You have your business goal and you’ve figured out where your home base is. The next step is to think about how to reach potential customers online. I’m assuming you already have a good idea of who your potential customer is (what they’re looking for, what benefits your product offers, etc.). There are many different ways to find and connect with potential customers and different ones will work better in certain circumstances and for different industries, products, etc. Here are a few to think about:
- Industry Publications – Most publications have a website these days (or should). Take a look to see if there are ways to connect with potential customers through the publication (forums, discussion boards, social networks, enewsletters, display advertising, etc.). Some may be free and others may require an advertising fee (which may be worth it if they can target your market).
- Industry Forums & Websites – Industry publications may have their own forums, but there may also be independently run forums where you can connect with potential customers.
- Industry Associations – Many industry associations will have a website, online networking, discussion boards, etc. that may provide you with leads.
- Display Advertising – Whether on industry publications or other websites, look for places that you can target your intended customers (with the right message and a landing page, of course).
- Affiliate Marketing – Affiliate marketing is often some of the most efficient in terms of advertising. You can join affiliate networks such as PepperJam, ShareASale, LinkShare, Commission Junction, provide your own creatives (ads) and only pay when customers buy your products (or give you a lead). Many affiliate networks also require a startup cost for advertisers, but they still can be a very cost-effective way of reaching your target audience.
- Search Engine Advertising – Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the major players. You basically pay for clicks on your ads which you target by keywords. You can also pay for just the actual sales, although usually for higher cost, but possibly better payoff.
- Email Marketing – Hopefully you have your own list of emails that you’re allowed to send information to (please follow CAN-SPAN laws). If not, you can purchase a list from a reputable company which will ensure that the emails follow the regulations. Most reputable companies will also target the list for you based on categories. Look for reviews and information for any vendor you choose, as well as their clickthrough rates, size of list and cost.
- Social Media– One of the most cost effective marketing tactics in terms of dollars, although it does take a bit of time. Take a look at where your potential customers are hanging out online. While the major social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook may be good starting points, also take a look to see if there are smaller, more targeted networks for your audience.
- Blogs – Most industries have bloggers who write about what’s going on. Take a look at the ones in your industry and see if there’s a way to connect with customers through them. Many bloggers offer advertising on their site, but you can also offer to do guest posts for free or other ways leveraging their audience.
- Etc. – And many more…
This is not meant as an all-encompassing list. There certainly are many ways to connect with potential customers, but this should give you a good starting point to find the best 3-5 ways for your own company. Once you narrow down your list, you’ll be able to concentrate on message for each channel (or way) and how to use the channel to get leads (or sales) on your home base. Our next topic will be using these 3-5 channels.
How do you reach potential customers online?