On Episode 95 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with digital marketing expert Joshua Sturgeon, about how knowing your customers will help you with digital marketing!

Sections

Introduction – What’s With The Name
An Ongoing Strategy
Know Your Customer
How Can Digital Marketing Be More Effective?
Is Digital Marketing a Good Fit For You?
How To Get Customers To Your Website
How To Market To Certain Types of Customers
How To Target a Specific Product
Marketing New & Innovative Products
You Don’t Know All the Answers Until You Try
More Episodes
Show Notes

Digital Marketing: Know Your Customers

Marketing: Put a Lot In to Get a Lot Out

Paul: So here today, we’re with Josh Sturgeon of EmberTribe.

So, how do we talk to a CEO or an executive level person who is sitting there saying, “I really want to acquire a market and I want people to buy my stuff basically. I want leads. I want all that stuff.” And they think they’re just going to spend… “Okay, here’s a thousand dollars and that’ll just keep running. There. I buy a toaster and I don’t think about it.” This seems like a very different value proposition in that it seems like you have to put a lot in to get a lot out. Is that true?

Josh: Yeah, I think that in a sense, that’s true but you don’t have to make huge bets. So, the clients that we’re working with, some of them are starting at 5,000 dollars a month or less. Some are spending upwards of 500,000 dollars a month. The level of scale can change drastically but you can still benefit from this even at the lower levels of spend.

Paul: But it sounds like it’s a continual investment. It’s not like you’re going to have one ad and then you’re done.

Josh: That’s true. That’s true. Yeah. For a variety of reasons this is very much an actively managed type of engagement. So, this idea of setting it and forgetting it, isn’t a reality for digital marketing for a number of reasons.

One, is that you’re participating in an auction. And so that auction itself is dynamic and you have a number of advertisers who at different points in the area even – like at the end of Q3,Q4 – a lot of people are spending money in advance of holiday shopping, Black Friday, and it gets very expensive to run ads on some of these different platforms. So, you want to be actively managing your budget there.
The way that we liken it honestly, is when hand over your money to say an investment manager, they are going behind the scenes and they’re actively trading your portfolio and making sure that they’re hedging bets and managing risks. It’s very similar to what we’re doing on these platforms, is that we’re actively managing these campaigns but along the way, trying to recycle the learnings that we’re getting about your audience and about what people are responding to, back to you as an executive so that you can do some better strategic planning for the future and understand what’s the next product that you need to release. What do you need to change about your sales process? How do you need to be more competitive in your market?

So, it’s this constant stream of filtering the learnings that we’re getting from the campaigns but also making sure that your money’s just going up in smoke, what we’re managing for you.

Paul: And it sounds like its… and if I’m thinking, “Okay. I’m going to start a business. I’m going to do this.” It’s not going to be an aspect where, “Okay. Marketing. I need to spend a thousand dollars in that and I’m done.” It’s really going to be a continual investment that never goes away really, until I’m satisfied that I don’t want to make any more money. Is that really the case?

An Ongoing Strategy

Josh: It is. You want to commit to an ongoing strategy. And you’re right to think about it that way. There are probably a few rare exceptions where I maybe have an event if I’m in the event business. But even then, because we’ve worked with some of those businesses, they are marketing year round, always looking to the next event. So, it is an ongoing kind of practice and change to your business. If you haven’t invested in marketing yet, you need to start adapting a mindset that, “Okay, this is something that you do before you get in trouble.”

Paul: Right, right.

Josh: It’s something you do to be proactive and create demand and to have a full pipeline and that is an ongoing process.

Know Your Customer

Paul: So, it sounds like we’ve learned many important things, but one of the critical things is, know your customer and know where they frequent the internet and where they ask their questions and then, answer those questions at those places.

Josh: Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s where a lot of people will rush and skip over, unfortunately because it is so easy to get started with digital marketing. We find that people aren’t taking the time to aim before they fire. Or we’ll see people that are on the other end of the spectrum. They spend an inordinate amount of time not talking to customers but hypothesizing about what they think their customers want and then they never launch and they never start learning.

