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CATCH Your Clients (and build your brand) – Without the Overwhelm

When you’re just starting out, it can feel overwhelming.

I get it.

But if you put a plan in place before you start, you can be much more strategic about how you spend your time and money to reach your audience.

I developed the CATCH Branding system as a framework to help you get started and make it easier to remember.

Your mission? Every thing that you do, every piece of content you create should be CATCH-tested so you can focus on getting your message across, and being memorable, to your perfect client.

The CATCH System

C – Consistent Look.

Create a look and feel that people can recognize as you. 

Here is all you need to get started:

  • Create a simple text logo with your name. Put your logo on all the content you create.
  • Write a simple tagline that sums up what you do. 10-12 words max – less is better. Use the tagline in your email signature, your social profiles, your business cards, and on your website.
  • Start your “style bible” which can be just a simple Word document. It should list your two (not six) colors that you use for everything (list the hex color number which will look something like this #ABEBC6), the fonts you use for headlines and the font you use for the body your documents.

Please (please, please) don’t spend weeks or months agonizing over a logo. A simple word logo built in Canva will get you started. Use it everywhere: website, social, email, ads. Start to build name and image recognition – but don’t get bogged down.

I have had to do “interventions” with clients who spent months and multiple rounds of edits and changes rather than getting their business going.

So pick something that you can grow with and start using it consistently.

A – Authentic Voice.

Be honest and open about your area of expertise. Tell people about what you struggle with – and how you overcame problems. Offer help without being condescending. We are all on this journey and all on different parts of the path.

There is the school of “fake it till you make it” and frankly, I am ambivalent about this. 

On the one hand, it can be a boost to your mindset when you act as if you have already achieved. There is real science that says it can be a psychological boost to your performance and success.

But on the other hand, there is also fatigue from your audience. There are w-a-a-a-a-y too many faux successful Internet hucksters who project an image of success. But check behind the curtain and the cars are rented, the house is not theirs, and the women are hired models. Fake it till you make it might not be your best strategy.

What I typically advise is to adopt a mindset of success and expertise – but don’t lie. If it ain’t your Ferrari and you have less in the bank than the average fast food worker, don’t give the illusion that you are more successful than you really are. It not only will come back to bite you (and it will) it will simply not read as genuine to your audience.

If you approach your audience with honesty about your struggles and sincerity around your success, you stand a much better chance of actually gaining the trust of people you can help. Click To Tweet

So sure, preach the gospel of success, but be honest and open.

T – Targeted Audience.

Know exactly who you are talking to.

Fitness guru? You are not selling to “everyone” you are selling to “people interested in fitness.” But unless you want to compete on a race to the bottom on pricing, you need to dig deeper into who you really serve as your audience.

Let’s go back to you as a fitness expert. Your specific audience might be “pregnant women looking to manage their health” or “18-30 year old males looking for washboard abs” or “experienced marathon runners looking for faster recovery and nutrition guidance.”

All three audiences are interested in fitness. But they are very different audiences with completely different messaging. Know who you are talking to and then help that specific group achieve their goals.

This is probably the #1 mistake that new businesses make. In their push to just sell something, they throw a bunch of different messages and offers out. Rather than make you a versatile business, it dilutes your message and your brand.

Specialists make more than generalists – and typically have an easier time attracting the right clients. 

If you have tax problems, you go to a tax attorney not the woman who is an ace criminal attorney (unless your tax problems go to the criminal…whoops). The tax attorney is also not interested in representing you when you sue the guy who hit you in the parking lot.

Micro-target your audience so that you become the obvious solution to their special problem. You need to be the specialist who can get the job done rather than the generalist who is often stuck with commodity status  – and competing on price rather than value.

C – Creative Content.

Be creative when you are helping your audience. The fitness guy might make some serious videos around proper weight lifting techniques for pregnant women, and also create a Pinterest board with easy-to-use fitness flash cards, some downloadable nutrition guides, or five-day fitness jump-start challenge.

Your audience will consume different content in different ways. It does pay dividends to pick 1-2 social channels and create content.

Note: Yes, I am serious about 1-2 social channels at the beginning of your business. Unless you are hiring a creative team, there simply is not enough hours in the day to run your business – which should be your #1 priority – and create endless content for 4-5 social channels. Go deep on 1-2 channels and nurture your audience rather than scattershot on 4-5 where you will never get traction because your audience does not hear from you often enough.

Content creation can get out of control. It can feel like you’re on the content hamster wheel. That’s why it’s critical to understand where your audience is so your content creation helps with your marketing rather than wasting time and money. And to focus.

The key to sane (and profitable) content creation is to spend the most time and money where your audience is. Your fitness mommies are probably on Instagram and Facebook and may be active on mom boards, healthy family eating, or wellness groups. Your washboard ab young males may also be interested in tech and cars. But you can’t know that unless you talk to your audience and spend time getting to know them. Deeply.

Once you find your audience, listen. React. Comment. Take notes about what comes up over and over. Answer questions (bonus points if your answer can refer back to your website).

You will also hear exactly how they phrase their problems, wishes, and desires – and you can tailor your message with their language. Not to fool them, but rather to demonstrate that you hear and understand. Customers you can genuinely help find you and put their faith in your ability to solve their problem.

 Know where your audience is, how they prefer to consume content, and help them achieve their goals with shareable, interesting content.

H – Helping

Reach out to your audience and offer help and guidance. Be the person known for spot-on, kind advice. Give your expertise willingly and often. Offer the helping hand without asking for anything in return. It does pay off in the long run.

