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Sales and Marketing Strategy - How to Increase Market Share

How to Increase Your Market Share

I originally answered this question on Quora, but adapted it for this post. 

Like a lot of questions on Quora, it’s is hard to answer without having information on the product, service, industry, competitors, etc. I’ll try to give some thoughts that might help.

Unless the market expands, you are working with finite numbers. Therefore, to “increase” market share you either:

1.    Take market share from a competitor

2.   Convince non-participating prospects in the Total Available Market (TAM) or Serviceable Available Market (SAM) to purchase your product

a.    Simple example: The TAM for Rooftop Solar Panels (Homeowners) is $10M. 3 suppliers are in this Market. Your company has a 10% market share. Competitor 1 has a 10% market share. Competitor 2 has a 20% market share. But, 60% of Homeowners are not participating. Theoretically, this 60% is part of the TAM, so “Not Participating” has a 60% market share. “Not Participating” is one of your hardest competitors. Let me say that again, choosing not to purchase IS A COMPETITOR.

There’s a lot of analysis, strategy, and tactics that a business can deploy to take market share from a competitor. I’ll list a few traditional tactics and then some non-traditional:

 

Traditional: High level, everyone should know these

1.    Marketing - You conduct competitive intelligence. You develop better Marketing Strategy and Tactics to drive more non-participants to your products or switch market participants from their current suppliers (competitors) to your products.

a.    Your marketing machine is so good, when people think of X product category, they only think of brand/product.

2.   Sales - Simple, your sales team is better. They go out there and attract non-participants and switch market participants.

a.    Your sales team is so good, everyone loves them, they have the best relationship, and people only want to buy from you.

Non - Traditional: More tactical

1.    Contracting - Better terms and conditions (T&Cs) than your competitors

a.    Example 1 - Your competitors ask for payment within 30 days, you offer your customer 60 days. Your customers can hold onto their cash longer with you.

b.    Example 2 - You assume more risk within your T&Cs. Your competitors try to push all the operating or product risk onto the customer. You assume more risk and offer extended warranties.

2.   Pricing - Your competitor wants all the money upfront and at Net 30 terms, but you:

a.    Offer traditional financing options - They can pay over time

b.    Offer better discounts

c.    Offer performance contracting or similar - Example 1 - Your product will reduce the customer’s cost. The customer pays you based on the actual cost reductions each month. This is continued until the product or service is paid off. Example 2 - Your product will increase revenue. The customer splits the actual increase revenue with you until the product / service is paid off.

d.    Switching from a CAPEX to OPEX transaction. There are different ways to do this. Example 1 - You hold the product on your books. Your customer pays a fee to use the product. Could be leasing or lease to own. Example 2 - You sell the product to a financial institution or partner. That financial institution holds the product on their books. The customer pays the financial institution for use of the product. Another similar example in software is SAAS.

e.    Price at 0 or negative margin - This is risky and only works on very specific cases. You sell the “product” at 0 or negative margin b/c you will make up the margin on aftermarket sales & services. Spare parts, labor, data, etc. In all of those areas you should have really high margins. Once the product is purchased, the customer has to come to you for them.

3.   Joint Technology / Collaboration Agreements - You partner with your prospects or customers in joint R&D. Lock them into your products b/c you are sharing costs, profits, intellectual property, etc.

a.    They are committed to you and your product / service b/c they benefit from using it and you selling it

4.   Master Agreements - You offer to sign master agreements, simplifying the contracting process and locking prospects / market participants into long-term agreements

a.    You reduce your customer's supply chain / contracting costs. Simplifying the process, agreeing on T&Cs, pricing, etc. upfront means less time negotiating, working through AP … and so on.

b.    You offer discounting or rewards programs within your master agreement. When they hit a certain $value of purchases, they receive a discount or reward.

There are many more ways to increase market share. Almost too many to list. But, I hope this helps give you a few ideas. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Stewart Swayze

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ABOUT STEWART

Hi. I’m Stewart Swayze

As an Executive Coach, I support successful and ambitious professionals that are developing strategic and tactical options to outperform their peers and the market through career development or a career transition. This includes moving from employee to entrepreneur.

As a Marketing Consultant, I work with coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs learning how to create compelling marketing plans to break through the clutter and create sustainable growth for your business.  

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Answer to: What is Market Intelligence?

What is Market Intelligence?

What is Market Intelligence? Let’s keep this quick and easy, outline style! If you can fill in the information from this outline, you’ll have a tremendous amount of Market Intelligence. I’ve also provided links to relevant articles that I’ve written.

Customers

  • Voice of Customer (Read More)
  • Purchasing Habits
  • Preferences
  • Needs
  • Challenges
  • Demographics & Psychographics (Customer Personas)
  • Answer to: Why are they buying your products / services, etc.

Prospects

  • Voice of Prospects (Read More)
  • Purchasing Habits
  • Preferences
  • Needs, Challenges
  • Demographics & Psychographics (Customer Personas)
  • Answer to: Why aren’t they buying your products / services etc.

Competitive Intelligence (Read More - Using Open Source Intelligence to Analyze the Competition)

  • Who are your top competitors?
  • Communications Intelligence - gathering and analyzing publicly available marketing, communications, and sales resources
  • Technical Intelligence - gathering and analyzing of publicly available technical and product information
  • Financial Intelligence - information gathered from analysis of publicly available financial history
  • Human Intelligence - gathered from a person on the ground (sales, field marketing, etc)

Risk – A Simple PEST analysis should help

  • Political – Risk that political decisions, events, or conditions will impact the profitability of a business or value of an economic action
  • Economic – Risk that macroeconomic conditions such as exchange rates, government regulation, or political stability will impact an investment or business entity
  • Social - demographic and cultural aspects of the company's market
  • Technological - technology issues that impact delivery of product or service to the market

Product

 Market

I'm also running a "You ask, I'll Answer" campaign. So if you have any questions on Marketing, Sales, or Strategy, let me know. You can shoot me an email at stewart@stewartswayze.com

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to tag me in a comment or connect with me via social media.

Stewart Swayze

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You Ask, I'll Answer: How do you determine & test product market fit?

This question came in pretty quickly via email. I’m up late writing this post (1:15am when I'm writing this), so you can see I’m very excited about it. Thanks David!

First, I’m going to propose a few questions and provide some thoughts on determining if you’ve reached product market fit. Second, I’ll provide some ideas on how to test.

Please remember, there’s a reason why we have new iPhones 1-2 times per year and constant software updates. Apple is testing product market fit. The software and hardware iterations are tests. These tests provide feedback. The feedback provides data. The data allows Apple to innovate and adapt to the market … Kind of scary, but reaching product market fit isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. You have to constantly adapt to the market and competition. Test, iterate, preserve, pivot, test, iterate, etc.

Lack of sales, lack of or mixed feedback is … feedback. You just have to listen to it. Dig deep. Talk to your customers and prospects. Get them to reveal what you need to know.

On a side note … one of the best ways to do this is via awkward silence. Ask a question, have them answer, then sit in awkward silence. Most humans hate awkward silence. Most humans will break the awkward silence and a lot of times reveal what they are really thinking.

Yes, it takes time to reach that sales hockey stick, but there are early indicators that you haven’t reached product market fit.

Question: What would your customers say if you asked them to describe your product? Could they tell you the features and benefits? Could they provide you with accurate outcomes on how it will quantitatively help them? Ask them what they are willing to give up (cost, data, time, etc) to use this product?

Thought: Find a small business owner that handles credit card transactions. Hand that business owner a product from Square – The Credit Card Processing system. Ask this business owner to answer the questions above.  Could they do it?

Question: If you are wondering if you have reached product market fit, aren’t you answering your question? (Adapted from Erie Reis).

Thought: There is a reason why you are questioning if you’ve reached product market fit. Maybe it’s not selling well. Maybe you’ve received mixed customer & prospect feedback.  They think it’s cool. It might work, sounds interesting, and is very innovative. Yet, only limited numbers are purchasing.

Question: If you’ve launched and promoted your product, are your customers & prospects calling to discuss more? Or is it just the press or tech enthusiasts?

Thought: Think about the lines when a new iPhone comes out. That’s a little extreme, but it serves as an example.  If you’ve had a well-planned launch and marketed it properly, is anyone calling? Even just to find out more information? If your customers, prospects, press, and techies are calling … you’ve probably reached market fit. If it’s just the press and techies, but no customers or prospects, then you might want to re-visit your product. Or, are you still “pushing” information down your prospects throats only to find they don’t have the best gag reflex?

Question (if applicable): Is it an easy sell to your own company? Is your own company using it? Are they readily adopting the product and it’s producing great results? Or, are they forced to use it? 

Thought: There are cases when companies build products that could be used within their own organization. Yet, they don’t use them. This can happen for various reasons. But, it could be a leading indicator that you don’t have product market fit.

Question: Are the customers that purchased your product willing to become product evangelists? Sure, some customers want data privacy and confidentiality. Yet, they can still provide you generic recommendations. Maybe even voice of customer, anonymized case studies, or other social proof. 

Thought: Again, there could be a lot of reasons for customers not publicly going on record for your product. Try to dig into the root cause. Determine if it’s confidentiality or if the product isn’t up to expectations. If it’s not at expectations, this could be preventing them from recommending it.

How do you test product market fit?

