Big Fish, Small Pond

Your target market must be small enough that the resources you’re able to commit will have a big impact.

Imagine carrying the heaviest rock you can hold and dropping it into a small pond. The splash would be huge, loud and noticed by anyone around, and the ripples would cover the entire surface.

Now imagine dropping that same rock into the middle of the ocean. No one would even notice. Imagine dropping a rock 100 times that size in the middle of the ocean. Again, no one would notice a thing.

The rock, of course, is your resources.

When new marketers come to me looking for advice, I ask them who their target market is. Nine times out of ten, it’s, “Everyone who wants to ___.” It might be everyone who needs to lose weight, make money or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Their market is too big and they’ll never get noticed.

But if they target teachers who want to make extra money online, or nurses, or fast food workers, they’ll probably make a killing.

Still not convinced? Think of the pond versus the ocean, and the rock as being your marketing. How much marketing will you have to do to get noticed in the ocean? You’ll need the resources of a Coca-cola to do it.

Now imagine getting noticed in the pond. Heck, if you just stand up and say, “I’ll teach everyone in the pond how to lose 10 pounds this month, or how to make $1,000 a month online,” you’ll get noticed right away.

When someone describes their market too broadly, I know they’re going to fail. But when they know exactly who their audience is and how they’re going to reach them, I know they’ll do fine

The ‘Weird’ Startup Investment Game You Need To Stop Playing

In the United States, we elect a president every 4 years. One candidate can serve two terms, for a maximum total of 8 years in office. Now, around two-three years through any given president’s first term, a common trend prevails: Legislative agendas generally become less ambitious, previously polarizing views are swapped out for those that are more middle of the road, and messages which were previously more laden with detail and precise figures degrade once again into campaign-esque rhetoric.

What the heck is happening? In short, another election cycle will soon be upon these presidents, and they need to start thinking more about getting re-elected than continuing to push through any work their currently tied up in.

The exact same phenomenon happens with startup founders, except that their term is a burn rate runway, and their election campaign is a quest for further financing. If you find yourself heading up a grand idea, and it turns into a company, the way of business these days is, ironically, not very business-like at all. In fact, instead of focusing on profit margins and costs of operation, most founders are focused on obscure and multi-measurable metrics like ‘growth’ and the like, aimed at figuring out they can make the numbers, any numbers, impressive enough to secure another round of funding.

If you find yourself in this exact scenario with a company that you’re heading up, it’s important that you know that, for the rainmakers who founded the biggest, most disruptive companies in the world, these thoughts never even crossed their mind. Indeed, there has recently been a reversal, in which instead of achieving something great in order to secure wealth, people are working on the premise of securing wealth in order to achieve something great. Forgive the cliché, but did Zuckerberg start his ‘The Facebook’ website in his dorm room in hopes of securing millions of dollars from Sequoia Capital? Hell no!

Founders these days who want to not find themselves with a valueless company in three years’ time, need to get comfortable with the idea that they are still running a business, they still need to act and make decisions based on the premise that if they are not profitable very, very soon, they’re out. Most startups fail. Of those that don’t fail, the vast majority will be steady, sustainable businesses that can catapult their founders into the upper middleclass, but they won’t be Facebook, they won’t be Snapchat. And they won’t be a household name. And that’s OK.

The narrative that everyone has to be a tech founder that turns the market upside down is overhyped and, ironically, not the path to its own realization for most tech world heroes. Instead, the most common path to greatness is a stellar work ethic, a mental resilience to discouragement, and a passion and drive that’s the stuff of legends. So the next time you see that some Silicon Valley hotshot just closed a $200 million C-series, just remember that there is more than one path to greatness.

How to Target Early Adopters with Your Next Big Idea

Not to sound bigoted, but let’s just face the facts: some customers are more valuable than others. There! I said it! More specifically, customers who can be classified as “early adopters,” especially in the realm of digital technology, are major players in the success or failure of a 21st century business and/or product. Early adopters are so important because they’re often also your influences; they run blogs, Youtube channels, and everything they say has triple or quadruple-digit retweets on twitter. Get on the good side of an early adopter, and they can bring with them hundreds or thousands of average users. In some writings on the adoption curve and life cycle of new products in our day and age, early adopters are touted as those who can guide a new business across the “chasm.” The chasm is the period of uncertainty where it is uncertain whether a product will make the jump from something a few people try out to a technology that is adopted and integrated by the majority.

