Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

4 ways to build your email database

Your email database is one of your most valuable marketing resources, providing you with a captive audience for your marketing messages.

It’s important that your email recipients allow you to communicate with them by opting in to a subscription and sending you their email address. Email that is unsolicited is usually referred to as spam and is something you want to avoid.

So here are four ways to build your list:

1. Run a competition
Competitions and awards are easy to publicise through the media because they’re offering something for free – the prizes – and they usually have a fun aspect to them. The prizes need to benefit both the winners and you. For example, a new surfing magazine ran a photo competition to create publicity and pull in great photos for the magazine. Your competition entry forms will naturally require the entrant’s email address.

2. Publish an e-book
Not as hard as you might think. Your expertise, experience and knowledge – along with those of your team – will give you more than enough material to create a pdf document of value. Offer this for free on your site to those who sign up with their email address. Here’s an example of a business doing this.

3. Produce a newsletter
If you’re already blogging, a newsletter is only a step away. Review your posts each month and choose a selection to reflect your ‘news’ and then add sections such as ‘tips and tricks’ or ‘useful links’ – anything that will be easy to absorb and focuses on your readers’ needs and wants. Signing up for your newsletter requires an email address. Take a look at the right column of our PublicityShip site to see how simple the sign-up looks.

4. Tempt with special offers
If you are able to regularly discount your products or services, or better still, add value – include a ‘sign up here for special offers’ link. Glenn has posted on an example of this happening instore – and it can be done in an online store too. Do make sure you send out the offers to this list regularly – along with other messages.

Why it’s not the size of your business that counts…

We all remember that old saying “it’s not the size that counts, but how you use it”. Well, in business that hasn’t always been the case… until now.

The advent of e-commerce has resulted in a relatively even playing field for businesses. It seems that now, even as a small business, you have the same chance of grabbing the customer’s dollar as your larger competitor does.

One thing that’s misunderstood about online marketing, is that you don’t need to have the most flashy, graphics-driven site on the web. What you do need though is great content, and to distribute it through the right channels.

A recent article by eMarketer talks about how online marketing is resulting in massive changes in tourist research and buying behaviour. Specifically they mention how niche travel sites are overtaking the (often larger) online travel agencies in traffic and bookings.

More than ever, travellers are looking to RSS feeds, e-newsletters and blog postings (all tools that are well within reach of even the smallest business operation) to help them make their purchase decisions. That is, they are looking for information and stories from other travellers and the small businesses that are close to the action, not the large corporations with their flashy posters and catchy phrases.

This quote from eMarketer Senior Analyst Jeffret Grau sums it up nicely (and can be applied to all industries).

“Lower industry entry barriers have paved the way for new online travel business models. In this dynamic environment, current industry players must stay alert, otherwise they risk being blindsided by new competitors that fall off their radar screens.”

The secret to good milk…

Today we have more options than our brains can often handle. Take milk. Would you like that skim, light or full cream? More calcium or less sodium? Strawberry, mint, chocolate, banana or vanilla? Would you like that in a carton, a bottle or a jug? Powdered, fresh or long-life? Will that be paid by cash, cheque, credit or savings? Paper or plastic?

When your prospective customer is standing at the proverbial milk section, gazing at the seemingly endless options, what makes them reach out and grab yours? Essentially, you’re just a carton of milk; like the carton next to you, and the carton next to them and all the other cartons around you.

But there’s something unique about you. Sure, you’re a carton of milk like everyone else, but you offer something more. Your customer knows that when they’re pouring you on their cereal or in to their morning coffee, they’re pouring in added calcium, or a 10% saving, or the peace of mind you get from knowing that the cow this milk came from was grazed on environmentally-friendly grass in a big green paddock with absolutely no performance pressure at all.

Think about your competitors. What do they offer in addition to their core offering? Why do people by their product or service over everyone else’s?

