Do you cringe when someone asks what you do for a living? If so, you're not alone. For many of us, marketing feels like a dirty word. In this post, I'll break down the basics of marketing and show you how to make it work for your business.
First - what are the core elements of a business?
If you boil any business down to it's most basic parts, you will always find these two core elements. They're intertwined and equally as important.
- A product (or service). The thing that people can buy.
- Customers. People to buy the product/service.
Despite them being equal in importance, many solo business owners completely neglect the latter. They build a great product, then refuse to talk about it.
The product is almost never the issue.
I've been building my businesses for about 4 years now. Each passing year, things get a little easier and revenue climbs a little higher.
I occasionally get to talk to other business owners about their businesses and I can confidently say that product is almost never an issue. I consistently see high-quality products and services across the board. It's extremely rare where someone shows me something and I think to myself "that's not valuable to someone".
So if you have a great product, the next step is finding customers. For simplicity sake, I'm going to call this marketing.
Many people think of marketing negatively. They think of sleazy car salesmen, infomercials and pop-up ads. They think of being tricked or scammed into buying a product that isn't good.
But how do you feel about marketing when it's a product you want?
- How do you feel about trailers for new marvel movies?
- What about podcast interviews with your favorite author?
- Do you like finding what you're looking for on page 1 of google?
There are probably a shit-ton of customers who want to buy from you. They've been searching for your exact product/service. They want exactly what you offer.
But if you're not marketing your, then you're making it infinitely more difficult for them to buy it from you.
How to do marketing.
In order to find clients or customers, you need to market your business. There's simply no way around this fact.
I'll use a video production business as an example. There are numerous ways to market a local video business, including (but not limited to):
- Attend in-person networking and attend BNI or chamber meetings
- Cold calling, cold emailing and cold pitching w/ video (something I did a lot in the beginning)
- Build your SEO to get organic leads from Google (also what I did)
- Post content on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok or Facebook
- Run paid ads on any of these platforms
- Partner with agencies or other similar businesses
- Sponsor community activities and events
Each of these strategies work. In fact, I know a number people who have built their video businesses by utilizing one of the methods above. It's not about picking the right strategy; It's about picking one strategy and mastering it.
It's not about picking the perfect strategy; it's about putting in the work and not stopping until you see results.
I'm going to paraphrase a conversation I've had more times than I can count.
Them: "How do I find clients for my video agency?"
Me: "What have you tried?"
Them: "I tried posting on LinkedIn and it didn't work."
Me: "How many times did you post?"
Them: "At least 5 or 6 times."
Me: "When is the last time you posted?"
Them: "A few weeks ago."
Me: "What have you tried since then?"
If you choose LinkedIn as your platform of choice, posting 5 or 6 times is not enough to make any meaningful impact. In fact, posting 20-30 times is still not enough to get any meaningful data.
But this is what most solopreneurs do. We dabble. We stick their toes in and test the water, but rarely jump in with both feet.
We post on LinkedIn for two weeks and say:
"I didn't get any sales. LinkedIn obviously doesn't work for me!"
We send a handful of video emails and say:
"Cold video outreach must not work for my business model!"
We publish a website without doing any SEO and say:
"SEO won't work, my city is too competitive"
We're so quick to move on to the next thing that we prevent ourselves from getting into a groove and finding our way. It can be uncomfortable to continue spending time on something that's netting no real return; but maybe it's not netting a real return because we haven't mastered the activity (yet).
It's all about consistency.
It's not about the strategy; it's about consistency.
- Consistency is how you figure out what works and what doesn't.
- Consistency is how you find shortcuts and loopholes.
- Consistency is how you'll realize compounding interest.
With any method you choose, you need to do it consistently every single day for a really long time before you can expect to see any results. That's how it works.
I didn't see success with SEO until 2.5 years into my video business. But that didn't deter me from continuously learning and optimizing my website. I knew if I kept at it, it would pay off. Now I rank first for many video related search terms in my area and get a steady stream of organic clients.
Ali Abdaal has an audience of 2.7 million YouTube subscribers. He also runs the Part-Time YouTuber Academy. Ali believes that the first 50 times you do something you're going to be terrible. Since posting this he's expanded that number from 50 → 100.
