Time for a new marketing recipe?

By Steve Strauss, USA TODAY Senior Small Business Columnist and Voya Contributor

There is very little good that can be said about this pandemic. It has upended lives, closed many a business, and forced others to pivot.

That last point is an important one, and maybe just a tad of good news, because small businesses tend to – how should I say it – fall into ruts. This is especially true when it comes to marketing.

A business typically begins when the founders have an idea and are bold enough to move on that idea. They launch the startup and test a lot of different ways to get business in the door. Before long, they discover a marketing technique that works. It could be a regular sale, or a social media campaign, or a mass media ad, but whatever it is, it becomes a recipe for success.

The downside is that that recipe often either becomes stale or the business never really learns – or needs to learn – any new ones.

But coronavirus has changed all that, and that, I think, is a bit of a silver lining.

What I mean is that the virus is forcing many small businesses to pivot and learn some new tricks.

New marketing strategies are great for two reasons:

  1. In the short term, they mean new eyeballs see the business
  2. And, in the long term, when this is over, having created some new marketing recipes, your business will be poised to grow in new ways

As such, let me suggest with everyone and everything moving rapidly online, digital marketing affords you the best opportunity to create that powerful new recipe.

Which digital marketing strategies are best?

Glad you asked. Here are a few that I think can really pay off in both the short and long term:

1. Grow your opt-in list

A few years ago, I interviewed the founder and CEO of the e-newsletter behemoth, Constant Contact. She explained that the beauty of creating an opt-in list is that the people who opt-in are giving you permission to market to them. They want to hear from you. That alone is remarkable.

Then, this past year, I discovered how to really take this idea to the next level.

I was on Facebook one night and an ad for a “free webinar” popped up. I was intrigued. I clicked it. It was from a guy named Mike Dillard. I ended up watching the whole thing as it explained how to get tons of people to opt-in.

How many?

Mike Dillard has an opt-in list of 500,000 people.

The value of that is self-evident. Dillard explains that if you give people real value and don’t pester them, then, when you do want to sell something to them, they will listen because you have built up goodwill.

Imagine emailing a half a million people about your new product.

Here’s the essence of how to do it:

  • Create a great offer. Maybe it’s a webinar, class, or a discount on a product, a script, a summit, access to a community, or an ebook . . .
  • Next, advertise it on Facebook, your site, with Google ads, etc.
  • Then, you need to sell whatever it is for $1. By not offering it for free, you are giving the product value
  • In exchange for the great deal, you get their email address.

And look, not only have you grown your list, but you have created a new customer (yes, it’s only a buck, but that’s a start.)

2. Create some content marketing

With so many people online right now, there is a great need for great content. The secret here is to create some really valuable, interesting content and then slyly add in a link or gif or offer related to your site or business.

Think of it like a TV show. People watch the show, and then there is a commercial. Your content is the show, and the link (or picture or ad or whatever) is the commercial.

The content could be, for example, an infographic. People love infographics; they read them and share them socially. And at the top or bottom of one, what do you always find? That’s right. The name of the business that created it and their URL. That’s content marketing.

Your content could be a video, or blog, or ebook, or podcast. Whatever it is, make it compelling, link or mention your business, and new people will discover you.

3. Take a deep dive with pay-per-click (PPC)

Those little Google ads you see when you do a search, or sprinkled in websites, or on social media, are PPC ads. PPC ads are fantastic for many reasons, but a main one is that they are both highly targeted yet incredibly affordable.

Here’s why: When you place a PPC ad you don’t pay for it until someone sees it, likes it, and clicks on it. That means that you are only paying for people who are genuinely interested in what you are selling, as opposed to, say, a television ad which forces you to pay for thousands of people who will never see it, or may see it but will never act on it.

So go ahead, try out some new ideas, invent some new recipes, and see if you don’t start to, well, make more dough (groan, I know!)


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Steve Strauss

Often called “America’s most popular small business columnist,” Steve Strauss is a best-selling author and senior USA TODAY columnist whose content and media appearances reach millions. Steve is also an attorney, small business influencer, and the author of 17 books, including The Small Business Bible.

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