Now look at your product. What is it that makes yours different to everyone else’s? Is it something customers would find valuable? And do they know about this unique trait of yours?

With so many options available, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate yourself based purely on your core offering. Very few people today buy purely to fulfil a practical need. Sure, that practical need gets them to the milk section. But it’s your unique selling proposition that moves them to choose your carton of milk.

The Long Tail of Marketing

David Meerman Scott, one of my all time favourite bloggers, has recently posted about his experiences with Apollo moon mission. Its a great post – have a read of it over at The Long Tail of Marketing and Apollo Moon Mission Artifacts

Banner Image for Farthest Reaches Space Artifacts siteDavid provides a great example of how the Long Tail creates opportunities for small business. The small business involved? A Space artifact dealer. For Farthest Reaches, all they need to invest to start a global business? A website, and content that connects them up to their community of interest. A blog is a great way to do this, however as you can see in this case, it isn’t necessary.

The key point from David’s post for small business owners is this:

“The space artifact dealers, for example Farthest Reaches, couldn’t have done business prior to the Web. The owner, Steve Hankow, could never find his market and we space collectors couldn’t find him. Now it is simple to market to people like me.”

When you reflect on what Farthest Reaches might mean for you, consider two different perspectives:

  • Existing businesses may have existing niche products or services that can be marketed online, and/or sold online. Online marketing is possibly the first step, online selling can follow.
  • Or maybe you can see the opportunity to find a new niche you can sell to.

The space artifacts segment is hotting up – time to stake your claim to the next big (small) segment 🙂

Online marketing

I’m really excited by the opportunities the Internet offers small business. What’s changed in the last decade? It’s the ease with which we can now offer goods and services to broader markets. What’s changed just in the last few years? Well, the investment required has dropped, and is now easily within reach.

So many small businesses have responded to the opportunity by getting out onto the web. But what are the results? Effective marketing has such an influence on ANY business. So if the results from a web presence aren’t strong enough, sooner or later the conversation turns to … online marketing.

Marketing online is similar to marketing ‘offline’ in some ways, and very different in others. One familiar truth remains – there are a seemingly endless variety of marketing strategies and tactics that can part you from your cash (at an alarming rate).

For example, could your business gain from effective use of … pay per click advertising, search engine optimisation and organic search rankings, link-building, email autoresponders, web copywriters, affiliates, keyword analysis, content marketing? The list goes on, and you can spend a lot of time just trying to figure out what is involved, let alone how much it costs and what benefits it might offer you.

Its not even a case of some marketing approaches are better than others – like any marketing, it depends on what you want to achieve and how you go about it. There is also a strong element of personal choice. For example, some business owners instinctively avoid the more direct forms of marketing, and prefer to focus on permission based marketing or influencing based strategies.

Whatever your personal preferences and circumstances, small business owners are going to benefit if they can sift through the options and identify what will work most effectively for them. The good news is, just because you are online you don’t need to be a technical guru, and you don’t need to learn everything at once.

Overall I’m asking you to consider this question – are you marketing effectively online? If not, could you benefit by learning more and applying specific strategies and tactics to improve your business? My take is that as the Internet continues to mature, the businesses that are good at online marketing will reap substantial benefits. So its worth putting in some effort in this area.

No doubt you’d like to be inspired rather than confused. To understand complex areas, I always find it useful to have a strong framework to organise my thoughts. So for online marketing, I propose this framework to you:

Presence Optimise your presence on the Internet.
Traffic Build traffic for your web presence.
Interest Interest your prospects and engage with their buying process.
Conversion Convert interest into sales.
Follow Up Follow up your customers and prospects appropriately.

You won’t find this approach in any marketing text books. I’ve developed it because it helps a small business owner to look at their business online, while mapping strongly to the way ‘offline’ business works.