1. Surveys: Well duh, right? But, are you asking the right questions? Think of these surveys like an NPS. Keeping it simple, I’ll provide 3 questions below.

a. How likely are you to recommend this product to a colleague? (adapt the term colleague to the right audience, Ex. Another business owner)

 i. Sliding Scale 1 – 10

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

b. How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?

i. Very Disappointed, Slightly Disappointed, Not Disappointed (it’s not useful), & I no longer use this product

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

c. What type of impact is this product having on your organization?

i. Very Positive, Somewhat Positive, No Change, Somewhat Negative, Very Negative

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

2.    Ask for customer testimonials

a. Social proof is a sign of product marketing fit

b. Will your customers go on record and recommend it? That’s a test

3. Give it away for free! (Kind of…): If your product provides a financial benefit, give it to a TBD number for free, then share the financial benefit (Basically, set up performance contract pricing with a test group of customers)

a. If you are stating your product will reduce costs, then benchmark your customer or prospects current costs

b. Then find an agreeable value for them to pay you in based on the % reduction in costs

c. If your product will increase revenues, repeat the above but with a split in increase revenues

I’m open to feedback and more questions on this subject. This is one of the hardest questions to answer for startups and new product launches. There are many thoughts, theories, and experts chiming in on the Product Market Fit discussion.  I hope I’ve at least provoked thought, if I didn’t fully answer the question.

Thanks again for the question. I'd enjoy answering more. 

Stewart

 

 

 

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10 Tactics: How to Build Your Personal Brand on Instagram

How to Build Your Brand on Instagram

 

10 Tactics: How to Build Your Brand on Instagram

I 100% know Instagram is a powerful marketing tool for many brands. Marketers cannot ignore over 400 million users. As a self employed consultant, I recommend most solopreneurs start their social media marketing with only a few profiles.  Build, Learn, and Scale. Typically this is Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Yet, this depends on where their audience hangs out. I’d never recommend replacing Facebook or LinkedIn to build your personal brand. Swapping Twitter for Instagram could be a relevant strategy. In fact, this could be a very relevant social media marketing strategy for anyone that's self employed. 

Most of my business traffic comes from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I’ve experimented with Google+ and Pinterest as well. Now, I’m developing a marketing experiment with Instagram. I compiled a little research on Instagram Marketing. Melyssa Griffin and Courtney Seiter from Buffer have the most comprehensive guides to Instagram Marketing. Here’s what I’ve learned from both:

1. Have a defined goal or strategy

Don’t go into this blind. Like any other marketing activity, have a defined strategy or marketing goal for building Instagram. Is it brand awareness? Driving traffic to your site? Selling products? Instagram is different from all other social media sites. You can only have one link in your bio. Use it wisely and align it to your brand goals and marketing strategy. For me, my Instagram Marketing Strategy is to provide value and Marketing Goal is to drive website traffic. I’m a solopreneur with a personal Instagram account. For this fun experiment, I’m going to create a business account. The main reason for this … Instagram analytics! I love data.

2. Post Often

Your audience will check their IG accounts at different times. Post often, at least 1-2 times per day, but ensure you are posting at the appropriate times as well. Know your audience. When do they check their Instagram account? Plus, Instagram is rolling out a Facebook algorithm based timeline. Consistency is a key element to getting your posts seen and appearing at the top of the timeline. - Courtney Seiter Buffer

3. Reciprocity:

Melyssa suggests “Liking Photos in Your Niche.” I totally agree. In business and in life, reciprocity goes a long way. By supporting and commenting on other people’s photos, they will return the favor.

4. Engagement:

As with all social media, you need to engage your followers. Engaging with followers is a Social Selling tactic. If they comment or like, thank them. Create ways to generate conversation. Interact and provide value.

5. Collaborate & Co-Brand:

Find brands, businesses, or other Solopreneurs to collaborate with or co-brand. Consider joining forces with a local business and charity to co-promote an event.

6. Create a Unique Hashtag

Of course you should have your brand hashtag and use it often. You can also create hashtags for specific events, contests, niches, etc. Which leads me to the next one …

7. Use popular hashtags for your niche

People get caught up on this. How do I find the right hashtag for dog walkers? Honestly, there are many different suppliers that charge money for hashtag research. You don't need to pay a dime. You can also use this amazing thing called “The Google.” Just throw in your search, “Popular Instagram Hashtags for Insert Niche Here.” You’ll find plenty of information. Read through a few articles and find the hashtags that fit your marketing goals or brand.

8. User Generated Content

Ask for, use, and give credit to user generated pics and videos. You can do this by generating a specific hashtag. Then “once people start using your hashtag (and YOU use it, too!), then you can repost images from your followers (giving them proper credit, of course!).” - Melyssa Griffin

9. Ask Your Followers on Other Social Media to Follow Your Instagram

This is simple, but sometimes a forgotten tactic. Your audience might not realize they aren’t following your Instagram. Or, they might not realize you have an Instagram. Either way, get on your other social media platforms and ask them to follow you.

10. Run a Contest

I don’t know about you, but almost every day I see people on all social media sites sharing photos or posts b/c they might win something. Same concept here … people love contests! So find something to give-away that your followers want. Give them a reason to share, post, comment, etc.

Special thanks to Melyssa Griffin and Courtney Seite from Buffer for the great information. 

“Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.” @courtneyseiter

Melyssa helps “heart-centered hustlers grow their audience and income online.” @melyssa_griffin

Has your brand had a positive experience with Instagram Marketing? What would you recommend to other brands?

Stewart Swayze

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How to utilize your network to promote your business

How to promote your business

Step 12 of the “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

Utilize your network to promote your business

I like to call this network marketing. It’s primarily developing a strategy to use your established network to market your business, find clients, and cultivate prospects. It needs to be a mutually beneficial strategy. If you use your network, provide them value as well. Below are a few tips on using your network to find new business.

Turn your family and friends into your evangelists!

The first place to start is with the people that know you well, your family and friends. They all want to see you succeed. Turn them into your word of mouth marketers. When you share content on social media, have them like and share it too. Sharing creates a significant impact on your social media and local marketing. They have friends that have friends that could be potential customers. Use them. Choose 5-10 people and ask for their help.

Before you ask for something from your network, give them something of value

When you are creating a business, tell everyone you interact with on a professional level about your business. Including your accountant, attorney, banker, barber/stylist, etc. Let them all know you are open for business and seeking customers. Ask if you can give them your business card, maybe even leave a few extra cards for them to hand out if they come across anyone. Let them know you’ll send people their way too and do that! If you do, ensure that they know you’ve sent them a new customer. This referral exchange creates an informal referral system.

If you don’t have an office, try finding a Co-Working space

Get out of your home or office. Network at a Co-Working facility. Take part in their events. Don’t be the jerk that’s only trying to sell your products and services all the time. Develop relationships first. Help solve a few of your co-workers' problems for free. Then, find an opportunity to offer your services for a fee.

Download your Outlook and LinkedIn contacts into a workable excel

I’m going to assume you have Outlook and LinkedIn contacts. You can download both into a .csv file, then convert it to Excel. Inform your contacts, if they don’t already know, that you have started a new business. There are a few schools of thought here. You can be direct and try to sell them immediately. Or, you can provide your necessary information (website address, service offerings, etc.) and let them know you are producing content they may find valuable. Get them engaged, build a relationship, and then sell. You’ll need to be the judge on the approach to your network.

Segment and prioritize your contacts to develop a Network Marketing Strategy

My recommendation is that you review your contacts and segment them into different groups. Then, develop different approaches for each group. Segmentation will help you create a Network Marketing Strategy. As an example, Segment 1 you meet in person, maybe buy them lunch. They are mentors, advisors, or potential prospects. Segment 2, you call on the phone (if you have their number). They are people that can introduce you to other contacts or live outside your state. Segment 3 you send a personal email. These are people you respect, maybe don't know as well, but want to develop a relationship. If you are starting out, don’t spam anyone with a generic mass email. Take the time to email them with a personal note.

A few other words of advice

 

  • Don’t always ask a network contact for advice without ever offering to pay for it.
    • Example: If you keep asking for legal advice from a contact that's a lawyer.  It might be different if this person is your mentor. If not, you should pay for his/her advice.
  • Don’t have alternative motives.
    • Example: Scheduling a meeting with someone in your network for advice, but then using the meeting as an opportunity to sell him/her something.
  • Make introductions for other people in your network
    • Reciprocity goes a long way

If you use your network strategically, it will go a long way to helping you grow your business. As you do this, introductions will happen, and your network will grow. Keep track of those too. You never know where your next customer will pop up. Also, you may end up with a tremendous opportunity, but don’t have the full resources to tackle it on your own. If you have a reliable network, they can help and support you with resources. 

This concludes the in-depth 12 Steps to Executing a Free Digital Marketing Strategy. With your comments and feedback, I'll continue to update each step. Sign up for my newsletter or check back for more valuable content. 

Stewart Swayze

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Want to know how to uncover your own golden $3B segment?

how to uncover your own golden $3B segment?

Want to know how to uncover your own golden $3B segment?

Have you ever conducted a full-scale Customer Profitability Analysis?

I’m not talking about simple revenues or contribution margins by customer. I mean a full-scale analysis that includes “Cost to Serve.” This analysis will determine the full profitably for each customer. Many times we push this report onto the accounting or finance departments. I wholeheartedly disagree with that. Your marketing team should conduct it. A Customer Profitably Analysis is one tough cookie to complete, but it will be worth every effort.

I once led a team working on a giant Customer Profitability Analysis. First, we had to gather and clean detailed data from 4 different databases. These databases spanned across finance, sales, operations, and marketing. Each department tracked unique customer information and called the same data something different. Next, we had to normalize or harmonize the data into one large excel. Last, we had to analyze the data to present a clear picture of customer profitability. You want to have an excel that you can manipulate and view data from all different angles. Once we completed this process, the Customer Profitability Analysis was a treasure-trove of information.  

Why should your marketing department conduct the Customer Profitability Analysis? 

They will uncover more information than just profitability. I’m willing to bet once you’ve completed the analysis; your previously defined value props, customer personas, market sizing, and segmentation will all change. In fact, they will improve. The marketing department will find more “ah-ha’s” in this analysis than any other piece of market information. 

