66% of small business owners say that attracting leads or finding new clients is a top concern. So, of course attracting a loyal, engaged audience is high on your business bucket list.
But, as a small business owner or freelancer, you’re tired, tight on time and lacking in resources. You’re the accountant, the salesperson, the coffee maker and now—the marketer. Whatever valuable time you spend on marketing, you want to make sure your investment pays off.
Enter the experts—we chatted to Siobhan McGinty (Principal International Marketing Manager at HubSpot), Amanda Connolly (Editor at Intercom) and Karen P’ng (Social Media Consultant) to get their tips on the first few, meaningful steps you should take to attract a loyal, engaged audience.
Here’s their advice 👇
There’s no perfect “magic-bullet” strategy
From all of the people we chatted to everyone agreed on one thing—there’s no one size fits all marketing strategy. The best thing you can do is focus on your customers’ needs and your business goals.
Okay, so there’s no magic strategy, but there’s still one bullet-proof piece of advice that will help you stay focused:
Focus on one goal first: attraction
If you’re familiar with HubSpot’s flywheel, you’ll know that there are three core marketing activities they recommend you focus on: attracting, engaging and delighting your customers. Siobhan McGinty, Principal International Marketing Manager at HubSpott recommends only focusing your attention on one core goal at a time—first on the list is attraction.
Attraction is the art of drawing people towards your website by creating educational content and meaningful conversations.
The FATAL mistake marketing teams make is trying to attract, engage and delight all at once. Focus on one (attract), and once that’s cranking, expand to your next goal.
— Siobhan McGinty, Principal International Marketing Manager at HubSpot
Make your goal SMART
Now that you know you want to focus on attracting customers, create one or two SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals that will keep you and/or your team accountable, for example: “By the end of the quarter, we aim to increase our website traffic by 25% by creating two educational long-form blog posts per week.”
Create content as your magnet
The best way to attract prospects to your website is to create valuable content that solves their problems. Wherever you choose to build your audience, your content will serve as the “hook” that draws people in and connects them to your brand.
Of course, you’ll only have so many hours in the day, so you’ll want to focus on a few key, meaningful tactics, like:
Solve your customers’ problems with your expertise
The quickest way to turn readers off your blog is to talk about yourself, your company and/or your product. The fastest way to light them up? Focus on being of service. For example, share your insider knowledge, hard learned lessons and tips to help your prospects solve their problems.
There are two important parts to this:
First, identify your customers’ problems:
If you have a customer support or sales team, find out which questions your customers frequently ask. Amanda also recommends using Google’s keyword planner to identify the keywords your customers are searching for; then including these keywords in your blog posts. This will help you create content that: 1. resonates with customers and 2. is easier to find in Google search results.
Secondly, share your expertise on these topics:
Write a blog post about each of these important problems and share your personal tips and tricks for helping prospects overcome them. If you have a few different teams in your company, encourage all of your employees to contribute to the blog and share their expertise too. This will help you scale your blog and position your company as thought leaders in your field. This is what Intercom does and it’s paying off for them beautifully.
Top tip: If you don’t have a team of internal experts to draw ideas and content from, you can recruit a team of reliable freelance writers who are experts in your niche.
Begin with the end in mind (aim to repurpose)
As you plan a piece of content, ask yourself, “How can I help customers get value from this in multiple ways?” Creating content with the goal of repurposing it (or using it for multiple purposes) can help you provide your prospects with the help they need and save you a ton of time in the long-run.
For example, if you write a blog post on ‘photography tips’, you can use those same ideas to create an ebook for capturing leads or to host a live webinar that draws an audience on social media.
Experiment with other lightweight content formats
Remember, content marketing isn’t just about long-form blogging. There are lots of other formats you can try, regardless of the time and budget you have. For example, you could create one-off resources, like an ebook or a series of short videos and use these as lead magnets.
Don’t feel confined to blog posts. Regardless of budget, there are plenty of ways to vary your content. Think about creating short tips videos, infographics or look at various formats for your blog posts, such as Q&As or listicles.
— Amanda Connolly, Editor at Intercom
Intercom asks readers to send questions to them on a regular basis. Then, experts in the company answer the most interesting questions via lightweight blog posts, like this:
Co-market with other brands to maximize eyes on your content
“A good way to maximize eyes on your content is by co-marketing, (creating content campaigns with a brand who has a similar target persona as you do.) Co-creating the content means that you’ll get maximum return for less effort if both brands work hard on creating and promoting the content.
At HubSpot, we often run webinars and creates ebooks with brands similar to ours—this helps us reach a broader audience.”
Siobhan McGinty, Principal International Marketing Manager at HubSpot
Top tip: Don’t have the bandwidth to invest in co-marketing campaigns just yet? You can start small by including expert quotes in your blog posts or ebooks. Once you let those experts know you quoted them, they might be inspired to share your content with their audience too.