For example, your business will have some kind of presence (such as retail premises, office or physical catalog), and you need traffic. Once potential customers express interest in your product or service, you need to respond with appropriate information to help them decide. At some point, you succeed in converting interest to a purchase. Following up includes both customers (for after sale service or referrals) and prospects (who may still be interested in your products). The same model is very useful for an online business, although the strategies and tactics at each stage may vary substantially.

I’ll be posting more about online marketing for small business, using this 5 part model to put it all in context. Perhaps you will be inspired to step back and update/develop your Online Marketing Plan (or e-Marketing Plan). Or perhaps you’ll identify a few tactics you want to start with right away.

For those interested in going into this in more detail, I’m cross-posting to my blog at PublicityShip. At some stage I plan to offer an email based course for small business owners – if you have ideas on what you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Small business marketing and eBooks

eBook Idea
You’ve probably come across eBooks on many occasions. Have you considered how they could be used to help market your business?

I’m currently working with a few clients on eBook related projects, and its really interesting the number of different ways they can be put to use. Here are two to get you thinking right now.

eBooks to generate traffic to your website
If you operate a website and want do drive more traffic, publishing an eBook can be a great way to attract the attention of a niche audience. Most small businesses aren’t after huge volumes of traffic – what we want are visitors to our sites that are interested in something specifically relevant to us. So publishing an eBook on a niche topic can be a way to get yourself noticed to a very specific audience.

Once people notice your eBook and want to download it, its a good time to ask for an email address and if they want to opt in to receive further information on this topic.

eBooks to generate revenue
Even though I’ve known about the strong case for eBooks for some time, I was blown away by 37 Signals and Getting Real. Their book is great, but what was really fascinating was their comparison with another book they had published previously (and sold 8,000 copies, a very successful book). Bottom line, by the time they had about 10,000 people pay for the book online (and about 10% paid for a ’10 copy’ licence), they had made over $200,000 in profit from Getting Real, compared to $11,000 profit from Defensive Design (their prior book).

As they say, a great set of numbers.

Now 37 Signals are a high profile company and great marketers, and 10,000 online transactions might not be everyone’s target. But the profitability is around 20x greater, and that alone makes it worth considering how you might generate revenue from eBooks.

The mechanics of selling an eBook online aren’t that complicated. If you need some ideas, get in touch.

Marketing is easy …

… or is it?

Looking from the outside in, it seems easy. All you have to do is make your product or service look appealing, advertise in the right places and there you have it.

At least, so I thought a few months ago. But I have to admit to being wrong.

Marketing is hard.

Take online marketing – something I’ve been trying to get my head around over the past few weeks.

My expertise lies in producing effective content and publishing, or getting it published. This works fine when I’m talking to editors, journalists, and face to face with potential clients.

Our website is starting to look pretty sharp and our blog’s going pretty well, attracting links and comments.

Site visitors and blog subscribers are on the up.

But it ain’t that simple. Window-shoppers are one thing – converted customers come much harder.

Taking those window-shoppers by the hand, drawing them through your site on a journey of discovery and convincing them to click that order button – now that’s the art of online marketing.

Then there’s SEO and a whole world of analytics to help you optimise these opportunities – that’s the science of online marketing.

From there you might move into pay-per-click advertising, managing databases and auto-response emailing (we use, e-newsletters, reciprocal linking, online referral programs, creating and distributing effective offers.

Then you remember that there’s a real world out there too – working with the media remains important, as do opportunities for networking, joint marketing initiatives, giving presentations.

You can do it all yourself. Here’s one lady who is – and this is one of many blogs that can help you do it.

But if you’re exhausted by just reading this, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

A good story isn’t enough – it’s how you tell it.

Time to blog!

ClockWhile surfing my Google Alerts and newsreader, looking for new small business content, I came across two useful new business blogs: Small Business Blogging Scout by self-made blogging ‘infopreneur’ Hendry Lee, and The Zone Read, which I like as much for the design as the content.

