If you’ve just launched your business you might be familiar with that slightly disappointed feeling that after releasing your beautiful site to the world… it’s two weeks and hardly anyone has visited your beautiful new website …And those that have, have come from your very lovely and supportive friends and family.
This is perfectly normal.
Having a website isn’t like having a shop where a grand opening automatically brings in people off the street to come and have a poke around. With billions of websites out there, you need to let the world know you exist.
Actually, not the world…just your potential customers.
So how do you find these super special people who would delight in knowing your business existed?
Well first of all, you need to know who they are by:
Building a customer profile
If you don’t know who your customer is, you’re never going to be able to effectively market your business. Your message will be too generic or completely miss the mark with your (unknown) target audience.
Chances are you have a few different types of customers who you want to appeal to, and you should build up customer profiles for each of these segments.
For example, perhaps you offer classes to help people set up their own websites. Your customers might fall into the following groups:
1. People looking to begin a new business after losing their job in the recession
2. Freelancers looking to expand their current website
3. Savvy entrepreneurial women looking to set up or expand their business online
Creating a customer profile
You’ll want a separate profile for each group you want to appeal to, so grab a pen and paper and start trying to answer the following questions:
1. What problems do my customers have that I can solve?
2. What are their dreams?
3. What are their daily routines?
4. What media do they watch / read?
5. What websites do they visit?
6. What do they do for a living?
7. How old are they?
8. How do they use the Internet to find answers to their questions?
9. What kind of professional events do they attend?
These questions make you start thinking like your customer, and thinking about where they might spend their time online.
Sample customer profile
A customer profile might read like this:
“Jane Smith is in her mid-twenties and has just been made redundant. She is considering launching her own online business and wants to start with her website. She wants to have as much control with her website as possible and isn’t afraid to learn. She’s been researching online for a couple of months looking for tutorials but finds all the information a little overwhelming. She receives newsletters for some well known online website tutorials and spends on average 30 minutes a day reading them. She has her own blog but would really like to make the next step to having a full website. She wants to build her business steadily and provide a comfortable income for her future. She is cautious and likes to research things thoroughly but she also wants to start her business as soon as possible. She is looking for someone she can trust to guide her through the next steps of setting up her website.”
This is a useful exercise in building up a live image of someone you are trying to appeal to with your business.
So, you have a pretty good idea about who your customer segments are and how they think.
How do you now find out where these potential clients spend their time online?
Act like them
The way to effectively communicate with your customer is to think like your customer.
Look at the answers from your above list. Taking the example of someone who teaches people how to build websites, perhaps their customers would be looking at the following resources online:
1. Advice websites about how to launch a new business in the recession
2. Freelance advice websites
3. The Women Unlimited website
You could find useful sites like these simply by putting terms into Google that your customers might use, for example: “How to set up an online business in the recession” or “how to expand your freelance business online”.
See what websites come up, spend time on them. Visit them regularly, subscribe to newsletters from websites you think your customers might be interested in. If there are discussion boards or forums, what are people talking about? What questions are potential customers asking?
By moving in the same circles as your customers, you’ll begin to understand their wants and needs more, and eventually, you’ll be able to show them how your business offers a solution to their problems.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your customers
A simple way to keep on top of who is saying what where about the services you offer is using Google Alerts. You will need to have a Google account which is free and easy to set up from www.google.com/accounts, and once you have that you can go to www.google.com/alerts to pick particular keywords and as soon as an article. Blog, or a news story mentions this, you’ll get an email about it.
So our business owner offering classes on building websites and wants to know where potential customers are might choose to receive alerts for “new website” or “new online business”.
This could direct them to a range of new websites, blogs and forums, and more importantly, you can stay current on what is being discussed that day.
Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day using these methods, you’ll soon find the online hotspots where you can engage with your target audience and not only let people know about your business, but start bringing potential customers to your own website.
Next time I’ll be looking at some of the different methods of content marketing you can use to promote your business online once you know where to find your customers.
About the Author: Amy Harrison. After training as a screenwriter, Amy moved into the world of online business and since 2004 has worked on small to large enterprises both here in the UK and Canada. Amy left her job in online business development in 2008 to go it alone and now offers a copywriting and project management service. Amy will be offering practical hints and tips about maintaining and promoting your business website in our series of articles: “Web Therapy”. We hope you enjoy it and look forward to hearing about your own website experiences! www.harrisonamy.com