There's a good chance that you're going to have to act as a marketer in your new business along with all the other hats you'll be wearing, at least in the early days. But without drumming up interest in what you have to offer, letting people know your out there, and ultimately making sales, you won't stay in business very long.
That's why it's important to make sure you get your marketing right, and that's the purpose of this episode. Our assembled panel of experts and business owners give their opinions on what works, and what doesn't work so well nowadays.
In this episode you'll be hearing from AdWords specialist Andy Brown, photographer Julie Christie, recruitment consultant Patricia McGuire, financial planner Pete Matthew, and content marketing guru Chris Marr.
Some of the key tips are;
- Know your audience. Who is your business for, and where can they be found?
- Look after your existing clients, get this right and they will tell others about you.
- Create content. Use the questions potential customers ask you and answer them on a blog, podcast, or video series.
It's about putting out stuff that people can use, which entertains them, educates them, and powers them to take action and ideally, to take action with you.
I’m Colin Gray, and this is episode 3 of UK Business Startup. So far, we’ve had a look at some of the big bits, the intimidating bits. That’s company structure, finances, business plans. It’s the stuff you imagine you need to speak to the experts about. But, hopefully the first two episodes got you started, and helped make a few of the decisions.
Well, today’s topic, for most people is a bit more clear. And that’s, talking about your business, promoting what you do. Otherwise known as marketing. But really, when it comes down it, it’s just finding customers. Or, helping them to find you! So, let’s start off with Julie, our friendly, and her early adventures in marketing
Julie Christie: When I started I just did everything I thought you were supposed to do to market myself, so I got hundreds and hundreds of flyers run off, and I distributed flyers all around my hometown, offering my photography services. I asked all my friends and family to tell everyone they knew. Really, it didn't work. It didn't work.
So you know, Julie’s not alone here. It’s the way it’s always been done isn’t it? So it must work? Well, you’d think, but when was the last time you bought something off a flyer? It’s so common that we’re just blind to that type of marketing now. If that’s the case, how do we reach people? Often, it starts really local.
Julie Christie: I reached out to people who I knew, who looked like target client, and I offered to do work for them for free, in return for them allowing me to use their photographs, but also allowing me to reach their friends. I'd give them vouchers to give to their friends. I reached out to someone who was a bit of a mover and shaker in the area and she wrote a blog post about me. I tried to reach out to people who would talk about me and I reached out to the right people. The people I knew I wanted to work with.
That’s the beginning for a lot of businesses. Family, friends, local networks. And it works. Treat them right, and things can snowball.
Julie Christie: We really look after our customers. When we get a customer, we send them little gifts in the post. We have a really good relationship with them. We phone them. We have lots of conversations before the shoot. We touch base with them after the shoot, every year at least. We give them Christmas cards. We keep up with them on social media, and we find that they then, because we have such a good relationship with them, that they do our marketing for us. And I think that is a good, solid way to build the right client base. It's a slow burden though, and you have to be brave, and stick it out, and keep working at it.
I know a lot of businesses who thrive just on that. Just around word of mouth, referrals and you can do great from that, just like Julie. Let’s think wider though, outside of our network. How do we start to find people further afield? You’ll remember Patricia, who runs a recruitment company. She had some thoughts about finding people in another kind of network – the one I bet you’ve wasted at least a wee bit of time on today. Of course, I’m talking about Social media.
Patricia McGuire: Talk to your customers and find out where they're living in the digital space because you can waste an awful lot of time trying to cover too many of the digital options, the social media options. Once you know where they're living in this space, start becoming expert in those areas. It might be Facebook, it might be Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. In my particular case, I use LinkedIn, a great deal. LinkedIn and Twitter would be my two major marketing tools at the moment. I'm also developing podcasting as a tool for marketing my business, too.
It’s great advice – depending on your sector, your audience is bound to have one or two networks they hang around on most. Do you know which one it is already? If not, take Pauline’s suggestion – start talking to people, ask them directly. It’s the easiest way. Of course, social isnt’ a natural fit for us all. Some are really comfortable interacting online, but what if you’re not?
Patricia McGuire: So, my main advice would be, don't be afraid. You're going to make mistakes. Everyone does, but you will learn very fast because your bread and butter depends on it.