You might think your most significant or key accounts are your most profitable. I’ll challenge that assumption. They’ll bring in the most revenue, but won’t be the most profitable. You might also think your smallest accounts would be least profitable. Again, I challenge that assumption. Once you determine your cost to serve and full customer profitability, a lot of assumptions will fall apart. 

You’ll find new opportunities and alternative ways to serve your customers

If you conduct an in-depth analysis like this one, you’ll be able to find new opportunities. Plus, identify alternative ways to serve your customers and cut wasteful spending. In fact, from the analysis my team conducted, we identified a new $3B segment. The segment was sitting there right in front of everyone for years. You are probably asking yourself, “How can a $3B segment be overlooked?” Great question. All eyes were on the traditional and significant revenue streams. The group we were consulting missed the combined mass of smaller, non-traditional revenue streams. It only too minor tweaks to capture these customers. 

The other important factor, they could capture this market through less costly sales channels. They already had the skeleton for inside sales team and e-commerce. We recommended a small tweak to the current portfolio, a few marketing materials, some messaging, and bam, market activation.

Here’s the not so fun part

As I mentioned above, your company will have it’s own way of collecting, storing, and analyzing customer information. You'll find it spread across different departments and databases. As you start pulling together the data from each department, you’ll find discrepancies.  Don’t dismiss these as just a data quality or data input issues. Find the root cause. Search for the workarounds.

Challenge your team to ask, “why?” Why are we tracking it this way and is there a better solution? Why aren’t these departments working together? Why are there workarounds? What you’ll find are gaps and workarounds that are causing two major problems. One, your organizational nightmare is negatively impacting your customers. Two, this nightmare is raising your internal costs to serve your customers.  

Add Voice of Customer to your analysis

I’d also recommend conducting Voice of Customer (VOC). Conduct VOC once your marketing team develops an in-depth understanding of the quantitative numbers. Launch your VOC campaign as you move into the qualitative demographics/psychographics. Sure, conduct an NPS study, but also call a decent sized sample of customers and prospects. You should include old customers that you may have lost and disgruntled ones too. VOC will only add another layer of data to your analysis. 

Define goals outside of understanding profitability 

Yes, the primary goal is to determine customer profitability. Through centralizing customer data into one place, I guarantee you’ll find your golden nuggets. Enough to make this problematic analysis worthwhile.  I’ll list a few goals below to challenge your team to answer by the end of this analysis. 

Customer Profitability

  • Are your Key Accounts your most profitable?
  • Can you reduce your “cost to serve” through adjusting your channels?
  • Can you identify new Cross-sell and Up-sell opportunities?
  • Segmentation & Targeting
  • Can you identify any new segments?
  • Are you targeting the right customers & prospects?
  • Can you serve a “prospect” segment through lower cost channel?

Customer Personas

  • By analyzing the data, did your customer personas change?
  • Do you need to adjust your value prop(s)?
  • Look-Alike ProspectsCan you identify prospects that are currently considered low on your list with attributes that look-alike current profitable customers?

Customer Satisfaction

  • How can we improve customer satisfaction through cross-functional alignment?  (Sales, marketing, finance, and operations teams)

Work with a cross-functional team to develop the strategy and tactics needed to increase profitability.  Go out and capture the newly identified opportunities.

Have you ever uncovered a golden nugget through a profitability analysis? I’d like to hear from you. 

Stewart Swayze  

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Sweet, Simple, and Easy to Implement SEO Techniques

Easy to Implement SEO Techniques

Step 11 of the “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

So, you’re a small business that has a local or regional market. Or, you’re an early stage startup with some traction. You might be asking yourself, does search engine optimization (SEO) matter for me? The answer is yes! It does. You cannot ignore SEO. Plus, the earlier you build SEO into your standard operating procedure, the better.

SEO comes in two different forms - on-page and off-page. On-Page is your website, coding, and content. Off-page SEO is links back to your website, social media, reviews, etc. To help with SEO, you’ll need to tackle both. I’m not going to get super complicated and technical.  When we are just starting out, simple is best. As we scale, we can add more complicated SEO techniques.

Keywords within your content and website are one of the easiest and most important aspects of SEO

Take a little time to research keywords or key phrase development (long-tail keywords). Proper SEO can ensure your company appears on the first page of Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Use high-ranking keywords specific to your industry, topic, website, etc.

The keywords you choose depend on your customer’s challenge, audience, strategy, etc. Put yourself in their shoes, what would you search for on Google? The unaware population will search based on the problem, not a specific product. Research and use keywords that rank highest around the problem you are trying to solve.

There are plenty of free tools to find keywords. There are plenty of free keyword tools. I’ll list a few below:

Don’t overcomplicate keywords

When you are first starting out, don’t overcomplicate your keyword usage. Find a relevant set of keywords. Add them to your website, blogs, and content (on-page). Continue to refer to this set of keywords as you develop new content or update your website.

Start a blog and produce high-value content

As we’ve touched on before, content is king! Blogging with high-value content is essential to SEO. Ensure you use keywords in the body, titles, headlines, and subheadings. Share your content on social media (off-page).

Search engines crawl your website and the contained content. They determine if the information is useful. Create original content that answers questions your audience types in search engines. Ensure that you create content on a regular basis.

Use SEO Website Tools

Use free website analysis and content performance tools. The free version of the Varvy SEO Tool provides website and content performance information. It will also list the domains linking back to recent social media mentions.

Sign up for Google Analytics and create custom reports. You can choose many different variables and metrics.

SEOCentro SEO Analyzer is a tool that analyzes:

  • Social media ranking

  • Site usability

  • Online reputation

  • Meta tags

  • Site speed

It even gives information on top performing keywords.

Link the content within your site (on-page) and back to your site (off-page)

Your content might reference items located in other content within your site. Use hyperlinks to connect the two pieces of content. Remember to promote your content on social media. Always provide links back to the content on your website. This helps SEO, promotes traffic back to your site, and increases your authority rankings. If you’ve heard the term “backlink,” now you know what it is.

Use the free version of Open Site Explorer. This tool helps tracking links coming back to your pages - https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/.

Consider using free PR Services

You might be thinking that PR doesn’t exactly sound like SEO strategy. Think about it. Your press release will spread across the World Wide Web and shared on social media. It will contain keywords and links back to your site. This creates buzz, awareness, and traffic! SEO heaven.

If you are a local or more regional business, you’ll want to create local business pages

You’ll need to create local business pages. Plus, claim your business on Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google, Yellow Pages (YP), etc. In SEO world, this is called local citations. When someone types a search for Dog Sitter Springfield, MA ... your business comes up. You can read more about this on Moz Local.

Provide complete and accurate information on each page

Ensure your contact information complete and the same across each business page. Your phone number, hours, address, website, etc. Add several photos of your location. Chose the correct business category. You can select more than one category if applicable. I’ve listed a few tools below that will help you find and claim your business on various local sites.

https://moz.com/local/search - Moz uses data to score your business

Use Google MapMaker to search for your business and phone number. You can determine if there are duplicate listings for your business.

Ask for customer reviews. Don’t be scared, just do it!

Social proof goes a long way. Ask for customer reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. Search Engines look for customer reviews. Not only will this help with SEO, but also with increasing local traffic. 

If you are hyper-local or hyper-regional, use long-tail keywords that include your location

Ensure you have local or regional keywords within your content. This will help search engines associate your business with your exact location. Example: You are a photographer in Austin, TX. You scatter "photographer Austin, TX throughout your content. When someone types “Photographer Austin, TX” into Google, you have a higher likelihood showing up in the first page results.

Focus on these few SEO tips in the beginning. They are easy to do and free. As you grow, consider hiring an employee responsible for SEO or third party provider. 

Next week we’ll discuss using your network as a marketing tool. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter to receive these posts and other articles in your email.

I hope this post helped. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. If relevant, please share it with your friends and network. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Stewart

 

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7 Steps to Simple & Effective Email Marketing

7 Steps to Simple & Effective Email Marketing

7 Steps to Simple & Effective Email Marketing

Step 10 of the “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

Now that you have a blog, social media profiles, and content … it’s time to develop email marketing. Social media continues to gain interest, but email remains king. Combining social media and email marketing allows you to add a personal touch. The combination will enables you to offer products & services in both locations. I’ve listed 3 email service providers below. 

1. Showcase your personality

Your email service provider can automate sharing original and curated content with your contacts. You want to establish yourself as a content creator and 3rd party filter for your audience. This can be via regular emails containing your blog or a more formal newsletter. You can use templates, add your content, and schedule the release.

When you publish a new blog post add it to your email marketing and/or newsletter campaign. Always include a link back to the post on your website. Add a short descriptive “teaser” sentence and the title of the blog to increase clicks back to the post.

2. Encourage engagement from your audience

Ask questions. Provide links within your email and ask for comments on the blog post hosted on your website. Determine a consistent email or newsletter frequency. The frequency is up to you - weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

3. Provide social sharing options

Include social sharing options within your email marketing. Add a footer with an opt-in to your newsletter or ability to download premium content. If you provide premium content your audience will look forward reading your emails.  

4. Your audience is your friend. Personalize your emails and build trust

Skip the generics. Write your emails and newsletter as if you are speaking to one person. That person is someone you respect. Your audience is a friend and you want to help them.

Develop trust with your audience. Provide a clear opt-out option. Don’t be sneaky with your sales pitch. Be upfront when you are selling them something. Show empathy and compassion for their challenge. If you provide value and build trust, selling them will be much easier.

5. Spend time developing good subject lines; there are tools that can help

Craft subject lines that reveal exactly what your audience will learn if they read your email. Numbers and text that provoke emotion work well.

You can also read this post from Digital Marketer.