Helping can be anything from instructional videos to eBooks to in-person clinics. 

Your “helping goal” is two-fold:

  • demonstrate your expertise and experience in solving problems
  • set you up as the most logical solution when it comes time to hire someone.
 
Ideally, you will refer your potential clients back to your website. Unlike social channels, you control how you interact, the information you collect such as a name and email address, and a deeper understanding of the content that is resonating with your target audience.

Final thoughts…

If you follow the CATCH system, you can laser-focus on delivering your message to the right audience, with a consistent look and feel, and building your reputation as a thought leader in your niche.

Spend some time on the front end using these strategies, it can make the process less confusing and get you launched right.

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Tell Your Story to Stand Out In a Crowded Market

September 5, 2017

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The simple path to consistent income

The question I get most from clients is how to create consistent income.

I get this from my RE clients, from marketing clients, from entrepreneurs, from creatives…the industry doesn’t matter, the idea of having reliable income does.

Ready for the big secret? 

The path to consistent income comes from consistent marketing.

Not so revolutionary.

Coca Cola, Toyota, Netflix – all of them spend tens of millions a year on marketing. All day, every day, their message is spread across all mediums. They stay top of mind by marketing.

Small businesses don’t have those same financial resources – but they do have the ability to take a page from the big guy’s playbook. 

Sure, the big brands can outspend you all day. But as a small business, you have three big advantages:

  • Small businesses can be more nimble with their marketing – and double down on what is working.
  •  Small businesses can often capitalize on trends before the big guys.
  • Small businesses can focus on specific geographic or demographic information to micro-target their customers.

So how do you create consistency in your marketing?

First: Messaging

Everyone serves a particular client. Really, you don’t serve everyone.

  • Real Estate agents serve people in a small geographic area – and may further specialize in neighborhoods, or types of properties, first-time home buyers or empty nesters.
    While Real Estate agents may network and refer to agents in other areas, their bread and butter are very specific to a small geographic area or type of buyer/seller.
  • A fitness expert serves people who have weight issues, or who are interested in cross-fit or parkour or gymnastics. They may have a local gym serving a small geographic area or do online coaching for postpartum women.
    While some of these customers may fit into more than one category (guys with weight issues who are into cross-fit) typically you want to narrow focus on the problems that are most painful for your customers.
  • A spa serves people interested in health and wellness. They may specialize in certain types of massage or older women athletes or organic products. Their clientele may be traveling to a destination spa or serve locals. Maybe they sell a line of exclusive products.
    But their messaging should speak to their primary client. For women athletes, the spa might want to focus on recovery treatments, sports massage, and wellness around diet and skin products. If their market is organic, the message might be around holistic health and wellness and the benefits of using natural organic ingredients.

These businesses all have a constant need for new leads and business. Some businesses, such as Real Estate have a longer sales cycle with more expensive sales. Some businesses such as the spa rely on small ongoing sales. The gym owner probably relies on a a membership with an upsell around services such as personal training or coaching. 

Once you know precisely who you serve, you need to tailor your message in a way that speaks directly to the problems that your clients have – and the solution you provide that solves that problem.

It’s not enough for the gym owner to talk about how many treadmills he owns, or the hours of the gym. Instead, the gym should be demonstrating success in solving the client’s problem: how they have running clinics to prep for marathons along with specialized services for people who are new to running or are running their 20th marathon. They offer personal trainers who specialize in rehabbing from sports injuries. They have a child center where children can get fit while dad works out on his own.

Understand the pain that your client faces, find a way to solve that, and then tell people about it.

And once you have your message, you need to work consistently so that your business becomes the go-to source for solving the problem. The gym that promotes sports conditioning challenges, marathon preparation, ski season conditioning programs establishes its reputation as the place to go if you are an active athlete rather than just another place to jump on a treadmill.

Most important: stay on message. Be consistent in what you’re telling clients and potential clients. If the gym owner who promotes sports conditioning challenges suddenly starts talking about barre, Zumba, and yoga classes, his target audience begins to see him as a commodity, a gym that tries to attract everyone rather than a place that is catering to their needs as an athlete.

Second: Engagement

Once you know your audience, you need to get in front of them. Consistently.

When I tell clients this, immediately they think I am talking about constantly spending a ton of money on ads. While ads are a component of marketing, they are not the only piece of the puzzle.

Instead, you need to think laterally about where your client hangs out and their interests. The gym owner who wants to attract marathoners could:

  • run specialized clinics in partnership with local shops that sell running shoes and gear
  • promote on social sites around running
  • offer couch-to-marathon training program at the gym pairing new runners with experienced trainers
  • fund raise for a local charity supported by the marathon
  • partner with nutritionists to create healthy diets for both weight maintenance and peak performance
  • offer specialized branded running gear
  • Run an online webinar around planning your training schedule
  • Do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on her Facebook Group and answer questions online.
  • Track her own progress on Instagram with posts around your marathon training.

These are all ways to think about marketing. It is not just advertising. It is being everywhere that your audience hangs out so that you become the obvious choice when they need to solve their problem.

While advertising will let you get in front of a vertical audience – in a general or a very segmented way. But unless your audience already has some awareness that they have a problem AND that you are an ideal way to solve the problem, it can be a more expensive way to attract your ideal customer. 

Instead, think about all the places your audience is – and how you can get in front of them most effectively.

You need to think about your client’s fears. concerns, and worries. What keeps your client up at night? Are they worried about injury, embarrassment, failure? Engage them on the pain and solve it for them.

