The first time I started an online business I spent the vast majority of my time actually creating the service.
Marketing Hacks that Worked a Treat
Every company in the world is obsessed with marketing and sales - trying desperately to get in front of potential clients, gain visibility, join the conversation, and generally drum up new business in order to grow.
Competition is fierce these days (regardless of size and industry), so it's not that surprising that innovative and creative people are out there trying to find new and interesting ways to market and promote themselves.
But which marketing strategies actually work?
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I posed this question to a bunch of different companies and what I found was quite interesting. It's not necessarily the 'type' of marketing strategy you use (you don't have to come up with something completely new in order to succeed), it comes down to 'how you do it'.
Take a look at what strategies these companies used and how their efforts paid off...
No half measures (Computer repair doctor)
However, our ambulance has done wonders for us because it's unique. It's big, it's clearly an ambulance, and it's funny. This tactic worked because we went all out and committed to the idea.
We'll routinely leave the vehicle in busy shopping centers for a day or two at a time or park it in places that have high visibility. We got so creative with our parking spots that we eventually got a call from the FL DOT basically telling us we had to take it down a notch.
Our customers have to fill out how they heard about us when they drop-off a device, and to-date we've had over 600 customers say they heard about us because of our ambulance.
At $50-200 profit per job, that's a lot of money."
So advertising on your vehicle is not all that new, right? But look at what a great job they did at it. Instead of being conservative they took the leap and went all in. In fact, I would probably use their service just to have my PC repair tech rock up dressed as a medical intern.
What's nice about Matt's story is that they have also done proper research and analysis of this particular campaign so that they know for sure (from their customer feedback forms) that the ambulance is working as a lead generator and new business driver (no pun intended).
Be controversial (Rebel hack)
As a result of the article circulating online, we got it shared on Inbound as a link from Dharmesh Sha - one of the most successful digital marketers in the world and CTO at Hubspot.
A popular user of Inbound took our title and article (cleverly crafting a reply to it) and posted his reply on the site - linking to our article, and letting readers know he'd done so by posting the link in the comments.
Due to the attention grabbing headline he used (hacked from us) and his strongly opinionated reply - the post became popular and a discussion began forming in the comments, which we also became involved in (amicably of course).
The two links to our article ensured our new site got viewed over 6,000 times in just a few days, and we received several e-mail enquiries from potential clients.
The moral of this story is - if you've written a great and catchy blog post that's also controversial - get it shared. Ask for quotes from big players in your industry, tweet it to people you think will be really interested or have an opinion, post it on sites like Inbound. Don't be afraid of creating some strong replies, it's all part of the conversation. "
So, once again, creating content that stimulates debate is not something new. But getting it picked up and shared on bigger platforms is. Increase your chances of this happening by targeting topics that are of direct interest to the bigger players.
Be warned though, being controversial is like walking a tight rope with no safety net. Ensure that your opinions are at least defensible so that you can join the debate with intelligent and rational points.
Startup Santa (Baron Fig)
James Mazza from Baron Fig was telling me that they were looking for a way to get one their products into the hands of their target audience - local and international startup companies. Their answer is priceless:
The solution was Startup Santa.
We received 400+ submissions to this form and visited 20+ local startups in the NYC area. We attempted to get to every single startup, however the response was so overwhelming that it just wasn't possible.
Instead we mailed out packages of wrapped gifts to startups that we couldn't visit in person. We learned a lot of important lessons and we solved our problem. We got the Confidant into businesses everywhere."
What I like about this story is that it is ultimately a human relationship based strategy. They physically went to their potential clients' locations and handed out gifts - complete with Santa and elves. This type of thing makes an impression. It's fun. It's unique. And, you end up capturing a lot of attention and time from potential clients.
You're the best (RT500 Enterprise)
We stopping trying to convince, and decided to actually demonstrate. We picked a bunch of leading marketing influencers who had published books and started tracking them with our service.
It turned out that Guy Kawasaki's book was dominating sales. But seriously dominating. We figured he would love to hear about this so we wrote a quick article, complete with sales graphs showing how his book was beating everyone else's.
Guy was so pleased he sent out a tweet to his more than 1.5 million followers saying "This made my day" with a link to our article. This not only drove a lot of traffic to us, but also seemed to improve the trust factor in the long term - leading to generally higher conversion rates on a sustained basis"
So, hopefully you've been able to see that not every hack has to be completely new in order to work. But, everything that works seems to have something unique/new/unusual about it. There's definitely a bit of 'secret sauce' in each one of these hacks. The trick is finding your own.
What unusual marketing techniques have you tried? Have you met with success or failure? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.
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