They both blog pragmatically about business blogging, and include posts on the challenge of finding time to blog – which is probably what attracted me to them, having realised my last post for Small Business Inspiration was 12 days ago.

This isn’t for lack of inspiration, but lack of time. Yet how many other things do I manage to fit into my day, combining our small business with studying and bringing up children? It’s not as if I’m not used to juggling lots of small tasks.

I suspect one of the reasons many small business operators place blogging low on their priority list is because we still view this form of communication as a hobby rather than a business strategy – a personal indulgence instead of a marketing tool.

But scanning the web over the past few days has revealed several examples of the continuing exponential rise in awareness of the benefits blogging for small businesses – not just here in Australia, but most notably in India and the US.

No small business serious about growth can afford to place blogging at the bottom of its ‘to do’ list any longer, much less ignore it altogether.

Hendry Lee’s blog includes a list of Business Blogging Myths that are a useful reference for those who are still in doubt about the blogging commitment. And his post, What to Blog on Slow Days, is handy to keep nearby when blog-fade hits.

So get out your diary, find a half-hour slot and write down ‘Time to Blog’!

What does the Long Tail mean for small business?

The Long Tail

Have you heard of the Long Tail? For a lot of small businesses, this topic matters a LOT. For some, it doesn’t matter much, but you’ll still find it an interesting read. The book on the topic is shortlisted for the Business Book of the Year. But its far more than that.

The Long Tail was an article written by Chris Anderson in Wired Magazine, in October 2004. He has subsequently done a lot more research and published a book. Great author, great article. So good that reading it convinced me to resign from a big-company consulting role and head out and start my own business. This post owes an incredible amount to Chris Anderson.

I’m going to try and put my own small business perspective on the Long Tail. Most (not all) of the discussion around the Long Tail has been from the perspective of big companies – this isn’t a deficiency in the idea, just a natural byproduct of the audience. But I’m going to try and persuade you that the Long Tail is very significant for small business.

Ok, so what is this all about?

Addressable market.

When the Internet was established, it was the beginning of a tectonic shift in addressable market. Basically whatever your product or service, you only get to sell it to your addressable market. Mostly this means your customers have to be able to walk/drive to your outlet, or you go to them. So for a successful small business there needs to be enough people within geographical range of your business who … want/need what you are selling, come into your outlet (or you go to them), notice your product, don’t buy from a competitor … and … buy! (see p.162 of The Long Tail and the Tyranny of Geography).

If you want to sell specialist products/services, you better make sure there are enough people interested in your speciality within geographic range, or else it’ll be pretty lonely.

The basics of supply and demand are not difficult to understand.

No Demanders = No Suppliers!

But – and this is important – it also means

Some Demand with No Supply –> Buy a Subsitute or Don’t Buy

The Internet has created a situation where the addressable market for some products and services has expanded in an astonishing way. This is the tectonic shift you need to understand. The shift hasn’t occurred because of technology – it has occurred because of supply and demand. It is the same old laws at work, but with a new addressable market plugged in to the equation.
So lets look at an example:

Example 1: Old Situation

Book about mountain climbing sold in bookstore -> addressable market is essentially 10-15kms. Law of supply and demand says to bookstore owner … people interested in mountain climbing are spread thinly, and not enough live in my feeder area so I WON’T STOCK IT!

Example 2: New Situation

Book about mountain climbing sold on website -> addressable market is based on # of Internet users and languages supported on website = huge market. Even though mountain climbers are still spread thinly, there are a lot of people interested in mountain climbing overall. So I will STOCK IT!

So if you have read even the first few paragraphs of The Long Tail, by now you will recognise the example of Touching the Void. This is the classic Long Tail case study, thanks to Chris Anderson’s article. And its not hard to understand that Amazon (not just a big company, a huge company) is selling lots of niche books now. Around 32% of all their books.

