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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do small businesses find clients?

February 22nd, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa:  I have a question for you. In this ever more increasing digital age — where pressing palms and getting face time is getting harder and harder. How do small businesses find clients?

I am a graphic designer/marketer whose business model is to contract with other small businesses. Much like a General Contractor hires subs when they build or remodel a house.

When I get together with other contractors in the marcom field (web designers, marketers, other designers, branding specialists, etc.) the first question is generally ‘So, how do you find new clients?” The answer is generally referral, but that only provides so much to the pipeline.

We don’t have trade shows where the public can come in and meet us and get to know what options they have in terms of marketing their small business (like a home and garden show where the public comes in and meets the companies that offer home improvement — and all the new tech that goes along with it).

Our local AAF chapter did one about 7 years ago. It was poorly attended and never repeated. I presented. It was a fabulous idea.

We don’t have a Marketing Channel where people ooh and ahh over the latest couple who comes into businesses and turns their branding around and makes it all shiny and new and hands them a marketing plan and clients ready to purchase.

Marketing is the slow burn and a mystery how some succeed and others don’t. People like Shark Tank because it’s a Cinderella story — where the prince bestows upon them the money they think they need to succeed. Success overnight!

Everyone thinks it’s social media — but really that’s just more ad buys. And it’s left to the algorithm to determine how successful you are.

So how do small businesses that are in service industries especially find new clients? Sure we all know to go where our audience is, but our audience/ideal clients are in front of their computers looking for their own ideal clients. Or on the job, or at shows selling their own goods. They don’t scroll Instagram looking for business advice. They aren’t on Facebook reading funny memes. Generally. I mean they are definitely on their phones though.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. I mean even your own website when it gives examples, it’s usually really large companies with really large budgets and a full agency behind the A/B testing and research and metrics. Not really applicable on a smaller scale, in most instances. Even people that know they need to content market are buying their content, not generating it themselves or through an agency (buying it from a service that caters to their industry).

OK — thank you for listening, and we all await your response.  🙂

Thanks!

Deanna Taus
Owner
Full Circle Creative, LLC

 

Dear Reader:  Hi Deanna, Thanks for reaching out.

We get this question quite often from small businesses who are engaged in marketing.

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What do you lead with? (MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #4)

February 12th, 2019
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What is an impactful way to increase conversion?

Or …

How do you grab your customer’s attention?

See, I could have led with either statement. Both statements describe our conversation in the latest MarketingSherpa podcast. But my hypothesis was that the first statement would grab your attention more.

Customer attention is a scarce resource. There is only space for one headline in the print ad, only a set amount of characters in a paid search ad, only six seconds that will be the opening six seconds of your TV commercial. And yet, your product likely has many value attributes.

So what do you lead with? To elucidate (and other fancy words) yourself on this subject, you can listen to this episode below in whichever way is most convenient for you — or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode.

 

 

More About Episode #4 — Value sequencing

The initial question of the podcast leads to a bigger topic — value sequencing.

What do customers need to know? And when do they need to know it during the buyer’s journey? In addition, which customers need to know which things about your product?

This is true for their entire macro-journey with your brand but equally important at the micro-level within each customer interaction. For a landing page or an email, what do they need to know in the beginning, middle and end?

These are topics Austin and I dove into. Here are the show notes from this episode:

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Marketing 101: What are ad blockers?

February 8th, 2019
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Ad blockers are software that, as the name suggests, allow web users to block the ads on websites. Ad-blocking software (also known as ad filtering) can take different forms — from a web browser extension or plugin like AdBlock Plus to a standalone browser like Brave.

According to MarketingSherpa research, the top reason American consumers block online ads is because “I dislike large ads that pop up over the entire webpage,” followed closely by “Ads make the webpages load too slow” and “Rollover ads are intrusive.”

While ad blockers have gotten more attention lately, they are not new. For example, MarketingSherpa published a story on them back in 2001 — Should Publishers Worry About Ad Blocking Software? SaveTheFreeWeb.com’s Bill Dimm Explains Reality.

Ad blockers have been a difficult phenomenon to deal with for publishers.

For publishers, ad blockers threaten to steal advertising revenue. Some online publishers have adapted by either forcing visitors to allow ads or pay for a subscription to see their content. Here is an example from WIRED magazine.

ad blocker notice Wired mag

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Mobile: Device or segment? (MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #2)

January 7th, 2019
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You might be reading this blog post on a smartphone. Or perhaps you’re about to listen to this podcast on your phone. Because mobile has taken over. We have all become cyborgs now — part human, part machine.

Don’t believe me? Just trying going without your phone for 24 hours. Go ahead, I dare you.

As a marketer, these societal changes should spark some curiosity questions. How do these customer behavior changes help you help the customer make the best decisions? How can you better serve customers on mobile devices and increase marketing performance?

And really, what is mobile anyway? Is it a device — just the same people we’re trying to reach on the desktop but with less screen space? Or is it a segment — people’s behaviors (and perhaps even the people) are so different when they’re on a smartphone that we need to approach them in an entirely different way.

