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Dissecting an effective online marketing strategy for a small business

Recently I was on YouTube browsing videos. I came across a couple guitar videos in my recommendations based on previous videos I had viewed. Being an aficionado of classic rock, I quickly clicked on a video showing the 10 best guitar solos by Eddie Van Halen.

Before the video played of course, there was a paid advertisement. As I naturally started to move my thumb over the “Skip Now” button, I heard something said that made me quickly draw my thumb back and watch more. After several minutes, I found myself not only still watching intently, but also clicking on the ad to learn more.

After watching the ad and eventually purchasing the product, I began reflecting on the marketing strategy that led me to the decision to purchase. The following is a breakdown of what I consider to have been a very effective online marketing strategy. The strategy is broken down into three phases: messaging, marketing funnel, brand design. For this article, I will focus on messaging.

Develop effective messaging

Along with solid brand design, effective messaging is one of the fundamental necessities for successful marketing. Without knowing your market, customers, and the value you offer, your marketing is likely to fall flat and your business will suffer, no matter how great your product or service is.

The following are a few of the most important strategies to developing effective messaging so that your customers will also stop and listen like I did.

Determine your target audience and address their “pain points”

The video ad was just a guy, holding his guitar and speaking directly to the camera. It was likely shot with an iPhone and didn’t have any fancy graphics or animations. But what it did have was a message that spoke directly to me, as if the guy had read my mind.

“Do you ever get tired of playing the same old boring songs, riffs, or scales you always play?” Why, yes. Yes I do. I have tried playing guitar for over 10 years and at most I know a hand full of songs and a few riffs. I have since gotten bored of never progressing beyond that and stopped playing for over a year. The guy went on: “Have you ever felt like you just hit a wall or you’re stuck in a rut with your progress?” Absolutely! “Do you ever feel lost, frustrated, or even intimidated when trying to learn from YouTube videos, courses, or books – especially since you can’t ask questions?” Now I was hooked. He had just expressed to me clearly every feeling of frustration I have ever had about playing guitar – so much so, that I had long since given up.

He could have instead started the video, “Learn how to become a guitar master with our awesome online courses!” This would have also described the product he was offering, but wouldn’t have made me stop to want to learn more. The way he started the video by tapping into the feelings of frustration I had resonated with me much more emotionally, thereby drawing my attention.

A target customer persona was clearly defined, along with pain points that addressed basic needs. There’s a hierarchy of basic needs that every person has (self-actualization, self-esteem, need to belong, love, affection, safety, health) and if marketing can tap into the higher level needs, it is much more likely to draw the attention of the customer. The video had addressed my need to for self-actualization – the realization or fulfillment of my potential as a guitarist. I know I have the ability to play guitar, but just don’t have the process to help get me to the level I want to be at. People won’t buy his course because they want to learn scales and music theory. They will buy his course because they want to feel empowered and regain the joy of playing music.

Don’t be just another salesman, become a trusted guide

Another question likely in the minds of your customer is, why should I trust this person selling me his product? This was addressed later on in the video. After talking about all the ways his course can help, he told a story about how he too, a guitarist of many years, was in the same rut with his guitar playing and even gave up at one point. He then became determined to find a solution and after years of work, finally developed his guitar training method so that he could help himself and eventually others. This story helps the customer to see him not just as someone trying to sell them something, but rather as a trusted guide whose goal is to help others have the same breakthrough with their guitar training as he did. He also then went on to discuss real case studies of others (showing photos, names, and quotes) who had taken his course and had experienced the same benefits, thereby further solidifying the legitimacy of his product through the use of social proof.

Demonstrate value

He made sure to talk about the years of work that went into developing the product. In this case, he discussed the years of work that went into developing his training method. He also described the great progress he made when using the same training himself. Putting a human face behind the product and visualizing the amount of time and effort that went into it increases the value tremendously and with it, the likelihood that customers will be willing to buy.

Qualify the customer

To create more loyalty to a product, you can encourage customers to feel that they are part of a select tribe. In this case, he went on to explain that this training isn’t for everyone. It is for those who are serious about getting better at guitar and have a real passion for music. Of course, this doesn’t really limit the amount of customers who would potentially buy his product, but it does help to qualify those who are more likely to buy at this time and more importantly to make them feel as if they belong to an exclusive group of guitarists who are serious about music, serious enough to but this product.

Create a sense of urgency

No matter how interested we are in purchasing a product, unless presented with some sense of urgency, people are likely to procrastinate. It doesn’t mean they don’t want the product, it just means they don’t feel they need to purchase it this second. To counteract this, we can present customer with a sense of urgency to make the purchase now instead of waiting and risking the chance that they forget or move on to purchasing from a competitor. In this example, the offer was provided to purchase now at a “limited time only” discounted price. He could have also included additional items for a limited time that were only available if the purchase was made now, thereby giving the perception that the customer would risk losing out on extra value if they waited to make the purchase.

Remove any sense of risk involved with the purchase

Even though a customer wants to buy a product, it can sometimes be difficult to push that button to finalize the purchase. There’s always the doubt in the back of one\’s mind: “What if it doesn’t work for me?” “What if I try it try it and don’t like it?” To counteract these natural thoughts from your customers, it is helpful to provide an offer that eliminates any doubt such as a money-back guarantee. If your customer tries your product and decides it’s not for them, give them the option to return it, no questions asked, and receive a full refund. It will be extremely rare that, if your product does indeed deliver on its promises, you will ever have a customer asking for a refund. In the meantime, you will gain many more customers due to providing them relief from their doubts about making the purchase. And it of course goes without saying that if you are selling online, you provide an easy and secure payment process that guarantees the security of your customer’s billing information.

You have created great messaging for your business… now what?

Once you have created effective messaging to present to your customers, you can now use it to create a marketing funnel to lead your customers to purchase. A marketing funnel is a way of breaking down the customer journey all the way from the “awareness” stage (when they first learn about your business) to the “purchase” stage (when they\’re ready to buy your product or service). In the second part of this article, I will describe the marketing funnel that was used very effectively to sell the online guitar course and how the messaging was applied consistently throughout.

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