Digital marketing has given us more options than ever for promoting a business. But with all the options, how can you tell if your efforts are paying dividends? Are you nurturing leads toward an eventual sale or just creating more noise?
To answer these questions, entrepreneur and digital marketing expert Mathew Georghiou recommends building a marketing funnel designed to usher prospective clients toward an eventual sale. Georghiou, who has a forthcoming book on building marketing funnels for small businesses, shows how following a well-designed process can yield measurable results so you’re not wasting your time by approaching digital marketing without a plan.
“Just take a breath at the beginning and spend a few hours in preparation,” he says. “If you do that, everything you do moving forward will be more effective.”
Georghiou suggests beginning your efforts by building your brand. “Your brand is going to be your superpower going forward,” says Georghiou. “If you build that brand, it’s going to help you in so many ways. This is true even for solopreneurs and individuals.”
Building a brand can be a complex endeavor involving brand strategy, design frameworks, marketing materials, colors, messaging, and more. But for most small businesses, effective brand development comes down to consistency. Develop a consistent look and voice for your communications and marketing collateral. Establish a consistent way of speaking about your business and consider how you want to position yourself within the marketplace. Do you want to be a sophisticated, high-end service provider? Are you trying to be a budget-friendly option? Figure out your place then communicate in a way that’s consistent with your image.
Not sure what to post on social media? Start with letting people know who you are, what you do, and how you can help.
With a solid brand in place, the process of getting a new customer is completed in three essential steps, says Georghiou: know, like, and trust.
Know. Let people know you exist and that you’re available to help them solve a problem. In the digital space, social media is a great place to build awareness. Not sure what to post on social media? Start with letting people know who you are, what you do, and how you can help. For example: “I’m a professional photographer and I do this kind of work. Here’s what I would suggest ….” Engage people in conversations as those opportunities arise.
Like. Why should people hire you instead of someone else? Often, it comes down to whether they like you and see you as someone they want to do business with. Build likability by connecting with your ideal customers. Answer questions, offer resources, and give people a sense of what it would be like to work with you.
Trust. Fostering trust comes down to doing what you say you’re going to do. For people who don’t yet have a working relationship with you, build trust through social proof. Show case studies, share testimonials, and give specific examples that prove you do what you say. Arm yourself with customer stories, so if someone has a concern or question, you can provide examples of how you’ve handled similar issues.
Before you start posting content, understand your target customer. Identify who you want to reach and develop a plan for how to communicate with that person.
“Posting content in random places without any clearly defined goals is not an efficient use of your time,” explains Georghiou. “Maximize your time by knowing who you’re going to target.”
He recommends looking at customers you’re already serving. Think about the customers you like working with the most, and use those people as a model for your target customer. That’s your audience.
It’s important that your posts feel genuine and you’re regularly showing up on the platform to respond to inquiries and post comments.
Once you understand your target audience, consider which platform is most effective for reaching those consumers. A basic marketing fundamental is to go where your audience is. If your clients are all interacting on Instagram, that’s where you should focus your efforts. However, it’s also important to consider which platform you understand and enjoy the most. If you feel comfortable on Facebook, but most of your audience interacts on TikTok, assess whether that’s a space you want to explore. It’s important that your posts feel genuine and you’re regularly showing up on the platform to respond to inquiries and post comments.
If you’re posting content anywhere online—social media, email, forums, etc.—you need a place to send people so they can interact with you. In most cases, says Georghiou, this should be your company website because you can control the messaging, the design, and the format. Your posts and messages should all have a strong call to action directing people where to find more information and how to reach you. Make it easy for people to take the next step.
Getting people to your destination is a sign that something is working. But if they’re not following through and becoming paying customers, then it’s important to diagnose the breakdown. Is it the design of your website? Are you missing a strong call to action that instructs people what to do next? Are you making it too difficult for people to contact you? Are you attracting the wrong types of people for your business?
For service providers like wedding and portrait photographers, the best way to improve conversions is to make it easier for people to get in touch with you, says Georghiou. In the old days of digital marketing (think, early 2000s), that may have been as simple as listing an email and a phone number. Now people want more options—email, text, chat, direct social media messaging, online forms, instant messaging apps. Everyone has a communication preference. To capture more of the leads you worked so hard to attract, you have to offer more methods for people to reach you.
Once you get people to buy, or consider buying, look at your average order value (AOV). If you’re doing in-person sales or any hands-on sales process, the best way to increase your AOV is by offering a superlative client experience.
“Think through every interaction the client has with you,” says Georghiou. “Make those interactions as sophisticated as possible, as memorable as possible, as easy as possible. When your customer has a great experience with you, it provides an extra level of trust that makes the sale much easier to complete.”
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.