When it comes to marketing in the online world, it’s easy to get caught up in the sale. After all, we run our businesses to make money, right?
But that’s just the thing: Too many of us don’t really run businesses at all. Instead, we run sales machines, with the sole purpose of optimized conversion rates, email open rates, click-through rates, and the list goes on. While that’s all part of the process, it’s not everything. And what it certainly is not is sustainable in the long-term.
The markets we exist in will always change, so it’s important to be preparing yourself and your company as a brand that can shift with the market and continue to be sustainable even if the exact products or services you sell need to change. Here are a few ways to work on making sure that happens.
1) Be the one giving more, always
People establish brand loyalty through a number of interactions and factors, but many of them (if not all) can be aggregated into one overall measure: how much value you gave them. In general, you can always be the one giving more and still end up making more money in the end. This will help to endear people to your brand.
For example, a few years ago, everyone and their mother was attacking the affiliate marketing with techniques that might not have been sustainable. The ones who didn’t always shout me me me were probably able to make a fairly smooth transition to a new product. Those who failed to build real trust and value, however, probably started over at ground zero.
2) Have a brand!
Okay, admittedly, this should have been number one, but too many people focused on a web of microsites, etc. don’t have an actual central brand that they can move with over time – they have a number of independent sales machines, and that’s it.
If you find yourself in this position, start making a plan to ensure you actually are able to transition into having a brand that you can grow with throughout your career. If you don’t have a separate site for yourself or your company, don’t have a logo, etc., it might be time to think about these things.
3) Built more than a list.
Not long ago, just the fact that you were building an email list meant that you were ahead of the general online marketing crowd. Now, however, you’ve got to go even further to standout. Email open rates have been steadily declining, and while the platform is far from useless, it makes sense to be building a larger, more interactive community. Social media is certainly a place to pull this off, especially if you’re confident in your ability to pull off consistent, engaging content (or at least curate it).
It may be that some of these are more applicable than others when it comes to your own business, but it’s also probably likely that all 3 can be applied for just about anyone. Keep this in mind when you evaluate how you’re going to take your personal brand forward!
One of the biggest mistakes one can see marketers making again and again is trying to replicate the success of others. I hear you now, “Wait! You’re saying I don’t want to follow the example of someone who has been wildly successful in growing their business?! You’re crazy!”
But hear me out: While there is of course much to be learned from the triumphs of those before you, the approach I see too often is straight up copy and paste. Ew. It’s both sad and ironic to see, because most of the social and growth hacking thought leaders preach day in and day out that you need to learn how to tailor your communications to your business and audience. Obviously, this means that a golf brand is not likely to find success by following the social media plan of McDonald’s.
Instead, you should be looking at what successful brands are doing, and then thinking about how you might be able to attack the same channels with similar quality content, but not simply copying. Copy = bad. Emulating = good.
So, how do you identify your strengths and put them to work promoting your brand. For most people, identifying some obvious strengths will come the quickest when they look into what exactly it is their business already does. For example, an obvious strength of almost any business is going to be their knowledge of the market within which they operate. Obviously, if you own a golfing company, you’re going to know a thing or two about the sport of golf.
One great way to leverage your strength for engaging social posts is looking at what insights you have about golf that others haven’t acted on yet. Do your products have a unique selling point that is extremely relevant to golfers? That sounds like a good jumping off point. Alternatively, you might find that you can use this knowledge to drop yourself into social conversations on twitter, tumblr, and other platforms that are very conversation based. People get hung up on creating their own content on social media, but some platforms are better suited so most of your content is actually repurposed and the result of interactions with others (but that’s topic on its own could take up books on end, and does).
Leveraging your strengths doesn’t just mean working within the niche your business exists in, it also means playing on the actual skills you’re good at. So if you’re a strong writer, content marketing might make sense for you. Alternatively, if you’ve never studied paid marketing and advertising, your best path to growth is probably not through paid social ad campaigns. Of course, you may have other team members involved in your brand that can fill in the gaps that you have in your skillset, leaving you more strengths to play on.
Above all, be consistent with the efforts that represent your strengths.
Often times, you will try 20 things that yield mediocre results before you hit the one approach that starts getting you big amounts of attention, traffic, etc.
If you’ve been around in the online marketing world for a while, you probably recognize the phrase ‘growth hacking’, but you might also get the impression that it’s a fairly new player in the online marketing sphere. And you’d be right. Growth hacking is an interesting way of building up a company or brand because it was literally grown out of the necessity to avoid old, more expensive tactics.
The tools and skills to develop apps, found a startup, and take an idea to fruition are more widespread than ever before, meaning that the rate at which new products and services are brought to market is extremely fast. The founders and marketing teams of these companies are usually small and in their experimental phases. Additionally, they’re usually fairly strapped for cash. This, combined with the fact that paid search advertising is more expensive and competitive than ever before, birthed growth hacking. Literally, growth hacking is the art/science of growing customer base without spending any actual money. Sounds great, right?!
Unfortunately, most people get it wrong. They jump straight to trying to hashtag their way some sort of niche popularity and people see right through it; nobody wants to interact with posts devoid of value. Before ever getting to this phase, however, these companies and individuals should have been defining goals.
That’s right, the first step to proper growth hacking is defining real, actionable goals. They can’t be obscure. They can’t be broad. We’re talking laser focus, and here’s how you find it:
First, let’s take the broad, universal goal of ‘getting more awareness for my brand’. What are some ways you can build awareness that are specific to your business? Let’s say you’ve got a referral plan in place, but people aren’t biting. The people who do become longterm customers, however, so it appears to be an area worth improving. Perhaps your incentive for referrals currently is access to a library of training materials, and you think that creating more content for your training library which you can then reference in sales copy will be the way to get more people on board.
Let’s say you then define your goal as “add five new lessons to the knowledge library,” and go from there. Is your goal boiled down enough yet? Because you can take clear, definable actions at this point to reach your goal. Once you can see individual steps (write one article per week, create promotional email for each article, etc.), then you’ve got something you can work with.
Of course, an equally important part of the goal framework is the ability to accurately monitor your results. You don’t want to have people hitting your new referral incentives and have no way of telling whether or not they’re engaging more or less than before. If you don’t have proper analytics in place to measure every facet of your business, you’re not ready for growth hacking.
Growth hacking is an agile process that requires adaptability, but more importantly adaptability that is based on sweet, sweet data.