6. Refrain from sending novels

Keep your emails short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t send a novel. Make the text scannable. Break up your content, provide short subheadings and images. This helps guide your audience through the email. Your audience is busy … make it easy for them read.

  • Free Copy Analyzer to from Hemingway Editor to analyze & simplify your message (this thing is awesome!)

7. Know your metrics

Most newsletter and email marketing services like MailChimp offer reports and analysis. Look for trends. What’s working, what’s not working, and adjust to the data. There will be patterns, try to understand those patterns to develop and improve better campaigns. 

Your email marketing technique will take some time to develop. Start out by using templates from your email-marketing provider such as MailChimp. Edit your text via the Hemingway Editor, and write catchy subject lines. Always provide value to your customers and gain feedback. If you use these tools, you’ll be well on your way to a great email marketing system.

Next week we’ll discuss some basics for Search Engine Optimization. Sign up for my newsletter to receive these posts in your email or you can visit my blog every week.

I hope this post helped. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. If relevant, please share it with your friends and network. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 Stewart

 

 

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How to build a simple scalable social media marketing strategy

How to build a simple scalable social media marketing strategy

Step 9 of the “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

Social media marketing is important to your inbound marketing strategy

Maybe you’re a small business, solopreneur, or startup. Traditional marketing and advertising can be costly. Social media marketing is important to your inbound marketing strategy. Plus, can do social media marketing for free. Now, we all know there’s no free lunch in life. What you’ll save in money, you’ll have to pay in time and sweat equity.

If you don’t have social media profiles for your business, it’s time to build them. You’ll need to spend some time to build out your social media profiles on a few sites. Your audience preferences are diverse. Where they consume content online will be different as well. Some will prefer to receive content on LinkedIn, while others on Facebook. Depending on your audience, it might be Twitter or Pinterest. You’ll need to determine the best place to provide your valuable content.

Build your relevant social media business profiles

First, I have a recommendation. Instead of building profiles on every single social media site, start with 3-4. Luckily, you’ll be using marketing automation tools to help. Buffer and Hootsuite automate distribution across different social media sites. 

You can use KnowEm as a tool to search for your business name across multiple social media sites. There might be other businesses using the same name. If this is the case, you need to find a simple, but related alternative.

Ensure your social media profiles are completely filled out

Only create profiles that you will keep up to date. If you don’t keep your profiles active, then your audience won’t follow you. Think about it this way, would you bring a client into a messy, outdated, and unorganized office? It’s the same concept.

Your social media presence is an external office that prospects and customers are visiting. These profiles help them determine if they should conduct business with you.

Your contact information is one of most important parts of your social media profile. Ensure it is complete, accurate, and visible. The goal is to convert your audience into customers. It's simple; they need your contact information. Use the exact same contact info for each profile. There are a lot of businesses that list different addresses or phone numbers on each profile. It’s easy to forget an area code or suite number. This can screw up your SEO or worse, confuse your potential clients.

Create two primary objectives and two secondary objectives for your social media profiles

You’ll need to determine your social media goals & objectives (G&Os). Keep these simple. Limit yourself to the 3 or 4 G&Os. Maybe have two primary objectives and two secondary objectives. Examples few would be:

  • Brand Awareness

  • Thought Leadership

  • Generate Leads

  • Customer Retention

  • Generate Traffic

  • Answer Questions

  • Competitive Positioning

  • Build Trust

Use owned and curated content to share value with your social media audience

Let the audience know your plan to provide them value on social media. Clearly communicate the plan and give them a reason to follow you. Adding photos or gifs to your content increases interaction such as sharing, liking, commenting, and purchasing.

It is vital that you share content on social media on a consistent schedule. If you plan to share your blog post on Mondays, share it every Monday! Automated scheduling tools allow sharing even when you’re on vacation, traveling, or in meetings. This is hard. I struggle with it too! When lots of work and priorities pop up, you have to schedule a time to get it done.

Ensure you can engage with your audience through comments, social sharing buttons, and connections

Make it easy for your audience to add comments, share your content, and connect with you. If someone leaves a positive comment, give thanks. See if you can get them to write a full customer review. Share the review with the rest of your social media following. If it’s a negative comment, respond appropriately and take action.

Be human, not robotic, and develop social media relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for social proof or reviews. Social proof and product reviews are a powerful marketing tool!

Schedule time to interact with your audience

You have limited time and resources. Schedule 15-30 minutes a day to respond to comments, answer questions, and give thanks. We’ve also only established 3-4 social media profiles. You should be able to engage on all sites if you keep up with it daily.

Once you scale and grow, you can hire people to manage your social communities. Until then, start small, remain focused on a few objectives, and have fun!

Next week we’ll discuss Email Marketing. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter to receive these posts in your email.

I hope this post helped. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. If relevant, please share it with your friends and network. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Stewart Swayze

 

 

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How to create a simple, but value-added content strategy?

This is the 8th post of a series: “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy.”

Focus on creating & curating quality content that is engaging and sharable

For some people the thought of content creation is a scary. However, for the purposes of this post, we are going to keep it simple. This post is designed under the assumption that you have limited time and budget. I’ll even share a few marketing automation tools to help as much as possible. The goal is to get you started with content creation, as you learn and grow, you can develop a more robust content strategy. Remember to focus on creating quality content giving less importance to quantity.  

There are hundreds of books and articles on Content Strategy. Content Warfare by Ryan Hanley is a book I recommend. For this post, let’s boil down content creation into two simple goals – Attract prospective buyers and retain current customers. Content is one of the most important driving tools for your inbound marketing strategy.

  • 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content. - Marketing Tech Blog
  • 68% of consumers spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. - The CMA

Content Distribution - 30/60/10 Owned, Curated, and Promotional

The 30/60/10 ratio is a simple rule to get started with your Content Strategy

  • 30% Owned – Your blog, videos, pictures, infographics. Owned content is what you have created
    • Why only 30%? – You’re just starting and don’t have a ton of owned content yet
  • 60% Curated - Links to other content that is related to your industry, brand, or company. You will share, but include your thoughts, recommendations, or point of view along with the link
    • You to become a central thought leader, people look at you as the filter of good content
    • You have more opportunities to engage with your prospects and customers on topics that are relevant to them
  • 10% Promotional – Your calls to action, marketing, and sales pitch
    • Why only 10%? – People don’t want to read, hear, and see you talk about yourself all day
    • Don’t oversell on social media, people get turned off really quickly. Seek to provide value

In the beginning, keep your content topics simple

Let’s not complicate topic creation. You have a product, service, or some sort of offering. You know your industry, prospects, and customers. Let them hear from you.

  • Answer FAQs
  • Provide Thought Leadership & Expertise
  • Solve Common Customer Challenges
  • Share Industry News and Insights
  • Tell Your Brand Story
  • Share Company News, Events, and Stories
  • Provide Industry Statistics relevant to your customers

Choose your topics based on your goals. A few goals to consider:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Thought Leadership
  • Generate Leads
  • Retain Customers
  • Generate Traffic
  • Answer Questions
  • Competitive Positioning
  • Build Trust

78% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content want to build good relationships. -TMG Custom Media

Centralize your Owned Content within a blog

For your owned and original content, centralize everything within your website, and on your blog. Not only will this help bring people to your website, but also this helps your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

First, create content in the form of a 500-1000 word blog post. Once you create a blog post, you’ll use that same post to create new forms of content and promote across many different platforms (see below). Your blog posts will provide information from the bulleted topics above. Don’t forget to add a simple Call to Action at the end of your blogs. Examples include – Following you on social media, signing up for your newsletter, providing feedback, etc.

Use your blog to create new forms of content

From that single piece of content, you can expand it into other forms – a Podcast, YouTube Video, Infographic, Webinar, Meme, etc. The type of content will depend on your audience and goals.

From voice of customer and understanding where your audience hangs out online, break apart your content … change from written word to video, words to a podcast, and pictures to memes, etc. Find the most important nuggets of valuable information and share it with your audience in multiple formats.

  • Neil Patel breaks down 15 Types of Content to Drive Traffic

Schedule and automate your content distribution

To reduce time, schedule your posts and sharing. Depending on your website host, you could have limited, but built-in capabilities for sharing content to various social media sites. There are many different content distribution tools, but two good options are Hootsuite and Buffer.

Hootsuite: “Manage multiple networks, schedule posts, and engage
your audience, all in one place.”

  • Social Media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram and FourSquare
  • Plans: Free, Pro ($9.99 / Month up to 50 profiles), and Business (Contact for pricing).

Buffer: “Buffer shares your content at the best possible times throughout the day so that your followers and fans see your updates more often. Get the most out of each post.”

  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest
  • Plans: Individual Plan (Free), Awesome Plan: $10/month, Small Business Plan: $50/month, Medium Business Plan: $100/month, Large Business Plan: $250/month

Through content curation, you’re the filter for your audience’s valuable 3rd party content

Content curation is finding information relevant to your audience across a diverse set of sources. Then, sharing it strategically through your social media and communication channels. We’re all constantly overwhelmed by information, insights, and data. By curating valuable content you become the trusted filter for your audience. You already read articles, have thoughts, opinions, and insights. It’s time to share them.

As you collect that content, provide your audience with a short insight or thought, then the link. You can even ask a question to engage them in a discussion. To make this easier, I’ll list out a few tools below.

  • Pocket: Install Pocket’s browser extension for easy curation. You can download the app on your smartphone for cross-platform usage. As you read an article, save and tag it to Pocket for future sharing.
  • Twitter Lists: Twitter can be a horrendous. It turns into a streaming mess if you’re not using Lists to organize the accounts you follow. A list is a curated group of Twitter users that you can create or follow. You can retweet great content provided by those you follow.
  • Scoop.it: Start with a topic of interest and Scoop.it not only generates the most relevant articles to view and share, but also includes complementary topics and other Scoop.it users to follow. 