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can help your products and businesses be as attractive to early adopters as possible, and how you can best leverage that attention.

1) Find a genuine need. Depending on where you’re at, this might be advice coming too late, but the first step to getting your product into the hands of eager early adopters is to make sure you’re filling a genuine need. People have “cool” ideas all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re ideas that will come to be known as “needed.” Sometimes, however, your big idea can simply be an improvement of another system (think: Facebook usurping Myspace), however the barrier to entry with these ideas is higher because your product has to be so good it entices people to drop something they’ve grown accustom to.

2) Have a proper incentive system. Don’t just offer to give people free products, give something above and beyond that. For example, you might take a note from the gaming industry: Often times, these companies will offer their early adopters exclusive titles for their profiles or unique character looks called “skins” that won’t be available ever again after the initial testing or adopting period. Think about what rewards could be relevant to your audience in the same way. Maybe you’re launching a mobile ecommerce platform and you offer “veteran seller” badges or other marks of credibility to those who sign up and start using your site within the first 3 months, etc.

3) Communication will make or break you. The world we market in today is one of two-way communication. Social media. You know, that kind of thing. You should be regularly reaching out to and interacting with your potential early adopter audiences through the channels that they use most. Beyond recruitment, this also expands to post-adoption feedback and support. Early adopters will likely be using these channels to either get in touch with you directly or to broadcast their opinions about your product or service. Either way, you should be monitoring social and traditional channels all the time to respond in a timely, appropriate way.

The No BS Intuitive Guide To SEO Success

SEO is one of those secretive beasts that has been the obsession of online marketers since the dawn of their profession. Especially with the event of one search engine pulling far ahead of the rest in its usage, an intense culture was born out of focusing on how to best game or manipulate Google’s search algorithms over the years.

Now, for better or for worse – and I think for better – Google has wised up and, through a series of updates, brought their algorithms into the modern day by being able to account for the factors that make a site most relevant to users today. While this is great for Google’s users, it does mean that getting your site on top of relevant search results is no longer a simple matter of pulling the right strings for a few days and awaiting results. So, without further adieu, here are a few ways you can ensure your SEO success in 2015 and beyond.

Google knows what it wants, and so do you!

Google’s end game has always been about providing the best user experience possible. They want to make sure that the results they display are getting people to their desired answers as quickly as possible. While there are literally thousands of metrics that go into determining what websites best service the interests of a given query, a little bit of honesty about your site can go a long way in getting results. In every decision you make, you should be evaluating your options from a consumer perspective: Don’t think about your bottom line, or your conversions, or your sales funnel. Instead, figure out what decision will provide the best possible experience for people searching your niche. Have you adequately answered an asked question? Will your bounce rate remain low because people want to stick around and read what you have to say? These kinds of questions can help you honestly evaluate the usefulness of your site.

Social Indicators Are Huge

If you aren’t killing it in social media already, you’re behind the curve – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started now anyways! Google has been known to, since the beginning of their work as a search engine – weight links and references to your sites as more or less important depending on where they come from. Nowadays, you can bet that social “buzz” is a metric taken into account by Google when ranking any site.

Now, being an expert in your market requires you to also take your social controls by the horns and get active. Promoting your own brand and site(s) through social can generate a kind of natural traction – providing you’re putting out good content – that Google has no choice but to love. Well, that is, until the game changes again.

Ride Waves, Don’t chase Them

The best note to leave you on has to do with education. Simply put, you should be researching SEO and social bloggers and thought leaders regularly. Keeping up is half the battle, and you never know which big trend you can ride the front of and end up catapulted to the top of your market.

How to Improve Churn Rate – Part 2

Welcome to part two of this series on reducing churn rate. Let’s jump right into a few methods for keeping customer retention high and making sure no one is jumping ship!

Shamelessly One-Up

Savvy businessmen and women know that keeping an eye on the competition is key, and nowhere is this more important than in customer acquisition and churn rate assessments. Take time out of every day, week, or month – depending on the cycle time and speed of your market – to research what your competitors have been up to. Are they doing something that you aren’t? If so, is it something that you, as a customer, would want and benefit from? Be honest here. If the answer is “yes,” think about how you could not only implement something similar, but how you could improve on it.

