5 things you can do to promote your company better

by Sonja Jefferson on January 21, 2010

If you are grappling for clarity on how to market your business to drive sales results, here are a few recommendations to build into your plan:

1. Make your web strategy bigger than your website

Your website is a vital marketing tool, and one that needs investment but it’s not the only place on the WWW that needs your focus. Most businesses put all their web energy into their company site and wonder why they don’t get much benefit from it in terms of leads.

“75% of your focus should be on what is happening outside your website,”

say Halligan and Shah in their brilliant book ‘Inbound Marketing’. They recommend an increase in general web activity in order to draw people back to your website. Good advice. For 2010, consider social media, posting articles on affiliated websites, contributing to related forums, pay per click campaigns & email newsletters; all with links back to useful content on your site. For maximum exposure: ”make sure you and your company’s DNA shows everywhere, across hundreds of sites” (Seth Godin).

2. Produce useful, informative content

The purpose of marketing is to connect with potential customers. Marketing literature that simply screams ‘We’re the best!’ is no way to start a relationship and build trust. Instead of shouting at your customers, try connecting with them. Create useful, informative content that helps solve their business problems. Become a useful resource.

The attitude should be not ‘Look how great we are!’ but ‘Look how useful we are – we have the answer to your problem’.

In terms of content, there are many options open to you: articles, ‘How to…’ guides, whitepapers, case studies, webinars, videos, e-books – the list goes on. Whatever medium you chose, make the content valuable to your buyers: help them: educate them; prove your expertise and earn their trust until they are ready to buy. Valuable content sells.

3. Think niche

Struggling to position your company effectively and generate leads? Step back: stick your stake in the sand and target your marketing efforts at a particular niche. The more precisely you can describe your customers and address their issues the better. This is a contentious subject as Guy Kawasaki describes:

“Many entrepreneurs are afraid of being ‘niched’ to death and then not achieving ubiquity. However, most successful companies started off targeting specific markets and grew to great size by addressing other segments.”

If you want to sell successfully, you can’t be everything to everyone. What do you want to be known for? To make your life easier start by identifing a target market and develop your service to be ‘remarkable’ in that niche. Anchor your pitch by telling your chosen customers how you will solve their specific problem. Don’t be afraid to turn people away. Narrow your niche for more leads.

4. Get into social media

Face it – social media is now mainstream and for good reason too. Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are immensely valuable business tools for professional businesses and consultants. Used effectively they’ll help you to build your community of contacts & extend your reach; they are easy-to-use broadcast channels for your ideas and content; they open up a dialogue with other experts, customers and contacts, refining your own expertise. Social media enables buyers to ’see who is talking sense’ in the sector they’re interested in, giving information to build knowledge and trust before entering the sales phase. NB: This route is most effective when combined with a business blog (to share your ideas) and a newsletter (to maintain contact). See: A Valuable Guide to Social Media Success.

5. Remember your existing customers and contacts

“Stay in touch. Too many businesses chase new businesses chase new business when existing customers and contacts are far more valuable.”

So says smart marketeer Mick Dickinson and he is right. If you want to make life easier and more enjoyable this year, don’t just focus on trying to wrestle strangers through the conversion process: devote more time and effort into communicating with your current contacts regularly, in ways they appreciate and find useful.

Keeping in contact in ways your customers find valuable is the most effective route to consistent sales. If you communicate regularly in ways they appreciate, they’ll reward you with referrals and new business. A monthly email newsletter is a very effective way to do this – Mel Lester, a US-based management consultant I follow on Twitter, produces the most valuable, targeted newsletter I’ve seen to date: see - http://tinyurl.com/yenvzqd.

I really hope these 5 suggestions help you. As ever, I’d be fascinated by your feedback: how are you going to promote your services this year? Anything important I’ve missed off the list?

Sonja

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Sonja Jefferson

Sonja Jefferson is a consultant, writer and founder of Valuable Content. She helps good businesses to create and share great content so they win the business they deserve.

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{ 1 trackback }

Different Marketing in 2010… « RedOver
January 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sara January 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

Great post Sonja. I particularly would like to reinforce what you said, “Instead of shouting at your customers, try connecting with them.” As designers we have no end of customers who want us to create random fliers that SHOUT noise at clients – that does not work! We have to teach clients how to connect by communicating real valuable solutions and I like that your post has that same angle.

