A lot of new or small businesses reach that pivotal moment when they need their first customers, more business, or they are ready to scale. But their budget and resources are too tight to hire a dedicated marketer to complete the job. Likewise, agencies can be just as expensive, and you have even less control on who’s going to be spending your ad dollars.
I decided to put together a few quick tactics that any business owner can implement themselves to get some basic revenue generating campaigns running, before they even hire their first marketer.
Let me be clear though, there’s a reason seasoned marketers can command high wages, there’s a lot of depth to the marketing field, spread across multiple sub disciplines and technical skill sets. While my advice can help you get off the ground, I highly recommend getting someone experienced to help you as soon as possible. Likewise, you can lose money easily when running paid campaigns. Play by the Vegas rules, set a limit you’re willing to spend on something, and stick with it, be prepared to pivot and try something new.
Before we start generating traffic though, there’s one simple question you have to be able to answer honestly, and with open self-reflection.
How good is your product, really?
You might have poured your heart and soul in to this product, but before you start spending time and money marketing your business, you have to answer one of the most basic questions in product marketing.
Do people actually like to use my product/service.
Take a candid look at your reviews, ask strangers to use your service for free in exchange for candid feedback, ask critical questions. Friends can be helpful here too, but be careful, they may try and pull their punches, or avoid talking about something they think you might take personally.
- What didn’t you like
- Did anything frustrate you
- Was anything difficult
- Was anything missing
- Would you use this service/product?
Although a hard sell, you can even ask, would you be willing to sign up right now? If not, why not?
It’s easy for people to tell you that you did a great job, but when their own cash is on the line, their story might change. Be careful how you ask this, some people may feel like your testing was a con-job if you go in with a hard sell.
If you have current customers, what does your churn rate look like, how long do they use your product for?
Remember it’s far easier to keep a current customer than gain a new one. If you are losing customers, your LTV is lower, which means it’s harder to compete with your competitors who can spend more to acquire their own customers with a higher LTV.
Know Your Customer
Marketing gets a lot easier when you know who your customer is, There’s a lot of tools out there that can help with this, but when you’re first getting started, just ask them!
Where did they find you, where do they look for information, what do they need your services for, why can’t they do it themselves, do they watch TV, or look at YouTube? What websites to they visit?
Getting some early data on who your customer is helps you figure out where you should be spending those ad dollars effectively, build partnerships with websites that your customers like, and improve your messaging in areas people are falling off unexpectedly.
The most important lesson here though, don’t make assumptions. You might be surprised to find out who your customers really are.
Does your Pitch Work?
You could have the best product in the world, but before people will use it, you’ll have to sell it to them
- Does your product solve their needs? How? TELL THEM
- What features/services make you better, make your customers life easier, and take work ff their plate? make it clear what your product has that is going to make their life better.
- What language resonates with your customer? Make it relatable, make it understandable, and if possible make it enjoyable.
Once you have the basics down you can start to test, ow does your landing page perform?
An easy way to test is by using Google Search Ads. This might sound daunting, but if you can set up a simple search ad campaign you can make this process surprisingly easy. Create a small campaign (make sure that Display network is unchecked under campaign settings) where the keyword focus is exact match on a keyword that signals a buy intent (i.e emergency plumbing services in Austin). The key thing here is making sure this keyword is something that strongly signals that the person searching is looking to buy.
in my example above I used emergency plumbing services Austin. While somebody searching for plumbing services Austin may be interested in buying, someone who’s house is flooding definitely wants to buy something.
Note that these keywords might be too expensive to keep running long term, and you might not turn a profit.
But what you will see is whether or not that the people who are searching for this “should be a buyer” keyword, when you are near certain they will buy, actually purchase when they hit your website.
By driving highly qualified traffic to your site, even at a loss, you can quickly learn whether or not the messaging on your landing page works ,and test out potential different landing messaging, descriptions of benefits, price points, and discounts to see what works.
