With business opportunities like Uber, Amway, Etsy, Postmates and Poshmark now within anyone’s reach, becoming an entrepreneur is easier than ever. Of course, that doesn’t make entrepreneurship itself any easier – it still requires commitment, dedication, and constant outreach. For individuals looking to build an Amway business or gain exposure to their Etsy shop, social selling is increasingly becoming a viable approach. These platforms count users in the billions, after all, so it only makes sense to leverage them for business purposes. Here are five ways to build your brand online.
1. Know Your Audience
Much of advertising’s success comes down to knowing who to reach out to. Target the wrong market, and no amount of effort will yield positive results. There’s a reason you don’t see billboards for John Deere tractors on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles – nobody’s buying! If you are in business for yourself, consider who your target market is. Who is interested in your products? Do they fit a pattern? Use social platforms to target these individuals, and create compelling content (more on this below) to keep them engaged. Platforms like Facebook make it easy to go after specific demographics and subset groups.
2. Use the Right Tools
When it comes to social channels, there are no shortage of options. Facebook certainly has the largest audience, and should be considered a pre-requisite for anyone interested in social selling. However, perhaps your product is better served by a different platform, like Yelp, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest? Knowing which tools are best equipped to sell your product can make your job that much easier. If you’re selling a product that is highly visual in nature, consider using a photo sharing app, so that customers can see the product in use. Alternatively, if you’re selling your product primarily on the charms of your personality, perhaps creating a YouTube channel will better suit your needs. Think about the tools that suit your business model and put them to use.
3. Post Compelling Content
Content is king. Without compelling, engaging, interesting content, your marketing efforts will go nowhere. You want to constantly be publishing content that is tailored for your target market, easily shareable, easily digestible, and inherently valuable. Ultimately, the form that this content takes is of secondary importance to the motivation and thought that goes into it. Though some marketing evangelists will try and tell you that context and implementation are more important, this is missing the point – no amount of views, likes, or inbound clicks will matter if the content itself doesn’t effectively sell your message and drive customers to action.
4. Consider Paid Advertising Approaches
There’s an old saying in business: you have to spend money to make money. In other words, marketing doesn’t come free. To expand your target audience and broaden the reach of your efforts, you may want to consider paid advertising. Social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all offer paid advertising services. Better yet (as mentioned above), these services allow you to limit your efforts to individuals that match your customer model. For example, if you want to market to women in Southern California between 25 and 35 years of age, Facebook allows you to do just that. This is a terrific tool for entrepreneurs, as it helps minimize marketing costs while increasing the effectiveness of your efforts.
5. Network, Network, Network
The larger your audience, the better. That’s fairly self-evident. But you might not realize that the larger your network, the better chance you have of spreading your message outside your core group of followers. Networking can help you grow your target audience organically, and reach individuals who you might not otherwise be able to. To grow your network, try to develop relationships with influencers, content publishers, creatives, and personalities that are a natural fit for your business (or your customers). You can then leverage these individuals – and their own networks – to spread your message. Many entrepreneurs find that networking is vital to building a business, so get started now, rather than later.
Start Marketing Your Business Online Today
When it comes to marketing your business online, you may not know where to start. Relax, and take things one step at a time. Remember, any effort is better than no effort at all. Start by addressing the low hanging fruit. If you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, create one. Then start growing your business by leveraging your existing social network. You can then work over time to grow your audience through networking, content marketing, and perhaps even paid advertising efforts. Over time, these disparate efforts will coalesce into a cohesive and robust marketing strategy.
Like it or not, there’s both an art and science to writing cold emails that convert into new clients for your freelance business.
You want to land a high-value client.
Sure, having the right email templates and knowing who your target decision-maker is, are both a must. But beyond just the basics, there are a few counter-intuitive tactics and value-driven outreach strategies I’ve used to repeatedly land high-value clients for my freelance business over the years.
A truly effective cold outreach campaign takes some upfront work, but pays dividends in return.
Here are my five essential components of writing cold emails that generate new business, time and time again.
1. Identify the right clients.
If the majority of your freelance experience is in doing work for a particular industry, choose to approach only clients that’ll identify with your niche expertise—which will help you brand yourself as an expert in the long run.
Just as important as picking the right client, is making sure you’re also a fit for them. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your prospect is the right client for your business:
• Why are you the best freelancer to help this particular client?
• Have you ever taken on similar projects? If so, how did they turn out?
• Are you considering this prospect solely for the money, or because they actually excite you?
For my freelance content marketing business, I brand myself so that I’m attractive only to a certain type of client.