The niche topic is a difficult one. As designers we’re not very niche. Theoretically we should be able to design for any audience for any client. We do. Is that good or bad? I suppose it depends on your business model. But even we have a focus on the SME market. I guess it’s something to think on!

avatar sonja January 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

Hi Sara – thanks for the comment.

It’s good to know that you recommend communicating valuable solutions rather than noise – not all designers take that approach!

Niche is a difficult one I know. I’ve grappled with it for a long time too, and now specialise in producing valuable content for independent professional service companies and consultants.

You focus on the SME market so that is a niche in effect. It’s useful to think of it from a referers point of view. What would you like me to refer you for? ‘Designers for SME companies’ is stronger than just ‘designers’, but maybe not as strong as ‘web designers for SME retailers’. You get my point.

There’s no harm in having several niches: from a sales perspective aligning your content and marketing messages to a specific group of buyers, showing how you solve their specific problems is extremely powerful.

Hope this is useful.

Sonja

avatar Charles H. Green January 22, 2010 at 11:26 am

Fine list, Sonja.

The overall theme that I hear in your selected wisdom is serve your clients and the rest will take care of itself. Examples:

-You sell best by doing, not by talking about what you’re going to do.

-Re the niche issue, you’re better off giving concrete examples of what you can do; people in other niches can abstract to what they do better than they can assume capability from a set of generalities.

-Social media give an unending set of opportunities to demonstrate your competence, rather than just blather on about it–a great example of the new emphasis on inbound marketing.

-Great marketing is never about the vehicle, be it web or social media; it’s about communicating things of value to customers and clients.

These are simply ways of restating what you’ve said, of course; but that goes to show the power of the list you have created here.

Thanks.

avatar sonja January 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Very insightful Charles – thanks very much indeed. I love your last comment on marketing as communicating things of value to your contacts. For consultants and professional service companies it’s all about building trust.

avatar Kristina Hughes January 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Cor – tell it to the architects – why don’t they understand the importance of the correct marketing? Informative and as ever, Sonja x

avatar Ed Walter January 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Sonja,

Great read. Short, but detailed, More or less common principles but delivered in an actionable way. Thank you. I’m a first time reader (thru AllTop) and I look forward to reading more.

E.

avatar alfredo January 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

good read. thanks for this :) social media and repeat business is very important for us where i am working.

avatar Debby-Ann Vickers January 24, 2010 at 2:15 am

Thanks
Your so right today’s shoppers have ads coming at them left and right, so building trust in your brand is important.
and i was just struggling with the niche question for my business expansion that i am working on now, i was thinking a niche would be at a disadvantage thanks for the in site.

avatar Nick Walrond January 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Poignant comments as ever Sonja.

For me web marketing and social media usage is all heavily interlinked, and can be best used to try and create “high touch” networking for the modern age. In our business traditional relationship based networking has always been the most successful route to new business, however the internet generation has taken some of the essence of the traditional network away. We are using our web and social media strategy to market our services, ideas, thoughts, opinions etc… to a wider group in order to draw together likeminded individuals into a closer contact network where everyone gains in terms of knowledge, reach and information share.

The future therefore is very much niche and high touch, using the new generation of web marketing tools to cover more ground than traditional approaches would have allowed.

avatar Jim O'Connor February 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Hi Sonja,
Agree with everything you’ve said. However, on an emotional/personal level it makes me think “My God, have I got to do all that just to get some customers?!” That’s a lot of hard/unpaid work! The fact is, in today’s climate, the answer is “Yes”. I’m not sure all these new opportunities are actually helping us make a living, but you can’t wind the clock back, so just have to adapt…

avatar John Kewley February 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

“Valuable content sells.” Totally agree. Find out what your customer wants to know, then give it to her. Repeat. Sharing relevant knowledge builds your brand’s authority, earns respect and trust.

avatar Sonja Jefferson February 3, 2010 at 9:10 am

Thanks for all your comments and feedback – enlightening as ever and much appreciated.
Sonja

avatar Sahej April 5, 2010 at 4:40 am

Great post. Especially like the niche part. You see, this is exactly what we have been doing for the last few months. Concentrating on a particular section of the market not only gives you deeper knowledge of that area, it also helps you to present yourself better everytime you approach a new client ( In that very field, ofcourse ).
Not that we don’t work with other segments of the market, its just that we concentrate more on the selected segment. And eventually when we feel that we are almost done with the major players in that segment, we move on to some other segment. Its like using carbon fuels until they’re exhausted and then moving onto renewable sources… :p

avatar sonja April 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Thanks Sahej.

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