This is simply part of the process of continuously adding value to a business, and keeping an eye on competition helps you to gauge the rate at which you should be doing so. Rather than trying to slowly dole out new goodies to your customers, challenge yourself to give away new value as it comes about in real time. This also means that you won’t be able to rest on your laurels, and will have to constantly innovate in order to have bigger and better offers for your customers. Seem like tough work? It is – and it’s also how industry leaders get to the top.

Get Personal, Don’t Automate

Automation is one of the trickiest things to master when your business begins to grow. You want to be able to manage everything at once, but losing the personal touch you may have begun with can be detrimental to your relationship with leads and customers.

As a rule of thumb, it’s ok to automate, but don’t fake it. This means that things like post-purchase emails, etc. can be automated, and are expected to be. By the same token, don’t fake communications so that they are automated but are actually canned, pre-written, and going out to 5,000 people.

For example, let’s say you write an email for your list to announce a new offer. Don’t use silly name tagging to fake personalization. People see straight through that, and it is (rightfully) perceived as phony. People understand that they are part of a mailing list, so don’t try to convince them otherwise.

If they write to you, however, respond personally. If that becomes logistically impossible, then make it clear that a support team is the one helping to field questions and concerns. Also, keep in mind that “impossible” should mean something different to you as an entrepreneur. You should be a time management ninja, and also realize that your work day might be 10 12, or 16 hours, not eight.

Ride the Wave, Don’t Chase It

Even more important than watching the competition is to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry and the context within which it exists. Recently, Facebook noticed (and has helped champion) the bringing of rudimentary mobile internet to new countries that have never had such services. The company launched a stripped-down, Facebook Lite app to better accommodate these low-bandwidth markets. As soon as new mobile plans hit these countries, Facebook will be one of the first apps available.

Be the Facebook of your industry. Sound like big shoes to fill? They are! But the point is that you should be looking to ride along with new trends as they crest, and leave everyone else to chase after you. That is, of course, the mark of an industry leader after all, isn’t it?

How to Avoid 10 of the Most Common Internet Marketing Mistakes That Could Seriously Harm Your Businesses

Times have changed. The new frontier for marketing is no longer traditional media of print and television. More and more small businesses are now taking their business online because that is where their customers are.

Although it presents some new challenges, it also has huge advantages for small local businesses because compared to traditional marketing, the barrier to entry online is very small. That is why so many start-up business take this route as it is much more cost-effective and they can easily reach their target audience.

As a business owner, there are many different strategies that you can follow for a successful online marketing campaign depending on your niche, budget, and time frame but there are some fundamentals that you need to follow.

Marketing is all about creativity and figuring out new and exciting ways to get your message across. This is article will help you avoid the most common and typical mistakes people make.

Internet Marketing is constantly evolving but the basic principles of marketing stay the same. The only difference is that the internet has provided such a different channel in which your company can express itself that sometimes requires a whole new learning curve.

There are 10 basic mistakes that all small businesses need to avoid. Some may seem obvious but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are avoiding them, so let’s start with number 1:

Mistake #1: Having no vision and mission
Most major companies have a mission and vision statement. It clearly states the goal of the company. For example, there is this one from Apple Computers “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.” Apple’s innovations such as the IPhone and IPAD make use of this particular statement as the driving force behind their success.

Even though your small company isn’t nearly the size of Apple, you have to remember that even Apple was just a small operation in Steve Job’s garage at some point in time. It is never too early to have a strong mission and vision statement. Your business needs to have a strong foundation in order to grow.

Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with your online strategy and marketing. Well if you have got a clear vision of your business from the outset, it sets the right foundation for you to build your business on. If you don’t have this then you will have a very hard time fixing the next 11 mistakes which will only harm your online success.

Mistake #2: Not understanding SEO
What is SEO? SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’ and is a crazy arms race between the website owner and the search engine algorithms. The SEO’s goal is to ensure that you rank highly in the search engines when users search for your particular product or service. It takes a lot of knowledge and expertise to keep up to date with what the search engines are looking for from website owners. So should you just ignore the whole problem and not care about SEO at all? Definitely not. That would be a disaster!

SEO is all about optimizing your website. What does this mean for your website? The SEO will optimize your website so that when the search engine web crawlers come along and search your website they will do so on a perfectly optimized site and reward your by ranking you highly in the search engines so that your potential customers can find you.