I’m not a general marketing consultant to just anyone that’ll hire me. I’ve leaned into my experience, developed my own tactics and showcase a very specific set of clients I want to work ith more, a niche where my expertise gets supercharged. Picking a niche is the best decision you can possibly make as a freelancer.
2. Find your decision-maker.
When researching a new prospect, you can’t afford to spend time jumping through hoops trying to land a contract. You need to go straight to the decision-maker who’s empowered to make the call on hiring freelancers with your skill set.
You’ll want to target people who are at manager and director-level positions. The type of person who will have a say in hiring contractors for your discipline. If you’re a designer, that means creative directors. If you’re a writer, look for a director of content marketing. If you’re a developer, your decision-maker is likely a director of engineering. Regardless, what’s important is that you connect directly with the right person.
Use LinkedIn to search for the job title you think your decision-maker will have. Then, filter the results by company—typing in the name of your prospect company and selecting it from the drop down menu. That’ll give you a clear, sorted list of the most relevant people you should reach out to at this target company.
3. Get their email address.
Once you have the name of your decision-maker from your LinkedIn search, it’s time to get their email address—and reach them where they spend much of their day, in their inbox.
Pick up the free Chrome extension for Gmail, Rapportive. This free tool from LinkedIn, populates information about the person behind any email address you enter into a new draft email, helping you guess an email address and verify whether or not it’s correct.
Here are the most popular email naming conventions that the majority of companies use:
Once you have your decision-maker’s email address, it’s time to formulate your outreach strategy and write your cold email.
4. Formulate your outreach strategy & send your email.
With every cold email I send to a prospective freelance client, I invest a little time to deliver value first, before asking for anything in return. Typically, that’s in the form of a brief feature and mention within a post on my personal blog that gets around 200,000 monthly readers.
Here’s the exact cold email template I use during this outreach process:
Subject Line: Your feature on my blog
Body: Hey [First Name],
I’ve been a huge fan of what you’re doing with [Company Name] over the past couple of years.
I wanted to give you a heads up that I featured you in this recent post on my blog [Link].
Would you mind proofing it real quick and making sure I got the right link & details for you?
That’s it. Very simple and without any promotional links, a pitch to hire me, or anything else that distracts from the fact that I’m giving them free value at this stage. My goal is to show my worth, and get them to my blog where they’ll be able to see the quality of my work.
It seems simple, but hardly anybody has the patience to execute on this strategy that isn’t centered around making a quick buck.
5. Follow-up without being annoying.
As a freelancer, it’s a reality that you’ll need to fight to get noticed, because everyone you’re pitching your services to is busy.
That being said, there’s a fine line between being a nuisance with your follow ups and being just brief enough (while providing more value) to grab their attention amongst the sea of emails in their inbox.
If you don’t hear back after a few days from when you sent your cold email, check back in with a brief one-liner asking if it makes sense to have a quick chat about collaborating together. Offer up a specific day you can be flexible enough to make yourself available at their convenience.
How often should I follow-up?
From there, I recommend following up every 3-4 business days with a varied approach that includes new updates on content of theirs that I’ve shared with my audience, asking if someone else might be a better point of contact within their company and checking in to see how I can better provide value to them.
One of my favorite movie lines is, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller’s words have never been more applicable to the world of marketing than they are right now. The social landscape is changing quickly and in order to win, social marketers need to listen and engage where their audience is, rather than expecting audiences to come to them. The challenge is, there are more social channels than ever before.
In this blog, I’ll outline three ways to help you choose the right social networks for your business.
Get to Know Your Audience
I’m always surprised at how little time people take to really get to know their target audience. As you’re jumping into the tactical details of your social media plan, it’s critical that you take the time to understand who your ideal audience is and what they care about.
Here are some great questions to think about:
- Who is your ideal audience following on social media?
- What topics are they discussing/posting about?
- How old are they?
- What is their geographical location?
- What type of content are they regularly interacting with?
Taking the time to thoroughly research your audience helps ensure your social media marketing efforts are as effective as possible. Understanding what channels will most likely reach your audience, the best time to gain their attention, the tone that will most likely resonate, and the types of content they prefer will help put you one step ahead of your competition.
Go Where They Are
One mistake I see marketers make all too often is trying to incorporate too many channels into their strategies. This can be a very time consuming and expensive endeavor that yields less than ideal results. Focus your efforts on the channels that your target audience prefers. For B2B, it can be challenging to determine whether the latest and greatest platforms are worth the investment. A great way to get started is by looking at usage and demographics for each of the platforms. Let data inform your decisions, for example, the 2016 Social Media Update, Pew Research took an in depth look at where adults are spending their time online.
