September 12, 2017 12 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Growing a business isn't easy. First, you need a viable idea. From there, you need to discover a profitable niche, define a target demographic and have something of value to sell them. Whether you're peddling products, services or information, getting the word out has become increasingly burdensome. And without the right marketing strategies to fuel your growth, churning a profit and staying afloat is virtually impossible.
However, identifying the right strategies to market your business is often likened to rocket science. How do you get your message to the right audience and do it effectively? How do you boost visibility and increase sales while sustaining a profit with a converting offer? Today, with so much vying for our attention from social media, to search engine optimization, blogging and pay-per-click advertising, it's easy to see why most are ready to pull their hair out.
The truth is that what got you to this point in business is likely not going to get you to the next level. If you're feeling stuck, join the fray. Most entrepreneurs are so busy working "in" their businesses that they fail to work "on" their businesses. As a result of dealing with the day-to-day operations of a company that includes customer hand-holding, supply-chain demands and more, we often neglect to wield the right marketing strategies that will help fuel our business's growth.
What does it take to do that? Simply put, you have to take a step back for a moment. You have to analyze and understand the basic mechanics of your message and how to effectively reach a larger audience without losing your shirt. The secret to all of this? No matter what marketing strategy you use, if you don't have an effective sales funnel and optimize your conversions, you'll just be throwing money away.
What are the best marketing strategies to use?
Most businesses are faced with a conundrum. It's a Catch-22. There's a clear need for increased visibility to drastically improve sales. But in order to get more visibility, businesses have to spend more money. When that well runs dry, what are you supposed to do?
There is no obvious and clear answer to that question that covers all situations. But there are things that can be done today, right now, even on a shoestring budget, to reach more customers without breaking the bank. However, it all boils down to time. If you lack the money, you sure better have the time to put in the sweat equity.
Either way you slice it, as long as the fundamentals of a sound business are there and you're working tirelessly to build an authentic relationship with the consumer by sincerely trying to add value, then there are 10 go-to strategies you can use to market any business online.
1. Use social media.
You can't ignore social media. That's where all the so-called magic is happening. Some businesses have been built solely on the backs of social media. It can be intimidating at first. Sure. But as you build momentum, you'll find posting on social media to get easier and easier over time.
Of course, you could also hire a social media manager if you have money to burn. But if you don't, just be yourself. Be authentic. Post your thoughts. Post your products. Post anything that you find relevant and useful that would help your audience either learn more about you and your business, or about the industry that you're in.
Use direct messages on platforms like Instagram and even Snapchat or Twitter to reach out to other successful businesses or even to communicate with potential customers who might be looking for your products and services. This is very powerful marketing.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
2. Create video tutorials.
One of the most effective ways to get the word out on your business is to create video tutorials. Teach people something useful. Walk them through it. Hold their hands. Step-by-step tutorials are all the rage. The better you are at this, and the more value you provide, the quicker you can boost your visibility, and ultimately, your sales.
Today, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google. Whenever someone wants to learn something visually, they head there. You've likely done it yourself countless times. So just ask yourself what you could teach in your business that would help consumers solve some pain point? What got you into business in the first place?
The hardest part? Hearing your own voice playing back and even seeing yourself. Now, you don't have to appear visually on camera, but you'll likely need to be heard. You get used to it over time. But you can't ignore the visibility and reach of YouTube so get out there and start making authentic and useful videos today, right now.
3. Start blogging now.
Sure, you could start a blog. If you don't have a blog for your business, then you need to start one immediately. But you don't just have to blog on your own blog. Most people find blogging mundane because they lack the visibility. The truth is that your blog is going to be like a barren desert unless you know what you're doing.
But this isn't just about posting your ideas on your own blog. You should start authority blogging. Use platforms like Medium to post content. Answer questions on Quora and Reddit. Or get out there onto LinkedIn's publishing platform. These are all authority domains that anyone can post on, which have massive audiences, giving you instant and immediate reach right now.
When you do blog, ensure that you blog effectively. Don't post thin content. Think about adding value. Worried about revealing all your business secrets? Don't be. Give away the farm. Give people so much value that you instantly become an authority in their eyes. This is one of the most powerful strategies you can use to market any business.
4. Understand search engine optimization.
This is an area of marketing that I'm incredibly passionate about. But it's also an area that many people are deathly frightened by. Yes, SEO can be frightening. But it can also be powerful. And when you learn to leverage it and you learn SEO the right way, the sky truly is the limit.