Ali Also talked about this in his 'Sunday Snippets' newsletter:
Consistency is King. Forget about trying to find a viral hit when you start out. Instead, post 1 video per week consistently and your life will change.
Compounding is Queen. Focus on getting better, not bigger. Growth comes over time. It took me 2-3 years of creating regular content before things really took off.
One student, John Coogan, from my Part-Time YouTuber Academy experienced the same thing. It was his 77th video that really accelerated his growth after having published videos every week for 18 months.
Dedicate time to marketing.
How much time should you dedicate to marketing?
If you don't like marketing, you're not going to like my answer. But I believe you should spend 50% of your time doing marketing.
Jon Yongfook is the founder of BannerBear.com. Jon is a developer first and foremost, so he's a self-described "technical founder". However, Jon knew that in order to take his one-person startup from $0 → $30k/month in revenue, he needed to wear all the hats - including marketer.
You'd probably assume a software developer would spend 90% of his time doing the thing he's best at (developing the product) and use whatever time was left-over to 'market' the product. Nope.
Jon spends 50% of his time building, the other 50% marketing. He even built this super-simple website so everyone knows exactly what he's working on that week.
Justin Welsh is another online online creator, but unlike Jon, he doesn't have a software product. Instead his revenue comes from course sales (The LinkedIn OS) and 1-on-1 consulting ($850/hour).
Start slow and ramp up over time.
Most solo entrepreneurs spend 0 hours per week marketing. If that's you, the idea of ramping up to 20 hours/week probably sounds like a nightmare.
So instead, start slow. Make some time in your calendar to consciously sit down and figure out how to promote your business, product or service. Don't focus on solving the problem all in one day. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and testing every single day until you get a signal that it's working.
- A new client signs up because of your content
- A customer makes a purchase because of something you posted
- Your video prompts a conversation that wouldn't have happened otherwise
Keep iterating slowly to discover what works. Think of it like a bat; you put your voice out there and wait to see if anything bounces back. If it does, move in that direction and kep testing.
Get over yourself.
Get over the fear of being disliked.
Most people don't want to do marketing because they don't want to annoy people. They don't want to be pushy.
But here's the truth - most people simply don't care. If it's not relevant to them, they'll scroll past and forget about it. You wont' ruin their day.
On average we see 4,000-10,000 ads every single day. That number seems way too high, right? You would probably notice if you saw that many ads... right?
Wrong. We don't register that many ads because the majority simply aren't relevant to us. We see it and go on with our day as if we didn't see it at all.
Don't focus on how you might annoy people. It probably won't happen. Instead, focus on getting your message in front of your target audience.
The Rule of 7
There's an old rule in marketing that states a prospect needs to hear your message SEVEN TIMES before they make a purchase. Despite advances in marketing technology, this is still fairly standard knowledge.
You might think to yourself "I posted about my service once this month. Nobody responded! I don't want to post again and annoy people."
But because of how ineffective social media algorithms are for small businesses, there's a good chance that 80% of your followers didn't even see that first post. In fact, many business owners won't even post about their product/service more than 7 times in a calendar year.
So in short? You're doing your potential customers a disservice by not marketing to them. Remember, there are customers who WANT to buy from you. Stop making it difficult for them.
Stop looking for shortcuts. Just do the work.
- Pick one marketing channel.
- Show up consistently every single day.
- Don't stop until you figure out how to make it work.
Don't overcomplicate things.
Don't overcomplicate your business strategy.
Whenever you're struggling in your business, ask yourself:
- Do you have something people want?
You're not a good judge of this, because you're going to be your worst critic. Ask your previous customers about their experience. Did they enjoy working with you? Did they get value out of the product/service? Would they recommend it to a friend? Hint: In most cases the answer is almost always "yes".
- Are you actively marketing your product/service?
In almost 95% of cases the answer is "no". Sometimes people say yes, but they should actually say no. If you're not actively marketing your business, people aren't going to buy from you. If you build it, they will not come. Market your business every single day. Pick a channel and run with it.
If you forget everything else and focus solely on these two things, you will improve your business and make more money.
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