Build meaningful relationships on social media
Most marketing channels are one-way in nature—you send out your marketing message, and your customer receives it. The beauty of social media is that it facilitates a two way conversation.
This helps your customers get to know you better and vice versa. When done right, social media helps you create a community of loyal fans that will—hopefully—engage with your brand for years to come.
Only hang out where your customers are
“You don’t need to do it all when it comes to social. It’s not about being present everywhere, it’s about having real presence where it matters and building relationships with your customers and potential customers.”
Amanda Connolly, Editor at Intercom
Don’t let the new and shiny opportunities distract you from the big question at hand—what is the channel allowing you to say to your potential customers? What’s the best way for customers to get closer to your services or products?
— Karen P’ng, Freelance Social Media Consultant
But, how do you choose which social media channels to build a presence on? Our experts weigh in with their advice:
– Karen recommends experimenting with a few social media channels and observing the kind of response you get from each.
– Amanda advises researching where your ideal audience spend most of their time online and playing to that.
– Amanda also recommends looking at your competitors to see where they spend most of their time.
– And, Karen advises thinking about the audience you already have on each channel and considering who’s more likely to convert to a lead or a customer.
Top tip: Whatever channels you choose, make sure you tailor your content to suit each audience.
Be interactive, have two way conversations
Social media provides a unique opportunity for you to engage in meaningful conversations with your prospects, just like you would in real life. Don’t squander the opportunity by making the conversation all about you.
Both Amanda and Siobhan recommend being interactive and using social media to listen to prospects and get their valuable input.
Make social media as interactive as possible—run polls, do interactive Q&As or AMAs, Facebook Lives, host competitions. Social media platforms like Instagram are making is SO EASY for businesses to run these initiatives today, compared to a few years ago when marketers relied on clunky integrations.
— Siobhan McGinty, Principal International Marketing Manager at HubSpot
Paying pays off, but takes time
Siobhan says that companies are often worried about spending money on social media advertising, but it’s one of the quickest way to get eyes on your content, and build an engaged audience. Plus, if you create valuable content that’s good enough, the audience you “pay” for will stick around.
However, Karen cautions that it can take time to see meaningful results from your paid advertising efforts, so give your strategy a few months before pulling the plug or changing direction.
“Getting starting with paid ads can sometimes be like slipping a bouncer at a club—you can pay to be there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in. Remember you might need to wait three or so months before getting meaningful results.”
Karen P’ng, Freelance Social Media Consultant
Top tip: As well as creating valuable content, the key to your paid advertising success is to make your targeting as specific as possible. You’ll be able to target your audience by specific demographics, interests and behaviour, so take advantage and apply as many targeting filters as you need.
An audience of one’s own: build an email list
With so many new social media channels emerging, you don’t need an email marketing list anymore, right? Think again—today, email marketing is still 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. And, every $1 spent on email marketing produces $44 in return.
Plus, email marketing is the one channel you’ll always own as a business—unlike social media channels which can come and go, taking your hard-earned audience with them.
Earn your prospects’ email addresses
A person’s email address is deeply personal to them; you’ll need to earn the right to engage with it. So, decide on the value you’d like to offer prospects in exchange for their email. For example, will you send subscribers a weekly newsletter with your latest blog posts or a valuable piece of content, like an ebook or guide?
Top tip: If you don’t have an email marketing tool, here’s a list of free or low cost tools you can sign up for and integrate with your website.
Newsletters should be letters to friends
One of the best ways to consistently engage your audience is to create a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter. You don’t need to spend hours designing an intricate template. In fact, the best newsletters feel like letters to a friend, not a pushy advertisement.
“My feelings about newsletters are strong. It’s the one enduring place that we have as marketers, and it’s the place where conversations are most intimate,”
Ann Handley, Chief Content Office at Marketing Profs and Wall Street Journal bestseller
Check out Ann Handley’s newsletter for inspiration—it’s written in a friendly, engaging tone, as though she’s simply checking in and chatting with a friend.
In Ann’s welcome email, she asks subscribers what they’d like to learn from her. Right away, she setting the stage and letting subscribers know that her newsletter is all about them and their needs. Perfect.
Continue to learn and improve over time
So, that’s it. To start attracting your ideal audience, you don’t need to try your hand at every shiny new channel you see or sweat every tiny detail. Just focus on taking the first few meaningful steps that help your prospects solve their problems.
Then, once you’ve built momentum, keep paying attention and listening to what your prospects what and need. For example, look at your Google Analytics account to see what topics and channels resonate most with your audience. And, survey your prospects to ask what they need help with next. Then, iterate on your strategy based on their feedback.
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