The Internet opens up endless possibilities for marketing. Small businesses can reach customers in a host of new ways and times. The opportunities are endless. Unfortunately, the complexity can feel endless, too! Entrepreneurs have so much competing for their time, figuring out how to use digital marketing can seem hopeless.
So, let’s simplify. I’m going to match digital marketing to the first two stages of business growth. In his book, “Ready, Fire, Aim” Michael Masterson breaks business growth into four stages. I’m going to use his framework and match digital marketing efforts to the first two stages, which is where to find most small businesses.
When your business is in Stage One: Infancy, your focus is selling your product or service. If you are selling a product, everything you do relates to selling as many as you can. Your time may also be spent creating that product and other business activities will also draw upon your time. But, “sell, sell, sell” is your mantra. If you have multiple products or a store, this example still holds true.
If you sell a service, you have to balance delivering that service with selling services to more clients. You have to be carefully efficient and avoid selling more than you can deliver while avoiding not selling enough. As you add employees, you can move from delivering the service and focus on training your employees and selling more to fill their open slots.
So, if sales is your constant companion and never far from your mind, where should you focus? Digital marketing is complex. There aren’t any shortcuts to good marketing. In fact, marketing as a discipline remains fairly constant. It is how we execute marketing and the tools that we have to help us that change. Digital marketing is marketing with a different tool set.
So, where does a Stage One business start when confronted with branding, websites, sales funnels, pay per click, conversions, webinars, podcasts, graphics, video, carts, payment processing, and so on?
Start with the end in mind. Sales is the goal. You need a sales funnel. There is a debate raging now about what to call a sales funnel. It doesn’t matter if you call it a customer decision journey, a customer funnel, or a sales funnel. You need a digital path that introduces people to your offering, gives them an opportunity to purchase, and a provides you a method to follow up.
Your sales funnel uses automation to help you sell around the clock. It is doing the work of employees you don’t yet have and making your time more efficient. If you’d like to learn more about the basics of a sales funnel, click here to read an article I wrote previously.
Your sales funnel is critical and you should devote enough time to create an effective funnel with messaging that works. If you need a primer on creating messages, click here to read a short article on the elements you need to consider.
The next fundamental component you need is a “list.” You’ve probably heard the saying that “the money is in your list” before. Your list is simply the people who have signed up to be contacted by you. Typically, you have a give-away to encourage people to fill out a sign-up form, which then adds them to your list.
Your list is full of people who are familiar with your company. They found you online and opted-in. They are interested in what you offer. Your list is the best group of prospects you have and you should constantly focus on growing it.
Automation, typically in the form of autoresponders, enables you to create a series of messages that are emailed to your list in intervals that you select. When used properly, your autoresponder helps you grow deeper relationships with your list and they become ever better prospects. You can send your list offers, which direct them to your sales funnel.
Your sales funnel and list take a bit of time to set up, but once in place they don’t require much attention in order to help you sell.
Now, you need to bring people to your sales funnel and your list (which will eventually guide them to your sales funnel).
I recommend that you select three digital marketing methods and focus on them. Pick one and master it, then add the next until you have all three working for you. Don’t get distracted by every new method that you come across. Pick your basic three and get good at them.
I recommend the following three, and I’ll talk about each in turn. I would start a blog to begin a content marketing effort. I would start running ads on Facebook. Last, I would begin using LinkedIn to prospect. Let’s talk a bit about each.
Content marketing is typically built around a blog, and I recommend WordPress. You write articles that focus on helping your target market solve a problem that they have. You can write about anything that your market is interested in, but ideally it relates to your business in some way. You can then share your articles on social media, send them to your list, run ads to them, etc. to promote readers. Your blog should also have a call to action. Your call to action typically directs readers to a give-away to add them to your list.
Facebook ads are not too hard to learn and are a very inexpensive and effective form of marketing. I won’t discuss the details of setting up a campaign, but you can find loads of articles and Facebook also has a very useful guide to setting up and running campaigns. You can launch a Facebook ad campaign with as little as $5 a day and you can make adjustments until it is working the way you want. You can track your spend and sales very accurately and this analytic ability gives you the information to know how much you are willing to pay for a lead and/or sale.
The third method I recommend is LinkedIn prospecting. LinkedIn is a network populated by professionals and decision-makers. You can publish articles on LinkedIn, connect with prospects and partners, start discussions, create groups, etc. All of these actions help you build your brand and establish trust. Your articles and profile should have links to your blog, site, list give-aways, etc.
These three methods are a great starting place when your business has $1M in revenue or less annually. You can add in other marketing techniques to this mix too. Public speaking, print ads, video marketing, in-person networking, etc. can all be effective methods for small businesses to market themselves. But, if you are serious about digital marketing, your foundation (sales funnel and list) and three methods are what you need.
You can also select different methods for your digital marketing. Many people are successful with webinars, podcasts, ads on Google, social marketing, etc. The important message is that you pick three that you can get very good at and stick with them.
You continue to market in the way that helped you break the $1M mark, but you will transition. Your business will add products or services to expand and diversify, and your marketing will need to adapt and become flexible.
Now, instead of just focusing on specific methods, you’ll expand your marketing know-how into the seven disciplines that together form the basics of digital marketing. Building your knowledge base allows you to be flexible and adaptable so you can launch campaigns and market different offerings in the most appropriate and successful way.
I’ll present the seven disciplines, but I won’t go into detail about them in this article. They are: sales funnels, content marketing, paid advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, analytics, and testing and improving. You’ll recognize several disciplines from earlier, but at this stage of your business, your business can dive deep into each and combine them as needed for your marketing needs.
Digital marketing and “simple” are rarely used together in a sentence! But, hopefully, you can see a path that works for you. Get the basics in place and then select and commit to becoming great at three methods. Track and measure your outcomes and make improvements as you go. By the time that you have your system down and find it second-nature, you’ll be passing the $1M revenue mark. Then you have the option of learning the disciplines, outsourcing part of your marketing, or hiring people who have the needed knowledge.
Let me know what questions you have and what methods you are using today. Put your comments below!
If you want to know what tools I use in my marketing, click here.