What does marketing *really* mean? Even if we think we have a good grasp of it, there’s always something new to discover. We’re going to explore why you need it and how to make it work for you – let’s dive into unlocking the potential of your business!
My career has been more of a meandering path than a straight line. These days I’m working as an IT consultant by day, and helping freelancers understand their tech at night.
I’m a mom, I’m a wife, and I even have a fluffy golden retriever. I’m obsessed with tea. I love to dance, and one of my favorite things is to enjoy the little things as they come.
I’m passionate about helping other small business owners because I come from that corporate environment, and I see too many freelancers make easily fixed mistakes because they’re trying to do it all themselves, and tech just isn’t their cup of tea.
I help remove the drama from tech and ensure that it all runs smoothly, with the client relationship at the forefront (something that often gets lost along the way).
In this article, we’re going to specifically talk about marketing because you have to get what it is before you can even touch the tech aspects of it.
All right, so let’s talk marketing a bit more. If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound?
I’m sure we’ve all heard this a million times. I know I have, but if you’re anything like me, realize that this can also apply to business.
Is your business successful if people don’t know about your offer or services?
Marketing is that crucial piece. It’s the piece that pulls it all together. It’s getting your message in front of the right people at the right time.
Marketing brings us clients and makes our entire business roll along. Without marketing, you don’t have a business. Or at least you don’t have a profitable one.
What is marketing exactly? Well, there are two different types.
Looking for clients without lifting a finger? That’s the dream! We all desire the type of marketing that leads clients to us. This is inbound marketing.
The other type of marketing takes more effort. We must go out and find our perfect customers, showing them why it’s a no-brainer to choose us. We’re unique, and we’ve got the goods to prove it. This is outbound marketing.
Now to be successful in business, you’re going to need both. In outbound marketing, you get out in front of people and tell them about your offer. I always recommend people start here.
Outbound marketing requires a lot of work. This means that you will spend way more time than you ever thought imaginable building relationships with your ideal clients.
The trick here is not to build relationships just to sell to them. It’s to build those relationships with the goal of getting to know your ideal client backward and forwards. And if the opportunity comes up to work together, then you jump on it.
There are a number of ways you can do this. My favorite way is to join a networking group. You can find groups online on Facebook, or you can join in-person ones (like BNI).
With the Internet being what it is, social media like Facebook is probably the easiest, and that’s where most people start.
What we all really want is for our clients to come to us. This is where the funnels and systems start to come into play, and the marketing gets more complex.
Inbound marketing puts content out there for people to consume. And that content pulls them into your world, usually with the intent that they purchase something.
I hate the funnel methodology. This used to be a very different article that I wrote when I was starting out, and I replaced an entire section here.
I’m a fan of Hubspots Flywheel for marketing. There are three main phases. In one phase, you attract people to your message. Next, you engage with these people (because that’s what they are – people). Finally, you delight them. Then you do the whole thing all over again. And again. And again.
In order to attract people, at some point you need to put yourself out there in a variety of ways so they can find you. This is where we talk about advertising, referrals, and social media. You put out content, and they find it and come to you.
Ideally, you want your message and business to come in front of the right person at precisely the right time. And that right time is when they’re looking for an answer to a problem that you can solve for them.
Putting It Together
In a perfect world, we get out into the world and do outbound marketing. At the same time, we’re working on producing content for inbound marketing. We set up a system to drip out that content over time. The longer we’re building our inbound, the more effective it will be.
Over time, we’ll be able to transition to more inbound marketing than outbound, and you won’t have to lean on outbound so much.
The mistake most people make is jumping into inbound channels and ignoring the outbound. Because it can take a long time for something like social media to become robust enough of a channel to support your business completely, they don’t have enough income coming in because they don’t have enough clients.
A good balance means that you’re going out there to get clients to support the business while you build up your channels.
So while you’re doing it networking style (which can be low-tech), what should you be building for the future?
It all starts with a solid home base and your website is key. Yes, some people will tell you you can get away with just a Facebook page. Those people are wrong.
If you’re an online business owner and you don’t have a website that’s sending red flags to any potential clients.
Think about it. Would you let an electrician walk into your home knocked on your door and said, “I’m an electrician; do you want me to put some lights in for you?”
No, probably not. You want to vet this person out a little bit, and most likely you’re not going to entrust something so important as your home to somebody you know nothing about.
Having that strong website and online presence is going to set you apart from all those other people out there who are trying unsuccessfully to gain a lot of clients passively through using social media instead of a website.
The next step is expanding your digital footprint. This means things like setting up proper social media pages. These pages complement your website, not replace it.
You do not want to set up a presence on every social media site at once. Start with one and build from there. Learn a platform, build a reputation, and only move on once you have the first one figured out.
As tempting as it may be, you want to build more slowly for longer lasting inbound efforts. Spread yourself too thin and you’ll end up mastering nothing and finding yourself without solid inbound.
You’ll also want to point people back to your website from your social media profiles. You don’t own your social media. If Facebook closes tomorrow, you’ll lose everything you built there.
Instead, you want to drive people back to your website where you have more control and can do things like collect email addresses, something you do own and control.
Getting Out There
Once you’re talking to people, either through inbound or outbound marketing, don’t forget to be an active listener and get to know your potential clients.
This will help you hone in on your message and make sure that you’re clear about what you’re offering and how that solves their problems.
The more you know about the problems you’re solving, and the people you’re helping, the more dialed in you’ll get. That’s when the magic starts to happen and you start to pick up a bit of momentum.
At the beginning, you don’t need a lot of tech or systems. You should be able to manage most of it on your own. In fact, you should be doing it manually. You want to understand the process and the best way is to live it everyday.
Over time however, it becomes more overwhelming. The trick is not to automate too early when you don’t understand what you’re automating. But once things start slipping through the cracks, that’s when we want to add some systems.
If you’re not sure where to start, I do complementary consult calls to help you sort it out.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes down to it, you need marketing in order to alert potential clients of your services. Without marketing, you can’t sustain a profitable business.
There are two main types of marketing – inbound and outbound. A good strategy will provide both. And you have to know how each will fit into your business for the long-term.