Paul: Right.

Josh: So, we really try to take the middle road there with, “Okay. Let’s get some really good data to understand what makes your audience tick but let’s launch as soon as possible so we can let the data do the talking and reveal to us what people are responding to in real time.

Paul: Yeah, I find that when I’m talking with potential entrepreneurs, they have this brilliant idea. And I said, “Well has anybody said they’d buy it? Have you actually talked to a human, a person that would actually buy it that wasn’t related to you or didn’t want to offend you?” And that’s really hard to get people to realize how important that is.

How Can Digital Marketing Be More Effective?

Paul: So, we have a lot of small business people. Do you think digital marketing… How can it be made more effective? And I’m implying here that it seems like, for small businesses, depending on the business, digital marketing isn’t always as effective. And I’d like you to think about that or talk about that.

Josh: So, in the cases when it’s not effective, there’s usually a few culprits. One is that, who they’re trying to reach is so niche that they’re spending a lot of time trying to boil the ocean basically. And that probably isn’t the best approach for something that’s ultra ultra niche. It’s hard to basically identify and find those people through programmatic and ad form. And in those cases, we usually recommend something like cold outreach or just having a very focused presence at conferences or whatever it might be. ABM is its own kind of beast and that’s usually one of the reasons why people will fail.

But a more common reason is that people will try one channel like Facebook, not have success, but then throw the baby with the bathwater and assume that all digital marketing isn’t effective for whatever business line they’re in and that’s just not true.

Is Digital Marketing a Good Fit For You?

Paul: So, I’m just thinking back some people that I know listen to this – CPA firm. Is Digital marketing a good fit for them?

Josh: Absolutely.

Paul: Okay. That sounds like if you’re trying to build an H&R block or something like that, that digital marketing would work but how do you get into the more specific, more nuanced… Because it’s a local firm. They do a lot of stuff in the community. They’re not going to have ten thousand clients. They’re going to have, you know, a couple hundred. How does that work with digital marketing?

Josh: Yeah. So, I think one, getting razor focused on who you can serve best as a CPA, knowing that you’re in somewhat a commoditized service, that there’s a lot of folks that can offer this service. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of people that need this service. But get really really focused on who you can serve best. And then, also being able to surface customer stories of people that you have worked with that meet that criteria.

And what I would recommend, just in very practical terms for a CPA, is for instance we could target people who look like they’re a small business owner and so therefore their taxes are already potentially complicated and/or as a CPA you could offer them a lot of value because there’s a lot more flexibility to optimize for tax season.

But then also, I would couple that, maybe parrot maybe, with also an interest of people, say Turbo Tax, or some sort of DIY solution. And then we would devise a campaign understanding that, okay, at least on some level we believe that this is a good fit of people. On some level we would devise a campaign that says, “Tired of losing time and sleep come tax season? Doing this on your own? Your business has enough worries of its own. Let us audit how we might be able to help” or whatever.

But just, again, getting super focused about how you can help. And then let’s go to these targeting-rich platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to try to match and find that audience and then devise a message that really gets at the heart of their pain points and what they’re trying to solve.
Is There Enough Business For Me To Get Customers?

Paul: Okay, so let’s say you propose that – I’m the CPA – is there enough business? We’re on the North Shore of Massachusetts, north of Boston and we’re not going to be doing taxes for people in North Carolina. So, is there enough business to actually get enough customers?

Josh: Let me answer it this way: Let’s find out.

Paul: Okay, alright. Fair enough.

Josh: What’s your wager? Would you be willing to spend a thousand dollars to get an initial benchmark of how this could perform for your business? If it works, what’s the upside for your business? That potentially endless stream of referrals or new clients and then, they’re going to stick around how long? What’s your lifetime value of a client? It could be ten, twenty years times a thousand dollars a year. So, you stand to gain ten thousand dollars, twenty thousand dollars per customer. What’s a thousand-dollar test to see if it’ll work for you?

Paul: Okay, good idea.

