Are you starting a niche authority site or operating a small start-up? When launching a new venture, it can be hard to gain traction without a large email list, established community or thriving social media group.
Here are five ways (some quickies, some long-term strategies) to increase traffic when you're first starting out and need to build your audience:
1. Do a giveaway.
You can give away something directly related to your product or service, including a gift box, package of services, or additional add-on value. If you haven't launched yet, or product manufacturing is held up, you can always give away a complementary item, such as a stack of books, a consultation, a care package. Get creative.
Giveaways not only help you spread the word (who doesn't want to win a prize?) but they capture short-term attention and spur action because they introduce two key marketing concepts: scarcity and time-limited offer. They also help you capture prospect information when people enter your contest. Once they enter their email address and name, you can use those pieces of contact information to contact them again through email and market helpful content, educate them, or offer them a tripwire low-priced item.
So how do you logistically setup a giveaway? Don't just offer a comments section on a Facebook post! You want to capture leads and drive traffic to you, not your social media. Create a landing page on your website, or use another landing page system such as Leadpages or King Sumo for Wordpress to capture leads. Then use social media to promote through status updates and sponsored posts plus photos and hashtags strategically. Use a random number generator to help you pick an entry number if necessary.
2. Reach out to local networking groups.
As the great Michael O'Neal, host of the Solopreneur Hour says, "You got to market like it's 1988." And this means physically showing up to places and shaking hands and kissing babies (maybe). This requires time but studies show that true person-to-person (P2P) interactions increase the likelihood of setting an appointment or closing a sale, by as much as 25%.
Keep organized by starting a spreadsheet. Use Eventbrite, Meetup, Google, and your local Chamber of Commerce or SCORE chapters to find groups who are not just in your industry. You want to meet people who would benefit from having you in the group. The trick here is to find complementary people for referrals (become top of mind!) and potential customers and clients. So for example, if you're a house painter, you want to go to a builders meetup or a green housing conference. If you sell jewelry, networking with personal stylists, product photographers, clothing designers and artisans is also helpful. You don't want to always surround yourself with other jewelry makers. But join those groups for support and inspiration!
Write down the days, times, and upcoming dates for each group. Schedule them out in your iCal or appointment book. Dress the part, bring your business cards and samples, and for the love of everything: get a lead capture system on your smartphone! Even a simple business card scanner app will do. This streamlines the tasks of following up with individuals, which you need to do.
Set aside an hour the day following the event so that you PERSONALLY (not your manager, assistant, or marketing person) can jot a note with an offer to warm leads and new network friends.
Building relationships like these can pay off in large dividends. Spending an hour of time at a meetup can result in large retainers, big client projects, wholesale deals, and new customers. Plus, it's fun to meet people in real life. Get out from behind the computer screen.
3. Do guest posting to build links and traffic.
This one is hard for a lot of people because it takes time and you may not see results immediately. But it's great for building SEO, meeting new influencer contacts, and increasing brand awareness and traffic.
If you or your staff write content for your regular website blog, you can absolutely do guest posting. Here's how to do it:
First, make a spreadsheet (we do so love our spreadsheets here at Bright Planning!) and come up with a list of all the blogs, magazines and periodicals in your industry or niche. Also, create a secondary list of complementary contacts (either sorted by geographic region, secondary target market, or related service). For example, if you are a pet food manufacturer, you would want to guest post not just in pet magazines and pet lover blogs, but also reach out to veterinarian blogs, animal grooming websites, etc.
Then, brainstorm out ten to twenty guest pitches or topics that you would want to write about and send to these places for consideration. Alternately, you can email each one of these places with a short customized pitch just for them. Your choice. If you've already been maintaining a blog of your own, go back and pick some of your "best of" articles that you can re-purpose into new or customized content for a different website or magazine.