To get started with content curation, pick tools, start using them, practice, and learn from the response or engagement of your audience.

Don’t over-promote your products and services through the content you develop

People are tired of getting slammed by sales pitches all day. If you over-promote, they’ll turn you off, ignore your emails, and stop visiting your site. Use the promotional portion of your content very strategically. Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell or promote your products and services. I’m suggesting is that you need to be very careful how often. To help you control your content development ratio (30/60/10), develop a very simple editorial calendar.

Keep your content simple in the beginning. Creating value is better than complication and creativity (expensive publishing software, crazy cool graphics, etc.)

Since you are probably starting out, keep it simple. Don’t try to be too creative. Focus on “value” over complication and creativity. Get your content out there, test different types, learn what your audience wants to consume. Ask them how you can improve and what they want to learn. If you are providing valuable owned and curated content, you’ll draw prospects to your site and keep your customers satisfied. This is the essence of Inbound Marketing. Sales will happen naturally, your promotional content will help to augment your other sales activities.

Visit again next week when we’ll discuss developing Social Media. Or, sign up for my newsletter to receive these posts in your email.

I hope this post helped. How did you develop your content strategy? What tips do you have for new content creators?

Stewart Swayze

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Quick and Easy Steps to Creating Your Business Website

8 Quick and Easy Steps to Creating Your Business Website

This is the 7th post of a series: “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy.”

Creating a website for your business is fairly easy. Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly have drag and drop templates with good support forums. Alternatively, you can hire someone to build a WordPress site. This will significantly increase your cost. 

1. Secure a domain name

You need to secure a domain name. It should be your business name or something as close as possible. Some providers allow you create a domain name for free. The provider will slap branding all over your site and even in your domain name. I recommend spending a few dollars per month to get your own domain. You can find coupons for domain names by searching Google.

I like to keep it simple and use Google’s domain registry service. They partner with several site creation services such as Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. This makes it’s easy to integrate everything into one location. Google provides an optional custom email service as well (@yourdomain). Google Apps for Work includes helpful business tools to include video meetings, shared calendars, and online storage. 

2. Create a logo

For some reason, a lot of people get hung up on logos. If you don’t already have one or want a new logo, I'll list out a few different options. 

Free: You can use free software or sites like Canva to create your own logo for free. 

Low Cost: Go to Fiverr search for logo design and have someone build one for you. Logo designs start at $5 and up. If you go this route, choose designers with outstanding reviews from other customers. It's an inexpensive option, but remember, you get what you pay for. 

Medium Cost: You can use design contest sites. These are a little more expensive, but the quality should increase compared to Fiverr. Check out design contest site reviews on The Crowder

High Cost: Hire a local or freelance graphic designer. I recommend this option. It’s the most expensive option, but you’ll be very happy with the results.

3. Pick a hosting service

I’m going to assume you’re using a do it yourself provider like Squarespace. If you want to build a WordPress site, I’d recommend hiring someone. The DIY sites are, for the most part, SEO and mobile friendly.

Picking a DIY provider will depend on your business, goals, and budget. I cannot recommend a specific provider for you, but I can provide a resource that will help you decide. Jeremy Wong at Website Builder Expert wrote an article that reviews several providers. He even has a comparison chart. First, read this article - “DIY Website Builder – Even You Can Build & Publish a Website.” Then, choose a provider that fits your goals.

I use Google’s Domain registry services, consider one of their partner providers.

4. Choose a DIY template

The DIY providers, like the ones I’ve listed above, provide easy to use templates. Pick a template based on your business. Most of the providers have recommended templates. There is no reason to over complicate your site. Keep it clean and simple. When you grow, you choose to pay for a more robust website design.

5. Create at least 4 sections for your site

There are tons of strategies on building the right website. Keeping it simple, I’d recommend 4 sections: About, Products / Services, Blog, and Contact.

Write each section, review it with friends, family, colleagues or a mentor. Edit, Edit, Edit. You want to avoid any spelling or grammar mistakes, it happens, but do your best to avoid those. 

  • About section: Provide basic introductory information in this section. Include company information, experience, basic product information, and why someone should buy your product or service. Since you're selling something, include a value proposition towards the top of this page.
  • Products / Services section: Add more detailed information about your products and services. This is where you can add Customer Outcomes to market your products. You can also provide any relevant technical information. 
  • Blog section: This is your central location for owned content. We’ll discuss content strategy in a later post. Your blog will allow you to create and share content on your site and social media. Most DIY website providers have social sharing options built into the templates. Build an email opt-in form to collect email information from site visitors. Email opt-ins will be vital to your email and inbound marketing strategy.
  • Contact section: Provide clear contact information - Name, Phone Number, Address, etc. Your website provider should have a built-in template to create a contact form. You might receive spam if you include your email address on your website. If you want to reduce spam and track emails, add a contact form. It’s your option.

5. Take advantage of your website footer

Your website footer is a perfect space to add your social media profile buttons. These buttons allow people to visit and follow your business on social media. You add contact information, email opt-in, site navigation links, terms of service link, and a privacy policy. Orbit Media has a good article on website footer best practices.

6. Add pictures to your site

Be creative. Add relevant and professional pictures to your site. You can search Google for “free stock photos” to find pictures that fit your business. At the most, they might ask you to provide credit for the photo. Don’t use copyrighted images without permission. Be careful you don’t overload your site with random and unorganized images. Most DIY templates will provide gallery options.

If you’re a photographer or someone that needs to add a lot of images, consider adding a Gallery as a separate section to your site. 

7. Don’t write long paragraphs on your site

This is a best practice from content strategy, but it also applies to websites. Most visitors scan. Write short, digestible, and scannable paragraphs. Keep your paragraphs around 3 to 4 sentences max. Use other techniques such as bullets, numbers, or bolded key points.

8. Build something basic, get out there, learn, and grow

Try not to spend weeks building the most perfect and professional site. It’s more important you get the site up and running as quick as possible. That way you can start creating content and connecting with your audience. Do a little bit of research. Take a couple of days to build and edit your site. You can adapt your website to your expanding needs.

Next week I’ll discuss Creating Content. After that we’ll move into Social Media, Newsletter / Email Marketing, and Search Engine Optimization. Feel free to visit my site or sign up for my newsletter to receive each post in your email.

Stewart Swayze

 

 

 

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Creating Customer Personas To Beat Your Competition

Creating Buyer Personas To Beat Your Competition

Customer Personas

If you are following my “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy,” you’ve defined a customer challenge, tested hypotheses, conducted voice of customer, analyzed your competition, and developed customer outcomes. Now it’s time to create customer personas, also known as buyer personas.

Consider your resource restrictions and requirements

First, you have limitations to consider when defining your target customer. Don’t try and service the entire market if you are just starting out. Find a solid niche. Prepare to target and serve them well. If you succeed in a niche, you can expand into larger markets with more offerings at a later date.  

Growing your customer base beyond your capabilities sounds like an awesome scenario. Your company and product are so damn good that you have too many customers. I wouldn’t want to stop or slow anyone down from growth. However, there’s a fine line here. If you cannot serve your customers, they will likely leave or the competition will swoop in to save the day. Also, if your product cannot handle the load, it may crash. You can do some early testing and forecasting to help prepare for future growth.

Beat your competition by developing your customer personas from an alternative perspective

The more unique a persona, the easier it will be to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your competition might define customers using demographical information. If this is the case, create a customer persona based on psychographic data.

For example:

Competition’s Persona with demographic driver - Millennials, based in NYC or the Bay Area, working in the tech industry, highly educated, w/ high disposable income. 

Your Persona with psychographic driver - Individual contributors and managers in high tech, that enjoy autonomy, value personal growth, have limited time, but use e-based offerings to continue their education and learning. 

Look at your customer’s behaviors, values, & beliefs. Where do they purchase (Channels)? When do they purchase (Seasonal, Quarterly, Inspirationally)?

Who are they (Managers, CEOs, Mothers, Fathers, etc.)?

Create Customer Personas from your Customer / Market Challenge, Competitive Analysis, Voice of Customer, and any other data

You will tailor content based on your customer persona and position within the marketing funnel. We’ll discuss content strategy in a later post.

To create a customer persona, fill in the information below. 

  • Background – General Background information

  • Demographics – Age, Sex, Location, etc

  • Psychographics – Behaviors, Beliefs, Level of Organization, etc.

  • Pain Points/Challenges – What are the pain points and challenges they are experiencing?

  • Goals and Objectives – What are their G&O’s? How will they use or consume your offering?

  • Needs, Wants, Desires – Based on your VOC, what are their needs, wants, and desires?

  • Quotes – During your VOC, did you capture any good quotes? Do they fit a potential persona? Or, can you create a descriptive quote that generalizes the persona?

  • Product - In general, describe how your offering will help the persona

  • Outcomes – What is the measurable result a customer will experience when they purchase?

  • Marketing Message – Take your description from above and turn it into marketing messages. More formal and a bit longer than the description of how your product will help. How would you describe your product, service, or offering to your target customer?

  • Elevator Pitch – What’s your 30-second elevator pitch to get in the door?

  • Common Objections – Brainstorm, list out any common objections and how to overcome them. If you don’t have any yet, try to find a few you think might come up. As you gain more information, fill this out. Begin creating FAQs with answers.

Create a descriptive name and share each Customer Persona

Create a name for the persona. Add a profile picture that helps visualize each Customer Persona. Share each Customer Persona with a small, but cross-functional set of colleagues. If you are just starting a company, share these personas with friends, family, or a mentor.

Gather feedback and refine your Customer Personas

Once you’ve shared your Customer Personas, ask for feedback. Determine if you need to refine anything. Try not to overcomplicate the process. Prioritize the feedback and only refine as required. 

