3 Ways You Can Use Your Competitors to Grow Your Business

Coming up with ways to grow your business is really hard. There are so many options out there, so many tools and platforms, it’s hard to know where to start. What’s going to be most effective for you? Will it bring results? How much time and money will it take to implement?

Sometimes, the best move you can make is to look at what your competitors are doing. By observing what moves they are making and what seems to work or not work for them, you can spark your own ideas about what YOU could do to grow your business.

Below are 3 ways you can look at what your competitors are doing, in order to get ideas about how to grow your business.

They can teach you about pricing

Pricing is always a touchy subject and a tricky thing to figure out. You want to price your product or service high enough to demonstrate its value, but the higher the price point, the fewer number of people will be able to afford it. Additionally, pricing can fluctuate based on the season, depending on what industry you are in.

This is where your competitors can help you. Learn what their pricing model is. If they offer seasonal discounts or deals, sign up for their marketing emails to stay on top of those promotions. Based on what is working for them, you can adjust your pricing accordingly. Even dropping your price temporarily by 5% can help draw customers from your competitors and boost your own sales. And, if you provide a superior product and service for the same price point or slightly less than your competitor, word will most likely spread, and more traffic will come your way.

They can teach you how to increase your website traffic

You may have a website, but it may not be performing as well as you’d like it to. You may be missing out on opportunities to grow your business via website traffic. SEO and website content are incredibly important when it comes to not only attracting visitors to your site, but also for getting them to stay and convert.

Take a look at the top ranking websites for your industry. What are those businesses doing to rank that high? What keywords are they optimizing for? Do they have special content that they offer their visitors, such as downloadable white papers, case studies, or hot topic blog posts?

Take this information and then look at your own site. Perhaps you have opportunities to enhance your content with more keywords. Or, maybe you have several success stories you haven’t yet highlighted that could make great case studies.

They can teach you where your customers are

I had a potential client come to me a few months back saying they needed to come up with a way to use Snapchat in their marketing strategy. When I asked them why they wanted to target Snapchat, their response was that well, everyone else is doing it.

The problem with social media is that businesses all too often think that they need to be on every social media platform. But, the truth is, not all audiences are on all of the social media platforms. In the case of this potential client, it turns out that Snapchat was the exact opposite of what they should be spending their advertising dollars on, as their target market was definitely not Snapchat users.

So, how do you know where your audience is? Well, one quick way to learn is to see where your toughest competitors are. Instead of spending time trying out the trendiest new platform, use that time instead to see what your competitors are doing. Are they investing time and money connecting with individuals on LinkedIn? Or maybe they are running highly targeted ads on Facebook.

I think of it like this… Imagine you are on a vacation to the mountains and are looking to go fishing. Your best bet is to ask around and hope the locals will tell you the hottest spot for a great trout catch, not bumbling around the wilderness hoping that you’ll just happen upon a stream where fish are biting. The same goes in business. You want to go where you KNOW the audience is biting, not where you HOPE they are.

We often get stuck in our own business bubbles, and inspiration can be hard to find. So, take a moment or two each week to research what others are doing in your space. Sign up for email newsletters, book a demo, or speak to one of their sales staff. I guarantee you’ll not only find inspiration for ways to grow your business, but you’ll already have a pretty good idea that they could be very successful.

Need outside help to grow your business? Contact me for a free introductory consultation!

Small Business Marketing Misconceptions that Affect Your Bottom Line

Small business marketing is a critical piece to growth but it is often misunderstood. This often leads to failed attempts, as well as unrealistic expectations of how it all works and how it will affect a small business’ bottom line.

The following is a list of 5 misconceptions I have come across frequently in my work with helping small businesses grow. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully this will help you gain a better understanding of what marketing does and how it works.

Misconception #1: Marketing magic happens overnight

Oh, if only this were true! You have no idea how much I would love to be able to give my clients overnight success through marketing. But, sadly, that’s not the case. When planting a garden, the plants don’t spring up overnight. A lot happens beneath the surface of the soil before the plant begins to emerge and grow above ground.

The same is true for marketing. It takes time and experimentation to find the right combination of strategy and execution for long term growth. That’s what we are after – long term growth that is sustainable and continues to provide greater and greater results over time. We don’t want a quick fix that provides a temporary spike in returns and then fizzles out.

Misconception #2: You can set it and forget it

Again, in a perfect world, you’d be able to create an email nurture or build a website and just let it ride and roll in the results. In reality, though, marketing takes constant monitoring and pivoting based on results.

Additionally, marketing is a moving target. Search algorithms are constantly changing, making it necessary to stay on top of your SEO. Marketing technology is evolving at a rapid pace, so it’s critical to stay up to date on all of the latest developments and best practices. And, finally, people change. The words they respond to, the places they lurk are always changing.

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Misconception #3: It’s all about you and what you’re selling

Marketing and selling are two completely different animals. While you want your marketing to end up in sales, the key to marketing is developing a trustworthy relationship. Consumers these days are highly skeptical, and rightly so. With so much demand for our attention, along with scammy products and services out there, you have to prove you’re legit and that you want to help your customers improve their life somehow.

That involves listening, not talking. Here’s an example. We all have that one friend or acquaintance that, when having a conversation, immediately makes the whole thing about him or herself. We don’t want to be that guy/girl. We want to be the listener who engages in conscious dialogue.

Only then will your audience realize that you have their best interest in mind, and that is what will make them more likely to buy your product or services.

Misconception #4 – It’s a waste of money

This misconception ties in with number 1 in a way, because often businesses will see that they aren’t getting instant ROI from their marketing, and will proclaim it as a waste of money and refuse to pursue it any further. However, how you invest in your small business marketing is a reflection of how you view your business. If you believe that investing in marketing isn’t worth it, then ultimately you are saying that investing in your own business is a waste.

