Nine Successful Entrepreneurs Share The Top Marketing Advice They Wish They Knew When They Started

When it comes time to start marketing your business, you either have a ton of ideas you want to try or you have no clue where to begin. You likely understand the importance of sharing the benefits of your products and services with prospective customers, but it can be hard to know if you’re taking the right steps in sharing your brand’s message.

Whether you have a bit of marketing know-how or you’re still unclear on what you should do first, you can learn from the experiences of successful entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes in the past. Below, these nine Young Entrepreneur Council members share the top marketing advice they wish they had known when they first started marketing their businesses. Read their experiences to help inform what’s best for your business.

1. Work With Social Media Specialists And Not Agencies

Hire an agency to develop your brand identity, but don’t hire an agency to run your social media marketing from the beginning. Hire individual specialists who have mastered the different marketing platforms and can take ownership of every vertical. In a global market, you can find specialists who are affordable yet productive. We made the mistake of depending on an agency from the beginning to run all socials without a clear strategic direction, and today we have archived and deleted all their marketing efforts. It was an expensive lesson that forced me as a founder to become more fluent in marketing, and today I work with specialists who are based out of Africa and Asia and focus on specific channels. We also try not to boil the ocean by marketing on every channel, but by instead focusing our efforts. – Saana Azzam, MENA Speakers

2. Focus On One Or Two Marketing Activities At A Time

Build repeatable systems. When it comes to marketing, entrepreneurs usually try twenty different things all at once. It’s human nature to think and act like this, but being spread so thin often equates to weak results across all areas. To create marketing activities that generate consistent results, I’ve learned to pick just one or two activities and focus on them until they are proven, profitable and documented. Only after a given function is working and “dialed in” do I move on to the next thing. Of course, automating and outsourcing the proven processes is where we gain leverage and our business begins to play bigger than we ever could alone. Although it’s tempting to do lots of experiments with marketing, focus and discipline always win the day. – Daniel Reilly, B2X Global

4. Implement Search Engine Optimization Strategies

When I first started marketing my business, I wish I’d known the importance of search engine optimization above all other marketing channels. I realize that building a strong search presence isn’t a fast process, but it can be the most rewarding when executed correctly. Compared with ads on social media that cost you every time someone clicks, strategic search engine optimization can drive traffic for years with no additional costs per click. Once you add SEO content to a website, it keeps driving traffic with free, highly qualified clicks. Of course, the more SEO content you publish, the stronger your position will be going forward. While SEO can deliver exponential ROI long term, remember it’s not a one-time action—it’s something that you must maintain. – Richard Fong, ABCDreamUSA.com

5. Focus On The Purpose Behind Your Business

In a world of “whats,” be a “why.” In other words, instead of focusing on your products or services, focus on your purpose. Why am I starting this business? What needs can I address? What problems may I solve? When you start with the “why” question, you streamline your entire process. You’re not just concerned about getting products in people’s hands; you’re passionately committed to meeting a need. You’re now better poised to explain the benefits of your product or service and are more flexible in how you can meet the evolving needs of your customers and community. If you need to recruit employees, a passionate cause will be more attractive than any salary package. This purpose can also sustain you during the lulls that invariably come with business, giving you greater meaning and joy. – Brian Greenberg, True Blue Life Insurance

6. Build Relationships With The Consumers

If I were to give my younger self a piece of advice about marketing, I’d say to start by taking money out of the equation. I’d ask myself, “If money ceased to exist, how would that change your marketing strategy and mindset?” My definition of marketing has definitely changed throughout the years. One thing I learned is that marketing is about building relationships and selling a story more than it is about getting people to buy your product. Ultimately, when people buy into your service or product, they are buying into your story. People are smart enough to realize when you care about them as a consumer or when you just want their money. So, I would strongly encourage businesses to stop the mindset of money-driven marketing and focus on building relationships with the consumers. – John Hall, Calendar

3. Measure Everything You Do And Track Results

When you start marketing your business, measure everything you do from day one to learn which activities are paying off. Start with small experiments and track every interaction of your potential clients with your product. Learn and iterate fast and start building a marketing system that works. Every business is different and, at the beginning, you don‘t know what works and you will pay a price to learn that. If you start small, you can keep this investment low and try many things until you find the marketing strategy that kicks in and creates customers. Investing in a strong CRM and marketing automation system can also help. HubSpot creates great value for us and was a true game-changer. Remember to start small, experiment and learn to build your marketing automation machine. – Dave Hengartner, rready

7. Address The Customer’s Needs And Wants

Focus on your customer and what they want. No prospective customer wants your products and services. What they really want are the results your products and services are going to deliver them. Your “shiny stuff” is actually friction in the way of getting what they want. In fact, people only become customers because they believe you can help them get what they want. So in all of your marketing materials, copy and social posts, make the content about the customer. Specifically, make it about what your customer wants and how they can get it. What works really well is to use your marketing to educate your target customer and help them solve real problems in advance of trying to sell to them. This naturally generates goodwill and trust in your marketplace and makes selling much easier. – Joe Stolte, The Tractionology Group

8. Get Professional Help

It is OK to ask for help in areas where you do not have expertise. The world of marketing is diverse and broad. To even start thinking of where to start and where to focus your energy is difficult enough. Trying to be good at all areas is impossible. Think of marketing like any part of your business; get the expert in and things will move forward much more easily and your chances of success will dramatically improve. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

9. Have Patience And Give It Time

With marketing initiatives, you need to have patience. Marketing is about experimenting and ultimately finding the right recipe for success. It doesn’t happen overnight. We often lose interest or give up too quickly because the initial results aren’t exactly what we expected. When it comes to marketing, though, you have to create a synergy between your audience, the message, the offer, the channel, the timing and more. Rather than giving up completely, look at what’s working and do more of that rather than giving up on the whole initiative. Good marketing takes time. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS

Janelle B. Smith

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