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You have an amazing product. You are confident that your service solves a real need in the marketplace. You can back-up these claims with actual sales made to your awesome paying customers. If the validation is there and you are ready to take your business to the next level….this one’s for you!
Generating more leads that bring in customers and drive sales is always at the top of any entrepreneur’s to-do list. Before you dive into these strategies, take a moment to consider how you want to invest in this endeavor; your options are time, money or both. There are plenty of “free” ways to get some activity rolling but they are only “free” in the fiscal sense—instead of money, you will be investing time.
Testing the Water
Before implementing a growth strategy, take a moment to consider how you will define and measure success. I believe that great marketing is all about testing strategies until you find one or two that deliver amazing growth. At foundr, App Store Optimization and Instagram have delivered explosive returns for our business. However took some time to uncover that gold; but, it would have taken much longer if we hadn’t been methodical and strategic about our marketing efforts.
First things first, develop a testing strategy to determine which options will work best for your business.
- Determine a goal. Do you want more site traffic? How much more? How many new customers do you want this quarter?
- Reverse engineer back to the goal. How much traffic does your site need to reach your sales goal? Where will this traffic come from?
- Determine your metrics. Measure the things that mean the most to you and that can be distilled into actionable steps. Do not make the mistake of measuring so much that you fall into paralysis by analysis. WARNING: Data can be addictive.
- Determine your ROI. Identify your “I” (time or money) and then carefully document how much you are spending to get results. This is much easier when your investment is financial; so if your investment is time, be careful to track how much you are spending on the effort.
Try testing a couple strategies at a time; if they both work, awesome! If not, move on to round two but implement learnings from your first attempt.
So let’s get started on some great tactics!
The Freebie: SEO
SEO tactics drive traffic to your site through organic search results. Someone types a few keywords or a phrase into Google and lands on your site. While it is extremely risky and ill-advised to use “hacky” methods to claw your way to the top of this list; there are some definitive strategies you can use to get your site recognized by your ideal audience through search engines.
- Know your audience. If you have a great product or service you have probably already done the research; now, you just need to apply it to your marketing strategy and create content that will speak to your ideal customers.
- Select keywords based on research, competitiveness and relevancy. Keywords that resonate with your audience will bring in the most viable traffic. Invest the time to do this right.
- Use external links strategically. Link to content that your customers will find valuable. Consider the types of businesses and tools that you find useful or that operate under the same value proposition as your offering. For a great discussion on backlinking, check out this post.
- Post frequently. According to Hubspot, companies that blog 15 or more times in a month receive five times more traffic than those that do not blog at all.
- Create engaging content. Just getting words on the page is not enough. Your content must be a service in itself; it is a way for you to invest in your customers before they invest in you.
The Paid: Google AdWords
We have all seen the search results with the yellow “Ad” icon. Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) strategy is an advertising auction. Businesses identify keywords and select the amount of money they are willing to spend to appear in the results. The ad’s rank is determined based on the maximum bid price and a Google assigned Quality Score (a measurement of the relevancy and usefulness of the ad to the user). The advertiser only pays if the ad is clicked.
The Quality Score is more influential than the maximum bid price. Google stays at the top of its game by providing users with useful and relevant content. Knowing your audience and providing them with valuable information is key to getting to the top of the list.
Market Samurai is a keyword research tool. It helps you identify keywords that are related to your search terms. For example, if your keyword is “organic clothing,” Market Samurai will tell you that users searching for “organic clothing” have also searched “organic cotton,” “organic t-shirts,” and “eco-friendly clothing.”
In addition to keyword research tools, there are plenty of SEO superstars out there that can handle all of this for you. Just be sure that they take the time to understand your business and your audience. The goal is not to simply get to the top of a search results page; the goal is to reach your audience. The ones for whom you have created an epic product or service.
For help determining when and what to outsource, check out this post.
The Freebie: Community Engagement
It’s tough to beat human connection; even if you find it in the digital space. Connecting with online communities through message boards and forums is a great way to create relationships. You can gain insight on niche trends, get feedback on products and identify some serious community needs.
The relationships that result from these conversations allow you to build trust within the community and let others know you are serious about helping others; both with your product/service offerings and your advice.
I am reminded of a great quote of Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator: “Do things that don’t scale.” Graham advises founders to push their startups into growth by putting in real, physical, networking labor; as in getting out there and building brand recognition by actually talking about your business to potential clients. This is not a scalable tactic; instead, it acts as a growth catalyst that will eventually allow you to switch to more scalable methods.
The Paid: Event Attendance
Attending conferences and events connects you with your community. This is especially valuable if you run an online business and rarely see the outside world (Google Earth doesn’t count!). You can learn so much by interacting with people in real-time. If you run a B2B business, attending trade shows, conferences and events allows your customers to put a face on your business. People are likely to reach-out to someone they have met in person.
If you are ready to put on some pants and meet people in the flesh and blood, check out AllConferences. As the name implies, this is a comprehensive listing of events taking place all over the globe. Bring plenty of business cards with you and a little swag never hurt either.
The Freebie: Need a Friend, Be a Friend
Much like networking, building a following in the social media scene is all about engagement. Interact with those inside and outside your circle and include links back to your site. Make it easy for your audience to learn more about you and what you have to offer.
The Paid: Social Media Ads
Facebook Ads work on an auction based upon thresholds set by the advertiser. As the largest social media platform, Facebook advertising has the potential to get your ad out to the masses.
There are a variety of tools that you can use to automate your social media game. Buffer, Hootsuite, Click to Tweet, Bit.ly and Jooicer are a few that we use. For actionable strategies on getting serious results on Instagram and Twitter, check out our epic posts here and here.
You know your options and have the tools to evaluate which ones make the most sense for your business and your available assets. If you have a lot of great content, start by repurposing it for use on social media and community sharing sites. If you are flush with cash, get into the paid advertising game. Just start, track, evaluate and repeat!