Next week we’ll discuss a website with a blog. After that, you’ll begin developing a content strategy aligned to your customer personas. This will allow you to target prospects and retain any current customers. I welcome any feedback. Don’t forget to visit my blog or sign up from my newsletter.

Stewart

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How to Develop Brilliant Customer Centric Outcomes

How to Develop Brilliant Customer Centric Outcomes

Customer Centric Outcomes

If you are following my “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy,” you’ve defined a customer challenge, tested hypotheses, conducted voice of customer, & analyzed your competition. Now it’s time to develop customer centric outcomes.

An outcome is the measurable result a customer will experience when they buy your product or service. Will they see a 15% increase in productivity? A 10% reduction in operating expense? It’s the total value and experience you provide. If you have a cleaning service, it’s not just a clean house. It’s the full experience the actual value to your client.

What if you not only provided a clean house, but also a free home organization assessment? The outcome of a clean AND reorganized house could tremendously impact your customer’s life. This would be easy to do, just link up with a local home organization consultant. The consultant would probably say “yes” because then you get them in front of more clients. Free for you, free assessment for your customer, added value, and a differentiated experience. Marketing and selling based on customer outcomes will set you apart from your competition. You become more than just another supplier. You are a strategic supplier. 

Why are outcomes important?

In the Competitive Analysis post, we discussed using the Internet enables you to keep a watchful eye on your competition. This allows you to develop differentiation strategies. In this same way, customers are more empowered, prudent, and a bit skeptical. Customers are no longer concerned with features and benefits. They want outcomes.

Outcomes aren't a new concept. But, they aren't used enough. If you truly want to differentiate yourself and become a strategic supplier, you need to develop outcomes.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole!” - Theodore Levitt

Most decision makers no longer have time to learn about your products and listen to your feature / benefit pitch. You and your competition just repeat the same old crap time and time again. Just envision Charlie Brown’s teacher, “wah, wah … wah.” Boring as hell and not helping you. Your customers simply want outcomes, and measurable end results.

How do you develop customer-based outcomes?

To develop outcomes we need to shift your mindset a little. Move away from the old school 4P’s of Marketing: Product, Place, Promotion, and Price. Instead, let’s use a different set of P’s. Scott Santucci of Forrester defines the new set as:

  • Problem: What are the customer’s problems?

  • Pattern: How will your solution solve their problems?

  • Path: How will it be purchased and can you help facilitate the decision cycle?

  • Proof: What is the quantified value the solution will deliver?

Develop Measurable and/or Quantifiable Outcomes

If you are following the “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy,” we’ve started covering the first 3 P’s: Problem, Pattern, and Path. To develop outcomes, we need to quantify the value our solution can deliver. Remember, a feature / benefit is Product X costs runs on an open platform and costs only $5. A solution is Product X integrates your Marketing Automation Programs into one platform. An outcome is Product X increases your email marketing team’s productivity by X%. It saves you $Y in legal fees by cross-verifying opt-ins. This ensures your team is compliant with the new email marketing regulatory requirements.

Outcomes are metrics for success that help clients meet specific and measurable goals. It’s no longer just the solution. It’s the end result.

  • Productivity

  • Efficiency

  • Customer Satisfaction

  • Increased Revenue

  • Decreased Cost

  • Increased Market Share

  • Measurable, Strategic, and Specific to your customers

I challenge you, no matter what product, service, or offering you plan to market / sell, you can find measurable outcomes. If you cannot think of any, this is a perfect time to reconnect with your customers. Why not ask them? Any information they provide you specific to outcomes is data. The more data you get, positive or negative, the more you can improve. If your product is currently in development, this is a perfect time to have an outcomes conversation with potential customers. Dig deep. Find out what desired outcomes are important to them. Test and pilot your beta product. Use the Lean Startup Principles – Build, Measure, Learn – Preserve, Pivot, Iterate.

Next week we’ll discuss developing Customer Personas. You can also sign up for my newsletter to receive these posts in your email.

I hope this post helped. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. If relevant, please share it with your friends and network. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Stewart Swayze

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Brilliant Voice of Customer Hacks to Test Market Fit

Brilliant Voice of Customer Hacks to Test Market Fit

Voice of Customer

This post is part of a series, 12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy."

Today we’ll go a little deeper into Voice of Customer (VOC). So far you’ve completed the first three steps. You’ve defined the problem, developed a set of hypotheses to test, and completed a competitive analysis. The next step is testing everything through VOC. The best way to learn about your customer is to ask them. It's important to remember a few things here … VOC means ask questions, actively listen, and do not under any circumstances try to sell!

"THE BEST WAY TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS IS TO ASK THEM" - CLICK TO TWEET

There are many different ways to collect VOC. Some of these include customer interviews, focus groups, surveys, general observations and/or test customers. For this exercise we’re going to focus on interviews and surveys. Both of these methods are easy and free to conduct. 

It is important to ask open-ended questions. A simple way to construct open-ended questions is to start with Who, What, When, Why, and How? If you need to use leading questions, begin a question by painting a small picture… yet, allow your customers to fill in the rest. Try to create questions that allow you to cover several hypotheses with one question. Actively listen and dig deeper by asking them “what else?” Another valuable tactic is summarizing through feeling. “I feel as if…” then provide your summary and ask if you are correct. They will either confirm or reject your summary, but provide more information.

Massage your VOC questions based on your audience and channel

Before I jump into the types of questions you can ask, let’s cover a little bit of background. When you develop your own questions, you’ll need to massage the questions for the type of VOC channel you are using and audience. There are 1000s of different questions, tools, data you can use to conduct in-depth VOC. In fact, there are startups and huge companies that focus on helping companies collect VOC. As an example, 9Lenses is an awesome company I’ve worked with before.

Our goal is to develop a basic marketing strategy. We want to get your offering on the market as quickly and efficiently as possible. As you scale, gain funding, or increase revenues, you can develop more robust VOC systems. This includes collecting VOC data from several places within the buyer journey and a product’s life cycle.  

What types of questions should you ask? 

  • Background – Ask questions to gain general background information. What’s their role? What do they have responsibility for? How long? Get a general sense of whom they are.

  • Demographics – Age, Gender, Location, Income Level, Marital Status, Occupation.

  • Psychographics – What are their behaviors, beliefs, and preferences? How do they prefer to learn about products? Where do they purchase? Who / what influences their purchasing decision? What is a typical day for them?

  • Pain Points/Challenges – What are your customer pain points? What challenges they are experiencing?

  • Goals and Objectives – What are their G&O’s? How will they use or consume your offering?

  • Needs, Wants, Desires – What do they need to solve their pain point? What do they want that’s value added? What’s nice to have, but not required?

  • Outcomes – What metrics do they use to ensure a product or service has met their requirements? How does it make them feel?

  • MVP – If a manufacturer or service provider offered you “X”, (describe your MVP here) would you listen to them? Would you consider purchasing their product / service? Why or why not? What else? Be careful not to sell. Present the basic MVP, actively listen, dig deeper, but do not sell.

  • Common Objections – Why don’t they currently use a product or service to help them? If they do, what do they like about it? What would they improve? If they were the manufacturer or service provider, what would they do different?

Where can I reach potential customers to gain VOC?

There are 3 immediate answers. If you have current customers, start with Step 1. If you don’t, move to steps 2 & 3.  

1). Ask your established customer base. The 1st one is simple, but only applies to anyone that already has customers. You can do this via the phone, surveys, or in person.

Even if you have customers, conduct steps 2 and 3 below as well. A few months ago I executed all 3 steps for a financial services firm. This firm thought they knew everything about their customers and prospects. We uncovered a 1B+ market they weren’t serving. Plus, found a few, let’s call them, “counterintuitive” perspectives from their current customers.

2) Walk outside your door. More than likely you live in or are close to a relatively populated community. Head out your door and speak with people in your community to collect VOC. I list out a few examples below. Read these over, and adapt them to your business, offering, and location. List as many places as possible. Don’t worry about finding the perfect place. Get a long list going and prioritize later:

  • Hosted Events at the Small Business Administration, Chamber of Commerce, Meetups, Incubator/Accelerator Programs, Job Fairs, etc.

  • Academic Institutions, Entrepreneurial Centers & Co-Working Spaces

  • Friends, Colleagues, your High School, Undergraduate & Graduate School Network

3) Online: To reach out and connect with potential customers online, you’ll need to find out where they “hang out.” Some specific online examples include: 

  • Quora, Medium, & Blogs

  • Startup Networks, Websites, & Online Boards

  • Social Media – LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Google+ & Twitter

Before bombarding social media groups with tons of questions, read and understand the guidelines for each site and group. If it’s a group, join. Then, take some time to read the content already provided. Maybe comment on a few posts. Then ask a single question. When you receive comments, kindly ask people if you can follow up with them.

For Quora, the whole point is to ask a question and have an expert answer. Again, follow the same example above. Ask, listen, and connect.  On Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you can create survey using SurveyMonkey, Twitter polls, or some site like that. Make your survey professional with some sort of graphic, picture, etc. Don’t just post a comment, "Take my survey" with a link. Also, try to limit your surveys to the most important questions (10-15 max). SurveyMonkey provides tips on conducting surveys on social media.

Once you’ve completed steps 1, 2, and 3, analyze your data. Take a step back, share the info with friends and colleagues. Then provide it back to your potential customers. Ask for their thoughts and perspectives. Did your hypotheses stand up? What should you adjust and refine?

Now we’ve completed your initial VOC. We’ve defined the problem. Developed hypotheses. Tested those hypotheses with VOC. In Step 5 (next week) we'll use this information to develop Customer Outcomes. Now you know exactly who your customers are and where they hang out. Plus, have a good understanding for a Minimum Viable Product.