Pitfalls to avoid:

#1 Don’t forget: you are selling to and trying to attract customers. Don’t try to sell to your peers. 

This is a big one that businesses sometimes forget. They tailor their messaging and engagement to their peers.

The gym owner might be listening to “industry experts” rather than their clients. They may not focus their marketing to attracting ideal clients rather than just filling their space with bodies.

Real Estate agents might be worried about discount brokers, increasing mortgage rates, or slowing market trends and create content about how to overcome these issues. Your fellow agents might be interested in this, but clients don’t care. Instead, do a deep dive into the neighborhoods you serve – and provide excellent advice and service to your clients.

Spa owners might be chasing the latest trendy thing because “everyone else in their space is doing this.” Instead, understand the needs of their local clients. By listening and focussing on your clients, you might uncover a missing service that other spas are not providing.

#2 To get consistent clients, you need to build awareness.

Awareness is the first rung on the customer ladder. The climb happens one rung at a time.

Rung One: Awareness that they have a problem. 

While this might feel obvious, sometimes clients have been living with their pain or aggravation for so long that it becomes noise in their life that they think they have to live with. Your job is to make them aware that what they are experiencing is a problem so you can nudge them up the ladder to the next rung.

Rung Two: Awareness that there is a solution.

Now that you have made them aware that they have a problem, you have to tell them that there is a way to solve this. There are solutions. This is where your business begins to edge into their consciousness. 

What to avoid: pushing YOUR solution as the only solution. The client is still in the discovery process. It is highly unlikely that they are ready to buy. Just like you don’t get married on the first date, they are still getting to know you and are most likely not ready to buy.

Rung Three: Awareness of you as a business. 

You have now educated them that they have a problem, and that there are solutions to their problem. Now it’s time to begin to introduce your ability to fix their problem. Create awareness that you can uniquely solve their problem.

This is where you demonstrate your skills, abilities, AND your unique connection to their needs and desires. At this point, you can begin to offer solutions – but again, the buyer probably is not quite ready to buy….yet.

Rung Four: Comparison shopping,

The customer is problem-aware, solution-aware, and now is trying to decide between you and the other guy.

This is where you clearly differentiate what you do. 

  • If you have clear competitors, you might set up a comparison table on your site that clearly shows your superiority. 
  • You might offer specific free offers – a training session at your gym, a mini-spa treatment or YouTube video instructions around self-care, a free home value walk through, new homebuyer seminars – that demonstrate your skills AND give potential clients a view into why they should consider your business.
  • You might invite the potential client to a webinar or to a discovery call.
  • You might send information (or maybe a sales rep) to talk with the client.
Once you have potential clients who have shown interest, you have now entered the actual selling phase.

 

Marketing is all about becoming the best solution to the customer's problem. Click To Tweet

You know you’ve succeeded when your client tells you “I needed this and you were the first business I thought of.”

Starting a business?

Confused about marketing?

Read my “Business Fast-Start” guides.

black and white image of old TVs, speakers, and records with a lonely Elvis in the center

Social Media for the Rest of Us

“I’m not worthy”
“My opinion doesn’t matter”
“I’m not like other people”
“I’m just shy”
“Social media exposes too much”
“I don’t look/think/feel like everyone else here”

Any of those things resonate with you?

Social media has a lot of layers. To some people, it’s a big ol’ party. They are out, sharing everything from morning to night.

Instagram their breakfast burrito? Facebook Live their wardrobe? Check their boss on LinkedIn? Chat, comment, check-in, snap…Some people’s lives truly are lived online. Everything is an open book, shared, commented on, liked, and upvoted.

That’s not me.

For a very long time, I used Facebook in “lurking” mode. Reading comments by high school friends. Keeping up with old neighbors from afar. I was quite content to observe and not report.

I suspect that there are a lot of people like me.

But I also suspect that many people long to be part of the bigger social conversation – but don’t feel like they belong. They are not sure. Uncertain. Vulnerable. Maybe even fear that people on social would reject them…if they only knew.

If they only knew that I am not as successful as I appear.
If they figure out that I’m not as smart as they think.
If anyone guesses that I’m different.
I can’t let down my guard because…
I have to fake it because that is what everyone expects.
I am different…but I can’t share that.

Social is often the highlight reel of people’s lives. You see the bright, shiny, pretty, perfect part of their lives. You don’t see the struggle with weight that’s behind the swim suit shot. You miss the uncertainty that’s under the congratulations on a win. You don’t hear the vulnerability in feeling that they are not like everyone else – but that has to stay secret. Not wanting to disagree because of what people might think.

I’m here to tell you that everyone feels this way. Yup. Even the Kardashians of the world feel vulnerable, different, not-great, fake, dumb, unsuccessful, imperfect, fat, skinny, out of control, uncertain, loser….I could go on. But you get the picture.

You are not alone.

So what does all this have to do with business?

Even the “big guys” are not as successful, shiny, and happy as they appear. Even the Tony Robbins of the world are only seen in their highlight reel. You don’t see the behind-the-scenes struggle of running their business.

It is human nature to want to present the best side of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. Where it can become toxic is when we start comparing our imperfect reality with the perfect, edited highlight reels of everyone else.

I am telling you to wipe the perfection right out of your head.

It’s okay to be different, only half as successful, a few pounds over your ideal weight, stressed from doing it all, uncertain, imperfect. Because that is the true reality for everyone. That is the behind-the-scenes reality that you don’t see…but it’s there. Own that.

What you have to say is still valuable and worthy – even if you don’t feel that way.