Maximize Your ROI
It can be easy to think you need to be everywhere in order to build a social community, but the truth is, valuable time and resources are lost when you aren’t thoughtful and strategic about when and where you’ll maintain a social presence. Think about the old adage, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same goes for your social media presence. If you’re posting to a channel that none of your target audience is utilizing, are you making progress? Here are some stats to consider as you vet social media channels for your organization/brand:
- 79% of internet users (68% of all U.S. adults) use Facebook. Pew Research Center
- Facebook remains the most-used social media site by Americans 12 and up. Edison Research
- Posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images. Buzzsumo
- Facebook users are engaged users — 76% log on daily, including 55% who do so several times a day. Pew Research Center
- Facebook sends 82% of social media traffic to longer stories and 84% of social traffic to shorter news articles. Pew Research Center
- Facebook Messenger has 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, making it the second most used mobile chat app in the world. Statista
- Twitter has 313 million monthly active users. Twitter
- 24% of internet users (21% of all U.S. adults) use Twitter. Pew Research Center
- 42% of Twitter users log on daily, including 23% who do so several times a day. Pew Research Center
- There are 500 million Tweets per day or about 6,000 per second. InternetLiveStats
- Video is the fastest-growing media type on Twitter. Twitter
- Videos are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photos and three times more likely than GIFs. Twitter
- LinkedIn has 106 million monthly active users. LinkedIn
- 29% of internet users (25% of all U.S. adults) use LinkedIn LinkedIn
- 18% of LinkedIn users log on daily. Pew Research Center
- 92% of B2B marketers leverage LinkedIn over all other social platforms. Pew Research Center
- LinkedIn posts with images receive 200% more engagement than text-only posts. SocialPilot
- Snapchat has over 100 million daily active users. Snapchat
- 54% of Snapchat users log on daily. Adweek
- Snapchat users watch over 10 billion videos per day. Snapchat
- 400 million Snaps are sent daily. Adweek
- 8,796 photos are shared on Snapchat every second. Adweek
- Vertical videos are watched 9 times more than horizontal videos on Snapchat. Snapchat
- Instagram has 500 million monthly active users. Statista
- 51% of Instagram users log on daily, including 35% who do so several times a day. Pew Research Center
- 32% of internet users (28% of all U.S. adults) use Instagram. Pew Research Center
- 59% of adults ages 18-29 use Instagram. Pew Research Center
- Over 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram every day. Instagram
- Instagram drives the most engagement per post compared to any social network–84 times more than Twitter, 54 times more than Pinterest and 10 times more than Facebook. Sprout
- YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and third most visited site after Google and Facebook. Pulse
- 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Statistic Brain
- There are 3.25 billion hours of video watched each month. Statistic Brain
- The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes. YouTube
- The most viewed brand videos are on average 31–60 seconds long. Social Bakers
- Pinterest has 150 million users. Pinterest
- 31% of internet users (26% of all U.S. adults) use Pinterest. Pew Research Center
- 87% of Pinners have purchased something they’ve seen on Pinterest, while 93 percent plan to do so. Pinterest
- 36 percent of Pinterest users falling between the ages of 18 and 29. Pew Research Center
- Two-thirds of Pins currently on the channel highlight a brand or product.Pinterest
- WhatsApp has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users. Statista
- Almost two thirds of Whatsapp users are online more than once daily. GlobalWebIndex
- WhatsApp is most popular in markets outside the United States. Statista
- The WhatsApp audience is projected to grow to 25.6 million users by 2021. Statista
- WeChat has more than 938 million monthly active users. eMarketer
- 50% of users use WeChat for at least 90 minutes a day. WeChat
- On average, each WeChat users is connected with 194 friends. China Internet News
- The average WeChat user sends 74 messages per day. WeChat
- Only 14% of brands are currently sharing ads on the platform. China Channel
A recent study published by Statista outlined the top social networking sites worldwide. I was surprised that I didn’t see the three channels I generally think of—Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn—when developing my social strategy. It was a good reminder that if you’re developing a global strategy, it’s important to research and consider all the social channels global audiences are utilizing. Take a look at Statista’s data below:
Whatever channels you choose to develop and nurture, be sure you are focused where your target audience is. If you’re looking to engage people in C-suite in fin-tech, Snapchat may not be your best bet. However, if you’re looking to connect with a millennial interested in fashion trends, Snapchat and Instagram will probably be the best channels to showcase your brand, grow your audience and drive revenue. Businesses that strive to engage with their audience in meaningful ways, on the channels they prefer, will ultimately win.