Guest Post: Why Guerilla Marketing is Alive and Well

Today’s guest post comes from Colour Graphics and is a great reminder that guerilla marketing tactics should not be overlooked by small business owners, so long as their ROI is being tracked. Here’s Colour Graphics with more details about how to make the most of your limited marketing budget: Continue Reading

Guest Post: How to Market Your Small Business on a Small Budget

Advertising is an important aspect of any business strategy, especially when it comes to small businesses. As a small business owner, you need to figure out how to promote your company and get the consumers’ attention. Although this can sometimes require a lot of investment, you can still find low-cost, but effective marketing ideas for getting your business to the top. Owning a start-up means a lot of expenses and a limited budget, so you’ll be happy to hear that some of the following advertising options won’t cost you at all.

Creating a Professional Website

Nowadays, it’s impossible to expand and advertise your business without going online and building a website. Even if you don’t possess all the necessary skills, this has never been easier! All you need to do is find a free website builder and you’re good to go. If you really have no idea what you’re doing, you can either browse the Internet for a tutorial, or seek help from your friends, since the chances are that one of them will know how to create a website. Just one additional tip – when you get down to business, make sure not to build a website that is too complex to use, but follow the principle “the easier, the better”.

Starting a Blog

Another marketing strategy that anyone can afford is blogging. Similarly to creating a website, even if you don’t have experience in the area, you can easily find guides for starting a business blog. Once you start blogging, you should try to be consistent and publish on a regular basis. Feel free to write about various topics, from business-related to entertaining. This is a perfect opportunity to keep your customers up-to-date and in touch with you.

Joining Social Media

Social media play an important role in advertising, and, according to the statistics, 97 percent of the global businesses use social media for marketing. Depending on the nature of your business, you can create a profile on a variety of different social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. Once again, you should be active and post different materials regularly; otherwise, you’ll be forgotten in the sea of other posts.

Running Facebook Ads

The estimates show that there are more than 1.79 billion Facebook users who are active on a monthly basis, which makes Facebook a prolific platform for marketing. You don’t need a lot of investment for running a Facebook ad – with a limited budget you can reach out to consumers who differ in gender, age, education and interests. Even if they don’t immediately contact your company, they might like your page and become your potential consumers.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategic approach that has been embraced world-wide. This marketing strategy differs from the others in that it focuses on creating interesting and relevant material, rather than simply promoting a product or a service. This way, you are able to address the problems and issues of your customers and help them find the solutions. The key feature of this marketing approach is content, so make sure that yours is interesting, of high quality and based on credible information.

Posting Commercials

You don’t need to create high-budget commercials in order to gain public attention. All you need is creativity and a well-developed plan, and the rest is just following the steps. Just find decent equipment, develop a scenario and start filming. During post-production, you can add some filters or cut out the parts that you don’t like. Afterwards, you can upload the commercial to YouTube. This won’t cost you a dime, and, with little effort, your commercial can go viral!

Producing an Email Newsletter

This is a great way of staying in touch with your current customers and contacting the potential ones. However, make sure not to send them ads; otherwise, your email will end up as a spam. Instead, inform your customers about the latest happenings and provide them with valuable information. You want to establish a relationship that will make them think of you when they need your type of product.

Distributing Flyers and Business Cards

Distribution of printed material is a great opportunity for promoting your business locally. This is another strategy that doesn’t require a sizeable amount of money. You can develop your own design for flyers and business cards and opt for custom printing to create unique material. When it comes to distribution, you can hire some students to hand out the material, or you can do it yourself with the help of your friends and family if you have enough time.

Joining LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great business platform where you can connect with other companies and potential business associates. You can form a LinkedIn Group with the businesses from the same industry and share your interests. Additionally, you can even use this platform for posting about job openings and recruiting employees.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on promoting your business as long as you use some of these strategies efficiently. Find out which marketing approaches work for you and then focus on implementing them in a creative and innovative manner.


Emma Miller is a Sydney based writer with a degree in marketing. Interested in digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends. She’s a contributor at Bizzmark blog.

 

 

 

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And don’t forget to support me as I rappel down the side of a 35-story building in downtown Chicago to raise money for minority and female entrepreneurs!