Why do this? As your marketing efforts expand it gets harder and harder to see what really works. As you generate traffic through more channels, and you convert users through contact forms, chats, and calls, as you start to look at acquiring higher funnel leads through content downloads and webinars, attributing value to a sale gets incredibly challenging. So while you have this one single source of traffic leading to a single sign up process, take advantage of it to find out what works!
Once you can convert traffic on your landing page/website then you can start testing broader, cheaper, terms to drive more profitable traffic to your website. You can also explore other channels.
Don’t discount the power of Social Media
The number one thing people look for when searching to purchase a product or service online is social proof. Basically, people want to know if they can trust you.
Make sure that you and your employees are sharing things going on at the business on social media networks, and share out what your customers and employees are sharing. When things are being shared keep an eye out for newsworthy content, did you participate in a charity event? Did an employee or customer do something special? News networks are cosntantly looking for local content, and you can help get the word out there.
A simple example? Circle bar in Austin had to close during covid, but they gave out free WiFi to students who needed to work. Just park outside, hook up to their internet and they were good to go. How did I know about this? A local news network picked up on the story from their social media account.
Sharing stories about your business and your customers can be done in just a few seconds, don’t obsess over it, just post highlights from some of the day to day positives.
Partnerships make the world go round
Most businesses have some form of partnership with other companies, whether it’s vendors, or referral partners for work your company doesn’t or can’t handle. Co-promotion can easily benefit everyone, and it often surprises business owners that the companies they work with on a day to day basis are happy to work with you on promotion.
When you’re working with business partners look for opportunities to highlight success stories. build out case studies, or work together on cobranded events.
Start SEO early, but don’t stress the details.
SEO is a long game strategy that can seem overwhelming (and low return) to many business owners. It’s unpredictable, there’s hundreds of horror stories out there, and every copywriter and developer has SEO on their resume, but most can’t do the basics.
Getting started early on with SEO can help your business in some huge ways later on, but when you’re getting started it’s unlikely you’ll want to dedicate the time and resources. The good news is you can follow some simple best practices to get started on the right foot.
- Make your sites top level pages about your priorities. Don’t over fill your navigation.
- Use correct heading structure. H1’s for page titles, H2’s for content sections, H3’s for sub headings within those content sections etc.
- Write for the customer, not a keyword. Google has got insanely good at natural language processing. Something that’s good for your customer is good for search.
- Use a plugin like Yoast to help you keep track of the basics.
- Write good Titles and Meta Descriptions, most of the time this is what will appear in the search results so make sure it’s something that will make someone click through, but also make sure that you’re not misleading them, if they bounce straight back to Google it’s going to hurt you.
- If you’re a brick and mortar business make sure you use schema markup, its tags around your companies location information. This may look complicated but tools like this can make this a copy and paste job.
- Set up Google Search Console and Google Analytics early on. You don’t need to do anything too advanced here, but getting this tracking up early on gives you access to a huge amount of data that you can explore at your leisure.
- Start a log, showcase your experience. Most website traffic comes through from longer search terms. Showcase your expertise by creating regular content.
Pick Your Priorities
You know your business, so ask yourself what you really need. Is your sales team lacking people to call? Do you need to grow revenue? Do you want to find higher paying or more stable clients?
There’s a lot of ways to focus your marketing efforts, but first you want to understand exactly what your business needs to succeed. You can’t do everything at once, especially when you’re first getting started. By focusing on one specific effort from start to finish you’re more likely to see success from your marketing initiatives.
Use your resources in a focused way to achieve success. there’s millions of ways to sell your products and get your brand out there, so try not to get distracted.
- Know your customer, and their perception of your business and product
- Pick your goal (Calls, online sales, awareness in your market)
- Pick your strategy (I suggest testing out your pitch through focused SEM)
- Focus on one or two core tactics to achieve that strategy in the most efficient way
- Set an end, win or lose, know when to leave the table and do something new
- Iterate. When you find success, find ways to improve upon it. Found that great landing page? Test driving new forms of traffic to it