When you’re first starting an online business, it can be an overwhelming process especially when it comes to marketing. However, it’s crucial for you to have an effective marketing plan and strategy for your online service-based business.
An effective marketing strategy plan will include your goals, target market, type of service offerings/pricing, and the actual activities you will be implementing on a daily basis to achieve your goals. The types of plans can vary depending on your online business and keep in mind that when you start, you'll learn what works and doesn't for your specific business as you go and find yourself having to make adjustments based on that.
Below are some points to help you develop your marketing strategy.
1. Select your Target Market/Niche
Selecting a target market or niche means choosing an area to specialize in within your industry and develop your unique services tailored to that specific target audience.
Some service providers fear “niching” down because they feel it will limit the number of people they will serve and as a result limit their sales. But in fact, this usually has the opposite effect on most businesses. If you’re able to craft a marketing message that speaks directly to your ideal client, it will help build that connection, trust, and spike their interest.
Having a niche you specialize in will also showcase your expertise within that target market and help others see you as an expert authority. This will also help build your social proof and credibility. If you don’t have a niche or specific target market you’re serving then you will not be directly speaking to anyone which will make it difficult for your content and messaging to resonate with people and build connections.
The best way to come up with a niche is to think of who you want to serve, what challenge you will be helping them solve and their desired result you will be helping them achieve with your services.
2. Conduct Market Research
Once you’ve decided on a niche, it’s time you start getting to know more about your ideal client and how you can help them. Market research is a great way to do this. You can either do it through phone calls which I HIGHLY recommend you do or through surveys. The point of doing market research is to get to know your target market and who your ideal client is. This will help you know what their struggles/challenges, goals, and aspirations are and how you can better serve them. It will also help you know where to find them, how to speak directly to them through your messaging, and what type of content to create in order to help them achieve their desired results.
If you’re thinking “where am I going to find people to conduct market research with?”, I would recommend doing a post on your social media asking for volunteers, joining Facebook groups related to your industry where your ideal clients will most likely be, MeetUp, and Linked In groups to name a few. But also messaging them directly, finding out if they're struggling with what you can help solve, and if so inviting them on a call. I have found it helpful to offer something in return, whether it’s a gift card or your tips/advice for a specific need they’re having.
3. Build Your Brand
Our personal brands are built in various ways and through what we create such as content, websites, social media pages, logo, mission and vision statements, and more. But most importantly, your unique selling proposition and story. Think about what makes you unique and different from your competitors. People want to learn about you and any story that helps build that connection.
When creating your personal brand it’s important that you think about the message you want to convey to your audience. For example, Is it a successful and powerful businesswoman or is it a powerhouse mom who balances her home life while being a CEO? This may vary with the type of online business you’re starting but think of the type of brand presence you want to create and go with it. As part of your personal brand, it's also important you take professional photos and headshots for your website and social media posts that align with the brand you’re trying to create. Whether you hire a professional photographer or have a friend/family member who has a gift with the camera do it for you, it’s important to keep in mind that the photos you put out on your social media or website, will represent your personal brand. Also, think about words that describe your brand values. These values will help guide your business and set the tone for your branding and content.
4. Write a Marketing Strategy Plan
It’s important that you have a marketing plan and strategy to follow that you can follow and measure. A marketing plan does not need to be complicated or long, it can be one page and contain your objectives, goals, activities on how you will achieve your goals and metrics on how you will measure progress. The plan will look different depending on your type of business but these are all important points to consider when creating it.
5. Develop your Services and Business Framework
Create a service list or program you will offer to your clients in order for them to achieve the results they are looking for. Include a service page on your website you can direct potential clients to when inquiring about your services. Clients will want to know what they’re getting when they sign up for your services, especially if you're a coach/consultant, therapist, your clients will want to know the transformation they will receive when they enroll in your program. So make sure to speak to that on your website and when providing content online.
6.Chose your preferred Core Content Platform
You want to have one main platform where you consistently produce one main piece of content every week. This will be the core content and through your core content, you will be able to showcase your expertise and position yourself as an authority to your market audience and provide awareness. Your core content can be provided in different formats such as Youtube, Podcasts, Facebook, or Linked In Live videos, Instagram TV, blogs, email newsletters, and webinars.
When deciding on a platform, consider which platform your target market frequents most, what will be the easiest for them depending on what your teaching (for example will it require video tutorials or written steps) and what will work best for you as having the time to consistently produce weekly content.
7. Build your Social Proof
Building your social proof will help build your credibility and trust. You can do this by asking for testimonials of clients you’ve worked with or provided value to in some way. If you’re new in your industry, you might want to start off by providing your services for free or at a very low cost in order to get your first set of testimonials and build your social proof. Every time you provide help to others, make sure you ask for a testimonial to either post on your website and/or social media. This will help build trust with your audience and help give them confidence that they are making the right decision by paying for your services because you will help them achieve the results they want as you have for others.
8. Build Connections Consistently
Truth is, your ideal clients won’t come to you. You will need to consistently seek them out and provide value. Whether this means joining groups and forums related to your industry, attending networking events, facilitating workshops/webinars, and engaging with those who fit your ideal client profile on social media and in these groups. Answer questions they may have, post engaging questions to create dialogue, and look for ways to connect by providing value.