So you can see how important SEO is and why your business needs to invest in it. Consider how much more traffic and sales you can generate if you feature on the first page of the search engines on your chosen key word. Googling something is almost second nature and the average person will only take a look at the first few links. So not investing in a SEO expert is a mistake that your business can ill afford.


Mistake #3: Not blogging about your business
You might be thinking, “Well I already have a website so why do I need to blog about my product or service?” It’s a good question and here is the answer why: Blogs are an extension of an individuals or companies influence on-line and can have a huge impact on the success or downfall of a product or brand. Some blogs literally can make and break products because of their reviews. Blogs like Perez Hilton and Huffington Post have made internet celebrities out of their creators so don’t underestimate the power of the blog.

When someone is looking for what’s in and what’s not in fashion they read the fashion blog. When people want to know where the new hot destination is they read a travel blog. If they want to see what the hottest new mobile phone is they read a tech blog. In fact, they probably look at your website first than when they see a product they like they look at the blogs to see the reviews.

So you need to get your voice heard. You need to be the advocate and push the message you want out to everyone. One of the best platforms to tell people about your product is through your blog. In the blog you can become one of the influencers out there.

However, make sure you do a few things first: make sure that your blog is hosted on the same site as your domain. That way your visitors will know it is an official blog. If you are blogging about a certain niche like technology for instance, you cannot sound like one big advertisement pushing your products. What you need to do is spend time writing about things that people want to hear about. Your content needs to be informative and engaging.

You also need to interact with your bloggers. So when they comment make sure that you respond to them. That means that you need to respond to both negative and positive comments. This will show potential clients that you care about your product and those who are buying from you.


Mistake #4: Not being social enough
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google + are all social networks and are great places to do your marketing. Some businesses who don’t understand the importance of social media feel that Social Networks are a waste of company time. In fact, when they think of social media they are thinking of ways to block it and increase worker productivity. Don’t make the same mistake. What you can do is tap into social media to rapidly expand your internet footprint without spending too much money.

It’s vitally important for your business to invest in good social marketing as they can drive a lot of traffic to your site. Some of the more savvy companies have even started to address their customer service concerns on social media sites.

Creating an online community where people who enjoy your product can come together is also a big win. Creating fan pages, linked in accounts or even tweeting on a regular basis shows that you are connected to your customers and followers and tells them that you are hip and modern company who cares about them.

The best part about social media marketing is that it is mostly free. None of the major social media sites will charge you to create a site even if it is commercial in nature. You can also build your profile quickly with a minimum of investment and even use graphics that you have already created for your website.

Social media marketing needs to be consistent so you either need to invest in staff or outsource the work to get somebody to monitor your social media or do it yourself which can be time consuming if you also run a business offline business too. Once you are involved in social media you cannot really just leave it alone like a static website.

If you do put a member of staff in charge of your social media accounts you will need to ensure that they are up to date with the new developments in the company as this where people will often go looking for news. Consider creating a corporate communications function and depending on the size of your company make it a department or a single person.

Often you have to address concerns on the social media sites and it is also a good place to check on feedback for your company. So learn to use social media to gauge where you are in the market and what people really think about your company.

Social media along with mobile marketing is incredibly valuable to your business so it is not something that you can afford to ignore and it will have a significant impact on your company profits.


Mistake #5: Not cross promoting with other sites
Once you have built up a reputation for yourself, you should really take a look at into cross posting or guest authoring with another blog with a similar related product. Remember that your reputation is a resource and that cross pollinating ideas is a good way to grow your network and get new customers.

Sites that may not be your direct competitor but is in the same industry would be a good target. Also review sites or blogs that might be on your area of expertise might also be a good option. But whatever the case it’s important that you utilize this opportunity as much as possible.

One thing that this helps develop is name recognition not only of your product but also of yourself. It lets people know you are an authority in your field and gives them confidence in your and your product. So you should always consider your knowledge as a resource and make sure that you share it with as many people as possible.

Another benefit is that you can link back to your site which also increases the relevance and reputation of your site especially if the site that linked to you is older or more established than your website.

The downside to this is that you actually have to be a pretty good writer and write about relevant things that will interest your target audience. So you can’t just pump out a 250 word article that just summarizes other articles. Most reputable site wouldn’t take them and those that do will give very little benefit to your marketing strategy. It might even have a negative effect and should be avoided.


Mistake #6: Not creating ‘raving fans’
There are happy customers and there are raving fans of you and your business. Can you make a customer so happy that they will be a raving fan who will generate excitement and sales for your company?