A Marketing Homework Assignment for Business Owners

I have a homework assignment for you today 🙂


We all know that it’s incredibly important for us to make the right impression on our potential customers, yet not many of us actually check in to see if the image we think we’re portraying is what our potential customers are actually seeing. So, I have a homework assignment for you to help you check just that. Continue Reading

Guest Post: The “Promised Land” of Viral Growth

It’s guest post week. Here you go…

Startup companies can be exciting and challenging to run. Every day there’s a new trend emerging from the web or a new tactic to implement, but how do you get the best results in the shortest time? How to move the needle and lead your startup to the promised land? Viral growth.

Viral growth is when your company starts to exponentially grow at a super-fast pace, regardless of any increases in promotional investment. All your previous efforts pay off and your business surfs the wave of being promoted and endorsed by countless evangelists for absolutely no extra cost.

But that’s easier to say than to do. Very few startups reach this special condition and they all utilized the following tactics to achieve their viral growth:

Landing Page Optimization

Landing pages aim to be a simple and straight to the point first contact for potential customers so they can get a taste of what the company is about, presented in an inviting/teasing way. They are important since users will access only the most important information, without wasting time and reducing the risk of misinterpretation and bounce. There are great tools that even help you build a landing page.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing is still proven to be the best way to reach after businesses. There are two different approaches here: to send one single email model to all the companies at the same time (pro: saves time / con: reader might treat it as spam) or to write tailored emails to each company (pro: reader will definitely read the entire email since it will be unique / con: it’s more time-demanding).

Public Relations

Public relations is sometimes considered free advertising, but that’s a misnomer since one has to spend time to make it work. Good practices here are to reach out to industry bloggers through email or through their own blog contact section to propose to guest-blog for each other. Another path is to contact local business associations such as chambers of commerce to develop partnerships. Finally, local newspapers are another good channel for PR, but this one could be harder to fulfil.

SEO

SEO is also one of the main tools for startup success. The key here is good content creation. Invest time on blog writing using the right keywords to both attract readers and increase spiders-effectiveness, share content and engage on social media channels to make users mention your name/handle/page, and post comments and answers on websites while mentioning your company name and website URL. Use tools such as MOZ or SEMrush to find out the best keywords for us to use and write our content with that in mind.

Analytics

This (measuring) is at the core of viral growth strategy. However, using statistical tools such as Google Analytics to run A/B testing is not that doable for small companies because they simply don’t get enough traffic for that. For a company to run a test between only two different options it needs to have at least 24k visitors/month to achieve trustworthy metric results, otherwise the results might be misleading. The best alternative is to do qualitative research, which means asking your customers what they like and what they don’t like, what they want, etc. and the best way to do that is through quick surveys (Survey Monkey is your friend here). Besides that, analytics tools can be used to evaluate progressive overall results.

Behavioural Economics

This is all about understanding how customers make decisions and why they make them. Customers need to change their behaviour in order to start using your product. You have to offer a great product that’s glitch-free and that delivers more than the customers were expecting. 

Product Management

Companies always have to keep in mind the main problem their products aim to solve; what the core benefit is. In SlickPie’s case, we offer a tool for small business owners to do their accounting online. We offer this solution through a simple and easy-to-use software and we offer it for free. That’s it. This is what we solve, what we do, how we differ from others, etc. Every improvement we develop for our product needs to have these points as a north.

User OnBoarding

The goal with user onboarding is to improve the activation/retention steps. Users need to feel comfortable while exploring your website, learning about your product, and using it. Good tutorials are a must-have for SaaS businesses. Effecting onboarding is also used to motivate customers to help “spread the word”. Some useful actions to take here are to ask users to import their email contacts list or social media friends right after they sign up or to incentive users testimonials.

UX

Last but not least, user experience! This part is crucial for any startup to thrive. Even if your startup is not in the software industry, it’ll have a website, so a good user experience is also necessary. UX is especially important for SaaS companies since positive user experience leads to increased word of mouth, engagement, and growth. Here at SlickPie our greatest goal is to deliver delightful online accounting software experience to our customers. Some of the best approaches to achieve this are to track the features that are not being used by most of the users and end it to keep delivering a simpler experience.  We can’t simply ask them what they want or use, we have to measure what they actually do while using the software and find the bottlenecks in their way to solve problems.
These are the tactics used by all startups that turned into successful companies. They are pretty straight forward approaches, but they demand a lot of time investment to be accomplished.  However, if you do accomplish them, the promised land will eventually come!

 

Nick ChandiNick Chandi is the co-founder of SlickPie Online Accounting Software. SlickPie is a Vancouver based cloud accounting software helping start-ups, freelancers and small business owners by providing them with a simple and easy-to-use alternative to the bloated, overly-complex software in the market today. Nick is also CEO of Welcome Networks Inc., a cloud based virtual desktops provider to small businesses in Canada and USA.