I want you to truly believe that your point of view – imperfect, different, left-field, overweight, indecisive, bad-hair day, exhausted, stressed, uncertain – is valuable. In fact it is more valuable than all the buffed, polished, edited, highlight reels.

Different is the thing that sparks the conversation. That makes it valuable, vulnerable, real, connected.

Be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and ask for help. There are lots of people waiting with the answers. Be willing to admit that you’re struggling with something personal or in your business. Most people will react with kindness and a (virtual) outstretched hand.

Will there be mean people? Of course. Just like your offline life, there are always going to be people so entrenched in hurting or belittling or making someone feel less because it is their only way to feel important. And just like in your offline life, you have to let your anger and fear go and give them the grace that they are unable to give themselves.

So if you’re online talking up how successful your business is when the reality is that you’re struggling to stay afloat, ask for help, advice, support. There is someone out there who might have that one thing that will make the difference.

Tell Your Story to Stand Out In a Crowded Market

 

10 Steps to Tell Your Story and Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Storytelling gives you a unique opportunity to create a memorable impression when you tailor content, delivery, method, and message to connect with clients – and stand out in your market

There is an art to using stories to connect, convince, and create raving fans. Just like your favorite TV show or book, the way the writer hooks you in is to first attract your attention, then they create a connection.

After they have you, the story moves forward, adding details and layers to keep you engaged. Then, an end, a kicker, a delightful, sad, earth-shattering, matter-of-fact event that brings satisfaction.

People are hard-wired to listen to stories.

There was probably a caveman version of “A guy walks into a bar…”

Stories are a way of sharing. We share our experiences. Facebook, LinkedIn and social media sites are filled with ways that we share our great – and lousy – experiences.

Brands tell stories, too.

A restaurant might tell the story of its founder coming from Italy and working three jobs to save up to build a backyard brick oven because he was hungry for the pizza this mama made in the old country. How he went from baking pies for the neighbors to a 6-chain restaurant that still makes the best a-pizza in the region.

The restaurant website shows photos of the young founder standing in his backyard and behind the counter of his first hole-in-the-wall pizza place – and Instagram photos posted by current customers.

A candy company proudly boasts of still using the same taffy machine that it bought in 1920. They put the machine right in the window along the boardwalk to show off – and a YouTube video of old home movies showing the taffy machine at work in the 1950’s and 1960’s,

Clothing companies that manufacture in America can tell stories about making heritage designs or cutting edge fashion on Pinterest boards. Car companies talk about luxury and reliability. Stories about founding or traditions or cutting-edge technology on industry blogs.

Real Estate agents could talk about what got them into the business – and their passion for connecting clients with the right home. They can post video tours of their neighborhoods so clients can get the feel of a place. Facebook allows them to connect and answer questions. Tell the story of making a house a home.

Ready to get started?

Let’s look at the 10-step method to stand out in a crowded market.

“Go where the money is…and go there often.”
Willie Sutton, bank robber, 1901-1980
Step One: Define Your Goal

Goal: Turn Lead Into Sales. Increase brand awareness to increase sales.

You won’t get where you’re going unless you have a goal

Let’s say you’re a Real Estate agent. You have a long-term goal of increasing sales (doesn’t everyone?) . Before you plunge into your marketing, take some time to do a business audit and review.

  • How are you going to let your buyer know that you are THE EXPERT in your area? That you know which neighborhoods are great for commuters and which are home to the best coffee shops and bars?
  • What do you want to achieve? Increase your long-term leads? Get some listings immediately? Sell a house that’s been on the market a little too long? Be very specific.
  • If you have more than one goal, put them in a priority order. It’s much easier to focus and be clear when you are working on a single goal.
  • What does success look like? 20% increase in foot traffic? Two more listings monthly? Adding 50 people to your client list? Be very specific.
  • How fast do you want/need to achieve your goal? Want versus need are two different things – and can mean different things to your time/money budget. Set out a timeline for achieving your goal.
  • Do you have a deadline looming? Is your market seasonal? New housing development coming on the market? How does this effect your goal and timeline?

Just like Harry Potter’s quest to vanquish the evil Lord Voldemort, the best stories must have a goal that is achieved in telling the story.

Here is a link to more about SMART planning.

Step Two: Describe Your Customer

For our fictional Real Estate agent, let’s profile our potential customer…

BUYERS

  • Want to be close to transit and shopping.
  • Want access to amenities like gyms and restaurants.
  • May have some challenges around student loan debt.
  • Needs to be close to work.
  • Doesn’t want to “overpay” for the right house
  • Stressed about lack of inventory.
  • May feel overwhelmed by the process.

SELLERS

  • Want to balance preparing the house to show well while not spending a lot of money.
  • May have emotional ties to their home.
  • May be moving because of work or family needs.
  • May be looking at school data to help them decide.
  • Wants a fast, easy, clean closing
  • Wants to get as much money as possible

Everyone – and every brand –
has a story to tell –
but you need to tell the right story to the right audience.

Your marketing probably revealed some additional demographics that help you describe your ideal customer: 30-55, income between $100,000 and $350,000, etc., etc.

All that goes into the sauce to help you tell your story.

Step Three: What Problem Do You Solve?

Here is where you begin to make the deep connection with your customer. Step One set out your goal. Step Two had you define who your product is for. Step Three takes you into the WHY.

Why does your customer choose to work with you over a competitor?

