From e-mails and communities to profitability.

Make email the backbone of your marketing – maintain control.

Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook can take away your business at any time by changing the algorithms, shutting down your account, or making you pay to turn up. Social media is a great place to gain distribution you are building on rented land. Once you have social media followers, start building an email list.

Email is a peer-to-peer network giving you a direct line to your customers. This is not controlled by anyone but yourself, an algorithm or whether you spend money. The author’s position is that when someone gives you their e-mail address they are your friend, not a stranger. But it is very easy to lose that friendship. You would not spam your friends, so you should not spam these contacts either. I have had some bad experiences recently. Look I get it, a business owner has spent time to develop a piece of useful content, or to produce a YouTube video. If I want more, then I buy the additional information such as an e-book, with my email address. And I know I will get some follow up e-mails and if they are not to frequent and add to my knowledge, provide inspiration, or entertain me that is fair enough. But sometimes I find I have opened myself up to a barrage of emails that are thinly disguised sales pitches. That’s not what I signed up for. I unsubscribe and no longer consider the sender my friend. Just as described in my post ‘Marketing? Just be you!, for any type of content you produce, ensure your emails first educate, second inspire and finally entertain. And only send out an email when you have something useful to say.

At first you should be able manage your email list manually but later you will want to automate the process. An email marketing service like Mailchimp or ConvertKit will help you gather the email addresses from your growing number of fans. And by all means give something in return, a PDF guide, a video, a short book, to solidify the relationship. But then be considerate in your follow up and you will build a loyal following.

Remember consistency is important, if you have a newsletter send it out at the same time every week, or every month. The frequency should match the time you need to prepare relevant content. There is no need to post four times a week, if monthly is more appropriate to your business and your ability to deliver. When to send it out?  There are many folks out there who claim to know the best time to send out a post on various social media. I Googled best time to send out an Instagram post and the first return was from Sproutsocial who advised   

  • Best times: Tuesday 1–5 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m., Thursday 8–9 a.m.
  • Best days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
  • Worst day: Sunday.

I suspect these are US times and they may be different in other parts of the world. If you can track the open rate on your email or measure the level of response over time you may find the ideal time for your email.

Spend Money Last.

If you look at the business press it is dominated by million-dollar funding and billion-dollar valuations, articles targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs, not people like your customers. In many cases the growth, which has caught the presses attention is being paid for. Growth at all costs is the mantra, and often it is not sustainable. In season 6 show 10, I talked about the rise and fall of achieved Unicorn status in June 2013, in just over two years from its founding, only to collapse and by mid-2014 it was for all intents and purposes out of business. The company was a victim of the speed trap.  If you would like to listen to that podcast Ctl+Click here.

Growth at all costs is not for the minimalist entrepreneur. You built your business to help people you care about. Your product is what you offer, not your ad’s promise. Your product is not for everyone, so do not try to reach everyone.  If you are paying to get eyeballs on your product you are buying advertising and that can become expensive. Wait as long as you can before starting to spend dollars. Wait until you know what is working for your product and then and only then start spending money to accelerate.

When you do spend, spend on your customers first. I am a great believer is starting loyalty programs early in your business launch. Your early customers will likely be your most loyal customers, your product fits with their needs, they trusted you when you were an untried and tested business. Reward them for their loyalty. Do not think of your loyalty program as marketing tool, think of it as a genuine reward. Offer discounts for leaving a business review or sharing on social media. Note good business ethics should reward for both positive and negative reviews. If they do not like your product, a discount is not likely to be attractive to them. And keep in mind negative reviews, as long as they are rational, are a great source of ideas for product improvement.

Once your business is growing and sustainable you can start contacting local press and micro and nano influencers. Micro and nano influencers often carry more weight with their target audience than Macro influencers. You probably cannot afford a Macro influencer anyway. You are now established enough to give away your product for free to reviewers or have enough credibility to provide insights to bloggers and journalists. But most of all just tell your story, be yourself, you have worked hard to get this far. You can inspire others that their efforts and struggles will be rewarded too.

Take advantage of the benefits that technology can provide in targeting your ads as closely as possible to your audience. The more targeted you can get, the less you must spend. This is good news to the minimalist entrepreneur who does not the budgets of a Fortune 500 company or the well-funded start up.

Lookalike audiences. This is a service offered by Facebook that they describe as “a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they are similar to your best existing customers.” Essentially you ask, and pay, Facebook to tell the people who most closely resemble my existing customers that I exist. Pinterest calls them “actalike”.

There are many ways to spend money on advertising, do not rely on it and spend your money sparingly. A business built though customer connection will be durable from day one. Certainly, more durable overtime than a business that is heavily reliant on advertising.

Spend your time to build relationships, have passionate customers who spread the word about your product or service. Then think about spending a little money to expand your business. Stay lean and grow at a rate that is comfortable for you, never overextend your business.

What have we learned?

  • Marketing is not about making headlines, it is about making fans
  • Start by educating, then inspiring and finally entertaining your audience.  Each stage is more challenging than the previous stage but also delivers greater value
  • Paid advertising can work but comes at cost. Delay spending until you know what works and what does not work.
  • Target your advertising to reach the audience that is potentially interested in your product. In doing so you will reduce your costs. 

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