After taking many of the same classes throughout grade school and college, life-long childhood friends and neighbors Charles and Mark had finally completed their academic studies. The two aspiring entrepreneurs received their diplomas along with the rest of the class of 2005 on a beautiful spring day, marking the end of one chapter of their lives and beginning of a new one.
Entrepreneurs out the Gate
Both Charles and Mark had expressed the desire to run their own business at an early age. Like many young entrepreneurs, they spent their free time brainstorming ideas to make money while other children their age were busy playing. The duo would buy and sell candy for a profit, mow lawns, and even collect soda cans to sell to recycling facilities. I guess you could say this “sparked” their entrepreneurial spirit, planting the seeds for future success.
With an unmatched entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success, the two friends planned to start their own businesses after graduating college. Charles wanted to use his knowledge and passion for numbers to open a professional accounting service for other businesses, while Mark wanted to start a graphic design service. They knew businesses such as these would be always be in demand, regardless of fluctuations in the economy and job market.
Two Different Outcomes
After graduating college, Charles and Mark went their separate ways but remained good friends. Charles fulfilled his dream of starting an accounting firm, while Mark went on to launch a graphic design company.
Over the next few years, Mark continued to grow and expand his business, turning his graphic design company into one of the busiest and most respected in the city.
Charles, however, had a difficult time gaining traction with his accounting firm. He wasn’t forced to close his doors and seek a new job/career, but he was barely turning a profit.
So, What Happened?
Charles and Mark had practically the same education along with the same drive and determination to succeed as business owners, so what happened?
It wasn’t Charles’ choice of business that led to his lackluster growth, nor was it his lack of expertise. It was how they chose to market their businesses that made the difference between growth and stagnation.
A Tale of Two Online Choices
Like many small business owners, Charles initially assumed he didn’t need a website. After all, he didn’t sell things online, so why would he? Charles relied on radio ads, newspaper ads, brochures placed at various locations around the city and bench advertising — think business name and phone plastered across a bus stop bench.
Mark, on the other hand, created a vibrant website where he showcased his work and posted testimonials from happy clients. Mark wasn’t selling anything online either, but he recognized the website’s value was in broadening his exposure and establishing credibility to potential clients.
Mark urged Charles to launch a website, pointing out to him that if a prospective client Googled “accounting services” or something similar, Charles’ firm wouldn’t appear. Instead, Google’s listings contained more than a dozen other accounting firms in the city, taking away potential sales without his knowledge.
Losing a single sale here and there may seem harmless enough, but those sales really add up over time, restricting Charles’ ability to grow and expand like he had intended.
Mark also explained to Charles that clients would be more likely to choose an accounting service that has an online presence over one that didn’t.
Why? Because having a website instills greater trust and confidence in prospective client’s eyes.
Charles agreed and finally launched a basic website. But that’s all he did. And he didn’t see much improvement in gaining new clients.
As the Digital World Evolved
Mark recognized the power of using the new digital tools such as social media and blogging to further grow his business. He began writing a weekly blog that gradually established his credibility and earned him more trust in his clients’ eyes. He announced on his social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest when he completed jobs for clients and continued to use his website to publish testimonials and work samples.
Then Mark took it to the next level. Using automated tools on his website, he collected email addresses from blog readers and site visitors and began sending regularly scheduled messages.
Sometimes the message was just a recap of the previous three or four blog posts, with links, other times the message reconnected with previous clients or clients who asked for proposals but ultimately selected another graphic design firm. He was engaging with current, past and potential clients.
The Realm of Digital Marketing.
Mark had ventured into the realm of digital marketing. In addition to posting on social media and staying connected with his email subscribers, he began using pay-per-click (PPC) platforms such as Google Adwords, Bing Ads, and Facebook Ads. Now he was able to reach a larger, more targeted demographic of users; thus, boosting his sales.
With a carefully designed digital marketing strategy in place, Mark was able to create a sales pipeline that guided prospective clients through the purchase process.
Prospective clients were finding his website via his blogs, social media and other sources. They submitted their needs via forms on his website. Mark then sent them sketches of the proposed work along with the projected cost. If the client liked the mock ups and agreed to the price, he could accept a deposit and then final payment, all through his website.
And if a prospective customer stepped off course, Mark had an automated system in place to encourage them to return. Mark’s system involved sending emails to those prospective customers, asking what he could do to gain their business and sometimes offering a discount or extra perk.
Getting Left Behind
Mark had told Charles about PPC and how it was delivering more clients to his business, yet Charles failed to take action. Charles believed that online marketing was not cost efficient, assuming that his ads would be displayed to everyone on the Internet. What he didn’t know was that PPC platforms allow small business owners to target specific geographic regions, making them an ideal marketing tool for small business owners.
How Will Your Tale End?
Stories such as this are all-too-common in today’s day and age. According to an article published by Inc, roughly half of all small businesses still do not have a website. Given the fact that there are approximately 27.9 million small businesses operating in the U.S., that’s a pretty substantial amount.
Business owners like Charles who fail to create and maintain an active online presence and take advantage of even simple forms of digital marketing get left in the dust by their competitors.
Whether you currently own your own small business or are thinking about launching a business, you should ask yourself: which of the two entrepreneurs from this story do you want to be?
The good news is that you don’t have to have the time or knowledge to become a digital marketing guru because digital marketing firms such as ContentFirst.Marketing can do it all for you — build or redesign your website, write your blogs and email copy, post on social media and handle your online advertising campaigns.
Let us do it all for your business and let you focus on other aspects of your business!
Which type of business owner are you more like? Charles or Mark?
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/florida_photo_guy/