  • Are you quicker, better, cheaper, more desirable than alternatives?
  • Will you make the process as stress-free as possible?
  • Do you take away pain, embarrassment, social consequences?
  • Are you thought of the THE EXPERT in your area, with insider knowledge and the best advice?
  • Do you have a track record of getting the house sold? Of finding the right house for your buyer?

What is your customer’s problem – and how are you UNIQUELY able to solve it?

The keyword in that sentence is UNIQUE. Take time to really figure out your UNIQUE selling proposition (USP in marketing terms).

This is the heart of your story…

Once you really understand the problem that your customer is trying to solve, figure out how you can solve it better – and then work on building your brand story around that solution.

State the problem. Feel the pain. Use your UNIQUE ability to solve the problem.

Step Four: Gather Your Assets

Make a list of EVERYTHING you have related to your company.

Founder’s story.

Did you grow up in a family of Real Estate agents? Work your way through college selling houses? Have you spent your career working with builders to create houses that meet the specific needs of your market?

No better way for buyers and sellers to connect than understanding what drove YOU to become a Real Estate agent.

Customer testimonials and reviews.

There is a LOT of research around social proof. People don’t actually have to personally know a reviewer – buyers will assign a lot of trust to a stranger IF they think that the stranger has nothing to gain from a great review.

If you have been in the business for years – and perhaps worked with clients on multiple transactions, ASK for a testimonial. Most people are happy and flattered.

Market research.

If you don’t already know who your ideal customer is – time to find out. Reach out to your existing customers. If they’re local, take them for coffee or hold an open house. Not local? Engage on social media.

Start the conversation and get to know them. And then figure out the common threads.

Step Five: Figure out the WHERE

Social Media: There is lots of demographic info available that will point you to best places to reach your audience. Young males? Head over to YouTube. Females of all ages? Pinterest. Is your product or service photo-worthy? Get thee to Instagram.

For Real Estate agents, I recommend focussing on Facebook for immediate results. With billions of users worldwide, you can find your audience in your specific geographic area and create engagement.

Blogs/websites: Are there sites which attract your demographic? Audiophiles have review sites. Tech enthusiasts have sites that cater to both broad and narrow subjects. Fashion? Food? Travel? Whatever your customer is interested in, there are sites that feed their passion.

For Real Estate agents, think about all things home related. Builders, aspirational room designs, movers, attorneys – they are all connections to your clients.

Where does your customer hang out?
What blogs do they read?
Who do they follow on Twitter or Instagram?

Conventions/events/trade shows: Do you sell a B2B (business to business) product that benefits from a hands-on demo? Is your product the next big thing at Comic-Con or CES?

If you’re a Real Estate agent, would a booth at a home show be a way to meet your customer? What about a local, town-oriented event for sponsorship?

Partnership/Complementary business: Is there a natural fit with a related business? Are you the peanut butter to another product’s jelly? Is there a mutually beneficial relationship that will make both of you new customers and money? Joint venture? Partnership?

For Real Estate agents, local movers, home builders, attorneys, interior decorators, home improvement contractors, and relocation companies could all be good sources of mutual referrals.

Step Six: Be a BIG FISH in ONE (or maybe two) bowls…um…platforms

Based on what you’ve done in Steps 1 – 5, select one social outlets. If you are really trying to jump-start your business and you have lots of time (and maybe some money for marketing) you can pick TWO. No more.

Based on Willie Sutton’s advice, “go where the money” and customers are.

It’s tempting to want to jump into a lot of areas. How hard can it be to get going on LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook and start sending out press releases? You figure that more is better when you’re trying to get traction.

And there is the temptation to focus on social media because it’s free, and everything else costs money.

Yes and no.

Even though a lot of social media is “free”, I liken it to getting a car rolling up a hill. Not impossible, but it does take some effort.

Understand that, like getting that car rolling, the first few months are going to take up a lot of resources to keep up with an active presence. The worst thing you can do is be starting and stopping. Whatever momentum you got, you lose when you aren’t consistent.

Go deep on one (or two) social platforms. Post, engage, search out your audience and build your credibility.

Don’t overlook something that will cost you money in the short term if it really is the best place to connect with your ideal customer. Yes, this means social ads.

Create a rich environment with engaged users. Better to be fully committed and successful with two and then expand as you gain attention – and customers.

Remember…this is only a start.
Create a rich environment with content and interactions.
Give yourself a little time to make connections.
Then leverage those connections and add new media outlets one at time.

Social Strategy:

  • Select your social platform(s0 based on where your ideal client hangs out – not where you or your peers hang out.
  • Fill out the profiles completely. Add user photos, bios, profiles, links – whatever they will let you add to beef up your presence.
  • EVERYTHING on any social presence links back to your website “start here” page.
  • Create a business page and/or group and cross-post content from your website to your social accounts to seed the page with content.
  • Join 2-3 groups where your ideal customers hang out and you can be helpful. Post content, answer questions, and be helpful. Always include a link back to your “start here” page.
  • Add a tab/form to sign up for your email list (see Step Five – Email Marketing).
  • Scrub your “drunk with friends” and “kitty playing the piano” posts. Once you engage, you want people to take you seriously.

Here are some social media templates and cheat sheets to get you started.

Step Seven: Craft your story for the platform

Now that you know your customer, know where to find them, and have identified the two areas you’re going to focus on to start, it’s time to map out HOW you’re going to tell your WHY story.

What do you need to tell stories in these outlets? Video, photos, testimonials? Do you already have enough that really tell your story or do you need to create them?

Focus on the HOW and WHY of telling the story.

Be brutally honest here – but also be willing to take a fresh look at what you already have.

