Online marketing is not rocket science - although it can get a bit technical. It isn't brain-science either - although it surely can feel like it at times. It is a fabulous way of marketing, and it can be irresistible, attractive inspiring and helpful. You can fall in love with it for sure. It is a necessity for every company out there. As an owner of a small business - you are a marketer first - no matter what.
I have a friend who many years ago taught me an English word Luddite. Its origin is in the era of industrialism in England where artisans and craftsmen rioted and broke the machinery that was replacing their work. Since then, the word has been used to describe someone opposed or resistant to new technologies or technological change. My friend described herself with that word. Guess what we are doing this week for her? You guessed it. We are building her an online shop and a Facebook page.
I have spoken about building this online business arm with her many times. As the physical distancing due to pandemic began, something clicked, and the world of opportunities opened up in her mind. I quite enjoy her enthusiasm.
She inspired me to write this article. This is for you - the beginner online marketer.
There is this basic online business model, which helps you to set up your online business arm. It intertwines with seven steps you need to take to ignite your online marketing machine. Benefits of this are ample, but it is not magic, and it typically takes time and effort and endless tweaking to get results. However, it is a learning curve that everyone goes through. I repeat it: everyone goes through.
Three online experiences every small business owner should have
I find there are three experiences every small business owner should have online, and after that, she gets what online business is about. From the bottom of my heart, I want this for you. It changed everything for me.
- To make a sale while doing something else entirely - like being on holiday or sleeping and making money. For me, it happened when I was on holiday and launched my program.
- To have people consume your product content while doing something else. I was golfing when my students studied my content as I had prerecorded it, and I was streaming it for them at the specified time.
- To get hit up with a message on Facebook and sell something on the weekend to someone you had never met before who only learned about you through Social Media. When this happened, it was the easiest money I ever made.
There are all kinds of businesses using online tools, and more often than not, they are hybrid models where both online and offline tools, products and services coexist. When we are beginning to gear towards the online structures, often we get one bit online, but the next bit of the same process is still done offline. This is very common and happens because we are so conditioned to work offline. For example, when I started to build my online business, guess what I did, I rented a room where I could teach my classes. Huge overhead expense, but at the time, I felt it was necessary. So that was just something I had to think again and go through. My clients weren't ready at that point to study solely online, so I hindered my online business progress by taking on the physical space. Another learning curve was that I had an assistant that loved in-person connection, so I found myself instead of making my sales calls having 90-minute meetings with these people, even though I could have done that online or over the phone in 20 minutes. It hindered my progress to moving online, and I didn't recognise it until later.
Over the years, I have yearned for the pure online model, because it gives me such a sense of freedom. Yet at times, I find myself doing things that don't support that. My advice to you is that guard those online processes you put in place. Your business is living and breathing organism, and it changes over time, so if you want a purely online business, you have to be vigilant and sometimes very straight forward in setting up processes. Be aware of this, especially when building your team. Do they see your vision? How do they operate in online environments? What kind of skills do you need to get things done?
Seven steps that set you on a path for online success
I am a strong advocate of setting yourself up for success. That is why everything in my mind begins with building a proper foundation. If your foundation is not in place, you end up throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. If you have a foundation, thought out message and right channels at your disposal, you always know if you are rowing your boat in the right direction or not. As I said, there are a business model and a 7 step journey to get started. More than that. These two things help you build a proper online business with working marketing machine.
I will explain it, but it is merely a rough overview. It combines my two core pieces of training (7 Steps to Social Media and Entrepreneurial Success Stories) I have taught to help small business owners realise their life purpose. You know, that big dream you have always had, but never dared to leap? That one. If you have it, then listen up.
You begin with getting clear on your objectives. What do you desire? What is the actual goal you have? Every vision, goal and business idea brings the seeds of your core messages. Keep them simple, clear and to the point. Have at least one, three is good and don't have more than five; otherwise, your message gets blurry. You need to figure out who your ideal client is and where do they congregate online. Once you figure out where they gather, you are ready to choose your communications channels. Once you know your channels, you can set up your social media profiles. Make sure they are on-brand. Study the characteristics of social media platforms. This is an excellent time to spend some time online and look at what people post, how people interact etc. I do want to give you a piece of advice here. Just remember when consuming any content: Consumer is not the one making money. So it is essential to monitor the consumption. Are you a consumer or content provider? I love to consume good content, but I am always mindful of the balance.
This takes us to content creation. What kind of content do you want to create? What comes naturally to you? With me, my content always begins with me writing about something important to me. Then it runs into different kinds of pieces of content. Amount of content is still under the debate. How many times to which platforms and there is always someone coming with the new strategy that works. Feel free to try all the strategies to "break" the algorithm, but remember this:
- The algorithm is never something that is done to you. It is you. Well, it is you and everyone else. It forms according to our consumption habits.
