Sub brands, diversifying, niching, social media algorithms and more:
Marketing is a topic of concern for most new business owners, and understandably. But it’s also one that continues to challenge those who have established a successful business.
In my last blog I outlined the answers to some common marketing questions I was asked during a recent podcast on marketing for freelancers. In this follow-up, I’ve included a rough transcription of my answers to 7 more marketing questions. I hope it’s helpful – if it sparks any more questions for you, please feel free to get in touch to chat them through.
If you’d like to, you can listen to the original podcast on the Freelance Heroes Ltd website.
How do you keep up to date with social media algorithms?
It’s a massive challenge; things are always changing. If social media is a huge part of your marketing strategy, then it’s probably worthwhile having a good SEO expert or some professional guidance, someone who can let you know when there’s something that’s relevant to you.
But if you’re not at the stage where you can do that and you’re just starting out, then there are things you can do that are in your control. You can try and keep up to date with all the changes, if you’ve got the time to do that – and it is important to try and keep abreast of what’s happening – but it’s more important to focus on what you’re doing yourself.
If you look at most of the algorithm changes, they’re all generally around connection, engagement, making your content relative to your audience. So, if you understand your audience, who they are, what their problems are, what they want to know about, what they’re going to look at, then it’s much easier to create content that’s going to be seen and picked up by the algorithms and you’re going to get that reach and visibility.
The main advice I can give is don’t put all your eggs in one basket; look at social media as part of your marketing strategy, but make sure that what you’re doing there you’re following through with your customer engagement strategy, maybe email marketing, events plan, or whatever else you’re doing. Don’t focus solely on social media, but where you are on social media just try and make everything you do as engaging as possible. And that’s where you can bring in some omultimedia like videos and imagery and get people involved in polls, asking questions. Just try and engage really and be helpful.
Is there such a thing as free marketing?
The best type of marketing you can get is referral marketing, and of course that doesn’t cost anything.
In an ideal world, the aim of a good marketing strategy is that you’ll have less ‘selling’ to do. The more you can encourage people to come to you through referral or word-of-mouth then the better and easier it is to market your business. You don’t have to go out and sell. But there’s always going to be some investment at the start to start building that brand reputation and develop that initial customer base that you can grow from.
I want to target a broader audience. Should I create additional niche brands?
The question about brand architecture is one that comes up quite a lot, and the answer very much depends on the specific circumstances.
If the service you’re offering is not going to change much, and it’s more a case of extending your offering into different industries, it’s probably better to stick with the parent brand.
Sub brands and individual product brands work really well if you’ve already established a brand and you’re looking to do something completely different with a completely different audience. But if you’ve already built a reputation around your service, then having different campaigns or industry relevant landing pages is most likely a better strategy.
How do you know if you’ve established a brand reputation?
It depends really on whether you measure brand equity. In some industries it’s easier to see what market share you have, but if this isn’t obvious you can go from customer feedback and reviews or conduct a survey or poll of the market to measure brand recall and positive association.
If you’re looking to offer additional services or diversify, where do you start?
Again, with customer research. If your existing product or service isn’t doing well, the first thing to ask is whether you actually need a change in strategy, or whether you just need to change the tactics you’re using to market it. Our current circumstances have thrown businesses into this quandary. There have been a lot of businesses that have moved from physical events to virtual, online events, and without meaning to brought in new audiences – which is great. But that’s different to specifically going out and targeting news audiences. So, it depends what you’re trying to achieve and you need to look at the three Cs I talked about previously. It’s much easier to develop your offering for existing customers than it is to start something completely new.
Launching a product or service in a completely new market carries a lot of risk. There’s a lot of opportunity in it as well, but is it really where you want to be investing your time? Or do you need to just do a stocktake of what your current portfolio needs?
How do you go about asking for work?
The best thing you can do is to start by helping somebody. Where you see you might want to work with an organisation or an individual, just getting in touch with them – not to sell and say ‘do you need these services?’ – but to say: ‘I saw this article and I thought it might be helpful for you’. And genuinely – not with some kind of covert strategy, only if it genuinely helps. Or producing content so people can download it and think ‘this person knows what they’re talking about, they’ve got some really helpful tips. If I’m going to work with somebody who specialises in this, this is the person I’m going to remember.’
Wherever you possibly can, try and make your marketing as helpful as possible with the aim of solving problems rather than trying to make a sale. And that way when it does get to a point where you think ‘I’m really going to have to ask now’, there are ways you can do that without it sounding like those awful, spam messages. Sometimes you might like to ask your existing clients ‘do you know other businesses who might benefit from this service?’ and ask them to put you in touch.
At what point do business owners realise they need to bring someone in to help with marketing?
Firstly, you need to have the ability to invest in any additional service. I tend to work with organisational leaders who have already got to that point in their mind where they know they need that additional support; they have now got the resources and it makes sense for them to be focusing on business development and client relationships rather than trying to market themselves as well. I think that point comes at different times for everybody.
I hope some of these answers have been helpful or given you food for thought. If you recognise the need for a more structured approach to your marketing, then please get in touch or book an informal chat today.