You’ve done it. You’ve successfully launched your business and now you’re ready to metaphorically sing about it from the rooftops. You’ve listened to the internet gurus. You’ve read the statistics. You know if your business isn’t online, you’re leaving money on the table.
But then you see that tsunami on the horizon. It’s a massive wave filled with over 20 different social media platforms, hundreds of industry-specific blogs and blog directories, portfolio websites, forums, video collections, and more—a tsunami that grows larger every year.
The opportunity to market yourself online is as vast as it is intimidating. On average, internet users have 5.54 social media profiles. Over 2 million blogs are published every day. 12 new mobile accounts are added each second. There are more than 40 million small businesses on at least one (and often two) social media platforms. Trends are showing that these numbers are only going to increase in the future.
The internet is a noisy place. Are your ears ringing yet? Mine certainly were.
Rewind to spring of this year. I had just successfully launched a new business website, put together a killer business plan and worked out every conceivable kink in my services lineup. The pieces all fell into place. It was time to get the word out.
As my background is in web design, I decided that improving my website search engine optimization should be the first stop. In order to that, the web gurus recommended blogging to complement the website. So, I blogged.
Then the blogging masters recommended becoming active on social media to complement the blogging. So, social I became.
Then the social media leaders recommended video production to complement the social media. So, I produced videos.
Pretty soon I was forgetting the point of the whole exercise. It’s easy to get lured by “free publicity” and attempt to put your name into every nook and cranny of the web. But unless you have super powers, an army of minions with smartphones, or a dedicated marketing team, it’s probably not possible.
Still, you know that money is on the table. So, the trick isn’t to market more—the trick is to market smarter.
Follow these steps to find the perfect niches for you and your business. We’ll start with a short list, then a shorter list, and then bring it all together and make something happen.
Start at home
You may have heard that there are about 24 hours in a day (I know, what a surprise). Most humans have to spend at least a few of those hours sleeping, eating, taking care of the cat, and making their livelihood. If you’re in my shoes with a new business on your hands, time is not in particular abundance.
Thus, learning a new skill may not be the most efficient use of your time. Instead, start investing in the skills you already have, and applying them to the world wide web.
Step 1: Determine what you like to do
Get your pen and paper ready.
I like photography or videography:
In the visually oriented world of the internet, photography skills are a big bonus. Video production is even more so.
If you enjoy snapping pictures and showing them off, there are several platforms that cater to people like you. Check them out and see if they pull you. If so, add them to the list!
I like writing:
While text does not grab attention as quickly as images, developing your writing skill will help in nearly every other digital marketing strategy you ever use.
Do you enjoy writing emails to friends, keeping a journal, or scribbling ideas in a hundred different notebooks? The following routes may be more to your liking.
- Blogging (no surprises there!)
- Email marketing
- Q&A sites
I like Facebook, Twitter, and so on:
If you’re on social media, you’re a step ahead. You likely already have a sense for what kind of posts gets more likes, more shares, and more impact.
Create a business page or account and reach out to your current followers. You’re already on your way to building an audience!
I like surfing the web:
Do you enjoy flipping around the internet? What about design? Maybe you’re more of a technical person and would like to try some code. Perhaps it’s time to build, or at least commission your own website.
Websites need near constant updates and renewals. If you already have a website, start there. Make sure everything works as it’s supposed to. Use a gorgeous design. Use every online speed and mobile test you can find. Climb up the search engine results.
Your new business needs a lot of care and attention. There simply isn’t enough time to learn every skill. Go with what you love and you’ll find inspiration instead of frustration.
At this point, your list should have a few ways to apply your current skills to the digital world. But don’t get too attached to them yet: Elimination Round Two starts now.
Step 2: Find your audience
I confess: I am a raging foodie. I love exploring new restaurants and trying the weirdest, most ridiculous dishes on the menu. I photograph like a mad woman, then proceed to post them on Pinterest as fast as my phone will connect to the Wi-Fi. I’ve got a decent following and I’m pretty savvy with those bulletin boards.
But I have never met a prospective client there. That’s okay. I still love Pinterest. However, it is not where my marketing resources go. There isn’t much point in becoming a LinkedIn superstar or blogging master if the people you are trying to reach won’t find you there.
You’ve decided what you like to do and where you like to do it. Now take another look at your list. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
If you’re interested in learning more about customer targeting, check out these resources:
- Target Marketing 101 [Infographic]
- How to Use Google and Facebook for Customer Segmentation
- Help! My Business Needs a Marketing Plan and I Don’t Know Where to Start
- How a Buyer (or User) Persona Can Improve Your Business
What is the demographic information of your current (or ideal) clients? Are you offering goods and services to businesses? What kind? What industry are you in? What industry are you targeting?
At this step, a little research goes a long way. If you do it well, you’ll find your list from step one drastically decreased.
Now, you should have one or two marketing avenues that have two very important features:
- They are techniques you already have skill, experience, or interest in
- They are techniques that will engage the people you want to be influencing
Step 3: Focus on your strategy
Congratulations! The planning part is over. Now you get to buckle down and actually do something (I did promise we’d get here, didn’t I?).
You now have one, maybe two targeted areas of the internet. It’s time to devote all your resources to these areas. Learn everything you can about them. Discover those that are already doing well there and study how they’re doing it. I like to call this the “sponge” stage. Soak up all you can.
Remember you’re sticking to just one area. Don’t let yourself be lured elsewhere, or that tsunami will start growing again.
Become a blogging ninja. Dominate the twitter feeds. Lead your industry forums by the nose. Crush the Google search competition with your superior website.
Not only will your prior abilities help you reach the top faster, but you’ll connect with the audience you want to be reaching. Your personal voice will show through your communications. In turn, this helps your business gain a sense of humanity. You’ll make authentic connections with other humans. Those humans will spread the word to yet more humans. Not computers. Not robots. Not spammers.
You don’t need me to tell you resources for small businesses and startups are not infinite. We have to carefully decide where to focus our energies. We know that marketing, and especially marketing online, is paramount to a business’s success. But there are so many options; it can be confusing and overwhelming.
Don’t let it be. Take a breath. Build on what you know. Learn from your audience. Become the expert in your chosen niche.
Digital marketing shouldn’t overwhelm your passions. It should inspire them.