Faster, smarter and cheaper. You want the stuff you buy to be all those things, and so do your customers. It’s the reality of the world we live in today. Technology and the Internet are now an integral part of the way we buy, sell, learn, work, play and communicate. To survive and thrive, you need to find ways to embrace and leverage the power of technology at every level of your business.
Here are five great ideas you’ll want to work into your marketing plans.
1. Get into database marketing.
Do you know the difference between income and equity? Income is the money you take home at the end of the day. Equity is what you build… and hopefully sell for plenty of money in the years to come. Let’s call it your business “savings account.” As a publisher myself, I learned long ago that the inherent value of a magazine like SUCCESS is the amazing list of readers it reaches. It’s their database! Your business is no different. When Borders Books went under this past season, the first asset that Barnes & Noble bought was Borders’ customer database. In the old world, staying competitive was simply a matter of having a mailing list of past customers. Not anymore. These days, the competitive advantage goes to the firm with the most information and data points about its customers. We’re not talking about simply knowing their names and addresses. We’re talking about who bought, what they bought, when they bought it, where, why, how and even how much time and money they spend with you. You want to be able to drill down to the point where you even know what words your customers clicked on in your emails so you can better target them in the future. Luckily, there are powerful software packages to support these efforts, so that database marketing can become an incredibly powerful tool for you. For most small businesses, and especially for the tens of thousands that consider themselves “Internet marketers,” any of three popular packages—ConstantContact, aWeber and Infusionsoft—will work.
The No. 1 most important part of any company in today’s competitive business climate is its database. Create it, build it and protect it. How do you protect it? Well, imagine if your No. 1 salesperson was hired away and left with your most valuable asset—your list of customers and everything you know about their buying habits and preferences. I’m sorry to tell you, but this happens every day. Talk to your lawyer about creating legal and binding contracts with anyone who has access to the database. Don’t ever print it out and hand it to someone to use for a mailing. Even if you are renting your database out on a limited basis, as some firms do, don’t hand out that list. Instead, you mail to the people in your database on behalf of those you’re renting it to or give the list to a bonded, third-party mailing house where you are guaranteed legal protection against theft.
The successful startups in Silicon Valley have found the key piece to the puzzle of having a successful business in this day and age. Small, fast, lean and mean is the name of the game. These gazelles have smaller offices, less overhead and far fewer staffers than startups of the past. How do they function with so much less help, especially when speed to market is so important now? It’s simple: They outsource an incredible number of daily tasks and functions: executive assistants in India, logo creation from firms like 99designs, even photos or videos needed for marketing campaigns are bought as needed from a host of websites that make these tasks only a click away. To find tens of thousands of freelancers or outsource partners, try looking at these three websites: Guru.com, ELance.com or oDesk.com. Also, go to Success.com if you haven’t seen the November issue’s story on how to run a virtual office (“Beam Me Up, Scotty” by John H. Ostdick). There, young entrepreneurs from around the globe recommend the outsourcing resources that have helped them the most.
3. Fire your public relations firm.
Want to get your message to sports editors at daily newspapers in East Texas? Need your product to snag a good review from some beauty editors at national women’s magazines? Do you think your product or service would interest a particular TV show? In the past, one of the hardest things for a PR firm to do was to target the right editors, TV producers or other decision makers for their different clients. Today, the secret to getting your message out to the right person or the right group of editors is to use an Internet “wire service.” It’s a PR firm’s secret weapon, and they prefer you not know how they do their job. A variety of services can help you distribute your press release to the right folks, and they cost a lot less than paying a PR firm (which in many cases is doing exactly what you’ll be doing yourself from now on). Note: Some of these electronic releases “feed” directly into the media website. My company wrote a press release on my book Get Rich Click and got over 75 newspapers to cover it because our release went, unedited, right into the site’s story database. Media outlets looking for news stories go to these sites to try to find ideas. I like these three services: PR Newswire, BusinessWire and CISION.
4. Try affiliate marketing.
I’m a huge fan of this sales tool. In short, affiliate marketing is when you pay a person or website to bring you a buyer. The affiliate spends its own money and time, and often uses its own mailing list or website to obtain the customer, and then sends that prospective buyer to you. If that person buys your product or service, the affiliate is paid. If the prospect doesn’t buy, the affiliate gets nothing. It’s the ultimate win/win situation! The big boy in the affiliate market is a firm called Commission Junction (CJ.com). They not only help you set up the transaction and pay the affiliate when a sale is made, but also have tens of thousands of website owners looking at their list daily to see if they feel your product might be something they can sell on their sites. I also love a firm called ClickBank (ClickBank.com). ClickBank is the largest “digital download” firm out there. Think of it as a digital bookstore, selling downloadable files, songs, webinars, digital books, even recipes. If it can be downloaded, Clickbank can help you make money by posting your product for sale on its network.
5. Enable “pay per action.”
Most of us have heard of pay per view on television. You may have heard of pay per call, when the caller pays a fee for, say, tech support over the phone. On the Internet, most marketers have heard of “pay per click.” What you may not know is that there are more than 30 ways to pay per click—one to fit any business model! If you want the prospect or client to download something (a song, a short story, etc.), you can implement a “pay per download” strategy. If you want to pay only when the prospect fills out an application—like to get a bank card or credit card—you can institute a “pay per application” fee. The Internet allows you to pay for what you are trying to obtain—a lead, a sale, a download or even a phone call to your office.
Feeding Your Database
Ever heard of a marketing funnel? Think about names and email addresses and other information about potential customers being channeled into your database. The goal is to find as many ways as possible to get names and email addresses into your funnel so that you are in charge of the communication process vs. waiting for prospective customers.
Here are 10 ways to find new customers to put into your marketing funnel.
1. Pursue free traffic and paid traffic via the search engines—Google, Yahoo and Bing.
2. Find your way onto product comparison websites, such as Amazon.com, eBay.com and PriceGrabber.com.
3. Use the coupon sites like Groupon, LivingSocial or Coupon Cabin. When people sign up for your coupon, you get a name and email in your database.
4. Run a blog or newsletter and market to readers.
5. Capture respondents via a free sample or free download.
6. Keep names and numbers of people who call your telephone number.
7. Develop an app so folks can learn more about your product or service. You can give them a taste of what you’re selling, and tantalize enough so that they need to come to your website for more information—where you can capture their contact data.
8. Mine trade shows, conferences, and leads obtained while attending or speaking at events.
9. Join associations and online groups on Facebook and Twitter that fit your target audience.
10. Don’t forget your own followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
Ever come home from an event with a stack of business cards? Now there are two great ways to get those into a database. One is to scan them with a product called CardScan. The other is to download one of the cool new smartphone apps (I use one called CardMunch) where you simply take a photo of the card and the app’s software puts the info into a database for you.