by Joe Ross
If you own a business, chances are you are really great at a lot of things, but Marketing probably isn’t one of them. Popular owner attitudes toward marketing vary from indifference to disdain, yet nearly all recognize marketing is critical if a business is to thrive. Of course, there are business owners that are exceptionally skilled marketers. What follows is for everyone else.
What is it about marketing that turns so many business owners off? One common perception, particularly among consultants and professionals is that marketing shouldn’t be necessary given the years of training and experience required to be in a given field at all. Some even view marketing as beneath them, or somehow “dirty.”
I often hear things like, “I don’t like marketing because it’s not in my nature to convince people to buy things they don’t want.” Who would? But, that’s not marketing.
Let’s begin with a better definition of marketing. Marketing is the collection of efforts that create awareness and build relationships with current and potential customers. A marketing plan is those efforts written down, along with some realistic goals. Marketing is for reaching people that already want your product or service. They’re going to buy it, so make sure it’s from you rather than a competitor.
Whether you solve a problem or scratch some other itch, you probably have a clear picture of who your customer is. You know their interests and are well aware of their pain points. You know how to solve their problems or help them choose just the right…whatever it is you sell.
Every interaction strengthens the relationship you have with your customers. In turn, word spreads and those relationships beget new relationships, andyour business grows. Thisis marketing in its purest form. A simple next step is to ask your best customers to think of others that would benefit by doing business with you.
Efficiency and Getting Beyond Word-of-Mouth
It is often said that word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing. That might be true, but it isn’t very efficient. Businesses need a way to let lots of interested people know you have just the right thing for whatever it is that needs doing.
You can accomplish this in many ways. Traditional advertising works if your offerings appeal to a very wide audience. However, it is a “spray and pray” approach that can wipe out a budget very quickly. Thankfully, digital disruption is a thing. It is a virtual certainty that your best customers are combing the Internet right now looking for the very solution you provide.
I was once told the first rule in a rock fight is to have a rock. Likewise, it is folly to think you can compete in today’s digital world without a website. Depending on the source, estimates suggest between one quarter, andone-halfof businesses still don’t have one. Of those that do, an awful lot are outdated or were pretty bad tobegin with.
One popular argument is, “I don’t sell anything online, so I don’t need a website.” Nice try. Did you know about 90% of local consumers visit a business website before they visit the business?Without a website, you’re not even on the field. With a bad one, you’re telling the very people that could become your best customers you don’t care enough to try to impress them. Think gas station toilets, andyou’ve got the right idea.
Some business owners use Facebook as a replacement for an actual business website. Thisis certainly better than nothing, but it sends the message that you’re small-time or too cheap to do web properly. Even an expensive website costs less than the cheapest employee, and the website works for you 24/7. Cheap employees rarely work at all.
Being there is the first step. Your website is the digital equivalent toshowing up. Some business owners get lucky and attract customers just by being there—sort of like dating. Luckily, you can pay people to make your website look good. Still, most people have to work a little harder. Some have to work a lot harder, depending on how competitive your market is.
Here’s a secret. Believe it or not, you can build visibility on your own, and frequently achieve top search engine rankings simply by being a helpful, prolific writer. Let me say that again. You can write your way to riches. Google rewards problem solvers, so being generous with your expertise can pay off big.
The best way for most non-developers is to become frequent bloggers. Make sure your blog is part of your ownwebsite though. Otherwise, you’ll be building interest and traffic to a website you don’t ultimately own. You’ll thank me later. If you’re not sure how to run a blog from your ownwebsite, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) andI’ll get you moving in the right direction.
Naturally, marketing involves a lot more than getting your head straight and blogging on your owngreat looking website. However, you’ll be amazed athow much these simple steps can help you grow. Content rules the web. In Internet parlance, persuasive bloggers are called “influencers.” Become one. I promise the payoff will be worth the effort.
Joe Ross is the President of OCG Creative, a digital marketing agency based in Reno, NV with clients throughout the world.