Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess
Last week we began the Ready, Set, Write: Business Plan For The Pet Blogger and I offered up action steps that included:
- Writing your mission and vision statements
- Articulating who you are as a blogger — your online persona
- Analyzing your competition
This week we will talk about: Ideal Clients, Marketing and Money
What is marketing? It is the way you find and connect with your ideal client — those that you identified in your Mission and Vision Statement. When I work with my clients we have found there is no one size fits all when it comes to marketing. Your ideal client may be on Facebook while I may find mine on LinkedIn while the person sitting next to me may find his by advertising on local radio or in a local newspaper.
Your analysis of the competition, as well as articulating your online pet blogging persona have given you the foundation for finding where your ideal client lurks. If you’re an online seller of goods, the world may be your oyster but perhaps not all of your pearls can be found on Facebook… they may be on Twitter! Whew, it’s a lot to absorb, but let’s get into the Marketing aspect of your business plan.
As a business owner you need to be able to toot your own horn and dive into what I call “shameless self promotion.” Bear in mind that doesn’t mean that all of your social media status updates are of the “buy me, buy me” variety nor are they continually saying, “I’m the greatest pet blogger/groomer/online seller of the world.” Marketing is about letting people know who you are, what you do, but it is also about showing your expertise — showing that you’re the go-to resource — so that when they need what you’re selling they will say, “Hey, Jane Doe has some great info, I’m going to contact her!”
At a high level, the American Marketing Association describes marketing as, “the activity and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society.” Whew. Bottom line it means, “finding where your perfect customer is and letting them know you have the solution to their pain points.” To let them know that you need specific marketing plans in place but we need to take a couple of steps back and determine, what do I accomplish by reaching my target audience.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding what you want to accomplish with your marketing:
- Sell XYZ number of products?
- Sign up XYZ number of clients to work with you?
- Work with XYZ brand?
- Earn $25,000 a year with your blogging? Hint: Don’t say, “I want to earn enough to quit my full time job.” Your goals need to be specific and measurable.”
- Be interviewed by XYZ newspaper or online media outlets?
Your marketing goals may be the same as those mentioned, or they may be entirely different. ACTION STEP: Write down five (if you don’t have five, that’s all right, but you should have at least two) marketing goals you want to achieve as part of your pet blogging business. Write goals that are specific and measurable.
Now you need to determine who your ideal client is — that person to whom you will be marketing. This is where you need to consider your demographics and this may be tricky, but here are some demographics to consider.
- What age range and gender are your ideal clients? If you currently have clients, you can pull demographics from there. If you don’t or if you’re just starting out take a peek at your competition (from the an exercise in the previous post) and see if you can gauge it from there. If, for example, you’re selling dog collars and leashes, chances are your demographic could be anyone from age 18 to 80, male or female, who have a dog. Don’t get discouraged if your demographic is all over the spectrum.
- Where does your ideal client live? Work?
- Is your ideal client married? Single? Widowed?
- Is he or she highly educated?
- Do you have the potential to meet your ideal client at a networking event? Church group? Professional or trade organization? Online or offline?
- Where does your ideal client shop? This is especially important for online sellers.
- Does your ideal client prefer cats? Dogs? Alpaca? Guinea Pigs?
ACTION STEP: Answer the questions above, if possible, or formulate your own based on your past experience with clients or customers or based on what you uncovered in your competitor analysis. Pretend you’re in a networking event and someone asks you, “Who would benefit from your goods or services?” That is the beginning of zeroing in on your ideal customer.
ACTION STEP: Do you have the resources you need to complete your marketing activities on your own? That might be something to keep in the back of your mind as we go forward, but we will talk about marketing partners/collaborators later. For this Action Step, consider how much money it might cost to implement a marketing plan — from graphic design, to building a website, to managing your social media platforms to joining professional groups.
Let’s move on to what I consider the “fun” part! You’ve identified your goals and your ideal client and now we get to come up with a plan on where to “meet” them and interact to build that relationship. Consider your pet blogging business plan to be a form of a handshake with a potential client, the initial “getting to know you step.”
How can you reach and interact with your potential clients? How can they get to “know, like and trust you?” Here are some mediums:
- Social media platforms. Yes, this is the most obvious, but it also may be where you’re comfortable and where your ideal client is gathering so let’s start with this. As you already know, social media — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, the BlogPaws Community or other online professional platform (Pinterest is great if you have lovely graphics, but isn’t ideal for interaction) — is great for real-time conversations and relationship building. This is where your “knowing your customer” comes into play. If your ideal customer is not on Facebook, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a presence there, but it may mean that you focus more of your energies where they do congregate and less time where they don’t. If you are as time crunched as I am, you need to find your focus and target your efforts. Determine which social media platforms your ideal client is using and start the relationship.