3 Options for Inexpensive Local Marketing

Today we’re answering a question from one of my followers on YouTube. +PredeKing wrote: “I would appreciate tips on inexpensive ways to market services to new clients in a specific region.” Well, that’s a big question, but let me give you a few ideas.

When you talk about marketing and getting your name out there, there are 3 basic categories – owned, earned, and paid. Owned is stuff like your website, which you control; earned is stuff like media attention, which you probably had to work to get but you don’t directly pay for; paid is advertising – you purchase time in front of potential customers.

So, let’s give one example of each type that you can utilize inexpensively to target customers in a specific region.

First up – paid. I’m actually going to give you two ideas here, the first being online advertising. With the ability to target Facebook and Google ads all the way down to people in a specific zip code, you can definitely target just a specific region using this type of advertising. While it may take a bit of experimenting to get the right ad, this method of marketing to your clients should definitely fall into the inexpensive category because you can test it out with very little cash and it’s easy to track the ROI so you should be able to tell pretty quickly if you’re making money. If the ads bring in more than you spend on them, you can go ahead and boost your investment.

The second idea for inexpensive paid, local, advertising is to sponsor some community events or youth sports teams. Now, not knowing how far along your business is, the few hundred to few thousand dollars this might cost may not be what you consider inexpensive, but if you’re a bit more established it might be, so I wanted to throw it out there.

Next up let’s talk about earned media. Earned media is actually a lot easier to get when you do want to target just a specific area because your local news outlets are hungrier for stories to cover because they don’t have the entire country’s or world’s happenings to pull from and they’re looking for a local connection, so you’re more likely to get chosen. If you want to get some earned media in your local area, do some research about a few of the most popular local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations, get to know the reporters and what they write about, find a way to make whatever you offer relevant, and then let the reporters know. Now, you’re not going to be able to just talk a reporter into doing a piece all about you and your business, which would basically be a free advertisement, but there are ways to get coverage. Try pulling together an industry report with data that would be of interest to the audience or hosting a charity event that benefits the local community and asking the press to cover it, or offer yourself up as an expert commentator for stories related to a particular topic. If you’re persistent, you’ll be able to get some coverage.

Finally, we have owned. When you’re targeting clients only a specific area, you should be sure that all of your owned marketing materials cater to that region. If there is something special and unique about the area you’re targeting, give it a nod in your marketing materials. If your area just experienced any big events or changes, discuss how your offering is being sensitive to the fall-out. Even more hyper-focused, maybe offer a discount to those only in the specific area you’re targeting. For example, let’s say you have a lawn care company and you lose a bunch of money having your crew drive all over town all of the time and go back and forth this way and that way – once you book a job in a particular neighborhood, send something out to the other homeowners in the neighborhood saying you’ll give them a discount if they also sign up for lawncare on the day you’ll be in that neighborhood anyway. That way, you bring in some customers with the discount but you make up for it with the savings of not having your crew traveling all over town.

Those are just a few ideas for how to market to potential customers in a specific region without spending a ton of money. Please feel free to share any others you have in the comments below.


If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5. More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.

The Tool That Helps You Define Your Business’ Brand

Today will be a quick post because I’m going to pull from a company called Brand Amplitude and will just give an overview and then send you off to their resources. Brand Amplitude has an awesome tool for helping business owners figure out how they want to brand their businesses and they’ve made it so much more accessible than the original version that they based their tool off of.

That tool is called the Brand Identity Prism and here are the basics:


The prism is a hexagon with 6 pieces that come together to form a rallying cry for your business.

Part one is your capabilities – what your business can do and do well.

Part 2 is your internal values and culture – this is about who are as a company.

Part 3 is your noble purpose – this is why your business does what it does – what impact are you looking to have beyond making money?

Part 4 is personality – this is about your business’ style and how it presents itself and relates to its customers.

Part 5 is shared values and community – this goes beyond your internal values and culture because it’s about which of those values overlap with the values of the customers you serve.

Part 6 is aspirational self image – this is all about what your customers want their use of your brand to say about them.

All of that comes together to inform your rallying cry – the rallying cry often becomes the slogan of a business – it’s what all 6 of the parts add up to and summarizes the core of your brand.

This tool is fabulous to help you define who you are as a company and what that means in terms of how to brand your business – and we all know that a consistent brand is vitally important for you to form a lasting relationship with your customers and to thrive as a business.