  • Can materials be rewritten or repackaged? Can they be combined in different ways?
  • Your goal: use the medium (social media, website postings, video) to create stories that connect.

Some examples:

  • Use YouTube to give a video tour of your neighborhood so prospective buyers get an inside look
  • Pinterest could have boards where you post customer’s before and after photos of prepping a house for sale.
  • Instagram might feature updates of what is new to the market.

Bottom line: using the specifics of the media and the platform, craft the story you want to tell.

Step Eight: Create Content. Lots of Content.

So…let’s recap here.

You have defined your goal. You know who you want to reach and the most likely places to find them. You have picked two story venues to write for and you’ve started to suss out the best way to use these venues to connect.

Now comes the fun part. You begin.

By selecting your story venues, you may spark different ideas about content and production.

If video is part of your storytelling, consider if you will use animation, slide share, video, photos, or some combination. Do you already have these assets or do you need to produce them?

Build your story around your goals (Step One). If you are trying to raise brand awareness, focus on stories that don’t sell directly – founders stories, how-we-do-it, testimonials, tours, and background. Remember your goal is to get people liking and talking about your company.

Go long.
Be consistent and be helpful. Give before you expect to get.
Post a lot.

Get a calendar and add content regularly. Google rewards ranking positions for frequent relevant content.

How often? While there are some variations across industries, research shows that you should be adding new content at least 3-5 times a week.

Google also rewards for quality of content. That in-depth piece on market conditions and forecasts will help your ranking.

Create content that is about your brand – but that also speaks to the larger topic.

BIG SECRET REVEALED: Google also rewards for content from other quality sources that you reference. Example: Let’s say you read a piece in an industry blog about a new environmentally sound way of refinishing floors, you can comment, excerpt, and link to that piece. You get rewarded not only for adding content but linking to a quality source.

Step Nine: Keep the conversation going. Season with social proof.

Whether on you website, social media, or any other venue, keep adding stories. Make the conversation richer. Comment, reply, add details. Post new photos. Add a video comment.

Add social proof.

Open up reviews. Data shows that people will trust perfect strangers who talk about your products. If you have a good product, be brave enough to let the good and the bad fall together. While people trust strangers, they trust the overall reviews when they feel that the reviewers have nothing to gain and are posting honest opinions.

When users comment or ask questions – respond! If one user is asking, many other users might be wondering the same thing.

There is a strong temptation to delete less flattering comments. And yes, there will always be Internet trolls whose sole purpose in life is to try and pick a fight. Defuse what you can, delete anything defamatory or ugly, and let the rest of your customers see the transparency of your process.

Don’t wall yourself off from customers. Be honest, Treat it as a conversation not a confrontation.

Step Ten: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

When I tell clients that this last step is the hardest, they rarely believe me.

“We’ve done the hard work. We have a system.” And most of the time they do.

But after a couple of months, maybe a week or two slides by without content. You don’t assign someone to take over videotaping customer testimonials after Chris leaves the company. You get busy and a month goes by without posting or commenting on Facebook.

That’s why you have to plan.

Create an editorial calendar for the year. You know your business cycles and industry events. Build your stories and conversations around them. This is not an overnight quick-fix. It usually takes at least 6 months to see any uptick in customer inquiries and sales. Plan the work and work the plan. It will bring success.

Now here’s another helping of secret sauce

Plan for spontaneous opportunities to tell your story.

If there attention is on something that is a natural fit for what you do (news about the effectiveness of music while learning plus your wireless speaker business = opportunity to tell your story) then jump in and create content to piggyback on the wave of attention.

six steps marketing plan

Six Simple Steps to Create a REAL, Working Marketing Plan

Are you frustrated with your marketing?

Do you feel like you’re always chasing “shiny things” that promise to make your marketing (better, faster, easier, cheaper)? Do you feel like creating a marketing plan is too hard and too complicated?

You’re not alone.

This is one of the questions I get asked about the most. So how can a small business or an entrepreneur do the things they SHOULD do around their marketing without spending ALL their time on marketing?

I have a solution.

I have developed a simple, six-step process that should take you no more than a single day to set up and then about three hours a week to maintain. And this includes a blog, social, and email.

Here is how I approach marketing:

–Marketing is a multi-platform effort. No one thing is going to be 100%.

–Your website, social platforms, emails, and brick-and-mortar all need to be aligned around a very clear, single message.

–You have to spend time, money, or some of both. Nothing is free.

–Unless you are willing to spend big, it will take months not weeks to get traction.

–Be a big fish in a couple of ponds – focus your efforts to get in front of ideal audiences rather than being everywhere. Your message and your business is not a great fit for “everyone.”

–Have a plan – and be willing to execute and stay on track even when it feels like nothing is happening.

Ready to finally get your marketing working for you?

–Set aside one full day or two half days to get this done

–Don’t try to get this done a few minutes at time – you need to get in the “marketing mindset” to be most productive.

–Be ready to toss out what isn’t working – or what is not aligned with your goals and mission. Even though you spent time on them, if they are not pulling you forward, they are not contributing and may be distracting both you and your ideal customer.

Ok…let’s GO!

Step One: What is your goal?

Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-based

–What do you want to achieve? More in-store sales? Foot traffic? Publicity? E-commerce? Greater number of clients served? Be very specific.

–If you have more than one goal, put them in a priority order. It’s much easier to focus and be clear when you are working on a single goal.

–What does success look like? 20% increase in foot traffic? Two more classes monthly? New product line launch? Be very specific.