How To Get Customers To Your Website

Paul: So now, I have to have a website. I built my website, and nobody comes to it. What am I doing wrong? Is that an irrational expectation? I probably think it is. If you build it, they will come? I built a website, spent could of thousand dollars, couple hundred dollars. I did it myself, whatever. And I’m disappointed. It hasn’t really produced anything. Are you going to sit there and say, “Well, what did you expect? Of course that’s the way it is.” What do you counsel me? Because I don’t think you could say, okay fast forward to what you just said, and I think you’d still say I have to have a decent website. So, that was a pre-requisite but it wasn’t necessarily going to get me new customers.

Josh: That’s exactly it. I would say, “Paul, you’re off to a great start! But don’t stop there!”

And I think the website in 2019, when we’re recording this, it’s a critical piece to your marketingness. It’s going to give people a doorway into your business but if people don’t know where to find you, if they don’t know you exist, they’re not going to walkthrough that door in the first place.

Paul: Right. I’ve invested a bunch of time and money into it, and they can come up to the door as you said but nobody seemed to come. So, I’ve spent all this time writing all this content and every week I post a new blog post about this and nobody comes. What do I do about that? Is that where advertising comes in?

Josh: Yeah, so having the ability to control traffic from your target audience, I think, is an incredible opportunity. And we talk about this strategy as what we call like a rent-to-own strategy. And just similar to like the real estate market where you can rent a place for a period of time and eventually own it, we see the same thing with paid traffic. In the near term, let’s get faster feedback groups. So, let’s understand what going to work and let’s rent that traffic by paying for it from Facebook or from Google. But let’s eventually own some of that traffic and that’s where more of the content marketing will come in.

Paul: Oh, I see.

Josh: Where you’re getting, maybe, the organic rankings in google and you’re showing up for stuff or your stuff is getting shared organically. And a great way to jump start all of that and learn very quickly, is by renting the traffic or paying for it through advertising.

How To Market To Certain Types of Customers

Paul: So how do you apply that to the CPA example that we were using? So, we have the CPA firm and we handle people who want to pay a lot of money to get their taxes done because it’s easier to have people pay a lot of money than to just have… we’re not doing the commodity basically, so we’re special advisors. So, we have blog posts about taking advantage of this new law. Don’t forget about this, don’t forget about that. We go out and we start advertising. We don’t want to have a used car salesman up there or that to be the result. How do we build ads for the higher end things as opposed to just, I guess, there’s a lot of products like an iPhone or an Android device or the new phone where I would imagine there’s a lot of vigor around those ads and capturing that response. How do you do it in some of these more long tailed decisions that people have to deal with?

Josh: Yeah, so if we stay on this CPA example. Let’s call it a premium CPA service that’s maybe 10x what you’d have anywhere else. I think, if you’re going to invest time and content and creating content, I think you want to reverse engineer what you want that content to accomplish.

Paul: Okay.

Josh: I think the mistake we see a lot of people making is they go up to the whiteboard, they brainstorm a bunch of topics or ideas that may or may not appeal to their target audience and then they’ll spend hours upon hours writing about it and guess what? Nobody cares.

Paul: And they never test it.

Josh: And they never test it. Yeah.

Paul: They never asked their customer what they thought.

Josh: Exactly. But on the other hand, if… because at least you have some existing customers and you’ve gone through this sales process, you know what their objections are in the sales process, you know what their fears are and you know that as a service provider, people are really buying time with you. And So, there’s a part of you that you need to be selling there.

Now if you know that, if you know that’s going to attract and convince people to work with you, start there! Don’t start with just cool ideas about taxes and laws. That stuff is good but its secondary. Focus on the things that are going to help you when you get on the phone with somebody be like miles ahead of where you would have been otherwise. And then that way, we can focus on having fewer content pieces but they’re more effective and leverage the paid traffic maybe, to get in front of those people more efficiently.

More Episodes:

This is Part 2 of 3 our interview with Joshua Sturgeon. Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon! We’ll be talking about finding the right digital marketing platforms to grow your business!
If you missed part 1, about how to spark growth with digital marketing, you can listen to it here!

Show Notes:

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