I have bad news for you: There's a missing link in your strategy.
EEK! Where is it, WHAT is it?! Calm down, I might be wrong, but we have to check anyway. Sometimes we go on autopilot, forgetting to check whether we've done everything in sort of a logical order. You know what I mean?
For example, if you're going to invite people and tell them you're serving fish, you have to make sure you have the fish and the recipe first. Otherwise, you might end up embarrassing yourself and hurting your social status.
It's easy to skip important steps, and it's even easier to confuse the order in which marketing works. It's up to you to have your radar up and fix the mistake as soon as you have spotted it. So let's take a look at the biggest doozies out there.
1. Working for traffic without having a website.
Sometimes people ask crazy questions, like: Do I really need a website?
Yes, you do. Imagine I find your book online, or read a guest post written by you, and all of that must have taken you time and energy, so kudos for that! So I google your name or look for a link in your social accounts, and... nothing. Dust bunnies.
What?! Where can I find more stuff from you? How do I know what you do? How am I supposed to trust a person with a bunch of scattered links?
Think of your website as your matrix. It's a complex system of links to your work, and all roads, guest posts and products lead back to it. It's the core of your entire online presence, and it's the first thing you need to have if you want to build a business.
2. Selling a product without having an audience.
This is a very easy mistake to make. Most of my previous clients had this problem, but that was mostly because they didn't have personal brands. You see, personal brands are not popular in the world of startups, but the girlboss industry loves them.
Hopefully, you have a personal brand / online presence by now. It will allow you to sell your products to the people you've spent time building relationships with. As you know, building an audience is a whole complicated thing, but I'll try to break it down:
Building an audience is a combination of giving value, engaging people, and being known for something.
People like people who have something to say, who stand out. This is why I work with creative rebels - we always stand out because our motto is "do it your way". If you want to build a solid audience, you better have something to say. (Try this exercise.)
3. Doing anything without having a mailing list.
This is by far the biggest faux-pas in the world of business. If this is your first business-related read and you don't have a mailing list, stop reading, go make one.
I suggest Mailchimp because it's free for the first 2000 subscribers. Only rub is you can't automate any emails, so you'll have to manually send every campaign, or schedule it, but my point is, you won't be able to create any advanced sales funnels.
Even so, every one of us starts small. When you go fishing, you don't expect to catch the biggest fish or a ton of fish right away. You'll probably catch one average fish or none, and the more time and experience you pile up, the bigger the pay out.
So start with a goal of 100 subscribers. Then make it 200. 500.
My first big goal was 500, and I just passed it. Never underestimate the power of a small, engaged following. Because some people can make a lot of money with a small mailing list and others fail to make any with large but disengaged lists.
4. Having a mailing list without sending emails.
Talking about silly... how are people supposed to remember you if you never emailed them? Here's what happens when they sign up for your mailing list: They like your stuff, sign up excited, then move on to the next exciting thing hours later, and if you don't email them in the next few days, you have lost them forever. They'll mark it as spam.
Isn't this crazy? Thinking that our subscribers have this extremely short attention span... but try to turn it around. Don't you have the same span? Of course you have.
People buy once they've gotten enough free value from you to trust you.
Don't expect to have won their money after a couple of articles. Instead, try to incorporate things in your strategy that are more long-term: Newsletters, podcasts, anything that's consistently awesome. They'll remember you for the value you give them regularly, and if you can incorporate that on the most intimate level - email - you'll come out a winner.
5. Doing business without "putting yourself out there".
Let me get this straight. You want to have a business. You want to sell products, physical or otherwise, and you want to have clients. So... where will you find these clients? How will you lure them back to your website. How will they know what you're made of?
Answer: You'll "put yourself out there". The phrase is kind of silly, but I'm using your words here. The truth is, putting yourself out there can mean so many things: it can mean shoving your face in people's heads via video, collecting emails for your list, using pop-ups, or simply doing what you do best - writing, connecting, whatever that is.
You see, putting yourself out there is what you make it. It doesn't have to be scary or slimy. But you do have to be proud and loud about what you have to offer.
If you're not, people will miss out on your amazing gifts.
6. Doing "marketing" without networking.
I don't believe marketing is possible without some form of networking. Whether it's tweeting with people or speaking at events or joining communities, you will never be sought if people don't know your face, your name, and what you offer.
You might say you're not a social person, you're an introvert (actually, introversion is not about being shy, but let's discuss it another time), and you don't know how to connect with people, but I'll tell you this: marketing doesn't happen outside of relationships. And sales don't happen unless you have formed some sort of connection.
There are many ways to do marketing of course - giving value, blogging, teaching - but even when you do these things, you still network. No piece of content can be useful unless you base it on the needs of your audience, no blog audience can grow unless you comment on other people's blog, and no sale can be made out of the context of trust.
At the heart of marketing lie relationships. And the sooner you learn how to network and form connects, the sooner you'll reach your business goals. One of my favorite ways to do is collaborations - you're creating something and forming connections.
7. Worrying about traffic before you have offerings.
OK, so building an audience is important and all, but you shouldn't worry about getting traffic before you have something to offer. Whether that is a product or a service, you want people to have options on your site, not reach a dead end, or a simple portfolio.
I mean, portfolios are great for potential employers, but what about the rest of us? What do we do when we land on your website? Look at the pictures?!
The more you offer on your site, the better, although too much can be overwhelming. Ideally, you would have a free opt-in - something you give away for free that collects emails (unless you want to try this radical reverse opt-in idea) - and then you'd have separate sections for products and services, with different pages for different products.
Ta-da! Traffic is great when you really need it, but it's not everything and it's not the first thing you need. Engagement and relationships are more important anyway.
8. Creating content and ignoring social media.
Even if your content is super valuable and needed, nobody will find it if you're not social. Sorry. Investing all your hard-earned dollars in ads and SEO is a waste of time, especially at the beginning. You don't want traffic now, you want relationships, trust, and those things can only come from networking and spreading your message on social.
One disclaimer though, I hear people talk about social media as if they need to be on every channel or at least three! Umm, if I were active on three social channels, I would lose my mind and never have the time to write. What I do is different - I focus on ONE social media channel (twitter, duh!) and network in communities (facebook ones). That way, I focus all of my attention on doing one channel "right" and also investing in another reliable way to drive traffic and quality leads - networking in communities.
Everyone is different, of course; if you ask Gary Vaynerchuk, he'll tell you to do a few channels and learn the context of each, but I think he's a little bit too socially hyper and savvy, and that his pace and place in the industry are different from yours and mine.
My point is: You decide what strategy to employ. I just told you about mine to offer you some perspective. It works for me beautifully, for now.
Here are the main takeaways, in case this was too long:
- The first thing you need is a website. The second is a mailing list. Without these, running any kind of business, especially online, is extremely difficult.
- Before selling your product, spend some time building an audience. The people in your mailing list are more likely to engage with you and buy your products.
- When you have this audience, engage them on social and EMAIL. Don't just give out free stuff and collect emails, but also make sure you USE those emails.
- Put yourself out there and become known for something in your industry. Because shy daisies and people who don't like "selling" can't sell anything.
- When you do have a website, make sure you have both free and paid things on there, and then focus on traffic. No need to jump the horse before it's ready!
- You gotta be on social media, but you don't need to be everywhere.
OK. So now's your turn, my rebel friend...