Are you missing simple opportunities to promote your business online?
When you’re working for yourself or running your own business, the lines between your personal and professional life start to blur. You are no longer on the clock or off the clock because you own the clock. And you want it to tick.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably don’t have time to sit around thinking about online marketing. You’ve got a business to run, and resources might be tight, but you know your customers are on the web, and you want to be able to reach them. Where do you begin?
Seize Every Opportunity
When you work for someone else, there isn’t much motivation to put a link to the company website in your personal email signature. Lots of people who use Facebook and Twitter don’t even list their places of employment in their bios. And all kinds of forums are buzzing with workers who want to banter about anything and everything…except work.
Employed workers don’t promote their employers for a number of reasons. First of all, they may not be allowed to, legally. For the average worker, marketing and bringing in business is not part of their job description. Many workers won’t see any benefits from such efforts, anyway. Most would rather not think about work when they’re off duty.
When these folks leave the cubicle behind for good and set up their own shops, old habits are hard to break. But think about it: now that you’re running your own business, you should seize every opportunity to let people know about the products and services you offer.
Online Marketing Strategies
There are two types of online marketing strategies. The first type is a concrete plan. You’re going to set up a website, publish a blog, and launch an email marketing campaign. That’s a clear, comprehensive plan. The other type of online marketing involves an open-minded awareness in which you are able to identify and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. When you’re filling out a form and it asks for your website, do you leave it blank because the form has nothing to do with your business directly? Well, that could be a missed opportunity.
Let’s say you have a Facebook account, which you use primarily to connect with friends and family. You post photos of your kids and pets, play games, and take polls and quizzes. This has nothing to do with business, right?
Wrong. Let’s say your second cousin twice removed lands on your Facebook page and notices that you work as a translator. Maybe she already knew this was your profession and forgot, or maybe she had no idea. The point is, she notices, and as it happens, her company is trying to land a foreign-language client. Instead of hitting the yellow pages, she hits you up and you land a pretty decent gig.
You don’t have to wallpaper your life with your business information, but when there’s a space for your business information, you should use it, even if that space is one that you would normally associate with your personal life.
Seize These Three Online Marketing Opportunities
Here are three online marketing opportunities that you can seize quickly and easily.
1. Develop and memorize your elevator pitch and share it when the opportunity arises
An elevator pitch is a 30-second description of your business. You have half a minute to explain what you offer, demonstrate how it benefits people, establish why they should buy it from you, and tell them what to do next (click, call, or email). It sounds a lot easier than it is. Try it now. Set your timer for 30 seconds and describe your business. Make it sound good. Go ahead and do it. I’ll wait.
Like I said, it’s not as easy as it sounds. But if you take some time to put your elevator pitch together, it will help boost your business online and off. You’ll be armed with an answer whenever someone asks what you do. Also, make sure you keep the written version handy so you can copy and paste it into online directories and the bios or profiles that you’ll fill out on the web.
Naturally, you have a website and an email account that uses your website domain. It’s just more professional when the emails you send to clients come from @yourbusiness.com rather than hotmail, gmail, or yahoo. Certainly, you’ve put a professional signature on your business email. Even workers in big companies are required to use such signatures. But what about your personal email account? Just about every email application includes a feature that lets you set up a signature. In that signature, you can put your name, a logo, and a link. So do it. Add a little reminder to let people know you’re in business.
Lots of people use forums or discussion boards to engage with other people online. Most forums focus on particular interests — gaming, the arts, science, sports, politics, etc. There are forums for every subject under the sun. People gather in these online communities to exchange ideas and information and to share their interests. As a forum member, you set up an account with a profile, which is much like a social media profile. And like an email account, you can usually set up a signature on your forum profile too. This will place your signature on all messages that you send and post in the forum. If you’re in a knitting forum and your profession is restoring antique cars, you might not want to be overt, but it doesn’t hurt to put the name of your website (with a link) just below your name.
All Business All the Time
The idea behind online marketing is to make it as easy as possible for anyone to find you online. Marketing strives to pull people to your business so you don’t have to do as much pushing (selling). And that means using the simple opportunities that arise as well as implementing a comprehensive marketing plan. All three of these simple online marketing strategies (elevator pitch, email signatures, and forums) have one thing in common: they each harness existing opportunities to promote your business.
Melissa Donovan is the founder of Buzz Pro Studio, providing website services to small businesses and independent professionals.