If you truly believe in your business and what you are offering, wouldn’t you want to promote it?

Misconception #5 – You can do it yourself

Most of the time, when you have an issue, you turn to a professional for help. For example, when you have a major plumbing problem, you call a plumber. If you need your car fixed, you take it to a mechanic. But in the realm of small business marketing, this isn’t always the case. Rather than contact a professional, business owners will try to tackle their marketing themselves.

I get it, funds are limited and sometimes you are bootstrapping, so investing in outside consultants doesn’t seem feasible. However, think about all of the time you are spending running your business. You no doubt wear multiple hats already, and, given the fact that marketing is something that needs constant attention, you really won’t be getting as much out of your efforts as you would if you outsourced it to a professional. A little investment in hiring a marketing professional not only will help your marketing efforts to be more effective, it will free up your time to properly serve your customer base.

Marketing is a necessary piece of the business growth puzzle. However, these misconceptions make it difficult to achieve success and in the long run only limit your opportunities and potential for growth. Marketing, when executed correctly, will provide your business long term returns and success.

I offer small business marketing and fully understand the time and financial limitations that comes with being an entrepreneur or solopreneur. That’s why I work with you to develop a plan that is manageable within your time and budget constraints. Interested in learning more? Contact me for a free consultation!

4 Steps to Launch Your Marketing Program

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As I sit here writing this blog post, I’m stuck in a bit of a rut. I am relaunching my business with a slightly different service offering, and I know I need to start marketing it. However, there are SO many different things to do: blogging, social media, SEO, paid advertising, email marketing…the list goes on and on. It’s easy to get overwhelmed!

The irony here is that I do this for my clients all the time – that’s my bread and butter. But, when the tables are turned, I suddenly feel my clients’ pain…where in the world do you begin? To wrap my head around it, I broke it down into 5 actionable steps which make the process of getting started with your marketing a little less intimidating.

Step 1: Get clear on your long term goals

What is the ultimate effect you want your marketing to have on your business? Perhaps it’s driving brand awareness, increasing web traffic, growing your email list, or convert more web visitors to sales.

Chances are, you want to accomplish more than one of these things. However, as one of my colleagues says, “You can’t boil the ocean.” Meaning, trying to do it all at once will get you nowhere. Pick one goal, two max to begin.

Additionally, you’ll want to determine how you are going to measure success. Will you be measuring website visits or email sign ups? Will you be looking at email open and click through rates, or likes and shares on social media? Solidify that KPI (key performance indicator) and then proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Pick one marketing strategy to start with and prioritize the rest

If you are a small business or solopreneur, you most likely don’t have a ton of resources at your disposal to tackle too many initiatives. You’ll really need to get as much bang for your buck as far as where you are investing your time, effort, and money.

Decide what is the most necessary marketing strategy to make the biggest impact toward your long-term goal, and start with that. You can prioritize the rest after that.

For example, in my case, my primary goal is to generate web traffic. However, I need to provide useful content to my readers in order to do so. Therefore, my first task will be to generate a significant amount of blog content.

From there, I can add in social strategy, email blasts and lead acquisition efforts, etc. But, it’s pointless to start that now if I don’t have any content to offer.

Step 3: Create Actionable Mini Goals

Even though I’ve narrowed down my focus to generating blog content, that is a very broad task and can seem pretty overwhelming. Breaking the process down into mid and short term goals can help keep you on track and avoid procrastinating due to being overwhelmed.

Mid-term goal

In my case, over the next 3 months I want to have 12 blog posts written. That is my mid-term goal. I can break that down into short term, weekly goals, or sprints, which will help me break the process down into even more bite size pieces.

Short-term goal

For example, if I want to have 12 blog posts published in the next 3 months, I need to publish one per week. That means that each week, I need to come up with a topic, research, outline, and write the article.

At the beginning of each week, I will make a plan to do this, and, at the end of the week, evaluate the process. Did I accomplish my goal? What part of my strategy worked, and what needs improvement? What did I learn from this?

Step 4: Execute and Analyze

Just start

Once you’ve done this planning, it’s critical to actually do the work. That seems obvious, but many of us, myself included, fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.” Meaning, you get caught up in the planning. Maybe you question the best thing to start with, or get caught up in trying to figure out the best way to start.

I can assure you, the best way to start is just to start. The process of marketing is not a quick miracle fix. It’s a long-term, slow growing approach of nurturing your marketing efforts and changing as needed. So, just start. It’s better to have a task done than perfect.

Block time off to work on your marketing. Turn off your phone, put away Facebook or any other distractions, and focus. Even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes at a time. Whatever it takes to get you started on creating dedicated time to work on growing your business.

Analyze your efforts

As I mentioned in Step 3, evaluation and analysis post-execution is critical, and it’s important to measure the success of your short, mid and long-term goals.

Reviewing your short term goals gives you useful information to pivot as necessary to make sure your smaller tasks are actually contributing the best way possible to your mid and long-term goals.

Checking in on your mid-term goals gives you the chance to see if you’ve stayed on track. After diving into this process, does the marketing strategy you are using still make sense to achieve your long-term goal? If not, it’s best to again pivot and change your strategy.

Finally, when you approach your long-term goal deadline, you’ll want to review the entire process. Over the long-term, what worked, and what didn’t? Take your KPI’s you set and measure the success of your efforts. Did they pay off, or do you need to take a different approach next? There will always be pluses and minuses as part of every strategy, but honest evaluation of your efforts and making necessary changes is an essential part of growing your business.

Hopefully these 4 Steps will help you to break down your marketing strategy into manageable steps. Remember, the best thing you can do for your marketing and growth is to just start! You can perfect your approach along the way!