- This is not a sprint, this is a marathon, and creating content is the marketing work now. Make sure it is something you enjoy creating, and the style and the technological aspects of it are something that is relatively easy for you, you are in this for a long haul.
Whatever content you decide to create and put out there, make sure that you bridge the gaps from your content to becoming a client. It is one of the critical processes that you have to have in place. I remember once having a client, and we had everything planned, marketing, event, materials etc. and then I asked how the clients are going to pay her and she gave me a long and silent look. She had not yet even opened a business account for her company. So my advice to you is to go over the whole process of client intake from your client's perspective and make sure your process is seamless - at least in theory. There has to be a way your clients can pay you, right?
We have moved from posting whatever and whenever to posting good quality content in volume. More is more and to be able to do that, you need a plan. For that, one of the key components is to create a monthly action plan. It allows you then to see in one glance what still needs to be done, and when you have done enough. Part of the everyday marketing is also to monitor the results. Take a more in-depth look into what happens. What is working and what needs more work.
Even though many of the social media marketing platforms are free, marketing is not free. It has never been and surely it never will. You can get started for free, but pretty soon you will find that you need paid versions of some of the tools you use. For instance, often, a free version of a tool is very limited in insights and reporting. To be able to gauge in your marketing results, you will need proper tools, that is when you have to be willing to open your wallet. One more thing, lead is never free. The sooner you learn that, the better. Your job is to figure out what one lead is worth to you.
After some time, you have created a lot of content. Then its time to go on a data mining mission. What have people liked, commented, gotten excited about and shared? Start picking your best pieces of content and figure out a way to repurpose that. If you have video, would that work as audio? If you have a stack of blog posts, could you read that to an audio series? Maybe you can create a book out of your blog posts? Can you create new graphics around your older quotes? Can you transform them into video? Can you clip your blog post to new quote pictures? Opportunities here are endless. So this then allows you to up the volume on the content and see new data of how people like your new ideas.
Online business is based on the connection you build with people
This Social Media marketing piece is merely the beginning of online marketing. Now you have done what you need to do to bring the right people to you. The gathering phase is handled. Next step is to get a hold of them so that they don't disappear like ships into the night. This is where things get interesting.
So what is the one place people have online that they guard over any other place? You are right. It's their email. When you have an invite to their inbox, to me that feels special. Especially these days, when the best email seems to be the one that gets into the spam filter. So how do you get in? Every person who has ever given their email to me has a special place in my heart. I know how many people are trying to flood messages into their inbox - uninvited. So to me - after a decade of doing this, it still feels really good when it happens.
I have read so many times over the years that email marketing is dead. I cannot wrap my head around it. Why would it be over? Because the opening rates are down? They are down mostly for two reasons; people don't see the value of your messages or your list is not current. So if for some reason you have an ancient list from way back when you did something else, their response is not going to be the same as it is when they are the ideal potential client. Sure there can be reasons like frequency of the messages sent, timing, value - sell ratios and all kinds of nuances, but the truth of the matter is, that if you don't send something of value to the people who are interested, it is not going to work. Like I said in the beginning. This is not rocket science.
There has to be something people find valuable. Initially, you will give this for free. And this is not just something for free. This is your good stuff. You want people to come up with the gift that your people will love and find useful. This is called an Irresistible Free Offer, Freebie or Opt-in offer etc. the loved child has many names. This IFO will be the gift you give so that you can get the invite to their inbox - so you get the email address.
I could stop on this topic for a good full module but let me just say, that you want it to be good, you want to spend time creating a proper one, you want it to be quick and easy to consume but simultaneously teach something new to the person you send it to and showcase the quality of your work. After this, you truly enter the relationship-building phase.
Now you can build the relationship not only through Social Media, but you can invite the person back to your sphere through your email marketing when I said that you need to have the core processes in place. One of these core processes is an ongoing build your list -process. There are multitudes of ways to do that. The best ones are typically collaborations, online events such as webinars, free pieces of training, summits, guest blogs etc. Podcasts are very popular at the moment. All these bring your people to the collaborator and collaborators people to you. It's an all-around win for everyone—one last tip for you. Make a schedule or editorial plan for your messages to your list. Create a concept or formula of a newsletter or an article or something you send out regularly, then combine your newsletter schedule with your social media action plan, and that helps you plan your overall marketing easily.
Phew, hope that was helpful. When I teach all this, we, of course, stop to each step and do the work that it entails, and there is so much we didn't even cover. However, this is how it roughly goes.
If you are thinking about setting up your own online business, know that people do it all the time, every day in pretty much every part of the world. What can make your online business special is you? So the more authentic you can be, the more unique your business will be. You are not late. It is not super tricky; it is just a whole lot of work. So no romantic notions of sipping margaritas at the beach. I do hope that you are not scared about the workload and just begin. Step by step, one thing at the time, until completion.
Any support you may need, I am happy to have a chat with you. <3