–How fast do you want/need to achieve your goal? Want versus need are two different things – and can mean different things to your time/money budget. Set out a timeline for achieving your goal.

–Do you have a deadline looming? Is there a new product launch? An annual meeting? How does this effect your goal and timeline?

–Here is a link to more about SMART planning.

Step Two: Mission statement

Craft a mission statement aimed at your ideal client

–Here is a starting point:

I/We are a (describe company) who helps (audience) to (your core business). Our (unique business proposition) allows us to (deliverable).

You might need to tweak the format a bit, but you can see where I am going.

Using that template, here is what my mission statement could look like:

I am a sales funnel marketing company who helps small- to mid-sized businesses to get more customers. My “Turn Leads into Sales” focus allows me to help customers drive more traffic, convert that traffic into leads, and then sell their product or service.

–Write this and then read it out loud (really…use your voice). Keep rewriting and reading until it flows and you really could say this to someone in the time it takes for you to get from the ground floor to the fifth floor. This is called an elevator pitch. 

Refining my pitch from awkward, fill in the blank, to a smooth elevator pitch that I can say out loud:

I help small- to mid-sized companies get more customers by building sales funnels  using email, social, and chat bots that build traffic and turn leads into sales.

Better… but is it too technical?

I help businesses Turn Leads Into Sales with my exclusive marketing system that leverages email and social marketing to get more customers.

This hits all the notes I want: describes my business, adds in why they should be interested, and gives a little information about how we accomplish this.

Put your mission statement front and center.

–Distill it down and use it as your tag line on ALL your social accounts.

–Write it as a mission statement on your website.

–Use it on your email signature (along with links to your social accounts and website).

–Print it out and post it on the wall where customers and employees can see it. Make it poster sized so it’s easy for everyone to see.

–EVERY employee should know it AND understand your mission statement.

–Add it to invoices, letterhead, anything you send out.

Step Three: Update Your Website

I assume you have a website. If you don’t spend a day and get one set up. Here is a post I created about setting one up. It’s not hard and only a little scary.

And before you ask: YES you do need one. Social platforms are not enough.

–Set up an FAQ page on your website that is not only about your business but about your industry. Add to it frequently. Create categories and headings for easy scanning.

–Add a “start here” page to your site. Orient your new users, give them a map and guide them to content that introduces new arrivals to your business. Mission statement is front and center on this page.

–Add a “success story” page where you highlight your successes, customer profiles (get SIGNED WRITTEN permission from any customers that you feature that allows you to use it on your website, publicity, and social accounts and keep it on file). Nothing like social proof.

–Put your mission statement front and center on your website. Visitors should know instantly who you are, who you serve, and what you do.

Step Four: Social

–Pick one or two social platforms – not all. Keep repeating to yourself “big fish, small pond.”

–Select based on where your ideal client hangs out – not where you or your peers hang out.

–Fill out the profiles completely. Add user photos, bios, profiles, links – whatever they will let you add to beef up your presence.

–EVERYTHING on any social presence links back to your website “start here” page.

–Create a business page and/or group and cross-post content from your website to your social accounts to seed the page with content.

–Join 2-3 groups where your ideal customers hang out and you can be helpful. Post content, answer questions, and be helpful. Always include a link back to your “start here” page.

–Add a tab/form to sign up for your email list (see Step Five – Email Marketing).

–Here are some social media templates and cheat sheets to get you started,

Step Five: Email

Daily emails/inquiries

— Create email signatures that include your mission statement, links to social, and (if appropriate) a photo. A face really does ramp up the engagement and remind the recipient that there are real people behind your business.

–Hubspot has a great free signature template

–Outlook builds this into their software. (Create new email > Message > Include > Signature)

–You can add a signature to Gmail using a simple table in Word.

–Every business email you send out should have this signature.

Email marketing

–Sign up for an autoresponder account. An autoresponder email account lets you send out emails to your list on a schedule that you set. Mailchimp lets you have up to 2000 subscribers on a free tier.

–DO NOT try to use your personal or business email account to send out bulk email or manage email marketing. You may end up getting your account suspended.

–Start collecting email addresses so you have a list. An email list simplifies business announcements and connects people.

–Create a simple opt-in form and put it on the front page of your website, and on other pages.

–Ask people on social posts to subscribe to your list. Provide links to make it easy to sign up.

–Most social accounts give you some way to collect email addresses via a tab or form. Your autoresponder may have pre-built forms that you can plug in to your social account.

Email sales funnels

–If you want to use your list for sales, you need to create a plan around the marketing and sales process.

–You will need an autoresponder (such as Mailchimp) to automatically deliver emails on a schedule.

–Write a welcome email for new subscribers telling them about your business, restating your mission, restating your respect for their privacy, and telling them what to expect going forward.

–BONUS: Write 6-10 emails that welcome new subscribers and then lead them down the conversion path to buying your service or product.

Step Six: Create a plan – and execute

Goal:

–Keep your goal from Step One in mind. What do you want to achieve and when do you want to achieve it?

–Constantly reinforce your mission statement. EVERY post, comment, answer, press release should be written through the lens of your VERY SPECIFIC message. Don’t waste time or money with anything off-message.

–Keep your time spent to 3 hours per week.

Website: Once a week – 30 minutes

–Write/post once a week. It does not have to be long. Answer a question once a week and then add the question to your FAQ page. Write about a trend. Talk about the challenges that you face.

–Reference you mission statement in your posts where possible.

Social: Once a week – 15 minutes

–Log in to your one or two social accounts, write a short intro, and post a link to your website post on your social accounts.

