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The secret to successful online marketing

By Richard Fletcher

At its most basic, marketing is simply a conversation between two people: an expert and a prospective client. But while that may seem like the obvious thing to say, what is sometimes less clear is how to initiate those conversations and make them work for you, especially if you’re operating in a crowded market. Ads have often seemed like a clear way forward, and paying for promotional content can feel like the most effective way to ensure you and your business are seen by a wide audience. But being seen is not the same as engagement.

Unfortunately, if your content is boring, unoriginal or predictable, hasn’t been tailored to the right sorts of people, or doesn’t represent you or your business well, then ploughing money into adverts on Facebook and Google is a self-defeating approach.

I believe that success in marketing lies in overhauling your communication in a few basic but key ways. My bottom-up formula for engaging clients relies on targeting the right people with the right content, without the need to spend on adverts that may or may not work. This will help you attract good leads, which in turn will allow you to open up conversations with the people who are most likely to spend money on your product or service.

But to start these conversations, you first have to be able to draw people in. From the outset, this necessitates having a clear idea of who your audience is and what you have to offer them. Quality content and productive conversations with clients will only start to come once you have these two components nailed. There’s no point in trying to attract leads with messaging that lacks the confidence to say that you are offering the right service for the right people and at the right price.

You also need to make sure your ideal clients are seeing your content. Ultimately, to engage people in meaningful and effective conversation, it’s all about being social – you just have to figure out what works best for your business. It could involve getting your ideal clients to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whichever social media platform you prefer. This is my preferred approach – it’s free, organic, and allows you to post often and be seen regularly. But it could also mean running adverts or events, handing out promotional fliers, or cold calling prospective clients. As long as you use a targeted approach to do any or all of these things, you’re on the right track.

It’s important that you get noticed by people who want to listen and are likely to engage, and that your message is loud and clear. Your target audience needs to know why your product or service is relevant to them, how it will help them, why it is necessary, and that you are offering it to them at the right price. So post regularly, be seen at the right events, build a relationship, and keep reminding potential clients that you have the answer to something that they need help with.

This may all seem relatively simple or self-evident – and it is, but only if you go about the strategy in the right way. In order to do all of this effectively, you need to be seen as someone who can help. The conversations that you have with clients at any stage in your professional relationship rely on you being seen as the authority in whatever field or marketplace you are operating in. So you need to be credible and approachable.

In my experience of coaching people to improve their audience engagement and boost their business, having these points down will make people want to reach out to find out more about what you have to offer. This is where these all-important, one-on-one conversations really begin, and it’s important to approach them in the right way.

Now some people who reach out won’t be the right fit – they may not have the money, the drive or the need for what you have to offer. But if you know your target audience well enough, you’ll know who to invest your time in. In my view, it doesn’t matter whether you put that time in with people through messaging or sales calls. Just make sure you can gauge what this prospective client needs and emphasise to them how you can help. You need to make the most of these conversations.

From here, you have to deliver – but that’s not where the conversation stops. The need for “social proof” to help back-up your brand is essential. Testimonials in particular are invaluable, and keep the dialogue going between you and those you’ve already helped, as well as with other potential clients. So deliver your product or service to the highest possible standard, and aim to go above and beyond with your customer service. This will help ensure that any testimonial a client gives you is enthusiastic and as appealing as possible to new leads.

Keep feeding this information back into your messaging: repost testimonials on your social media, or print quotations from reviews on your fliers, whatever works best for you. Just make sure that prospective clients can see for themselves how good your service is and how much they can rely on you to deliver it.