The best way to do this is have a testimonial page on your blog or website. It’s a perfect opportunity for your company to leverage on the good will of the customers by having them post their good experience on your website. Even better is when they submit positive reviews on your business on third party sites. For example, if someone is so happy with your product that they put a 5 star rating on Amazon. What this means is that whoever sees that becomes curious and might even try your product.

These happy customers might even create blogs about your products and create a loyal following. Customers who love your product are the best ambassadors as they will refer their friends and family to your product. The most important thing about this is that they are doing this because they are truly happy about their product and they are doing it for free.

So make sure that you create more customer advocates, as they are free and their word will really help convince people to visit your site and try your product.


Mistake #7: Not creating an affiliate network
Online advertising can be an expensive and inconsistent means of driving customers to your website, but there is an alternative. Affiliate marketing can boost traffic to your site and you only pay for visits that result in sales. An affiliate program a process by which you make an agreement with other website owners or individuals who want to promote your goods or services online – or vice-versa. It means you can make sales from third-party websites, or ‘affiliates’. However, you only pay for the conversions the affiliate generates – in other words every customer that actually buys from you.

One of the main benefits of affiliate marketing is that it enables you to broaden your customer base outside your own web-marketing efforts. It is all about getting in front of an audience that you may not otherwise reach. Hotels, for instance, could use a number of affiliates such as car hire firms, flight companies or travel insurers which share the same target market to promote their site.
Once successfully up and running, affiliate programs can generate between 10-30% of total sales so it is well worth setting up (this is something that we can help you with).

Affiliate schemes are also cost-effective as they work on a cost-per-action basis, meaning that you only pay on seeing results. So, unlike advertising, you do not incur any costs until a sale is actually made.


Mistake #8: Having no referral program
When you have a customer who is happy the first thing you have to think about is, who does he or she know that will also enjoy your product? On rare occasions and depending on your type of business the customer may offer to introduce you to their friends and family and boom you have a customer advocate. However, on most occasions, you need to ask the customer if they have referrals.

When a customer either receives the product or service it is the ideal time to have a questionnaire or survey for them to fill out and to ask is there anyone that they can introduce you to. This can be sent by email, web form or done through social media. In most cases if the customer was happy with the service or product they would be happy to introduce it to their circle of friends and family.

So make sure that happy customers have a system where they can easily refer new clients to the company. You can even reward them with incentives but either way referrals are a great way to improve lead flow.


Mistake #9: Not using YouTube
Most major companies and corporations use video marketing to create viral marketing campaigns before the release of a big movie or product launch and YouTube is the platform of choice. It is huge.

Surprisingly, very few small businesses realize the potential that you tube has. You have to remember that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube and many of its videos can reach up to 3 million hits. So why don’t businesses use YouTube more often? They are missing out on a powerful free marketing strategy.


Mistake #10: Having bad customer service
A lot of companies spend all their money on developing the right product. Yes, having an awesome product and marketing will sell initially but having terrible service will almost guarantee that you won’t get repeat customers. Not only that but each unhappy customer will tell three other potential customers about their bad experience and make it even harder to expand your market.

Great customer service might even cover up for an average product. You need to have multi-channel customer service and a thriving online community with people willing to help. For example, you would need someone to answer calls, answer emails, answer chats and answer questions posted on the forum. Covering all these channels is only the beginning. You now need to ensure that the service is excellent.

As a company your customer service is a reflection of who the company is. Just by adjusting the company to be more customer focussed you should be able to improve the customer experience and make sure that people come back for more. Don’t forget one of the biggest costs is acquiring customers. So once you have customers why lose them?

It’s just the beginning
Internet marketing can be hard work and it does require investment of both money and time but the return on that investment is enormous. However, if you avoid these 10 potential pit-falls, you will find that it doesn’t have to be difficult nor does it have to be expensive. What you need to have is the drive, the inspiration, and the creativity to think outside the box and create something new that people flock to – or have a team behind you that can do these things for you.

Your business simply cannot succeed without marketing, so it is important that you invest time and money in your online marketing campaigns. Products just don’t become huge hits by themselves. Clever marketing campaigns just make it look easy.

The Internet is constantly evolving, and it pays to keep up to date with the changes. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do that yourself, why not get in touch? We specialise in helping businesses just like yours to succeed online with tailor made marketing campaigns that will drive new customers to your website.