The Untapped Marketing Opportunity Hiding in Plain Sight – Melinda Emerson

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I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and went to Virginia Tech for my undergrad as a journalism major. My first job out of college was working at a local broadcast news station. A year later I received the dream call to the big leagues to work for the NBC station in Philadelphia, PA. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a producer at 23 years old, which made me the youngest producer in a top 5 media market. It sounds like a dream come true but what I quickly realized is I didn’t love the job. I stuck it out for 5 years before leaving to start my own company, with a laptop, fax machine, and a dream. A couple of years into my business, I won a minority business competition which set the business on an aggressive growth path.

Fast-forward to 2008, I wrote the first edition of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months to provide other small business owners with the insights I learned. However, my timing couldn’t have been worse, given the market crash that happened that Fall. The publisher decided to shelve the book for 18 months and not publish it until March of 2010. At the time I had a friend who encouraged me to start promoting the book and see if I could leverage social media, which was still in its infancy. With my last few dollars, I hired a publicist and she recommended we build my author brand on Twitter and I remember saying to her, what is Twitter. Today, with thousands of posts and close to 300k followers, we now know that was one of the best branding moves we could have made.

The first challenge I give anyone who tells me they want to start a business is they need to think about what they want from that business and why they want it. You don’t want to trade one life-sucking job for another and you also need to be honest about what skills you have and those you don’t. No matter what type of business you’re interested in starting, I recommend working for another company in that industry before you venture out on your own. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to launch a new business and realize afterward that you hate that line of work. I also believe in side hustles. Continue to work your full-time job while you launch your new business on the side, because it takes 12 to 18 months just to break even.

To market your business effectively and not waste ad dollars, you first have to determine who your ideal customers are. Then research what type of media platforms they are active on. In most cases, if you are a service-based business targeting consumers, Facebook is the primary platform for you. A great way to lose money is to buy your own marketing ads unless that is your area of expertise. The reason is you will waste a lot more money trying to figure out how to run successful campaigns than the fees you’ll pay to hire someone that already understands how to do it.

Today’s customers expect that your business has a website, plus you should have an email marketing system, and a CRM platform to keep track of it all. The CRM is crucial because an existing customer is 60% to 70% more likely to do business with you again whereas a new lead is only 5% to 20%. I heard a statistic the other day that anyone on your email list is worth at least $1 but a customer in your email list is worth $15. So treat the people that have already chosen to do business with you like gold and let them know about specials or new services you offer. It is foolish to keep spending money on acquiring new leads while you let customers that already purchased from you walk out the door and never hear from you again.

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