So there are a number of ways to market a product and certainly no golden goose, ultimate key or five easy steps to follow.
The only thing that we have learned is that people connect with stories. More specifically stories in which they are in and that they are the hero of.
The customer is the hero of that story and you serve only as they’re guide.
In our business our goal is to take the learner from stage one (or whatever stage/level they might be) and guide them to a level of fluency they wish to acquire. So, our marketing must be geared to this end.
On the practical side of things and away from the messaging, we make the ‘standard’ marketing efforts, email list building and send outs, Facebook Ads, referrals (although we want to get better at this), Twitter, IG, YouTube, shout outs on the Podcast etc.
Most of our current marketing efforts come in the form of ‘brand building’.
We have found that brand building is one of the most important factors in building a small business. Making sure you bring enough value to your customers that makes your business worthy of remark. Being consistent enough in your approach to allow people to to trust what your business stands for and what quality they can expect.
Sometimes, this means just doing something for long enough to build trust and respect.
In our case, we have been operating a YouTube channel and launching relatively consistent videos since 2016. I say ‘relatively’ because we had 2 children in between that time so had a bit of an on and off relationship with the business during 2016 and 17.
We have run a popular podcast for the last 18 months which has grown from 4k listens in 2018 to over 50k in 2019. We are hoping to break that again this year. For the last 6 months and since we opened the Patreon account we have been plugging the site. We have seen a great increase in traffic off the back of this effort.
We have had emails from people who like listening to our podcast to help them escape a day of stress. From single mothers who are skilling up and learning Chinese whilst taking care of their young ones.
In addition to this our products has increased as we are now providing private Mandarin lessons online.
Every time you do something for FREE within your field of expertise that legitimately helps someone you are building brand. It may not feel like it as you aren’t paying the bills short term with doing something like a podcast. But you are building a strong foundation for trust and a large potential customer base.
We have made so many friends and now know so many people in different walks of life just through building the brand. You never know.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
Recently, we had a new member of our team join us. A very Texan lady named Darian who is also a language learner and a private student. She is a coding wizard and wanted to invest and join the team. To this end, we have joined up and are making an app based on a game we regularly play in the hangouts.
We will have a working MVP by the end of January in which we want to send out to our Patrons and Hangouteers (people in our group lessons) for testing and feedback then get the full release version prepped and ready for launch.
Our partnership with Darian is a blessing and shows what I have been discussing above. Relationships you build in your business are super valuable for the future.
Personal note: I have also recently bought an online course on Udemy to talk me through how to build an App on iOS from the ground up. I feel it’s useful that, even though I may not code the app myself, I understand the process and some of what pains Darian will be going through in pre and post build. This app is only the tip of the iceberg in our plans.
So this is an area we are currently working on. Our sales process is solid and as soon as our marketing efforts provide an interested party we have a very high close rate.
But business development, being extremely important for any business that wishes to prosper past the initial honeymoon phase needs to be done and needs to be done well.
Our sales process develops as we grow and make and create new services, around each of our products we have to create new sales processes. With our private lessons we have this process in concrete and am just working on some of the fees we incur processing payments. Nothing we cannot get over.
We use Hubspot as a CRM (Contact/Customer Relationship Management) and have been working with it recently to update and progress future customers.
Although I believe that we are at a too early stage to be committing to investors it never hurts to be aware and to think over the possibilities.
I thought to myself, If someone offered $1,000,000 as an investment into the company, where would be put that money? Where would you put that money?
I thought this was a good thought exercise in seeing how we would expand the companies reach and also to plan for the future.
There are a number of things we have considered…
Marketing – We would want to increase our current marketing budget by ten/twenty fold to reach as many people as possible. On FB and IG alone. More traditional forms of marketing ‘old school’ billboard marketing can also be effective, but for our audience not quite so.
Sales – More money going into finding new students and better and more effective funnel management.
Tech – People and resources to join Darian and her team.
Equipment & Facilities – An upgrade to our current studio set up would be great and having a dedicated area to make the content we want to produce, including a green screen and Vlogging room and separate sound proofed studio.
Staff – This would be the most important of them all. Assistance with planning, scheduling, editing, teaching, design, delivery, sales and a bunch more. The majority of the money would go into finding people better than us in certain areas to grow out the weaker areas of our business.
One of the keys to success and growing out your business is help. You need help. The sooner you can check your ego at the door and ask for help the sooner you will be able to watch your budding business grow into fully fledged enterprise. We are learning this swiftly.
What help do you need? That’s for you to analyse and decide. For us, it’s the above.