If this post has helped you, please share it with your friends and network. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Stewart Swayze

 

 

 

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Using Open Source Intelligence to Analyze the Competition

Using Open Source Intelligence to Analyze the Competition Competitive Intelligence


8 quick ways competitive intelligence will improve your business

Understanding your competition is an important tool for growing your business. Competitive analysis helps differentiate your strategy, offerings, and content from the competition.  

1. Identify market gaps that you can fill

2. Determine how your market likes to be served; dislikes as well

3. Identify differentiated methods to attract prospects & serve your customers

4. Isolate, develop, and promote your unique value proposition

5. Detect your areas of strengths and weaknesses versus the competition

6. Analyze market reaction to your marketing strategy

7. Determine your market position

8. Get to know your customers and see them from different perspectives

The majority of companies are weak at analyzing the competition

I’d give the majority of companies a poor grade at analyzing the competition. There are many different strategies and tools analyze your competition. However, the Internet is the single most important tool for competitive intelligence. You can collect “Open Source” competitive intelligence to plan a robust competitive strategy.

Open Source Competitive Intelligence is ethically and legally gathering information from public sources

In this post, I’ll discuss 4 different Open Source Competitive Intelligence categories.

1. Communications Intelligence

2. Technical Intelligence

3. Financial Intelligence

4. Human Intelligence.

It is extremely important to remain within ethical and legal limits. This is why I must stress “Open Source” (Publicly Available).  Remember, even though it’s legal, there can be negative market consequences if you are caught. Read this oldie, but goodie from CBS News

Before we begin, write down your 3-5 most relevant competitors. Relevant because depending on your strategy, you might avoid some competitors. As an example, going after smaller or local competitors might be your best strategy.

Let’s walk through the 4 steps to conducting competitive intelligence. 

 1. Communications Intelligence is gathering and analyzing publicly available marketing, communications, and sales resources.

Examples: Advertisements, Content, Downloadable Brochures, Website, Social Media, etc. 

The first place to start is your competitor’s website. Figure out their target audience. Can you develop Customer Persona’s based on the information they provide? Are they targeting a specific demographic or psychographic? Do they have a mission / vision statement? What do these statements say about their customers and targeted prospects? Do they have downloadable customer brochures? Collect as much relevant information as possible.

If they have one, analyze the content of their blog. Who are they targeting? What is their content strategy? Are they teaching, selling, and/or providing value to their customers? You get the idea. Write down some of the themes and try to determine your competition's intent.

Now, move over to their social media accounts. Conduct a quick social media audit. What social media sites are they using to reach prospects and customers? What are they saying? How are their prospects and customers responding? Check the comments section. See if your competition is actually engaging or responding to comments.  

Follow your competitors on social media. By following them, you can stay informed on their actions. Use social listening to see what they are saying about their company or the market. Plus, if they are curating content, maybe you’ll learn more about the industry and gather thought leadership. If they have a newsletter, why not sign up for it?

Last, use Moat to analyze their online advertising. Moat allows you to see what and where they are advertising.

2. Financial Intelligence is information gathered from analysis of publicly available financial history.

Examples: SEC filings, news of deals, investor presentations, annual reports, and other financial documents.

Want to know your competition’s business strategy? Follow the Cash!

If your competition is private, this exercise is harder and you’ll need to do a little more digging. You can still find tons of information on social media. Companies love to boast about new deals and provide company news.

Conduct a search using your competitor’s name and also #companyname. Hashtags can uncover posts made by employees and partners. These posts might not come scrutinized from the marketing / communications department. 

If your competition is public, you’ll still want to do the social media audit as described above. Then move to the Investor Relations section. Download any Annual Report and Analyst Presentations. If they have recorded earnings calls, listen to those too. Recordings provide more context than downloadable presentations.

Conduct an analysis of their “say / do” ratio. Look at the information you gathered during Communications Intelligence. Compare that information to their financials. Sometimes what a company announces publically is aspirational. While following the cash, investments, show actual strategy and tactics. Or, they do this because they know YOU are listening. They are trying to throw the competition off.

Let me give you a theoretical example: 

“We are continuing to invest heavily in Product Line X to drive innovation and sales. Product Line X is a key to our growth.” 

This could be a true statement. Yet, their financials show investments into Product Line X are increasing by 15% Y/Y or Q/Q. While investments in Product Line Y jumped by 35% in the same period. Why? Can you figure it out? Are they setting up their competition to react towards Product X, but overlook Product Y? “Follow the Cash” and let it tell you where they are really investing AND divesting.

3. Technical Intelligence is information gathered from analysis of publicly available technical and product information.

Examples: technical papers, white papers, patents or patent applications, product specs, etc.

To begin gathering technical intelligence stay on your competitor’s website. Look at their product pages. Can you download any technical information on their products or services? How are their products, services, and offerings technically different from yours? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

If you cannot find anything on their website, try using your search engine of choice. Enter in their product title with terms like “Specifications,” “Instructions,” “White paper,” etc. Also, if you include .ppt or .pdf in your search, the results will narrow down to those specific file types.

Patents aren’t just your Legal Team’s responsibility. Patents and Patent Applications can be valuable to the marketing team as well.  Patents and Patent Applications are a little more advanced. You can use The US Patent and Trademark Office to run initial searches.

4. Human Intelligence is information gathered from a person on the ground.

Examples: information revealed through conversations with customers, field marketing, sales reps, customer success (service), etc. 

During the sales process, customers and prospects often reveal competitive information. They express likes, dislikes, needed improvements, and other information.

Develop a way to collect, analyze, and distribute this Human (Field) Intelligence. This can be a great way to stay connected with the field. It will help you understand your customers, and/or to enhance your strategy / product offering.

Gather, categorize, and analyze your Competitive Intelligence

Once you’ve gathered this information, you’ll need to organize and analyze it. List out your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, and your opportunities by intelligence category. Combine it into a competitive intelligence package. 

Hopefully this post helps. Come back next week for a deeper discussion on Step 4 – Voice of Customer or sign up for my newsletter to receive it in your email. Feel free to provide feedback, what do I need to clarify or go deeper on? Is there anything you’d or change? Share this post with your friends and networks if it’s helped. I look forward to hearing from you!

Stewart Swayze

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Hi. I’m Stewart Swayze, I’m a Career Transition and Marketing Coach for Entrepreneurs. I release new videos every week on those topics. If your interested in developing your career or marketing your business, view my YouTube Channel below.

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3 Rocking Hypotheses to Target Customers & Create Killer MVPs

3 Rocking Hypotheses to Target Customers & Create Killer MVPs Minimum Viable Product

This post is part of a series, 12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy."

3 Rocking Hypotheses to Target Customers & Create Killer MVPs

Develop a set of hypotheses to test your assumptions before you build an extravagant solution. This will help you determine market fit for your product or service with reduced upfront cost. In this step, don't get extremely deep. This is a quick way to create hypotheses based on your assumption, ideas, & experience. 

You’ve made some initial observations. You’ve done a little research. You've defined the customer challenge. You think you know the answer... Now you can develop a few hypotheses. Your set of hypotheses can be different, but I’ve proposed 3 below to help get you started.

Hypothesis #1 – Define your target customer.

A. Customer Base –  If you don’t have any current customers, move to B in this section.  If you already have a customer base, deep dive into their data. Who are your best and worst customers, why? List their defining characteristics and interests. Write out customer personas … aka descriptions of those customers

B. What are the market demographics – What is their Age, Location, Income Level, Industry, Occupation, Ethnicity, etc.

C. What are the market psychographics – What are the defining Attitudes, Values, Beliefs, Interest, Hobbies, etc.

D. Who is the competition – Keep this simple. Who is their target customer? Who are they overlooking? Is the overlooked customer a viable target? (More in my next post)

E. Combine this information and write out a basic customer description. It’s OK to have several customer descriptions. We’ll go into that in a later post on Customer Personas.

Hypothesis # 2 – Define your customer wants, needs, desires, and nice to haves.

A. Write out what you believe are your customer needs. Be as specific as possible. What's that one thing they truly need? What's the one customer need, if solved, will get you a spot at the table? For example, when you prepare to go to work, you need something to cover you from the waist down.

B. Write out what you believe are your customer wants and desires. Again, as specific as possible. This is an add-on to their need. It’s essential, but not required. So continuing with the example above, I need something to cover me. I want cotton based material because I work in a hot environment. I desire to have brown as a color because I work outside in a dirty environment.

C. Write out your customer’s “nice to haves.” Building from the previous examples, I need something to cover me from the waist down. I want cotton. I desire a brown color because it helps to hide the dirt and dust. I’m a carpenter. It would be nice to have some extra pockets to hold nails, screws, and my pencil. It would be nice to have an extra strap that can hold my hammer. AH HA!

Hypothesis # 3 – Create a minimum viable product (MVP) that will match your customer's needs.

If you haven’t already figured it out, the example MVP might look something like the world famous “cargo pants.” Or would it?

Now, refer to the information gathered during "Defining Your Customer’s Challenge." Package it along side your HYP 1 + HYP 2, and develop a minimum viable product (HYP 3) to test at a later date. 

This is a modular approach. Don't test anything yet, that will come in Step 4 when we test through "Voice of Customer." With each step we'll continue to refine. Taking too much time is our enemy. But, we don't want to build a red polka dotted Ferrari when your customer will only pay for a blue Ford Focus.

Hopefully this post helps. Come back next week for a deeper discussion on Step 3 – Using Open Source Competitive Intelligence to Analyze the Competition. Sign up for my newsletter. Don’t forget to provide feedback, what do I need to clarify? What would you add or change? Also, don’t be scared! Share this post with your friends and networks. I look forward to hearing from you!

Stewart Swayze

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Defining a Market or Customer Problem

Defining a Market or Customer Problem


Defining a Market or Customer Problem

In my post the "12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy" I provided a high level overview. In this post, I’ll go deeper into Step 1 – Defining a Market or Customer Problem.

