Understanding and getting started in the marketing game

This article is a part of the series that I am writing on marketing while learning and implementing it in public. Learn more about it here.

Any act of communication between a business and the outside world is marketing.

  • Our landing page
  • Our social media post
  • Our offers
  • Our product

Everything is marketing.

In words of marketing guru Peter Drucker - "Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy."

To get a customer to buy, there are two crucial steps that marketing should do -

1. Improve reach

Improve discoverability and awareness about the business to increase reach.

2. Build trust

Build a level of trust that the potential customers feel comfortable getting in to a relationship (become a user of the product).


Digging deeper into reach

Marketing activities for trust and reach

Here are a few marketing activities that can improve reach and discoverability.

1. Content Marketing

Before we look for specific means and tactics of doing content marketing. Let's understand why it works.

At the very core of the internet is inter-linked content. Whether you do a query on search engines, scroll through feed on social media or watch videos on youtube, even the journey to getting to utility products starts with searching and engaging with content.

People are looking for content that does atleast one of these two things -

  1. Educate them - They want to be educated on the problems that they have
  2. Entertain them - They want to be entertained

In marketing, when they say provide value to attract customers, they mean either educate them or entertain them.

Good marketing either educates or entertains potential customers.

When people relevant to our domain look for the solution to their problems, we have to be present there with our content. This makes our business inbound discoverable. It is also the most valuable, meaningful and long term result yielding form of marketing.

Of course, this needs a deep understanding of what our customers are looking for and where they are looking for it.

🛑 Taking this approach of marketing has a few deterrents -

  1. We have to really know what our customers are looking for and where.
  2. It's a long game. It takes about 6-9 months for this effort to start producing results.
  3. Producing good content consistently without seeing immediate success is hard.

📈 That said, it also has multifold advantages -

  1. The more content we produce, the larger the compounding effect is. Over a period of time, small gains accumulate and result in massive traffic.
  2. Just the act of producing content and seeing which one performs well give us insight into our customers which is extremely valuable to base our business and product strategies on.
  3. When we educate, it builds trust with potential customers, which we will talk about in the next section.

At an execution level, there are many tactics which I will write about in detail as I go about implementing them.

Action steps
  1. Understand what our customers are looking for and where

    • It dictates topics and media that we produce content on. E.g. Blog, Podcast, Videos etc.
    • Come up with a list of places we should distribute content
  2. Produce content that educates or entertains

    • Has short term gains through our content distribution channels like social media
    • Results in better SEO, better discoverability in long term.

There are levers that we can use here to amplify our reach. For example, standing on the shoulder of giants to distribute content.

  • Guest posting
  • Appearing on podcasts

2. Ads

Publishing ads on various platforms can result in quick, short-term discoverability. It's good to try it out and see the results.

It does its job of making our business discoverable but it doesn't really build any trust.

Action steps
  • Find out which platforms does our customers hangout on
  • Play around with running ads, analyze results and iterate

3. Events

There is a range of events from product launches to webinars that help in improving visibility.

A product launch, done right, puts us in front of the customers. It's not a sustainable stream of traffic but is good to get the word out.

Webinars are a great opportunity to educate people, results in content that we can use over and over. Gives facetime with customers and can be immensely valuable to them.

There are some other ways of becoming more discoverable e.g. PR, affiliates, influencer marketing etc. I am skipping going in detail about them right now.


2. Building trust

People buy stuff from the businesses that they trust. Trust is built by being honest, caring, listening, being vulnerable, showing proof/reviews/endorsements from others, being helpful and even seeking help.

Once potential customers discover our product, they are seeking reasons on how it solves their problem and why they should trust us.

On the internet, following are the ways to build trust.

1. Landing page.

Landing page is our opportunity to show that we understand their problem and have a solution. Show how the product solves their problems and how it has worked for others.

Potential customers want to feel resonance. Our copy should make them say - "Aah! this is exactly what I have been looking for." It's as if we were listening to their problem one-to-one. Make them feel listened to.

Action steps
  • Deeply understand what the potential customer's pain points are and show how our product solves them. It makes them feel listened.
  • Make it easy for them to understand how our product works.
  • Make it look decent enough that it doesn't look spammy.
  • Make it easy for them to find and understand the exact details of our product.

2. Email marketing

Once a potential customer discovers us, they might like what they see but might not buy our product right away. At this point, we must offer them some value in exchange of their email. For e.g. an ebook, access to webinar etc.

