A Guide On How To Determine The Best Way to Promote Any Business
There’s no “one size fits all” in marketing.
And right now in the busy world of online business, entrepreneurs are facing a new kind of problem: information overload.
We have access to so much information that there’s just not enough time or we don’t have the resources to experiment with all of it.
After going through endless success stories, case studies, marketing strategies and so on, I eventually hit a point where I wondered:
Which way should I go? What’s the most effective approach for me to take?
Most online marketers like to tell us that their way is the right way. But the truth is that every style of online marketing has pros and cons, so if you want to be successful in promoting your business online, the first thing you have to understand is what’s best suited for your business.
Here are some examples of questions people get stuck on while planning their campaigns:
- What’s the most cost-effective way to promote my business?
- What’s the best way to get visibility?
- What’s the most important thing for me to focus on?
- Which platform should I spend the most time on? Which one’s most effective?
- Are there any platforms I can ignore, that aren’t fundamental to the success of my business?
I put all of these questions together, because all of them can be boiled down to the same answer:
Good marketing is about determining where your business is right now and what it needs to grow.
It isn’t about how much you spend, it’s about what you’re spending on.
Now, if you’re trying to determine what type of marketing strategy is best for your business, start by figuring out where on the following ladder you are:
All you have is a business idea and the resources to get it started. You haven’t sold anything yet and you don’t know for sure how your target market will react to your product.
You have a new business and or website but no visitors to speak of yet (you need to generate traffic).
You have clients and customers buying from you, and you’ve started to think about how you’re going to improve their lifetime value, increase their loyalty, turn them into brand ambassadors.
The reason why it’s important to tackle each of these different challenges and objectives step by step is because people who try to do it all at once often end up getting overwhelmed and quit. Each of those steps have a lot they need done in order to work properly, so don’t overcrowd yourself from the start. Keep things simple and manageable.
Now, I’ll assume you’ve determined where on that ladder you are. What’s next?
Next you need to determine the best channel you can use to reach your objective. So before moving on, make sure you can answer this question right away:
Question #1: What is your objective?
It is absolutely crucial that you can answer that question without having to think about it. If you have to think about it, it means you don’t really know the answer very well. And if you don’t really know what your objective is, then how can you possibly hope to reach it?
I don’t want you to think of 5 things you want to accomplish — it’ll be demanding enough to just accomplish one thing successfully. So when you’re starting a new marketing plan, think first and foremost about “what is the most important thing you want to accomplish with it?”
This isn’t a place for specific answers like “I want to increase my conversion rate by x percent in y amount of time”.
This is the place for a broad, short answer that reflects the most important priority of your business. So it can be something like:
“I want to increase my sales” or “I need more exposure” or “I need more repeat business”.
Each of these objectives require a very, very different way of looking at your marketing, so it’s important for you to know what your business needs most. To help you do that, let me give you a few practical examples of situations where different objectives apply to different businesses:
You’re already getting significant amounts of traffic but not enough of your visitors are converting into leads and or sales. What should you prioritize?
If you’re getting traffic but no conversions, then the answer isn’t to get even more traffic. Instead, focus on conversion rate optimization, or CRO in short. This is the science of convincing more of your visitors to buy from you. Some of the main things you need to look into in order to accomplish that are:
- Make sure you’re targeting an audience that’s interested in what you have to offer. Always look for your most interested audience. Remember this:
It’s a lot easier to sell people on something they already want, versus something you have to convince them to want.
- Keep your visitors engaged for a longer period of time, in order to build trust. One of the best ways to do this is by not trying to sell them your product as soon as they first land on your site. Give them something simple to start with, like an article about how to solve a problem they face, a demo, a free trial, a webinar, etc.
- Improve your writing. If you look at any case studies done on the subject, you’ll discover that changing your writing and phrasing has a HUGE impact on the number of conversions you’re going to get. So if you’re not that good with creating engaging text, consider hiring a professional copywriter. If it leads to more sales, then it’s very much worth the cost investment in most cases.
- Improve your branding/ sales funnel/ design. There’s a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll keep this short:
1. Colors have an impact on conversion rates: Experiment with different colors on purchase buttons, different sizes for each button etc.
2. Refine your sales funnel: try giving people something free before asking them to buy; put more thought into the steps that you are taking them through when leading them to a purchase decision.
You’re a company that’s looking for investors and you don’t yet have a product ready to launch.
Sales should probably not be your biggest concern for the moment, am I right?
Your biggest concern would be to show investors that you have potential. There’s a lot that can go into that, but on a general level, it’s showing them stats that support the claims you’re making about the business. That can be things like user engagement, a fast growing subscriber list, etc.
For things like this, a strong social presence can be a useful asset. Building a list of emails is great pretty much for everything. Think about anything you can do to validate that there’s a market interested and ready to buy your product.
You have an existing business and you’re not looking for investors, right now you’re just looking for sales.
For that you may want to use SEO, (and/or) paid advertising, and maybe content marketing.
Which one’s best? Depends on your priorities.
If your business can right now sustain itself and you don’t have an immediate need to increase your sales numbers, then it’s probably a good time to think about the long term. This is where a bigger investment in SEO starts to make sense:
SEO takes a while to build, so it might not lead to a lot of new customers right away. But it’s great to have in the long run. Getting on the first page of Google can be difficult and usually takes some time, but it’s harder to get there than it is to stay there.
