your prospective clients can share it.

Backlinks and Integration

Create integration with the rest of the world wide web because, as John Donne wrote  “No man is an island, entire of itself;…”.  Basically, the internet works because we create relationships between a wide variety of websites. Like I have done in this article by linking to other websites.  

The goal is natural writing that can be enhanced by links to other websites that support your writing. Those links should be pertinent to your writing. You don’t want to just fill a page with random links to websites that have nothing to do with what you are writing about!  

Sometimes people will put a disclaimer that they get paid if you click on a link (for example, see the bottom of my blog post Thoughts on Exploring internet security) – full disclosure is important.  

Then there are “backlink” strategies for getting other websites to link to your website. For example, Gotch SEO has a new guide from 2018 that is a good overview for those wanting to explore an active campaign to get other websites to link to your website (I’m not paid for this link – just liked his stuff).

Search Engine Optimization

That brings us to Search Engine Optimization. Just because you have a website, it does not mean it will automatically show up in popular search engine website services like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, DuckDuckGo, as well as non-western based search tools like Baidu in China.

There are basic things that your website developer should do when creating your website, but beyond that, there is an entire world out there chasing the magic of getting into the first page of search results. there are many different strategies and an initial website build should include the basics.

Indeed, like Gotch SEO mentioned in the last paragraph, there are companies that you can pay that will work with you and your website team to take your website to a new level.  If you want to learn to maximize your marketing efforts using your website, I recommend that you start with one of the regularly updated, original SEO guides from the Moz.

Ironically, you can also use the search engine tools to search for search engine optimization techniques. There are a lot of ideas and methods out there. Just beware that some techniques will get you blacklisted by the search engines themselves.

Social Media

Next to discuss is, “social media”. This is now a catch-all term for online tools that people use to share information and connect with one another.  I have already mentioned Youtube, Vimeo, and Twitter.  There is also Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, Reddit, Yelp, Tumblr, Digg and the list goes on.  But I will not.  Because that’s way too many links.  

The point I make to anyone who asks me, is, use the social media outlet that both matches your business and your comfort, at least at first.  For example, if you already use Facebook, one of the most highly used social media channels, then it isn’t too far of a stretch to learn how to use their business tools.  If your business is visual, then you are going to want to consider Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Youtube, etc. Linkedin is an excellent choice if you are offering professional business services.

You may have hoped I’d tell you which one to use.  I’m not going to because I admit, I am not a social media expert.  There are lots of people out there who offer that service though, and depending on your marketing aspirations, you may be well advised to track one down.

The bottom line though, is to use your presence on any of those social media sites to send people to your website, which you control, and sell them something, give them something, or get their contact details.

Email Marketing

Lastly, I’d like to discuss email marketing.  My son thinks I’m nuts to continue to recommend that people use email marketing. He claims that young people don’t use email any more.  That may be true from his teen experience, however, email marketing is used in business because it still works and converts followers into customers.

And, in contrast with social media, YOU OWN YOUR LIST OF CONTACTS and your marketing plans won’t be smashed by a social media company changing the rules in the middle of your marketing efforts (yes, that happens – do a search about the affect when services like Facebook change the rules).  If you want an extensive, data driven review of email marketing from 2018, try this article from SmartInsights.com.  

As with any of the strategies already mentioned, the best results come from a plan. That, and knowing what your legal responsibilities are.  Canada has federal Anti-Spam legislation and Privacy legislation. The United States of America has the CAN-SPAM Act.  And the list goes on – here’s a link to an awesome infographic that explores international email law.  

I’d like to add, that automation is your friend when it comes to email marketing.  There is no need for you to stumble around in your computer trying to automate your email marketing.  Like Social Media and SEO, there are companies that do a great job helping you use email marketing to get people to your website and your services.  Check out WPBeginner’s list for small business  or explore deeper and wider using Capterra.

What else?

Are there other methods of sending people to your website?   Undoubtedly.  As I mentioned, I didn’t set out here to give you a comprehensive education on marketing in 2018.  My hope for you is that you firstly recognize that you must do marketing if you are serious about owning a business.  Secondly, I hope you got some hints as to what might work for you. Lastly, this article hopefully gave you some links that will help you to explore your options.

Good luck with your marketing efforts – and remember, if you start feeling overwhelmed by it all, go back to the basics of what you know how to do, create a plan and start from there.  You can also book a time with me to discuss your marketing strategy needs, or to get some coaching – I’ll ask you the tough questions that you won’t ask yourself.