Right, that was outbound – that’s you going on the hunt for customers. Finding them where they live, and building that relationship. But, maybe there’s a smarter way? What if you could attract customers to you? What if you could do something now that might attract customers to your company for years in the future? Well, that’s inbound marketing, and it’s all about making yourself easy to find.
Chris Marr: No longer are traditional marketing efforts working. You think about paid ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, all that kind of stuff. It might work to a certain degree, but it definitely aren't as powerful as, for example, having a website, having a blog and being found online because to be honest, that's where people are making buying decisions.
Yea, but what if you’re a care home – we gotta think demographics don’t we? Say, my target audience is over-60, so I’d imagine that traditional advertising works best for them, doesn’t it? Well, you’d think so, but Chris Marr thought otherwise!
Chris Marr: It used to be that people would say like there was a demographic there, that weren't online. Everybody is becoming more online. Even people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. My granddad is eighty-six years old and has an Ipad and WIFI in the house.
It’s true, and you’re always reading about the grey-pound now – that’s the amount of disposable income out there in the older generation and retirees. And, like Chris say, a whole lot of which is online. That means it doesn’t matter who you’re targeting, the web has gotta be a major priority from now on. It helps too, that the web is the king of cheap, or free, inbound marketing. It’s all about the search – and that means Google! And that’s the big question every business has – how the heck do I get myself high in the search results. Well, here’s Pete Matthew’s thoughts on that.
Pete Matthew: Definitely content marketing, I think is how it is increasingly being done. It's not the be-all and end-all but it has many advantages. One of them is cost. It's relatively cheap to put out good content consistently. Cheap in terms of money, it's not cheap in terms of time and that's very often the objection that I get from people. You can be targeted, you can reach a very wide audience or you could be locally targeted, if you're in a sort of brick and mortar business where you want to reach your local community, then you can do that just as well.
So, content marketing – what’s that? In simple terms, it’s just publishing good stuff on the internet which ends up attracting people to your website. But what do you publish? Seems like that’s a question Chris Marr gets a lot.
Chris Marr: He's going to say, “That's great, Chris, I've got my website up and running but I need content. I need information there. What is the best type of content I should have on my website to be A, found in Google, for people to stay on my website and be interested in what it is I'm doing.” You really have to be creating valuable, usable, helpful content that people are searching for.
So, not rocket science here. It’s helping people, it’s showing your expertise by being hugely useful. And that means answering questions. Let’s think about Bill again, our imaginary Gardener, how’s he gonna approach this?
Chris Marr: For example, I'm not a big gardener, but they might say something like, “What's the best way to look after my lawn? Or my grass?” Or “What's the best flower feed for a type of flower?” Here comes my gardener experience. Basically, what I'm trying to get across is, they've got a problem and they're looking for a solution.
At this point, I know what you’re thinking, but this is what people pay me for? I can’t give it away! But that’s where the shift is – that’s what’s separating the businesses that are killing it online just now from the ones that are trying to sell sell sell, and failing.
Chris Marr: You're trying to build a relationship with people, so the best content a gardener can do is stuff that people are needing help with right now. They might not want to hire a gardener, but if you're the one that educates them and the one that builds trust with them, when they do need a gardener the person that they're more likely to go to is the person that they've been educated by, the person that they've been building the relationship up with online. You've got to think to yourself, just to strip away from Bill for a second, is what are people searching for on Google? What problems do people have? How can we help them with those problems? How can we answer those questions? That's what people are searching for on Google. That's how you're going to build a relationship with people and that's the type of content that I would advise someone like Bill to do.
So it’s all about the relationship. They’re interested in a topic, you help them, they grow to trust you, and even to like you. In a lot of ways it’s about sideways thinking. It’s about figuring out who exactly uses your product, and what type of content they’d be interested in.
Pete Matthew: Here at my financial advice practice, we want people who are serious about making decisions with their money, they want to achieve their goals. So, my podcast is geared to people like that. We're giving them good information that they can act on themselves while at the same time saying, “Look, a lot of this is really complicated, you might want to see an advisor. Hey, here we are.” It's about putting out stuff that people can use, which entertains them, educates them, and powers them to take action and ideally, to take action with you. It's lots and lots of things you can do, certainly it's working for us.