We cover this topic in MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #2. You can listen to this episode below in whichever way is most convenient for you or click the orange “Subscribe” button to get every episode sent right to, let’s face it, your phone.

 

 

More about episode #2 – You must consider the human behind the device

Mobile marketing is a hot topic, but don’t just think about it in terms of technology. Or usability.

As with any other human communication mechanism — from the caveman grunt to the printing press to the secret handshake to the telegraph, radio, email, you name it — using the mechanism correctly is just table stakes. It’s all in the nuance of how you use it.

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MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #1: The role of the human connection in your marketing

December 6th, 2018
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Marketing and technology go hand-in-hand these days. And the addition of technology has created some incredibly powerful abilities for marketers.

But…

We’re still just human beings trying to get a message out to other human beings.

So what role should that human connection play in your marketing? It’s a topic we cover in MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #1 — you can listen to below in whichever way is most convenient for you or click the orange subscribe button to get every episode.

 

 

Welcome to the new MarketingSherpa podcast

I can’t say this is the first MarketingSherpa podcast. Long-time readers know that MarketingSherpa has been publishing and producing helpful content since the early days of marketing and has had a podcast before. In fact, MarketingSherpa has written about marketing for so long that our first article about podcasting was published three months before Apple added formal support for podcasts in iTunes (If you’re curious, see Integrated Ad Campaign Results – Podcast + Avatar Banners + NYC Bar Coasters published on March 22, 2005).

But this new iteration of the MarketingSherpa podcast is our latest attempt to provide you the insights and information to help you do your job better. Plus, we attempted to make this a fun and lively discussion.

We’re not sure if we’re going to do a podcast long-term, but we figured it was worth a 90-day experiment (so if you have any feedback, please let us know).

A little insight into our thinking

Since you’re marketers as well, we thought you might be interested in some of our thinking behind the reason we are deciding to experiment with this format for our audience.

When deciding what channels to embrace, it is important to understand if your ideal customer is there and using it already. It’s all too easy to follow the hype. After all, even if a channel is “free” like social media or podcasting because it doesn’t require an immediate monetary outlay, nothing is ever truly free. As MECLABS Institute Managing Director and CEO Flint McGlaughlin said in a recent MarketingSherpa blog post, Burn your “also(s).”  Every new channel you invest in, every new social media account you open, every new content type you create diverts your team’s limited time and attention from something else. (That’s why we’re launching this 90-day experiment to gauge if the podcast is a worthwhile investment of our time and attention long term).

In MarketingSherpa’s case, we have a business audience (marketers), and the data says that a large group of business people listen to podcasts. Most notably, 44% of business people in a senior role who know what a podcast is are listening to podcasts, according to LinkedIn data published on MarketingCharts.com (only 8% of respondents didn’t know what a podcast is, so this constitutes a lot of senior role department heads, VPs, owners and C-suite execs listening to podcasts).

 

 

Because our audience is professional marketers, they tend to like visiting our website from the workplace. In fact, looking at our website analytics reminds me of the gently rolling waves of Jacksonville Beach (which is where I prefer to spend my weekends rather than reading marketing content online, so I can’t blame you for reading more during the week). Look at the clear dips in pageviews on the weekend.

 

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The Marketing Thank You Box: 12 reasons modern marketers can be thankful

November 15th, 2018
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I hate to admit it. But as I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve become a little cranky.

Sometimes I can be like a marketing version of Grandpa on “The Simpsons” — “I remember when everything was print so there were real deadlines, not like a landing page which you have to constantly optimize. And we’d write ads for The Wall Street Journal, not for phones. Phones were actually for making phone calls. And another thing …”

But when I look outside my office this month, I see the Thank You Box.

It’s an effort to show appreciation for others in the office here at MECLABS Institute. Simply write a note about why you’re thankful for someone.

So, in this month of gratitude, here are 12 elements of modern marketing I’m thankful for:

This is customer intelligence we learn from. These are email subscribers we can help. There are even people who reply to inquire about services from MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization, MECLABS Institute. And we even get nice replies, like this …

“I love your stuff. I share it with my small business clients.”

I’m thankful for those notes. Numbers matter. But hearing from humans you’re serving is especially fulfilling.

  • Digital A/B testing — Sure, you could test with direct mail as well. But not this cheaply. And not this quickly. It’s a great way to learn from your customers’ behavior.
  • Content marketing — Another tactic that didn’t start with the invention of the internet. But it sure has exploded with the growth of digital — from blogs to videos to push-button publishing — partly thanks to the power of social media and organic search. No longer does marketing only have to be an “ask.” Now it can also be a “give.” A very effective tactic.

  • The “Referrals” tab on Google Analytics — I love to see who thinks our content is valuable enough to send us traffic.
  • LinkedIn and Twitter — A great way to interact with and learn from other marketers I’ve never met. Especially helpful for an introvert like me.
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A Deep Elemental Force: What (truly) is marketing?

November 5th, 2018
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The great words of our society have been destroyed by the power of connotation over denotation. The speed of this demise has accelerated with the advent of mass media. Hence, great spiritual words and great social words have been irreparably marred.

