I have so much to share with you. Where do I start? Well, let me tell you what I’ve been up to the last few weeks.
Launched a Hyperlocal Website
Yesterday I officially launched my first hyperlocal website for Battle Ground, WA (my hometown). The site is called The Battle Ground Buzz and features all things local. It’s not a news site, although it includes that, it’s more of a resource for my fellow citizens. The purpose of newspapers is to inform. I want to inform and empower people.
So in my quest to provide the people of Battle Ground with valuable, local information I decided to interview local business owners. The small business owners were happy to be interviewed for the Buzz and I’ve spent the last two months meeting owners and getting to know them. It’s been great and at the end of my interview I always ask them how they currently advertise and what their experience has been with that.
As a copywriter and marketing consultant this information has proved to be very valuable. It’s easy to spend all our time reading blogs, forums, books and other how-to-market resources. But there’s nothing like a real life conversation with a business owner to practical knowledge of what’s working and what’s not.
So here are three valuable lessons I gleaned from my all the conversations I recently had with local business owners:
Three Marketing Lessons Learned from Interviewing Local Businesses
1. Develop a Marketing Strategy
I was aware that many small businesses struggled in this area but after interviewing several local companies I realized that the problem was greater than I thought it was. So many business owners had no marketing plan whatsoever. The prevailing thought pattern went something like this, “When I notice business slowing down I’ll try to advertise in whatever way is cheapest. I have ads in the local paper, this one coupon book and we sponsor this little league team.”
Wow. That’s crazy guys. I know marketing is not the most exciting part of running a business but please listen: it’s absolutely imperative that you develop a marketing plan. Why? Because customers are the lifeblood of your business. And if you don’t have a pro-active plan about acquiring more customers then you are setting yourself up for failure.
2. Monitor Your Marketing Efforts
After talking to many business owners I noticed another common theme. They don’t monitor their marketing efforts. They simply buy an ad (usually after some ad salesman tells them they should) and hope for the best. I would ask, “How has advertising in the paper worked for you?” to which many respond, “I don’t know really. It seems to be doing well.”
You don’t know?! And you’re still forking over valuable marketing money to do this? This is not good business practice. Come on now, don’t give me that old, “The economy is killing me” excuse. There are far too many businesses that are prospering to make me believe that excuse. If you are trying to get more customers and yet refuse to monitor your efforts you have no one else but yourself to blame for business being slow.
And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not completely opposed to newspaper ads, although I do know there are more effective ways to advertise today. The point I’m making is this: however you decide to market your business is up to you. But monitor it!
3. Educate Yourself About Marketing
Too many business owners simply pay someone to not only create marketing material but also to think for them. I know this is true because people hire me to do this very thing. I don’t mind getting paid to think and write but my approach usually surprises my clients.
I consider myself a guide and a teacher, not just a copywriter. When I meet with a prospective client I take the time to understand their business and their goals. I then educate them regarding what works in marketing and what doesn’t. I explain how the Internet has changed the overall mentality of consumers. And I provide cost effective options that will bring them more customers.
I’ve found having the heart of teacher has worked much better than having the heart of a salesman. Yes, I’ll sometimes give my customer so many practical options that they just do it themselves. But most business owners are too busy to do this and I still land enough work to stay busy.
What’s Your Plan?
So what’s your plan? Keep it simple and actionable. if you haven’t done so already today is a great day to sit down and write a marketing plan. Ask yourself how many customers you want to bring in? How fast do you want to do that? What marketing medium will you use? What’s your budget for this?
After you make your plan take the first step. This is about baby steps more than anything else. If you want to utilize content marketing as part of your marketing strategy then decide what valuable content you’re going to give away. And who will write it? You, an employee, your spouse, a copywriter?
So are you ready to get started? Take some action and remember to track your progress. Let me know how your marketing efforts are going by leaving a comment below.