There are companies out there who teach you how to use shady PBNs and other link schemes to "trick" Google. It might get short-term results, but in the long term, you'll land in hot water. You can't take shortcuts with SEO. Just like in business, you have to put in the work and the time if you want to see the results.
Some tips for doing this the right way? Don't spam keywords. Hands down. This is one of the biggest mistakes most people make. Create your content for humans while also paying homage to search engines. But more importantly, ensure that whatever it is that you're conveying is insightful, engaging, unique and adds a tremendous amount of value.
5. Leverage influencers.
Want to get the word out there and boost your visibility on social media without taking years to build the audience? Then you should certainly leverage influencers. But the key is to find the right influencer. You don't have to go with influencers with millions of followers. You could opt for micro-influencers with tens of thousands or even a hundred thousand followers.
The trick? Find the right influencer in your niche so that you're targeting the right audience. It's not just about spreading your message. It's about spreading your message to the right consumer base. If you can do that properly, then you can likely reach a sizable audience for not much money invested when you think about the potential profit it can return.
If your sales systems and products are in place, then this makes sense. If you have an offer that's clearly converting, and it's simply about more visibility, then this is likely the right marketing strategy for you right now. Assess the situation and reach out to influencers and gauge their pricing. Do small tests and see what works, then scale.
6. Build a great lead magnet.
So much effectiveness in marketing really does boil down to creating a great lead magnet. I've found that the right lead magnet presented to the right audience can have explosive results. The best way to do this is if you can identify the right pain points and present a solution in your lead magnet, then you're well on your way.
What problem are consumers facing in your niche? What made you get into business in the first place? Ask yourself these questions before building out your lead magnet. The better you identify the problem or pain points at the outset, the better you'll be at actually addressing that with a solution in your lead magnet.
What type of lead magnet should you build? That could either be an ebook, a cheat sheet, a checklist, a video and others. Of course, it's not just about the lead magnet. You have to have a squeeze page with sizzling sales copy to get people to drop into your funnel. But it all starts with a great lead magnet. The better it is, the more effective you'll be at reaching your audience.
7. Use Facebook ads with re-targeting.
One of the most powerful methods you can use to market just about anything these days are Facebook ads. With Facebook, you can reach a very specific audience and you can do it very easily. You can target by interest, age, relationships status, geographic location, and so much much more.
But the trick here to getting great results isn't just about click-traffic. You have to focus on conversions and re-targeting through pixels. If you don't know how to install the Facebook Pixel on your site, then you absolutely must learn how to do this right now. Even if you're not running Facebook ads, you can build your audience with a pixel.
Pixels track everyone who comes to your site, and you can build custom audiences around them. For example, if you post content about how to learn to drive a semi-truck, and you track visitors with pixels, you can then market truck driving certification to people who have already shown an interest in that already because they visited that specific page. And your conversions will skyrocket.
8. Use LinkedIn the right way.
Do you have a video on your LinkedIn profile? Did you know that you can easily add one? Why not take the time to introduce yourself and your business. Link that to your profile description. This is an easy way to passively market your business, and when it's done right, it can lead to shocking results.
If you have lots of connections on LinkedIn and you're not really posting on there, start immediately. You can reach a large audience, especially when your posts go viral. This is a great place to convey the entrepreneurial journey. Talk about your challenges and tell stories. The more effective your stories, the larger your potential reach when you go viral.
You can also reach out to other businesses and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs on LinkedIn. It's a great go-to resource for all things business and too many people overlook this.
9. Create an affiliate program.
Most people don't understand the power of affiliate marketing. Affiliates can provide massive fuel for growth. But approaching the right partners isn't always that easy. You have to have good conversion if you want the bigger affiliate to take you seriously.
I've found that navigating the affiliate minefield can be tricky. It takes persistence and it takes true grit to make it through. Most of us get discouraged after a few setbacks, but you can't allow emotions to get in the way when it comes to affiliate. Build an affiliate program and start reaching out to potential affiliate who can assist you.
10. Use Email Marketing Sequences
Part of any good sales funnel is going to be an email marketing sequence. These are the automated messages that go out to users once they subscribe to your list. Use your email sequence to build a relationship with the subscriber. Be authentic and transparent. And convey your journey.
Use the email responses and clicks to segment your list. For example, if someone clicks on a specific link, they've clearly shown an interest in something. Tag that subscriber to market to them later. If someone buys, tag them as a buyer. Identifying your buyers and the interests of your subscribers is huge for segmenting.
When you do send broadcasts, split test. Split test everything, in fact, You never really do know what's going to be the most effective until you pull the trigger and really test it out. This will help you understand what your audience responds to better, making you a better communicator, and better able to sell to your customers.