It’s guest post week again and today we’ll hear from Patrick Foster, a freelance writer and ecommerce entrepreneur, who will share some key marketing lessons that every entrepreneur must learn. Here’s Patrick:
6 Marketing Lessons for Entrepreneurs
Starting a business is an exhilarating process. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs fail to realize that the ‘build it and they will come’ theory simply doesn’t hold true, particularly for online businesses. You may put years of work into your business plan, but unless you are prepared to go all out with your marketing strategy, you may not enjoy the success you feel you deserve. Startup marketing can often prove challenging due to lack or time or budget, but even so, there are some important bases to cover if you want to make a name for yourself.
Build an influential network
The foundation of any low-cost marketing strategy is to form a strong network of online influencers. They will be the engine behind your brand, pushing it forward and keeping the momentum. Inspiring others to share your brand because they are genuinely interested in what your offer is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. If you want my advice, start engaging with influential people today. Follow them on social media, share their content, interact with them and comment on their posts. The idea is to get them to notice you – without becoming a nuisance. Remember to include a link to your site somewhere along the way.
It’s easy to find key influencers using a content marketing tool like Buzzsumo, which allows you to find websites and blogs that are relevant to your market and keywords.
Have a blog strategy
You’re kidding yourself if you think your online business can get by without a blog. Nowadays, it’s really considered a prerequisite feature of a modern marketing and communications strategy. 60% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority (source).
A company blog is one of the best ways to boost the web presence of your business, and it also gives you more to say and share on social media. Blog posts also provide a valuable research tool for online shoppers: 79% of whom spend 50% of their shopping time researching products online (source). Develop your editorial strategy wisely, appoint good copywriters and treat your blog as the public face of your brand.
Here’s a great example of a company blog by ecommerce company Death Wish Coffee. Founded in 2012 and built using Shopify, this quirky online store offers its visitors much more than merchandise with local interviews, recipe guides and articles about organic coffee.
Don’t just sell – engage
Most entrepreneurs are sales people in some form or another. Your first instinct may be to make your pitch to everyone you meet. And while there’s nothing wrong with that (within limits), you do have to come to the realization that no-one cares about your business quite as much as you do. Which means if you want to contribute meaningfully to discussions, you’ve got to have more to say. You must speak to the wider industry and be aware of ongoing trends, as well as the primary interests of your target demographic.
Create a more three-dimensional brand by showing your support to others in the industry – just not your direct competitors. Share others’ content and comment on their posts. Become active in your niche community and you will soon begin to build connections.
Choose the right social media networks
We’re all aware of the importance of ‘being on social media’ from a business perspective. But the truth is that many of us join every single network at the outset, without much thought about which ones require the most time devoted to them. Not all social networks are created equal. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and depending on the nature of your business, some will add more value for you than others.
Today’s most popular social networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest and Instagram (now considered crucial). Each one has the potential to be a great promotional tool, but the rules and strategy to be followed are very different. The key here is to know your audience and where they hang out online. Get to know your social etiquette before diving in.
Invest in SEO and link-building
Showing up in organic search is one of the most valuable marketing strategies you can have. This is achieved through a combination of on-page optimization and link-building, which help to build your domain relevance and authority, respectively. You can hire a specialist SEO agency, or if you’re strapped for cash, there are lots of guides that cover the basics.
Keyword research is an important first step that will help you identify what potential customers are searching for. You can do this for free using Keywordtool.io, among other tools. Ensure that you include your top keywords in your page titles, headings and body copy – but take care not to over-optimize.
In a nutshell, link-building is the practice of scoring links back to your website from other high-authority sites. Each one acts as a vote of trust and indicates to Google that your domain has authority. It is this combination of good on-site optimization and quality backlinks that will help your website to rank.
Respect your core metrics
Digital marketing suffers an inexorable amount of vanity. This extends to what’s known as ‘vanity metrics’ – bought Facebook likes, for example. It’s best not to indulge in vanity metrics, for while they look good on the surface, the benefits are not real. In fact, they can prevent you from forming an accurate reading of how your business is really performing.
Just like in life, it’s far more valuable to focus your attention on the things that matter, rather than chasing shallow fame. You need to understand your core metrics – the ones that really impact your business, such as your web traffic, conversion rate and monthly revenue. These are the areas to track and learn from. Record your baseline metrics from the outset, so you can get a clear impression of the way your business is growing.
Even if you only start with one or two of these marketing methods, you should quickly notice an improvement in engagement. Some, like SEO, make themselves felt over a longer period of time – but the results are more stable. Best of luck with your marketing endeavors, and feel free to share any insights you have with us in the comments.
Patrick Foster: Online Business Consultant
As a freelance writer, ecommerce entrepreneur and contributor to multiple online business blogs, I know a thing or two about what makes a business successful. I’m passionate about startup marketing and all things social. Ask me anything!