So the theory of the long tail helps us understand that niche products / services are actually of interest to lots of people. And we can see easily that when the addressable market is large enough (e.g. the Internet), what was an unprofitable niche may now be profitable.
So what does this mean for small business? Well, its time for you to take a long, hard look at your products, services and expertise. I want you to ask two critical questions.

  1. Do you have something that you can now sell to a larger addressable market, available to you over the web?
  2. Can you draw on your niche expertise to create a new product or service that would unprofitable in your geographic market but profitable in your web-sized addressable market? Big caveat here … depending on how you intend to benefit from the product/service, you may need to be able to transact online.

If you are still with me here AND you get what I am saying AND you think its an extraordinary time to be changing how you do business, please comment on how the Long Tail might apply to your business, or even better, email me (glenn at publicityship dot com dot au). I love exploring this idea for new types of businesses, because in just about every case you go looking you can find an angle, a niche that is highly profitable for a small business person! Not necessarily for a large business. There is a very good interview with Chris Anderson, recorded by Ken Evoy of SiteSell, that discusses the long tail and small business. Its quite long (as if this post isn’t), and I recommend it to you.

And this is what makes it such an exciting change for small business. Small businesses have a chance to carve out a very specific niche. Its not even a matter of competing on an even footing with larger businesses. The tyranny of geography means a lot of people can’t find what they want/need, so they buy products or services that are a substitute for what they would really like to buy. Or they don’t buy at all. What happens you offer someone a choice that is a lot closer to what they want? The answer is (and Chris Anderson gives a lot of evidence to support this) they choose what they want. This means they buy less of what they used to, and more of what they really want to. The demand in the long tail includes a lot of pent up demand from people who haven’t been able to get what they want. And small business is exceptionally well placed to respond to this unmet demand.

Well, what are the barriers to achieving this? Why isn’t everyone doing it? I have a lot of thoughts in this area – its what I do a lot of in one of my startup businesses PublicityShip ( I’ll post more on these topics, or if you email me directly, be quite happy to converse via email. One of the first topics I will talk about is the long tail of Ocularists!

Building trust in your business

Connected HandsIn our company blog, we recently posted about the growth of our business and how we had made a few mistakes when first starting out. Our fabulous marketing consultant naturally questioned the wisdom of this approach, but we stuck to our guns.

Foolish? Perhaps, but if new media blogs and articles are anything to go by, we can only win trust through our honesty.
While traditional marketing techniques taught us to focus on the positive and play down the negative, the new media are confronting us with the need for honesty in building trust.

Today’s consumers – especially the Y generation – aren’t so easily fooled by trite sound-bites. They’re healthily suspicious of businesses that claim perfection – to be all things to all people, totally impervious to human error.

It seems trust is more likely to be generated by a business with a human face – one that admits it’s shortcomings and explains how it plans to, or has, overcome them.

Transparent Marketing goes into great detail about the benefits of employing honesty in your promotional materials in order to build trust. It’s worth reading the whole article, but in brief, the advice comes down to the following:

1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) truth – today’s consumer will reject anything that can’t be verified.
2. Purge all vague modifers (such as ‘finest’, ‘consistently’, ‘superior’) – if you’re left with little of substance, you need to start again.
3. Let someone else do your bragging – customers, peers, reviewers, or I would add, credible journalists.
4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts.
5. Admit your weaknesses – not only does this help to engender trust but it sets you apart from your competitors in an engaging way.

Blogs are an ideal vehicle for building trust, as they give your business a human face – something consumers are longing for in the virtual world of today’s business platforms. Readers are savvy enough to suss you pretty quickly if you’re not being honest, or you’re just spinning a line. They read your blog because they like you and detect the seeds of trust.

Expert blogger, Robert Scoble, has eulogised the blog as the ideal trust-building tool in How the Blog Trust Network Works.

Building on this model, our PublicityShip website explains how small businesses can nurture growth by using blogging strategically, as well as harnessing the effects good old-fashioned publicity (someone else doing your bragging).

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