- Your own website or blog. If you’re reading this, chances are really good that you have a blog and/or website and are using it to communicate with pet lovers and potential clients. If you have a blog, you need to make certain it is updated with regularity. Imagine if you went to a site and noticed the last blog post went live six months ago — would you think to yourself, “I wonder if they’re still in business?” I’ll bet you would. Also, updating your blog regularly will help it get Google love and that’s what we all want!
- Capture the names of those who visit your site. Offer a free download. For example, “Sign up for our newsletter and receive this FREE report on XYZ!” People love free items and will usually be happy to give up their name and email address to receive it. Just make certain that even though it’s free, that it provides value.
- What will you do with those names you capture? Send out a newsletter? There are many online resources for sending e-newsletters including Constant Contact and the free provider, MailChimp. If you have a spot on your site that entices someone to sign up for a newsletter, make sure you have a plan in place to produce that newsletter and with what frequency it will be sent.
- A direct mail. When is the last time you received actual mail? I currently only receive “junk” mail other than the old-fashioned hard copy 12 page newsletter I receive from Barbara Winter. It comes to my mailbox every other month and when it does, I spend the evening read it from cover to cover. Perhaps your audience would be open to a hard copy mailing. Yes, it will likely cost more than an e-blast, but if you send an e newsletter and no one opens it what is that costing you? Perhaps you send a quarterly postcard to clients and perspective client
- Print or radio advertising. Yes, many people say print and radio are dead because online and podcasts are taking over. However, there are still papers being printed (I know, I read one daily) and radio shows being broadcast on local networks and if you find your demographic reads and listens… that could be where you target some of your marketing efforts.
- Are you a member of a professional group? If so, are you making full advantage of the profile pages most of these organizations offer? Are you involved in conversations in the group? Do you interact and offer advice? If you’re a member, get involved. Get known. Be part of the community.
- In-person networking. Join a local chamber of commerce. Find a professional group of interest and join that. You may wonder to consider moving out of your area of expertise when you join a professional group. Imagine if you’re a social media expert and you join a group of social media experts… will you be finding any clients there? Not likely. However, if you join a Toastmasters group and you can interact with business owners there, you may have a chance to grow your business because you’re not surrounded by people doing the same thing you are. That is not to say, though, that you don’t interact with, and continue to grow in, your area of expertise.
ACTION STEP: Be prepared, because there could be a lot of them! Look over this list and add to it if necessary to see where you might want to focus your marketing efforts. Choose all that apply, all that make sense and then be prepared to make an action plan to get it all done! An additional
ACTION STEP: Look at your current social media, make note of where you’re currently spending your time, how many followers, likes, etc. you have (so you can have it as a baseline to measure your goals — remember from above? Measurable items!)
Timing is everything. Our last action item for this week will be to decide when you will do all of these marketing activities that you’ve written down.
When, oh when, will you get all of this marketing done? To answer that question you need to first make the decision what marketing avenues you’re going to use. Let’s say you’ve chosen to send out a newsletter weekly and you also want to be active on Facebook and attend a weekly networking event AND write three blog posts a week.
ACTION STEP: Pull out a calendar and pencil (virtual or real!) standing commitments ie. the weekly networking event, the hours you spend commuting and working outside of the home, dinner with the in-laws, phone meetings with your current clients. Those would be your non-negotiables. Once you’ve done that now you have an idea of where your free time lies and you can begin pencilling in your pet blogging business plan action steps. I’ve heard that the best time and date for a newsletter to go out is Tuesday at 1 pm EST, if that’s the day you choose to do yours you need to determine what day and time you can devote to getting it done. If you use Hootesuite or another scheduling program you can block out a chunk of time for your “major” social media updates and then throughout the week you can pop in for interactions, sharing and commenting.
As for your blogging, is there a day/time when you can sit down and write all three weekly posts and schedule them to go live throughout the week? If so, I suggest you do that. If not, then make sure you block off time during the course of the week to get them written. Oh, yes, in the midst of all of this you need to make time for yourself and your family — taking a walk, spending time with your pets, reading a book and simply relaxing are crucial to your being able to not only implement, but carry through with your marketing efforts.
Next week we will talk numbers and I’ll have ideas that you can use to determine how to make money and how much much you need to make. We’ll talk about where and how to find business partners/collaborators. One of the final steps will be putting it all together — your mission, vision, goals, etc. and preparing strategies and action steps to making it all happen.