Businesses can take off overnight. Social networks, global media, the Internet, marketing and word-of-mouth that spans the globe can drive your message to millions of people instantly. But it rarely "just happens".
If you've been marketing your startup, product or business online then you'll have seen product launches that seemed to come out of nowhere to become the hottest thing around, or videos and content that have gone viral driving millions of potential customers through to the originators - the "Charlie bit my finger" YouTube video sensation netted that family several hundred thousand dollars in revenue:
While some people luck out and ride a wave of viral/social popularity, basing your livelihood on success through blind luck is not a particularly fruitful strategy. Most people have to work hard for quite some time before they achieve a breakthrough marketing success. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to give yourself every chance of success.
1. Build a powerful social network and start creating content
NOTE: This step runs in tandem throughout the breakthrough marketing process. You should find that your social engagement increases as your knowledge and expertise in the industry grows.
Having thousands of followers on twitter is next to useless if you simply engage in activities designed to increase your following. However, by using twitter properly, you can build up a valuable resource of people who follow you because they want to know what you are doing. The same goes for other social networks.
I define "using a social network properly" as:
Following people who share high quality content that is relevant to your interests, aims and objectives
Using that content as a platform to interact and build relationships with other industry leaders
Creating and sharing original, high quality content
Depending on what you are doing, you might want to use different social networks, but I find that limiting your efforts to no more than three (mine are twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn) will help you to keep things focused and under control. You can always expand your social marketing program at a later stage when more resources become available to you.
Don't expect too much from your content at this stage. Its biggest value, right now, is that it will drive up your SEO profile and PageRank, giving you more and more organic search traffic as time goes by.
2. Research the market
In case you're ready to go to sleep, let me make it clear that I'm not talking about your run of the mill market research.
What most people consider sufficient is something along the lines of knowing age group, location, and disposable income of the people who should be interested in what you're offering. I'm talking more about knowing everything about that industry.
main bloggers and reporters
media outlets that carry related stories
Once you know everything about your niche, you are ready to start...
Use your knowledge of everyone and everything in that industry to start cultivating relationships and connections. Remember, these are not your customers. They are the people who can use their influence later down the line to bring your message to customers.
First prize is meeting and getting to know influential leaders face to face. Next best thing is to build strong online relationships using social networks like twitter, linkedin, google+ and facebook.
Don't market or push your product during this phase - networking is about meeting people, not making sales. Build up trust and authority with the people who are going to be the ones to help you when it comes time to "breakthrough". Share your knowledge and expertise. Attend events, conferences and be active.
Once people in the industry know who you are it's time to...
4. Cultivate media contacts
How many journalists do you know covering news in your niche industry? If the answer is less than a handful then rejoice - you have a lot of important work to get on with.
It can be tricky to build relationships with journalists at the start of a new venture because, by definition, you have no credibility or authority. This can be overcome by a "soft landing" approach.
Offer your knowledge and expertise as a journalistic resource. Follow the journos who you know will be a perfect fit (from the research you did in step 1) and comment on their articles, offer opinions and so on.
At the same time you are building up your stable of media contacts, you can now...
5. Build authority with content
Believe it or not, it's still not time to push for sales, or go after customers. It is now time to start using the knowledge you have acquired and the contacts you have made to start building your authority. You do this by creating and sharing content.
The content you create needs to have its own voice and style and be unique to you. Leverage your relationships to increase the online visibility of your content. For example, offer one of your media contacts an exclusive interview with you. Work with them to come up with a newsworthy title and an article that will work for both of you.
Write guest blog posts and have them published to influential blogs and sites (recall that you have built up relationships with leaders in your industry, and they will be far more likely to publish your content than someone they have never heard of).
Do everything you can to get your content seen by as many people as possible. Make sure you create content regularly for your own site or blog too (hopefully you have already built up a substantial amount of SEO enhanced blog content to help drive organic search traffic).
At this point you should start to find that your social network begins to grow at a faster and faster pace. Offers for you to join workshops, conferences, hangouts and other social and professional events will increase.
Ride the wave, making more and more contacts as you go until finally you...
6. Achieve the marketing breakthrough
As your network of industry contacts grows, as your social following grows, as your trust and authority in your industry grows, so the chances increase that something you do - whether it is an article, interview, meeting you attend, whatever - will lead to a breakthrough.
What that breakthrough is, is entirely up to your unique set of circumstances. It could be in the form of:
a marketing campaign that goes viral and drives five million people to your business website
some sort of market threshold, after which your customer base expands exponentially
industry recognition or an interview on Oprah, after which everyone in the world wants a piece of you
a news article in a major publication
an offer to buy you out for a handsome price
[insert ideal custom breakthrough]
Whatever it is, there are a few things you need to remember throughout all of this:
Remember that success is not as far away as you think - you just can't see it yet.
I'd love to hear what you think about achieving a marketing breakthrough. Have you done it? Know someone who has? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts, or follow me on twitter and Google+ and follow the conversation there.
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