Social media! Custom content! Video! Direct mail! There are so many ways to market your small business that it almost seems like too many. In fact, it is too many, according to small business marketing expert Mark Satterfield. "Most small business owners think marketing is too complicated, too expensive, and won't work for them," he says. "The biggest problem they have is that they never get started because it's too overwhelming. Depending on which statistics you read, up to 80 percent of businesses fail within the first five years. I don't think it has to do with quality of product or service but with lack of consistency in marketing."
To solve this problem, Satterfield has devised a step-by-step marketing starter system that any small business can put into action in five business days, for an investment of $300 or less (or a lot more, depending on the choices you make). He lays it out, with step-by-step instructions in his new book, The One Week Marketing Plan.
Is it really possible to get a basic marketing program up and running in a week? Yes, Satterfield says. Here's how.
Monday: Define your niche.
It may not be the only niche your business serves, but it will be the only niche you market to, at least initially, Satterfield says. "The need for niching is because it's such a noisy world out there," he explains. "Unless we hear something that seems specifically geared for us, we ignore it." You need a message geared to your niche prospects in a very specific way.
For instance, he says, many entrepreneurs say their market is "small business." "That's like saying, let's eat American food," he says. "Most small businesses don't think of themselves as small businesses. They think of themselves as a chiropractor or a real estate broker."
How do you choose a good niche? It should be a small segment of the market, but not so small that you're marketing to just a few people, Satterfield says. It should be reachable in some way--does your niche have an association, website, or publication directed to it? Is it geographically defined, so that you can market locally?
Your niche should have a real need for your product, and it helps if niche members are a passionate group, such as golfers or quilters. Also consider how price-sensitive your niche is and how much competition you'll face. "It might be a pond with a lot of fish, but also a lot of fishers, or a pond where there are fewer fish but less competition," Satterfield says. "The more you think that through, the better you'll be able to define the niche you should go after."
Also, he says, your niche should be more than just an area where you think you can make a lot of money. You should have a relationship to this part of the market, either because you are (or were) in the niche yourself, or because a friend or family member is, or because it's something you're passionate about.
Cost: $0. "The only expense is mental heavy lifting, writing out lists and thinking about what market your product will serve," Satterfield says.
Tuesday: Create a free offer.
"We want to build a relationship before we try to sell somebody something," Satterfield says. "A classic mistake small businesses make is they have a marketing message that says, 'I don't know you, you don't know me, but you should buy my stuff.' They'll say it more elegantly than that."
Before you try to sell anyone anything, you need to build up credibility and trust, he says. "The way to do that is by giving away stuff. The easiest approach is a free report, around a pain point. When I say report, I'm talking about a three-to-five-page article. We're not talking about a white paper--we're talking about something that speaks to the hopes and desires this market has. What's their biggest area of pain for which my product or service offers a solution? What are they most curious about? The answer to that is what we build our report around."
Make sure to provide really good information, he adds, and give it a title that will engage your audience's interest. "Do you recognize the 7 warning signs of high blood pressure?" or "How to remodel your home on a shoestring," are good examples, he says. Another option is to do a video, either with you speaking, or--perhaps easier and better--an audio recording matched to a slide show presentation.
Although you can include information about your product, the report should not be designed to sell it. "Your goal is to get them to say, 'I'd like to read that,' and to provide good information so that at the end of the article they say, 'That was good. I really learned something.'"
Cost: $0, unless you get professional help writing or editing the article or creating the video.
Wednesday: Promote the free offer on your website.
Create a website or a landing page on your existing website that promotes your free offer. "One of the ironies here is you have to be just as aggressive to sell things that are free as things you want people to pay for," Satterfield says. "This page is all about the benefits they'll get from accepting the free offer, and it should answer the question: 'What's in it for me?'" The page can be quite simple and typically starts with a headline that's the same as the title of the report, he adds.
This page will also include an opt-in box for your mailing list, and you're hoping that the free report promises enough value that prospective customers will be willing to give you their email addresses to get it. How much information should you ask for when they opt in? "The more you ask for, the lower the number of responses, but the higher the quality," Satterfield says. "It will depend on your business and what you're trying to achieve. My personal recommendation is to ask for the bare minimum." That would be an email address and first name, so you can personalize your emails. You can later ask the most interested prospects to give you more information, such as a phone number, in exchange for more detailed content.
"We're still miles away from them giving us money," Satterfield cautions. "If we provide great value, are respectful of everybody who comes to our website, and hold back that impulse to sell the poop out of them immediately, in the longer term we'll get more referrals, and more customers," he says. "We're being really helpful, and really cool, and giving great stuff away. People like to work with companies who are all those things."
Cost: Up to $300. "This is where the bulk of the money is spent," Satterfield says. Setting up a simple one-page website can cost $50 or less, depending on whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you, and how the site is hosted. You'll also need an auto-responder or email service (such as Constant Contact or MailChimp) to deliver your report and subsequent emails. Shopping cart software might cost you $40 or so a month, he says.
Thursday: Craft follow-up emails.
Satterfield recommends a series of seven follow-up emails, programmed in advance to go out each day, or each business day, after a prospective customer opts in for the free report:
Email 1: Send a link to the report and thank them for ordering it.
Email 2: Send a follow-up to make sure they got the link, and include it again.
Email 3: Focus on a specific piece of information in the report and ask if they found it helpful. "You're trying to spark some curiosity so if they downloaded the report but didn't read it, they might go back and read it," Satterfield says. "You're also asking for feedback, building a relationship."
Email 4: Share the story of someone who used the information in the report and how that person benefited. You don't have to name a specific person or company, but the person should be similar to your target audience.
Email 5: Provide an additional tip or piece of information not included in the report. If you're like most entrepreneurs, you're "a mile deep" in your subject and can do this easily, Satterfield says.
Email 6: Answer a question from a customer. Or if you don't have any questions from customers, answer a question you are frequently asked or that you think they might want answered. "That sends the message that they aren't alone," Satterfield says. "So many people, when trying to solve a problem, feel isolated."
Email 7: Now it's time to offer a free trial of your product, a coupon, or a free consultation, etc. "We now move the person to take action and want to engage with us."
Will seven emails in seven days annoy your prospective customers? No, Satterfield says, because except for the last one, your emails aren't trying to sell them anything. Because they've just opted in, "this is the proverbial striking while the iron is hot," he adds. "If we continue past a week we'll probably annoy them, but in the beginning we want to cement our company name and what we do in their minds, and that takes a little repetition."
Cost: $0. (You already paid for the email software on Wednesday.)
Friday: Drive traffic to your offer.
You can spend a lot of money, or none at all doing this. Begin by sending an email to everyone in your database whose contact info you've collected over the years. "You're promoting your free report--you're not promoting your product or service," Satterfield notes.
Next steps depend on your market, preferences, and budget. You can drive traffic using social media--the only needed investment is your time. "If you have the money to spend on advertising, you can do a pay-per-click campaign with a small ad promoting your free report," Satterfield says.
Where should the ad run? "The advantage of Google is, it's the place people go to first, so there's an argument that it might be the best place to start. If you're marketing to professionals, LinkedIn probably makes a lot of sense. Facebook is interesting--it's a far more diverse group of people than you would imagine, and Facebook allows you to micro-target very specific interests."
Cost: $0 to whatever you want to spend.
What do you do once the week is over? There are many ways to expand your marketing efforts, such as creating a blog, entering into partnerships, and so on, Satterfield says. "The nice thing about this system is that it's a basic structure which in itself works great. And then you can add on."
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