We can use this email list to consistently educate, entertain, update and engage them.

It's all about providing value here. A good way to think about value here again is simply - educate or entertain them through emails.

3. Take a stand

Another good way of building trust is to take a stand. We must communicate what we stand for and do it emphatically.

It shows that we care for something larger than our business. That we are a vehicle of change and that we are fighting a status quo. It makes people passionate about what we are doing. They identify with the business more.

Good ways of doing this -

  1. Run a campaign

    Put a dedicated page on website on what we stand for and what we are doing to make the change happen.

    A brilliant example of this is Patagonia, a clothing company, putting a section of wornwear on their website, to cut down consumption. It shows that they truly stand for the environment and the planet.

  2. Build a community

    Build a space for people who care about the cause that we stand for, to come together and help each other. Build that townhall which brings people together under a roof, be a unifying force. It shows that we care for a change in the world and are willing to help people who want to participate in the change.

    Building community they say is not a marketing strategy but a business strategy. We should do it because we really care for this particular cause deeply. It again shows that we have a soul as a business and actually care.

Action steps
  • Come up with a strong "why". Craft a good, easy to remember message.
  • If we can afford to put time, money, energy into building a community. Do it.
  • If not, atleast write and talk about it. Have a dedicated section for it.

4. Show proof

One of the most powerful tools in building trust is an endorsement. That is why word-of-mouth and product reviews work.

People trust referrals and endorsements and stories of success. Show testimonials, videos of how our product has helped others.

Action steps
  • Write success stories. Put it on the landing page and it also doubles up as a piece of content that we can circulate.
  • Make videos of successful customers telling their story.

Application

Let's apply the concepts above to AltCampus to decide what I need to do to play the marketing game.

Improving reach

1. Content marketing

  • I have a really good understanding still deeply understand and document what are the pain points of our customers. Talk to potential customers to do this.

  • I need to come up with the type of content, both media and topics, that would address those pain points.

  • Pull in resources to make sure that we can consistently produce quality content.

  • Make a list of place where I should distribute the content in order to reach them.

2. Ads

We haven't thought about running ads. We are open to it but just not in our scheme of things right now.

3. Events

  • Check the feasibility of running a webinar where we teach beginners.

Building trust

1. Improve landing page

Our landing page - https://altcampus.school looks decent and has basics in place so that's a good start. But that said, the current website doesn't show the solution of all the pain points that our target audience has.

We can do a better job of addressing some concerns like whether they have option of being in a batch or is it completely self-paced.

  • Ask for feedback from potential customers and outsiders.

  • Clear ambiguity around batch vs self.

  • Maybe have a explainer video on how the platform looks like and how training happens.

  • We don't have a form to collect email addresses. Let's put it in there.

2. Email marketing

We send transactional mails but that's about it. We have close to 4k subscribers from our offline program website but we haven't send a single newsletters yet. 🤦‍♂️ Obviously we need to fix that.

  • Setup email marketing and send one email newsletter this week where we educate and update our subscribers.

3. Take a stand

We know what we stand for. We stand for building a world full of skilled, employable people and help them be creators using the power of code. This doesn't seem super refined though. And because messaging is everything I need to work on this.

  • Come up with a clear, crisp, easy to remember, and singular "why".

  • Can we run a campaign? What could it be? Maybe publicly brainstorm this.

I have been super passionate about communities since my formative years. And we want to help more people learn programming skills and become creators. Its evident that we build a strong community.

  • Learn about how to approach building a community, break it down into steps and work towards the very first step.

4. Endorsements and proof

We have done a very poor job of communicating this so far. Our current website doesn't highlight our success in running the offline program.

In the name of testimonials, we just have a few sentences from 5-6 of our alumni. I know that those few sentences are not conveying the entirety of impact that AltCampus has had.

Damn, why haven't we told our stories? We need to improve this.

  • Have a dedicated section for our success stories on our website. Write stories of our successful students and highlight it on our landing page.

5. Failures

We have tried to put up a strong, successful face and have shied away from talking about our failures. But now that I truly understand marketing I want to be as transparent as possible and show our vulnerable side too.

I want to talk about our failures, dissect and learn from the failures and see if we can still convert them into success stories.

  • Write about at least one of our failures in the upcoming week.

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻


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🙋‍♂️ I am currently learning marketing and sharing it publicly on Twitter and through this website.

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