I know, I say it a lot - but we all hate marketing. Let's be honest, none of us started a business to spend our time having to market it.
So is there a formula to start getting new customers as efficiently as possible? Can you 'learn marketing' as a new founder? Turns out, there isn't a one-size-fits-all or one golden channel for everyone, but there is a simple process to find what YOUR golden formula is.
Of course, the basics of marketing are very easy to learn through a few Google searches, but everyone has different methodologies and tactics. I'm going to share what I'm doing right now, as a new solo business owner with limited time to spend on marketing my own business. This is the first of a series where I'll keep adding new things I learn as I go.
Choose your audience
This can be scary and a lot of people worry that by going niche, they will miss other potential customers. But I will tell you from experience; The more specialised your message, the more memorable you are. Don't worry about whether this is 'the perfect audience' yet, just speak to some people who have already expressed interest. What other brands do they buy? How old are they? What is their life situation right now, are they a parent, a student, what's their educational background? Have casual conversations and document EVERYTHING so you can find threads that link your current customers together. By trying to target everyone, you target no one.
Find out where they congregate [on the internet]
Now you may be someone whose audience is actually mostly offline for some reason, but I'm going to assume that's not the case. Let's say your audience is home craft enthusiasts, aged between 25 and 45, female and with an interest in organisation. You've created an app that lets them catalogue and search all their craft supplies easily. Find out where these communities are online. Maybe it's Pinterest, maybe it's Facebook Groups. Maybe there are niche forums you can find, specifically for this audience. Join all of them, and just spend a week or so observing. How do people interact in these communities? What's the etiquette?
Learn the rules and then be helpful
Once you have a handle on which forums are very active, and also what the rules are within them, start engaging. Not with marketing heavy messaging, just conversations with individuals. If someone posts expressing one of the pain points your product addresses, make sure you're replying and asking useful questions / offering useful advice. If you can start cultivating a reputation for being helpful first, people are much more likely to buy from you later.
This step sounds like a LOT of work and time. But in truth, I have just 30 mins a day blocked out for this. That's the key. Daily interacting with real people.
Depending on the forum rules you may not be able to advertise outright. But, if you're dealing with individuals there's nothing to stop you offering your services, offering a free trial for some feedback, or even a completely free sign up if they're willing to be a more involved tester. Remember, these are your people. They are the ones you're hoping will learn to love your product. Respect them, and keep in mind that they don't owe you anything, you're just trying to solve a problem they have.
This was one of my biggest mistakes in the beginning and I still sometimes fall down here. If you don't document interactions and insights, you will forget them. Every conversation you have with a prospective customer will give you gold - make sure you have found a system that works to document your insights. (I personally use Notion right now)
If you don't have analytics set up on your site, definitely get that done BEFORE you start this process. You can't improve things if you can't see the shifts in data (or not) when you do new things. If you don't already have customised analytics on your site, have a look at my post here showing how to set them up for free in under 5 minutes.
You'll hear me say this a lot, but if you don't measure it, you can't improve it.
Approach it like feature development
This is where methods you probably already know come in handy. Try a thing, analyse how well it went, iterate and try again. Spoiler: you can't do this without documenting the insights as you go.
At this stage I have a weekly check in where I look at what I did towards marketing / customer acquisition that week, what worked and can be refined / repeated and what just isn't going anywhere and should be scrapped.
Don't be afraid to blow it up!
Processes and learning are amazing, but they're only useful if they're useful. If the methods you're trying aren't working after a reasonable amount of time and effort, change it up. This is both the best and worst thing about owning your own business. Your ability to rapidly adapt to a new situation will be, if you can learn how to harness it, your superpower.
Don't shun traditional / long-term methods
Another mistake of mine, there is absolutely a time and place for paid ads. Boosting your post on Facebook or Instagram, or buying adwords can be really helpful for testing in the early days if that's where your audience lives. Of course, the world of SEO and Google ranking shouldn't be overlooked (that's another topic for another day). But as a small business owner, your energy should be focused on individual, real people who might actually buy your product tomorrow.
Focus on the bottom of the funnel
Finally, I recently watched this amazing talk by Asia Matos on how to acquire your first 100 customers. If you're super super new to marketing it might be a bit like another language at points but it's a great talk and I recommend it.
What I really took from it is not to worry about the 'top of the funnel' activity right now. That is to say, right now, you need to focus on the situation in which someone is going "Cr*p, I need a solution to X" and YOUR product is the solution. Do everything you can to find out what that situation is.
If we take our hypothetical craft app, we need to know "what is happening in my customers' life when they decide to look for an organisational solution for their various crafting supplies?" You already know the pain points, that's why you made the app in the first place, so now you need to find out the life situation. And then find out where they go on the internet to get an answer to that pain. It might be google (hence, although it's a longer game it is good to think about SEO a little bit from day one) BUT it is likely going to their interest-related friends and communities and asking the question. Get yourself in front of those people in those moments, so YOU are the solution they find.
Not sure what those first few marketing channels should be, or have you read this and realised you need some help defining your audience? Get in touch and let's see if I can help!