“Marketing” is such a word.

Its very mention connotes trickery, subterfuge, propaganda and ultimately deception. Worse, it is considered the cunning accomplice of another blighted (often for good reason) term: sales.

Can the word “marketing” be redeemed (another damaged term)? Should one just start with a new word?

While at the universal level it can be difficult to “purify” the word, at the personal level this task is relatively simple.

But what does it matter? Why should you care? Redeemed or not, the whole concept seems boring …

“Seems” is a dangerous word. Be careful. Be very careful. Consider three challenging, if not outrageous, statements:

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Value Gulfs: Making sure there is differentiated product value when marketing upgrades and upsells

May 31st, 2018
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unique value proposition in the marketplace is essential for sustainable marketing success. You must differentiate the value your product offers from what competitors offer. That is Marketing 101 (which certainly doesn’t always mean it’s done well or at all).

However, when you offer product tiers, it is important to differentiate value as well. In this case, you are differentiating value between product offerings from your own company.

This is a concept I call “value gulfs” and introduced recently in the article Marketing Chart: Biggest challenges to growing membership. Since that article was already 2,070 words, it wasn’t the right place to expand on the concept. So let’s do so know in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

When value gulfs are necessary

You need to leverage value gulfs in your product offers when you are selling products using a tiered cost structure. Some examples include:

  • A freemium business model
  • Free trial marketing strategy
  • Premium membership offering(s)
  • Good, better, best products
  • Economy paired with luxury offerings
  • Tiered pricing

The customer psychology of value gulfs

MECLABS Institute web designer Chelsea Schulman helped me put together a visual illustration of the value gulf concept:

Allow me to call out a few key points:

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Social Doubt: Beware the downside of social proof in social media marketing

March 8th, 2018
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Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida, our basketball team won in the Elite Eight round of March Madness, meaning we were headed to the Final Four. Right after we won that game, students poured out onto University Avenue. There was jubilation in the street.

And then … all of a sudden … everyone just ran down to the football stadium and tore down the goalposts. (We were a football school at the time, not yet accustomed to basketball success)

It was a very odd moment. No one planned anything. People didn’t even shout out any directions. Most (but not all, let the record show I stayed put) of the students in the streets simply started running together toward the stadium.

Ah, the human animal

Much like a V-shaped formation of birds adjusting down the line to keep the formation tight, or a school of fish quickly changing direction, humans also engage in unthinking, subconscious herd behavior without even realizing what they’re doing.

And this is one of the most powerful drivers behind social media marketing.

Psychologists call this phenomenon social proof, which Wikipedia describes as “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Do you see what I just did there? Wikipedia is another example of social proof. If enough people agree to a definition of a term — even if they’re not experts — I guess it’s reliable enough to include in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

But social proof has its downsides for social media marketing as well

Now, I’m not the only person to write about social proof in social media marketing. Just search the term, and you’ll find endless articles and blog posts.

However, I noticed a serious dearth of conversation about the opposite of social proof in social media marketing. If social proof works because it shows other people are interested in your brand, the opposite of social proof shows that other people are not interested in your brand. What is the word for that?

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Screw the Competition: How to avoid dreaded commodification

February 16th, 2018
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In high school, I never quite found my niche. I wasn’t a jock or preppie, neither freak nor geek. I just had to be me.

In other words, my focus was on my intrinsic value proposition, not what the competition was doing.

Competitive analyses are valuable, don’t get me wrong. They are necessary to ensure you have a unique value proposition. After all, your product isn’t for sale in a vacuum. I’ve worked with a competitive sales office in the past and you can learn a lot from win-loss reports as well.

But don’t go too far with this business intelligence. My point is this …

Don’t let the competition define you

At some point, you have to say, “screw the competition.”

If your focus is on the competition, you’ll just be another Why Bother Brand.

And if your focus is on the competition, it’s in the wrong place. Your focus should be on the customer. That’s the way you create differentiated value.

Here are three examples of focusing on the customers, not the competition, from otherwise commodified industries:

Example #1: Southwest Airlines

Airlines have become a dreadfully commoditized industry. Just look how they move in lockstep. One airline adds baggage fees, and then every other “me too” airline jumps in behind it.

Not Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it has analyzed the competition. I’m sure it is aware of fee revenue.

But that simply doesn’t work for this brand. So Southwest offers “No change fees. No matter what.” And communicated that value proposition cleverly in a recent TV ad about a coach who believed in his basketball team so much, he already booked tickets to the championship game.

The kicker, of course, is that the team doesn’t make it to the championship game and has to change their flight plans. Cue the tagline — “That’s Transfarency. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.”

Does this mean you’ll fly Southwest every time? Probably not. I know I prefer non-stop flights. And you might have a favorite frequent flyer program.

But I tell you this — next time you’re charged $200 for canceling a flight, you’re going to remember that Southwest commercial. And if you go through negative experiences with your current airline enough, you may choose not to shop only on price but to favor flights from Southwest Airlines.

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