Please check out Brand Amplitude’s Slideshare for all of the details. I promise it will be worth your time.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5. More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.

 

 

 

4 Questions to Help You Escape Marketing Overwhelm

Today we’re talking about how to escape from the dreaded problem of marketing overwhelm.

When you’re a business owner, especially a new business owner, you’re going to be overwhelmed with all of the information and advice out there about how you should be marketing your offerings – social media, radio ads, billboards, TV, Facebook, Twitter, Adwords, loyalty programs, marketing collateral, websites, conversion rates, copywriting, SEO, content marketing, word of mouth, direct mail, cold calling, referral programs, affiliate marketing, and the list goes on and on. It can all be pretty overwhelming.

So how the heck do you decide which marketing channels you should focus on and which you should set to the side so that you can escape from marketing overwhelm and actually get some effective marketing done? Well, it’s actually far simpler than you’d expect; all you have to do is ask yourself the following questions:

Firstly: Will this reach my ideal customer? If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you’d better figure it out because your entire marketing strategy needs to be built around reaching that ideal customer. If you do know who your ideal customer is, then you know where he or she hangs out and what he or she is into. If a marketing channel isn’t going to reach your ideal customer, don’t waste any time exploring it.

Secondly: Is this consistent with my brand? Your brand is who you are as a business and how your potential customers see you. You don’t want to do anything that would mess up that image by pursuing a marketing avenue that is inconsistent with your brand. If you offer green cleaning supplies, getting branded labels on disposable plastic water bottles probably isn’t going to be too endearing to your customers.

Next: What ROI can I expect? Marketing is about bringing new customers in the door. It has to generate more revenue for your business than it costs or it isn’t worth the expense. Take a look at some of the data on any given marketing channel and try to estimate what ROI you can expect before you jump in so that you don’t waste time testing marketing channels that are just going to cost you money and not actually generate new business. If you’re going to pay for a Facebook ad, you don’t just want to know how many people will see it and how much you have to pay – you want to know what click through and conversion rates are typically like when people advertise similar products at similar price points to similar target audiences and then do a little analysis and compare that estimated customer acquisition cost to the estimated lifetime value of that customer.

Finally, ask yourself: Do I have the cash up front to utilize this channel? Maybe a TV advertisement during a certain show in your local area would be seen by a bunch of people in your target market, would be consistent with your branding, and should generate a high ROI – that’s awesome, but if you can’t afford the cost of that ad then it doesn’t make any sense for you to spend time planning around this particular marketing channel.

If you ask yourself these four questions and are honest with the answers, you should be able to quickly eliminate A LOT of the many marketing options so that you’re less overwhelmed and more able to do a more thorough analysis of the options that seem promising. That way you can get on track with actually developing and implementing successful marketing campaigns that will help you grow your business.


If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5. More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.

Why Understanding Your Target Market Is So Important

Today, I’m tackling a question from one of my followers, Martin, who wrote me and said:

“Can you make a video on target market and how important it is to figure this out? Love your videos!”

Firstly, thanks for the compliment – even if maybe it was just flattery to get me to make this video for you. Secondly, certainly, Martin. I will happily make a video on target market, and here it is:

Your target market is the group of people whom you want to sell your product to, the niche population that you’re going to target with your marketing, because you believe these people are most likely to buy what you have to sell. Identifying the correct target market and being as specific as possible about who it’s made up of is imperative for you to develop a successful marketing campaign because, if you don’t, you’re stuck with the spray and pray method of marketing, which is incredibly expensive and not likely to lead you to success.

To define your target market, start with the problem you’re solving because that easily leads you to whom you’re solving that problem for. So, let’s say you sell custom-made bassinets for infants. The problem you’re solving is a lack of a place for a new baby to sleep and, naturally, you’re solving it for new or soon to be new parents. You also know that these parents value high quality, design, and uniqueness or they would just go to a big box store and buy any old bassinet. Plus, you know they’re financially comfortable or, again, they wouldn’t have something custom made, they would go to a big box store and buy something reliable but inexpensive.

If you were doing this exercise for your real business, you would want to dig in deeper and get as specific as possible in describing this ideal customer but, in the interest of keeping this video to a reasonable length, I’ll move on.