Next, email your ideal guest spots with a short, personalized pitch. You DO NOT have to write the whole article right now! Keep track in your spreadsheet who and what you pitched, and when. Follow up with all pitches in a week with a slight, friendly nudge. Do NOT pitch more than 3 or 4 places at a time with the same topic unless you can customize it for their audience. In other words, don't offer a canned post to multiple people who may want it. If you have people saying yes and then you have to turn them down because it's already posting elsewhere, it could leave them feeling sour about you. If that does happen: be prepared to offer another guest post immediately if the original topic is accepted for publication at another magazine or blog.
Upon acceptance of the pitch, write the guest post. Make it awesome. Spellcheck and grammar-proof that thing. Link to authoritative resources in your post and do your research. Only link to your own content one time within the article. Unless you're providing an amazing case study, more links to your site are simply self-promotional and don't help anyone. Follow their guidelines, be professional and deliver the content on time. Send a short bio (include your website and social media URLs!) and a clear headshot or company logo.
Get a clear timeline from the editor, blogger, or influencer after they've received your article.
- When will they publish it?
- On what channels?
- How can you help them spread the word upon publication?
After publication, send a short thank you note for the opportunity and ask them if they'd like more content in the future. Build relationships!
4. Conduct and publish interviews.
Similar to guest posting, interviews with experts operate on the same marketing concepts of authority spotlighting and driving an established community's traffic to your site. You do this by providing amazing value and insights from the experts in your field on your website, podcast, or other digital/print presence.
Again, create a spreadsheet and list all your dream interview subjects on it, including their contact information, who you need to talk to in order to get to them, and then plan to reach out to several each week.
Here's where most people get it wrong: don't offer to conduct a generalized interview.
You want to ask them questions that are focused and highly specific to answer the pain points of your audience. Not only will this help your clients and customers, it will be more fun for the interviewee. Nobody likes being asked the same old questions over and over.
Think carefully about how you want to conduct the interview: by email, Skype, Google Hangout, telephone, video, podcast, etc. Make sure to include the options you feel comfortable with in your pitch.
Be prepared to pitch, follow up, then follow up again before closing the door and trying again in 6 months to a year. This is a long-term strategy.
Once you secure an interviewee's interest, schedule them in, thank them ahead of time and tell them what to expect next. Touch base with them 1 week before the interview, then the day before to confirm everything is good to go. Conduct the interview. Afterward, send a thank you note.
Once the interview is ready to go live as an article, newsletter, video, or podcast, send the interviewee a "swipe file" that helps them spread the word to their list. This includes pre-written social media updates and links, graphics, a pre-written email template and newsletter blurb. Make sure they have everything they need!
BONUS: you can increase the number of subscribers you have by offering the interview exclusively through your email list. This not only drives traffic but increases your mailing list and gets more engagement.
5. Do paid advertising, on Google Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn wherever your ideal audience is and snowball that budget.
Ah, the paid advertising method. There may be a ton of free strategies out there, but sooner or later you need to establish a healthy marketing budget so you can scale. And part of this budget includes advertising. Do not advertise using methods you can't track--you want to know what is effective! So if you choose to do print advertising, make sure you're using a QR code, coupon code, or custom URL that shows you how much traffic and ROI is generated from that ad.
Remember, it all goes back to strategy.
Do not create ads that have no call to action or return on investment. You don't need brand awareness ads at this point: you need to capture leads and sell stuff. So your ads must funnel directly to people giving you contact information and/or buying something.
One strategy is to snowball your budget. How do you accomplish this? You create a series of ad variations for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Adwords--wherever your particular audience hangs out and will respond. You split your initial tiny budget among the variations, set a campaign run time of 7 days, and turn the ads live. Within 48-72 hours, you should clearly see in analytics which ad is performing the best.
Now, typically, if you were an established business, you would only take a small portion of your net profits and put that back into your marketing budget year over year. Right now, while you scale, you should take AT LEAST 50% of whatever you make off ads and sink it right back into those efforts. You can then advertise longer, more often, introduce new ads, and reach bigger audiences. This "snowball" effect means a lean payroll for you for a month, but bigger profits from successful ads and quick-starting your growth.