What problem or challenges are you trying to solve? Even if you have an existing business, dive deep, understand, and define the problem your customers are facing. Take a step back and look at it from all angles. 

Let’s lay out a couple of rules before we begin. I know … rules suck! But, they will help you in the long run.  

  1. Customer / market are interchangeable. If you see "customer" challenge, you can insert "market."

  2. You need a laser focus on the customer. Define the problem from their perspective. Avoid any perspective strictly based on your products and services.

Develop several alternative perspectives of the customer

Look at the their challenges from different angles. Let’s examine customer problem that’s been around for years – a dirty home. You’d think this customer problem has a simple solution, “Start a cleaning service company.” Yet, if you change perspectives and look at it from all angles, there’s much more to it. There’s even an emotional aspect. By viewing and defining a problem from all angles, you could end up disrupting the market. Or, at the least differentiating your business in an established market. Differentiating yourself from the competition is always your goal. Disrupting an established market is nothing less than awesome. 

Case in point, have you ever heard of Alfred? It all started with a mess, limited time, and an emotional / behavioral response. Long story short, the two co-founders met at Harvard Business School. They worked long and crazy hours (The Reason). Their chores would pile up causing a mess (The Problem). Jessica Beck's (Co-Founder) apartment was so messy that she wouldn’t invite her friend Marcela Sapone (CEO) over (The Emotion/Behavior). Enough was enough. They hired someone off Craigslist to do their daily chores and split the cost (The Solution).

Don’t forget the human side your customer problems -Emotion and Behavior

The Alfred Founders defined the problem, knew why it existed, and understood the human response. Yes, they solved for their own problem first. But, other people in their building started asking for the same service. Ah ha! They realized there was a larger market. Today, for $99 / month, you can hire an “Alfred” to run errands, do laundry, chores, etc. Alfred has raised $12.5 million from investors. You can read their story on Business Insider.

This example showed two individuals starting out to solve their own problem. These founders went through the same process outlined above. They defined the problem and looked at it from all angles. These angles included the human, emotional, and behavioral characteristics. 

When you begin to define your problem, keep asking yourself … what else? 

Go deeper. Challenge your assumptions. Remember back in elementary school when they first taught you to construct questions? I believe it was the 5W’s and 1H. Who, what, when, where, why, and how? Use these. They are your best friends. Every time there’s answer to “What?” ask yourself “Why?” Then switch angles. Look at the human and behavioral sides. What human emotions and behaviors are surrounding the problem? Why? Always remember to be as specific as possible. By eliminating generalities, you’ll be able to focus. Focus allows you to narrow down generalities and define the specific problem. A narrowed and specific focus leads you to the correct target market.

Define the challenge to include - size, concentration, location, etc.

Spend a little time understand the problem or challenge from a broader market perspective. How big is the customer pain point? Is it a small niche group with a lot of potential value or a large diverse group? Fragmented or consolidated? Where does it exist? Dispersed or concentrated? This step can be difficult. Finding available and free data can be a limiting factor. Use Google and find proxies if needed. Since we are just trying to develop a basic plan, proxies can work for now. Define the problem from a market perspective. Write it down, refine, and finalize. It doesn’t matter if you plan to serve a local or international market. You’ll need to answer these questions.

Note - If you’re a startup trying to secure funding, you’ll need deeper quantitative analysis. Consider buying market data. VC due diligence will require solid market analysis. Do as much as possible with data hacking and proxies until you understand the exact data required for your market analysis.  

Don't be afraid to step away and use your friends, family, or network

As different perspectives develop, ask them to review each perspective with you. Ask them for alternative perspectives. What did you miss? What can you expand upon? Refine as needed, but avoid analysis paralysis. Get a solid draft. As we progress through each step, we’ll continue to refine based on new information and data.

The wrap up

Define your challenge from the customer’s perspective. Include human and behavioral context. Expand your analysis to understand the broader market – size, concentration, location, etc. Don’t be afraid to use friends, family, and colleagues. Find alternative perspectives and refine your definition of your customer challenge. Next week I’ll go deeper into Step 2 – Developing Hypotheses to Refine Your Target Customer and Create an MVP.

Hopefully this post helps. Don’t forget to provide feedback. What do I need to clarify or go deeper on? What would you add or change? Also, don’t be scared! Share this post with your friends and networks. I look forward to hearing from you! 

Stewart Swayze

 

 

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12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy

Steps to begin developing and executing a basic digital marketing strategy

12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy”

I sat there thinking … I need to grow my freelance consulting business. How the hell do I get the word out? Tell people I’m open for business? As I began developing and executing my marketing strategy, it came to me. There are businesses out with the same challenge. As I build my strategy, why wouldn’t I share it? Why not be transparent, share, gain feedback, and in the mean time … potentially help them out too. Not to mention, there are plenty of experts out there. I’d love to hear from them too.

So, here we go! This is my first iteration of “12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy” on a limited or even no budget. If this helps one person, then I’ll consider my first "value add" blog a success!

1.  Define the Problem – What problem or challenges are you trying to solve? Even if it’s an existing industry or business, dive deep, understand, and define the problem your customers are facing. Take a step back and look at it from all angles. Example: House Cleaning – Most people would say, the problem is my customers want a clean house. True. What else? Keep asking yourself, what else? Safe, fast, reliable, eco-friendly, etc.

2.  Develop a Set of Hypotheses – Hypothesis #1 – Define your target customer. Hypothesis # 2 – Define your customer wants, needs, desires, and nice to haves. Hypothesis # 3 – Create a minimum viable product that will match your customers needs. Move to step 3 and test those hypotheses.

3.  Analyze the competition - What services are they selling, how are they marketing it, what's their value prop, what are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses?

4.  Conduct Voice of Customer (VOC) – Develop a few questions to gain VOC from your customers and test your hypotheses. The best way to find out what your customer needs is to simply ask them. Step outside your door or go to social media and ask some potential customers questions. Then listen, don’t sell. Clarify, dig as deep as they allow without annoying them. Ask “what if” questions to find out if you have a viable MVP. Ask them why they aren’t currently using a product or service like yours? What would they need in order to purchase? Focus on their needs, but listen for their wants and desire too. Analyze what you hear and divide it up into the 3 categories – What do your customers absolutely need? What else do they want? What is a nice to have?

5.  Develop Outcomes – Based on the above, develop customer-desired outcomes. An outcome is the measurable result a customer will experience when they purchase. Will they see a 15% increase in productivity? 10% reduction in operating expense? It’s the total value and experience you provide. If we use the cleaning service example above, it’s not just a clean house. It’s the full experience that provides value to your client. What if you not only provided a clean house, but you also provided a one-time free home organization assessment? That would be fairly easy to do, just link up with a local home organization consultant. They’d probably say yes to it because then you get them in front of more clients. Free for you, free for your customer, added value and a differentiated experience. Understanding, marketing, and selling based on customer outcomes will set you apart from your competition. Once you develop those outcomes, design your offering and value prop as a full experience.

6.  Create Customer Personas Understand your resource, product, and service limitations. Use your information from above and define your target customer. Be specific. Don’t try and service the entire market if you are just starting out. Find a solid niche. Prepare to target and serve them very well. If you succeed here, your business will continue to grow and expand into larger markets with more offerings.  

7.  Website - Create a simple and free website. About Section, Services Section, Blog (with email sign up / opt-in), and Contact Page. Use a company like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. They have easy to use template and are fairly intuitive. There are also many different strategies for setting up your website, I won't go into those. In general make your sections fun, show some personality, talk about your customer's challenges, maybe some relevant, fun, or creative statistics, talk about the outcomes your customers seek, and how plan to surpass them.

8.  Create ContentUse the info you gathered in 1-4 above to create valuable content on your website. Show some personality, talk about your customer's challenges, maybe some relevant, fun, or creative statistics, talk about the outcomes your customers seek, and how plan to surpass them.

9.  Social Media - Connect your blog to Facebook & LinkedIn plus, any other social media sites where you can target your audience. Create valuable content they will enjoy consuming. Leverage sites that have existing traffic. Some examples would be YouTube videos, writing articles on your industry, providing advice, sharing infographics, and retweeting a great link to an awesome article. In its simplest form, you create and share content that your target audience (prospects & customers) finds valuable and wants to consume (valuable is the key word). By providing content to your audience, they become aware of your company, products / services and begin coming to you (inbound marketing). This will take some sweat equity, but for the most part, it will be free. Now, content strategy is a completely different topic, but think of it this way - 30% of what you share should be content you create (videos, pictures, infographics, etc). 60% should be content you gather from other sources that is valuable to your audience, and 10% is calls to action ... trying to promote / sell your actual product and / or service offering. There are other ratios out there, but that one can get you started.

10.  Email / Newsletter Sign up with MailChimp or a service like it. They have free packages. Use your email opt-in to provide a your value-added content via a newsletter or email marketing. You can even add coupons or other offerings too. Don’t spam or sell your customers info!

11.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - I'd only research this only a little bit, but assuming this is only a local service for now, I'd focus on keywords (Google Keyword Planner) and Local SEO techniques. SEO continues to be important, but keep it simple at first, build, and learn. Then apply the more advanced techniques as you go. 

12.  Use Your Network - Turn all of your friends & family into your word of mouth marketers! I'm sure they want to see you succeed! Oh, remember all of those customers you spoke with in the beginning? If you get their email addresses or contact info, you can always send them a simple, quick message that says, "Hello, we're listened to you and are open for business." Provide your contact info and website.

Provide me your thoughts and feedback. What did I miss? Each step is linked to deeper information. The more we discuss, engage, and interact … the better these steps can get. If this helped you, share it with your friends and network. Feel free to sign up to my newsletter for more valuable articles.

Stewart 

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