When you are starting out in business, whether you are selling an undifferentiated physical product or a complex service, I believe there are two perennial keys to generating success: Building Trust and Driving Traffic.
- Be specific in your messaging.
The messaging behind your business, from your marketing copy to your branding, is vital to your success. It is about showing the consumer that you are the real deal and are going to add value to their bottom line. That is done through specificity. Any copywriter worth their salt will tell you an article titled “3 keys to successfully landing your dream job” will get more clicks than “The keys to landing your dream job. Why? Because in the first case the reader knows they can expect three tangible pieces of advice.
Avoid buzzwords. The Internet is full of information. Your consumers have a million places where they can likely get content very similar to yours. Give them a reason to come to you. Put your articles through the litmus test: If I was a consumer, could I find this information elsewhere?
Answer what you see as a burning question amongst your base, with a data-filled, nuanced response. When I wrote my eGuide that went on to make over $10,000 I wasn’t the only person writing about how to buy and sell in my niche. I found though, through my experience buying and selling, how to set up a relationship with whole-sellers and didn’t see anyone else who explained that process. In my eGuide I laid out all the details of how I did it and when I polled buyers, this turned out to be a major deciding factor for their purchase.
- Produce (and over-deliver) with high quality educational content
A core tenant of trust is built around the quality of the information on your site. As we talked about above, this starts with having specific branding/messaging. Next, you need to over-deliver with educational content on your market, niche and industry. In “Tools of the Titans” Tim Ferris (renown author of “The Four Hour Workweek”) says he gives away 99% of his content for free. Whether you are a consultant, a developer or a brick-and-mortar storeowner the axiom of producing a lot of high quality content reigns true.
If you are employing an inbound marketing strategy (which I will highly encourage you to do), this is where you can provide your free eGuide/eBook to get people on a list to hear from you.
If you starting out SEO (or search engine optimization) is crucial. This is how people find you on the web when they search terms related to your product/service into Google. Did you know a critical part of getting listed on google’s organic search is having a blog or content on your website with constantly updating, relevant information closely tied with your keywords?
This is where you can become a go-to spot for people in your space. Get return traffic. Get people to share your articles. Again, while you are building your brand through free, high quality content, people sharing your links is a way to get traffic and a way to boost SEO!
- Build Product Evangelism
Many people think their customers love their products or services but those customers aren’t referring the product. They are content with the value they received but aren’t blown away. Throughout the lifecycle of your business you should aim to over-deliver but it is never more important than in those first 12 months when you are getting your name out there.
When I was writing my eGuide I was initially clueless. I priced the eGuide at 99 cent. I would get people writing to me asking for complex shipping/packaging questions. I would write out 30 minutes responses, attach articles and resources. This clearly was not what most would conceive of as a good allocation of time. But you know what? Those people loved my post-service sale so much they recommended me to others. They wrote gushing reviews. I raised my price to $4.99, then $9.99, then $14.99. The impetus of my early stage success was customers who where evangelist. I built that by going the extra mile and doing anything I could to make them successful.
Think in your head about what your ideal customer experience is for your product. If everything went perfect, what would that look like? Strive to get as close as you possibly can with each client with a customer centric business approach.
- Offer a money-back guarantee
I get this question a lot, “Ok, Casey, when it comes to a physical product, the 100% money back guarantee makes sense, but what if I am selling a service or an eGuide? They already have received the value! How do I not just get ripped off?”
The reality is this: if you have high quality product or service very few people will take you up on your money back guarantee. I offered this on my eGuide and of a 1000+ copies sold I had 6 people request a refund. I have seen people offer this for kickstarters, for mastermind groups, for business consultations etc. and the result is always the same, very few if any people request the refund.
What it gives your consumers though is huge. It gives them peace of mind. They are taking a risk going with you and you want to lower any and all barriers of entry. Plus if you are getting people taking you up on the refund it means your product probably needs work. Go back to the drawing board and make the necessary tweaks.
- Don’t build a “Customer Profile”, build a “Buyer Profile”
It often goes a little like this: The individual is selling an app for financial planning and decides the tool has the most applicability with a young audience. They run beta-tests and find their product seems to be of interest with men, ages 20-28. Then they launch, run their ad’s and are bewildered about why they couldn’t get traction. Let’s explore what might of gone wrong.
- They are making their decisions about who to target based on very limited information. They claimed they ran tests but they explored interest, not buying behavior. If you are going to be successful, you need to drill down on what groups contain people that are actually going to spend money on your product.
- If you don’t have the money for expensive consumer reports, start with what you can do. Research people with similar products, influencers or successful people in your space.
Reach out them on facebook, linkedin or via email (I recommend using Hunter.io as a way to check for viable emails. Most commonly the conventions for early stage employees is email@example.com and after that is moves to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). Ask about where they got traction, what blog/forums they frequented, what groups they were a part of on Facebook or LinkedIn etc.
Once you have any idea of who the buyers are, start by targeting your marketing there.
- Test, Record and Iterate
So if you followed step 1 you now have a general idea of who similar buyers are who spend money on products/services like yours. Next you need to set up a way to test your theory.
Run a comparative test on the leads that purchase from Facebook vs. Google AdWords vs. LinkedIn vs. blogs etc.. There are many technology tools that can help here (such as UTM variables) but an easy way if you are selling online is to just ask the customer on any of your online forms “How did you find out about us?” and list out the options where you are advertising.
Then gather feedback, not just raw number of sales, but how long do they stay around, how much support did they need and are they “Product Evangelists”. Again, there are tools (and fancy metrics like NPS) that can help here but the easy way is to just send follow-up emails after purchase asking satisfaction and do good bookkeeping.
Constantly be adjusting your marketing budget (and your messaging!) to best capture your ripest audience. Pivot and adapt to best serve these people.
- Create a Lead Magnet
We touched on this in the trust section, but a key part of early stage success will be getting people in the door. I recommend offering a free modification of your service to prove your value. For physical products this might be a sample. For services this might be a free consultation or trial access to your course. Invest time and energy into creating an awesome teaser to your product that makes people want to come back for more.
One rookie mistake I see is people try to make their Lead Magnet just a bunch of generalities that “hype” their real service. Your Lead Magnet should always leave the consumer with an idea of the quality of your actual product. Don’t hold back here.
- Invest in “getting found”
No this does not mean rush out to your nearest marketing agency and fork out a wad of cash for someone to “optimize your SEO”. It does, however, mean that you are going to need to invest a concerted effort into blogging, social media, blog/forums and any other avenues where your buyers live.
If you have industry expertise go to places like Quora or Reddit and answer questions. Is their industry specific blogs that have an even more targeted audience? Even better. Get active in groups in your industry. Be generous with help, be respectful of dissenting opinions. Re-share other people in your space’s content that is valuable to your customers. This is not only a way to make your social media feeds more relevant and robust but it’s a great way to Segway into them helping you out down the road.
Do not, I repeat, do not, try to get fancy with cross-promotion for other people’s products off the bat. The worse impression you can leave with someone is that you are trying to “sell them” or “pitch them” with your content. Be relevant, useful and valuable
I hope you found some of these insights valuable! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to reach out and ask any questions!