Now that you’ve described the ideal customer in as much detail as possible, you can take that info and begin to extrapolate about the demographics of the group – new parents with disposable income are probably somewhere between the ages of 25 and 40, middle or upper middle class with professional jobs, educated, etc. Then you take that demographic info and use it find market research studies or even census data that can help you narrow down how to access and attract the people in this target market as customers. For example, which neighborhoods in your city are home to young, middle and upper middle class families? Where do those parents work? How do they get to and from work? What do they do in their free time? What motivates them? Who are they friends with? Who do they turn to for advice?

All of this is incredibly important because it allows you to target your marketing in a way that is so much more specific and personal, and specific and personal marketing campaigns are the ones that are really successful for your business. When you have a good understanding of who your ideal customer is and, therefore, who your target market is, you’ll be able to get in front of those people much more easily and with a much more compelling message than you would have been able to without that understanding. And that means that your marketing campaigns will be less expensive and have much higher ROIs. No more buying ads on the local radio station if customers in your target market only listen to Sirius or Pandora or Spotify and no more partnering with the local midwife group if your ideal customer would only ever dream of going to an MD.

So, there you have it, Martin. I hope that answered your question: understanding your target market is so incredibly important because it allows you to access that market more effectively and efficiently and you can identify your target market by starting with the problem you’re solving and then doing a bit of demographic and market research about the people whom you solve it for.


If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5.
More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.

 

Infographic: How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Can Improve Your Marketing

Over a year ago I wrote a post explaining how Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be used to help entrepreneurs more effectively market their startups and small businesses. In keeping with my goal of updating old content to create new infographics every month, I’ve turned that post into a mini infographic, which you can see below. If you’d like all of the details, read the original post by clicking here.

Maslow

 

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Tips for Pricing Your Products & Services

Pricing is one of the most frustrating, stress-inducing, and confusing issues for new entrepreneurs to tackle, and it’s also one of the most important pieces of the success puzzle in entrepreneurship, so today we’ll look at a couple of strategies for figuring out how to price your offerings.

To start, take a look at your value proposition and your ideal customer. What message are you trying to convey? Do you intend to be the premium product option or are you trying to compete on price? It’s important to know where you will place yourself in the mix of your competitors. As a general rule, presenting your products as the luxury option will result in lower volume, but higher margins on what you do sell. Conversely, presenting yourself as the bargain option will lead to higher sales volume and lower margins. However, this only holds true if your full branding picture – and the product itself – match up. You can’t present your new restaurant as the premium option, price the dishes that way, and then serve frozen fish sticks; nor can you attempt to be the bargain option and only advertise in the Wall Street Journal. Look at the competitive landscape of pricing and then look at your value proposition and where you want to position yourself in that mix. If you’re the premium option, you need to be at the top of the price range among your competitors. If you’re the bargain option, you’d better be at a bargain price.

Also remember that you can affect where your products fall in the pricing mix – and, therefore, affect customers’ purchasing behavior – by manipulating how your own products are priced in relation to one another. One tactic is to give customers multiple pricing options for similar products. For example, there is a famous and often studied situation where a company produced a bread maker that simply wasn’t selling. Instead of pulling the bread maker off of the market, the company introduced another bread maker – with very similar features and benefits – at a higher price point. Once the new, more expensive bread maker was introduced, sales for the original bread maker increased drastically because customers all of a sudden saw it as a steal by comparison. If you have multiple product or service offerings, think about how to price them in relation to each other to encourage the purchasing behavior that you want from your customers.

Now that you have an idea of where you’d like to position your product(s) in terms of price, you have to double check that it’s doable given the realities of your company. Take a look at your costs to determine what you spend to produce what you have to offer. Clearly, this is more straight-forward for companies selling actual goods, but services companies need to be aware of the value of their time as they commit to projects at certain price points as well as the cost of the tools they’ll use to complete a project. Identify the cost of producing each unit of whatever you want to sell and compare that to the price you’d like to sell it for to find your gross margin. Then, don’t forget to keep fixed costs in mind so you’ll have a better picture of whether your pricing strategy actually fits with your operations.

If the ideal price point that you decided on based on your competitive and industry analysis just doesn’t mesh with the price you need based on your costs, then you may need to re-examine your business model. I wanted you to determine your ideal price positioning before looking at your costs and pricing needs for a reason: you have to be honest about where you should be pricing and that’s hard to do if you already know where you need to be pricing. If you start with the cold hard facts, it’s easy to let what you need in terms of pricing influence how you analyze the market, but if you do the market analysis first, you’ll have some more honest numbers to use in your analysis. Then, if you can’t make the pricing that works in the market work for the economics of your business, you may need to rethink what you’re doing.