The classic take on this is, give away the what and the why, then charge for the how. OR, another way of putting it – information is free, charge for implementation. That means, no matter how much you tell people, there’s always a big group who need more help, some handholding or, even though they know, just want it done for them anyway! And who are they going to turn to. Well, the guy that told them about it in the first place. Looking further, there’s another pretty interesting benefit. And that’s The fact it can become a really valuable tool in your in-person selling as well.
Andy Brown: When I get a prospect comes in to my space, they e-mail me asking a question and I will reach out and say, “Look, I've already answered that question.” In a nice way. You're going to get more value by listening to the show, listening to this episode. That's great because it conveys my personality and my voice and maybe they could get to know me by that vehicle.
So that was Andy Brown from tripleyourclients.com. And he’s talking about the fact that his customers get to know him through his content – that means trust. That means credibility. That means loyalty. Not to mention the authority he’s building by putting out these really useful resources. Articles that seem to directed straight at that person. It’s like you’re in their head, seeing right through to their secret worries.
Andy Brown: I think every business needs to have content marketing strategy, where they're answering questions that their consumers ask. When I've done that, it's been really successful. Page one of Google for the specific search term that I'm targeting. You need to do more of it, I think that you can never end. It's not complicated, the audience asks questions and you answer them. A lot of small businesses, they assume that all those questions can be answered on the phone when someone contacts you, but as we know, that's no longer happening. People are making the decisions before they contact you. They're basically doing the research online. If they can't find the answers on your site, they're going to go somewhere else.
Right, we know what we’re doing – we’re answering question, squashing worries, we’re becoming the most useful person in our industry. But how do we get this stuff out there?
Julie Christie: We also blog, we have a blog on our website and we do write a lot of content surrounding what you should wear to your shoots, things to think about before your boudoir shoot, how to look after your skin before your boudoir shoot. We try to get found by potential clients through writing content for our blog, as well.
Blogging is a great one to start with – that’s just writing articles on your website. No kit required – just you, your keyboard, and the last few questions you were asked by a customer. Blogging’s also the most direct way to get found in search – Google lives on text after all. But, the downside is that, because it’s so easy, the competition is huge. It’s still something you can crack if you find your niche, and what’s unique about you. But blogging’s well supported by the other methods, and ones that might seem a bit more cutting edge.
Andy Brown: I've done a lot of video in other businesses that I've had over the years. Not done so much in the paper click space I'm working in at the moment. When I was in the golf industry we relied heavily on them, as you can imagine. On golf tips in small one minute, two minute videos. I still think YouTube is such a massive opportunity for small business. So, if you can offer out evergreen content, you should really take the time and you'll see the results. It's astounding.
Video’s great for being found, because it gets you visible on the second biggest search engine out there. That’s YouTube. It’s also an even better way to get your personality across – people can see you, hear you, really get to know you. But, one downside, video can be tricky to make, especially if you want it to look good. Something above the standard selfie stick guerrilla filming. But then again, that’s raw, that’s honest, and a lot of companies have made it work really really well for them. The other thing about video is that it’s a hugely busy medium, and attention spans can be pretty low, people flicking from video to video. So, there’s an alternative, and since you’re listening to this show, you’ve probably heard of the humble podcast.
Chris Marr: I loved doing video but I began to find myself listening to mono podcasts. I just thought I'd give it a go. The level of interaction from listeners is sky-high compared with video. I think it's because, podcasting particularly, can be passively consumed. You can be doing something else while you are listening to a podcast. Walking the dog, cutting the grass, you can be on the commute, you know? We've all got these smart phones with us these days, which automatically downloaded the latest episode of whatever we've subscribed to. I get to speak into people's ear drums for half an hour every week and there's thousands of people listening. I get to fill a good size local sports arena every week and speak to that many people and they're giving me their attention. I just think that's staggering. Because of that ability to consume it passively and because of that very intimate nature, I think, of having somebody's voice in your ear, it's certainly driven a lot more interaction, inquiries about doing business with us. I wish I'd done it earlier.
Andy Brown: I think podcasting has really worked well for me and will work for others because of the fact that you're having a conversation. You can actually talk personally to the listeners, a one-on-one experience. It's not like an e-mail, where the reader's feeling that you're talking to everyone. This is a one-on-one conversation.