So once you start to rank well for your keywords (assuming you got there without braking any of Google’s rules), the effects of your rankings will continue to extend for a longer period of time, making it worth the time you put into it in the first place.
Quick tip while we’re on the subject: Stay away from blackhat SEO. It can sound like a good idea right away, because blackhat SEOs tend to get people on the first page of Google much much faster than those who play by the rules, but Google has a pretty amazing system in place and they almost always catch up to what you’re doing. When and if that ever happens, it means really bad news for your online presence.
If you need to see sales results right away, you’re better off using paid advertising (Adwords, Facebook ads, etc) instead of blackhat SEO.
If you do have a steady stream of clients and sales already coming in, then SEO is a good plan for you because that’s a long-term strategy. But if you have a business where you need more clients right now, then SEO may not be the best thing for you to start with.
So what do you do when you need to generate sales quickly?
You have a business that needs to generate traffic and sales as quickly as possible.
The most straightforward option you have is paid advertising. Paid advertising is something that certain people tend to avoid because of various different preconceived notions they have about it that generally aren’t true.
If your business can’t survive for another 2 months, spending your energy and resources on long-term strategies that take 6+ months to start showing results might just be enough to bury it for good. My advice is to first get some stability, THEN focus on scaling and organic long-term growth.
Yes, you need to have a strong brand. Yes, you need to be able to reach people organically. But always remember to ask yourself, what do you need MOST? What do you need RIGHT NOW? What’s your OBJECTIVE?
Paid advertising can be a great asset for businesses in their early stages for many reasons. And yes, it has some risk attached to it because you have to invest your own money into generating clicks, but again: it gives you advantages that you would otherwise not have, like immediate exposure and the ability to test.
That’s where the biggest advantage of paid advertising stands. It allows you to test 100 different variations of messages if you want, 100 different variations of landing pages, of names, of titles, of images, you name it!
It helps you figure out what your best converting options are from the start, so you don’t have to wait a few months just for people to find you, before you even know how they’re going to react to your product.
Now the obvious thing to note is that yes, if you have no money to invest at all, then paid advertising isn’t for you. But if you do, then it’s something well worth considering. And you know what else it can help you discover?
If you test out 100 different landing pages, messages, audience types and so on, and your results are still underwhelming or completely inexistent, then your advertising strategy might not be the problem. The product itself might actually be your real problem.
As a clear example of why business validation is really important to have from the beginning, look at people like Tim Ferriss and Noah Kagan. Both of them are extremely successful entrepreneurs who clearly know what they’re doing, and yet they continue to start new business ventures the same way: testing and validating.
It just reduces your risk of failure and greatly improves your chances at success and faster growth.
Another great area of online marketing that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately is influencer marketing. Thing is, there’s a lot I want to say about that, so I’ll save it for another post :)
Now that you have a few examples of what’s good for what, and what’s not so good, here are a number of questions to ask yourself in order to get your marketing campaign on the right track with the right actions:
Question 1: I’m repeating this one because it’s important, simple, and somehow overlooked — What is your objective?
Question 2: Who is your target audience?
You can use a lot of tools to find out really specific info about your audience. My favorite tools for this are Facebook Insights, Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner and Buzzsumo.
Question 3: What’s your sales deadline?
In other words, is this the right time to focus on long-term growth or is it more important for you right now to validate your business and generate sales as soon as possible?
Question 4: Where do your audience members spend their time?
Think forums, community pages, Facebook/LinkedIn Groups, meetups, popular blogs etc.
Question 5: What kind of content are they most engaged with?
You can use Buzzsumo to find the most popular content in your niche and figure out things like, what type of posts they are, how long they are, where most of their shares are coming from etc.
Question 6: What’s their general behavior on social media?
Do they buy anything on social media? What kind of brand pages are they most engaged with? What are those brands doing? Find that out, and you’ll know what your audience is interested in so you can give them the right type of content.
Question 7: How do mobile and desktop devices influence their purchase decisions?
More than 80% of people consult their phones before making a purchase decision. Find out how you should be targeting people differently on mobiles versus desktops in order to really get the most out of each platform.
Question 8: What are their general buying habits?
In other words, what are the steps they take before they decide to buy something? Get the answer, and meet them every step of the way.
Question 9: Where do they usually go to buy items like the ones you’re selling?
In other words, ask yourself what the first steps are that your audience members take when they decide they need a product like the one you have to offer.
Question 10: How do they find those places?
In other words, how do people end up on your competition’s site? Where and how do they find them? Figure that out and determine the fastest way for you to get visibility in that space.
Question 11: How do your competitors make most of their sales?
Focus on the most effective strategies first. Only when those are working for you, should you start to expand further.
Don’t have all the answers? The good news is that in most cases you can find out all that with a bit of careful online research. It will be a lot easier to gather the data you need after you already know what to look for.
If you’re still not sure how to find out certain things, just email me and tell me about your issue — it doesn’t cost you anything and I do my best to answer everyone.
My email address is cata at targetbound dot com. Please don’t spam and don’t try to sell me things :)
And remember, this post is meant to give you a few guidelines. You don’t have to respect all of them in order to create a good marketing plan. But I encourage you to try and find at least 5 of those answers that are important to your own business and create a campaign plan that revolves around that.