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Ed Andriessen of the Mercer Institute at NJBIA’s Small Business Network meeting Sept. 13.

“The scary part about the modern digital consumer is that they are evolving faster than you are,” says Ed Andriessen of the Mercer Institute.

He’s in a position to know; his business is marketing for small businesses. Yesterday he joined about 30 professionals at the law firm of Hill Wallack to be part of NJBIA’s Small Business Network meeting and share some of what he has learned.

Andriessen’s presentation was entitled “Cost Effective Lead Generation & Management for the Small Business,” but instead of offering tips right off the bat, he began with what he called necessities. “This isn’t so much a strategy as things you need to have in your business.”

According to Andriessen, these six things are essential to do business in the digital world.

1. Define your market.

Defining your market is nothing more than identifying whom you want to sell to. While you may want to market to everyone, Andriessen urges businesses to hone in on two or three groups that are likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

“It’s much less expensive to choose a specific market and market to them,” Andriessen said. “You’ll learn their language and you will wind up being more successful because they are more responsive.”

Then, begin asking questions about your target customers: What are their ages? Do they have families? Where do they live? How do they get their information? What’s their buying process? All of this should be written down as your ideal client or market.

“Once you have that, you can make good decisions about your marketing,” Andriessen said.

2. Describe your products and services

Can you describe your business in one sentence?

Andriessen describes his this way: “I help small businesses get more customers from the internet.”  That’s it.

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Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get it right away; it’s tougher than it seems.  “It actually took me several months to hone it down to that,” he says.

Nevertheless, a clear, concise description is essential to cut through all of the media clutter that consumers are hit with today. Trying to cram everything into one sentence or using a lot of jargon and buzzwords will just get ignored.

Eventually, you will want to describe what you do or what you sell more specifically, but focus in on just a few things to start so you don’t lose prospects’ attention. You can always follow up with more details later, but first, you have to get and hold that potential lead’s interest.

3. Create a professional-looking media kit

Once you have a clear description, you can put it on different media to get your message to your customers: brochures, your website, other websites, emails, even good old-fashioned snail mail.

Andriessen stresses that businesses should use professionals for this step. “Business materials that are made on Microsoft Publisher look like it,” he said. “They don’t look professional.”

Use professional graphic artists, writers and printers. Plenty of services are available that are not as expensive as many businesses think.

“People will judge you based upon the materials that they see,” Andriessen explained. “The digital consumer nowadays is making lots of comparisons, so make your materials look as good as possible.”

4.Create a prospect list

A prospect list is a list of people with the characteristics or demographics you described in your ideal client page. You can get them through the internet or through the Yellow Pages. Or, you can buy a list.

 

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Companies can put together a list based on criteria a business gives them. “It’s like magic,” Andriessen says.

Once you have a target market, you can email them. You can find out where they hang out so you can go meet them and speak to them. There are plenty of strategies, but you need the prospect list first.

5. Update your website

If you haven’t updated your website in a while, you are missing out. Older websites are not compatible with smart phones; that is, they don’t look right unless you’re on your computer.

Andriessen says today more people—around 55 percent—access their websites to look at products from the cell phone rather than on a desk top computer.  So if you’re website is not compatible for mobile phones, consumers are just going to move on to the next one.

Your website should have a blog option so you can easily update it yourself, and an email capture, where viewers are asked to sign up to receive information or special deals. A website by itself is just an advertisement on the internet, Andriessen said. With a blog, you can add information to your website without having any technical background, and email captures will get you new prospects to work on

6. Learn and use email management

Which brings us to email marketing.

“I implore businesses to start learning about email management and using email marketing as a tool,” Andriessen said. “The return on investment for email marketing is astounding: You make $57 for every $1 that you spend.”

There is a learning curve, he says, and it costs $15 to $20 per month.  But once it’s in place, you have an instant marketing vehicle.  Andriessen says any time you have an event or a promotion, or you just need to drum up some extra business, all you have to do is send an email and ask your customers and your prospects to do business with you.