That connection is what you’re really going for in your marketing. We talked earlier about relationships, about building trust, building loyalty – that’s what you’re looking for. All three of blogging, video and podcasting can do that, and really, good marketing means doing at least two of them, if not all three. Podcasting is a funny one because it’s a little bit behind the other two in terms of take up, but that might be a bit of an opportunity. When I asked Andy what he thinks the future of podcasting looks like, he was pretty emphatic.
Andy Brown: It's going to be everywhere. Well, if you're sort of nerd-techy like me, it is everywhere but the mainstream will see it in a couple years time. You talk to friends, more and more they're going to be recommending podcasts. The same way that they talk about what they enjoyed on Netflix, for instance. That wasn't around a few years ago. Fast forward to three years from here and it'll just be, “What's your favorite podcast?”
Even better, depending on how you do it, podcasting can be the easiest content of all to produce.
Andy Brown: It's not a big deal, I record mine on my iPhone and then use an app to produce it. It goes automatically onto my feed, which is hosted on Sound cloud. It's the simplest set up you can have and it's very inexpensive.
Marketing is a huge subject – it could be a series on its own – in fact I’m pretty sure we’ll do just that, creating a whole season on it for this show. But, when you’re getting started as a small business, less can be more. It’s really easy to take on too much, to tackle every marketing method out there. But if you cover everything, just a little bit, then it’s pretty likely you won’t make a big impact anywhere. Sometimes it’s best to choose a few key approaches and hit them hard. Concentrate your efforts and you’ll see a big impact, then you can move on to the next technique. Or just double down on what’s working!
Whichever route you take, there’s one thing that’s even more important – that’s’ consistency. We all struggle with this. Everyone hammers their marketing in the early days, to grow their customers. That’s when you’ve got lots of time, and not many contracts. But, what happens when the marketing works?
Chris Marr: The gardener, for examples, he's got loads of gardens, he's filling up his schedule and all of a sudden, he hasn't got any time to market his business. Now, the biggest mistake that Bill could make is to not plan in time to build his business. The worst case scenario for Bill is: he stops marketing, all of a sudden he starts losing clients for some reason, or customers stop needing him. The next thing he knows, he's got no customers left or he's only got a few customers. Then he starts marketing. Marketing doesn't take effect immediately, it's something you need to be building. It's a foundational thing in your business, something consistent. It's about awareness and it's about staying top of mind and about … Reminding people you exist, basically.
I love that – reminding them you exist. Chris’s highlighting the fact there that big brands don’t assume they can do one big campaign, and that’s them in your mind forever. That just doesn’t work. You fade in their minds, other brands get themselves out there and overwrite the work you’ve done. SO, you need to keep doing it. Keep marketing. Every day. Every week.
Chris Marr: You need to pick out a time in the day where you are spending an hour or so working on your business. You need to have a plan for that. What are you doing every day to build your business? The most successful people do this….. you've got to realize that actually, you can't just do the gardening. You need to do the marketing, as well.
Remember, though – that effort is so worth it. Consistent marketing helps you keep the work coming in, or the sales going out. Not only that, but GOOD marketing, makes sure those sales are to customers you actually like. Customers you WANT to work with. Remember Julie was talking about relationship marketing earlier? If you find customers that fit your personality, your values, your brand, then everything is so much easier. First, your customers stay longer, become more loyal. Next, you get more referrals because they actually like you! Ever better, you can charge more, because you’re in demand and you have the social proof to justify it. Last of all, probably the most important one, it makes your work more fun. And what’s the point of going into business if it’s not to do work we love?
Julie Christie: It's really hard to follow this advice, but my advice would be never forget who your target client is and never get desperate. I think that's when you go down that slippery slope and you start working for less money, you start working for the wrong clients. Try and stay strong, try and find that right client. It's easier said than done.
This was episode 3 of UK Business Startup, and this time around I want to ask a little favour. If you enjoyed the show and it helped in just a small way in your own business adventure, would you mind popping over to the iTunes store and giving us a rating and a review. It’s a huge help in getting the show out to more people. You can do it either in the Podcast app on your phone, or through iTunes on your computer. If you’re not on an apple device, then, forget about this itunes caper – instead, just fire us a tweet letting us know what you thought of the show. You’ll find us @thepodcasthost on Twitter.
Thanks as well to everyone that helped in this episode – all of our interviewees. And you can find out more about what they do at the shownotes today which is at thepodcasthost.com/startup/103
Thanks for listening, and see you in the next one!