–Once a week post something helpful. Post about a question that frequently gets asked, write a short answer, and then ask for input from the community. Dispel a myth about your business. Write about trends or things-you-should-know. Highlight a customer or business success story (with WRITTEN permission). Write a post that you can add to your FAQ page. Write about what is going on this week in your business.

–If possible, commit to a once-weekly FB Live, YouTube channel video, or other video event where you demonstrate something or answer a question on camera. Just 5-10 minutes can convey a lot of information and put a face on your business. Not everyone is comfortable with on-camera, but this builds a lot of traction fast. Casual video is okay – it builds a better, more authentic connection.

Social: 20-30 minutes a day

–Commit to spending about 20-30 minutes daily (really…don’t go down the rabbit hole – 20-30 minutes is plenty) being helpful and answering questions. Set a timer so you don’t look up and two hours have gone by!

–Help people. Seek out questions, write a short answer and then send people back to a longer answer on your FAQ, start here, success story, or a post on your website that references the question/answer.

–Check on posts that you have written and respond back.

–Post lots of images. Images get MUCH higher engagement. Video is even better. Your social activity for the day might simply be a photo and caption of what you’re doing that day. Get signed, written releases from any customers in the photos.

Email: Once a week – 15 minutes

–Send out an email to your list.

–Don’t overcomplicate this. Post updates, answer a question that got asked in the shop or online, a write story about what happened this week. A few paragraphs and an occasional photo (If there are customers, get a signed, written release).

–Repurpose content. If you write a post for social or your website this week, use it for your email.

–Pass along an interested article you read or video you watched that relates to your business. Link back and attribute the original source. Write a few lines about why you’re passing this along.

Old-school media: Once a month – 15 minutes

–For brick and mortar businesses that rely on local traffic, building local buzz is just as important as social (and often overlooked).

–For small digital businesses, your job is to get on the radar as a local expert in your field.

–Send out press releases alerting print and television editors about interesting, local stories. Here is a great resource from Hubspot on writing press releases.

–Make it easy for an editor to say yes. Make your pitch timely, include contact info, write a compelling reason that this merits the attention of their viewers/readers. Winning press releases are written from the point of view of what’s in it for the editor.

–Editors get dozens or hundreds of pitches a week. Don’t get mad or set your expectations around your pitch being picked up. You’re getting on their radar so when they have a story or need an expert, you’re the person they think of.

Spend some money, save some time: Achieve your Step One goal faster.

If you have even a small budget ($50-$100/month) you can invest in advertising.

If you are brick-and-mortar and want to raise your local profile, consider advertising locally. What your ideal customer read and view? Local advertisers can give you detailed demographic information. Newspapers will give you bang for a (smallish) buck if your audience is very local. If you can up your ad spend, consider a local or regional magazine or even TV.

For many businesses, their customers come from all over the world – so they need to expand their audience base beyond local marketing. The two biggest online ad platforms Google AdWords and Facebook Ads cover the broadest audience options.

There are lots of places to spend your advertising dollars including Pinterest, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook and shares an ad platform), Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. Depending on your audience and goals, one of these other platforms might make more sense.

Another creative approach is YouTube ads. If you are not competing in a high-cost keyword market (diet, exercise, making money) you may be able to find cost-effective ads that run on videos that attract your target audience. Here is an article by Hubspot that details the different types of ads and the pros and cons.

Google AdWords

Here is a great how-to post from Kissmetrics about Google AdWords

Pros:

–Great for local businesses as you can dial down the geographic reach

–If you are non-profit, you may be eligible for free AdWords

Cons:

–It can be tough to get the right balance of messaging, audience, and budget.

–It can be intimidating to navigate the AdWords account settings and find the right keywords to target.

–If you are in a competitive keyword business (fitness, diet, relationships, finance, personal improvement, etc.) it can be hard to find a keyword that you can afford AND that reflects your business. Use the Google Keywords Planner to understand trends and get ideas.

Facebook Ads

Here is a great post from Facebook about getting started with Facebook Ads

Pros:

–Great for wide audience reach.

–You can target audiences fairly precisely

–You select your goal and Facebook presents the ad to audiences most likely to take the action you want

Cons:

–You are still part of the firehose that is the average Facebook feed. It is easy to overlook your ad.

–Getting the right balance of messaging, audience, and budget can take time (and money).

–It can be intimidating to navigate the Facebook Ad dashboard.

–While you can be fairly specific about geography, it is not as flexible as you may need it to be and may present ads to people who are not your customers.

Summary:

Understand your SMART goal.

Write a mission statement that defines who you are, who you serve, and what you do.

Update your website so the mission statement is a prominent part. Add Start Here, FAQ, and Success Stories pages.

Select one or two social accounts where your audience hangs out – not your peers.

Start an email list with an autoresponder account and create a short email welcome sequence.

Create – and execute – your three hour a plan

–Post on your website every week.

–Cross-post on your social accounts every week.

–Send an email to your list every week.

–Spend 20-30 minutes a day on your social accounts being visible and helpful answering questions. Point back to content on your site if it is directly relevant. Link back to your “start here” page on your website if you are just making general posts.

–Bonus points if you can do a Facebook Live or add a short video to your YouTube channel.

–Build a relationship with local media by sending out monthly press releases.

Spend money to save time. If you have the budget, a hyper-targeted AdWords or Facebook Ad can drive traffic to your site and help build engagement.

What is your biggest struggle around your marketing?

Comment below – or even better – send me an email and perhaps I can help.

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