(This is a guest post by Jesse Walker of Inbound Bistro.)
If you run a small business, and I’m talking itsy-bitsy small, then you have all kinds of challenges marketing online that other businesses do not. If your revenue is less than $100,000 USD per year then your marketing budget is probably less than $1000 a month. Now most online marketing agencies have an entry point of $2000/month because they believe it is simply impossible to make much progress with less budget than this.
I like to test that hypothesis whenever possible.
As an itsy-bitsy entity you have all sorts of advantages that your behemoth cousins do not. For one thing your competitors are also of diminutive stature. Most micro-businesses only bother with a quick, brochure style, website. Then they forget about online marketing all together.
A teensy-weensy effort is infinitely better than no effort at all. With a few hours and few dollars a month you will be able to outshine 90% of your competitors.
So where do you begin?
A Networking Recipe for the Micro Business using Link Prospector
Link Prospector is a tool that is designed primarily for link building. In this recipe, however, we are going to use the tool to prospect for high impact networking opportunities. Links will be built along the way. But the ultimate goal is the relationship and all the benefits it can provide (word-of-mouth customer acquisition, guest posting opportunities, social media promotion, traffic to your site and direct links).
The goal of this recipe is to develop relationships with influencers. We are not, in this recipe, trying to develop relationships with customers directly. Rather we are trying to develop relationships with those have influence over our target customer.
Find, follow and comment on the blogs of influencers as an entry point into developing a relationship with them.
- Builds alliances with bloggers who have the ear of your customers.
- Increased traffic to your site and social profiles through the links attached to your comments.
- Direct SEO benefit that is derived from the link juice of the links attached to your comments.
WHO IS THIS RECIPE FOR?:
- Especially useful for the marketer or business owner without much time or resources to devote to marketing.
- But is broadly useful for most any business.
- A few Link Prospector credits
- Someone willing to commit 1 hr of time per week who is capable of reading and meaningfully conversing in blog comment fields.
Step 1: Who are the people in your neighborhood? (…and what do they like)
Who are your customers? Where do they live? What do they like to read about? If you have a marketing persona document this is the time to dust it off and put it to good use. If you don’t have one, no worries, use your brain and write down a list. Write down a list of geographic terms that describe the area(s) that your customers live. Then write down a list of things they may enjoy reading about.
It is important to expand your list of customer interests beyond the industry in which you are trying to market. For instance if you are chocolatier then of course your customers are going to be interested in chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate bars and probably chocolate fountains. Now brainstorm some tangential interests, like traveling to Europe, wine, or snickers bars.
If you have extra time and want to get fancy I’d highly recommend using the techniques outlined in this blog entry by Ian Lurie about finding random affinities. Did you know that people who like chocolate are more likely than the average person to be interested in Tomatoes? How about Chuck Taylor All-Stars!?
Example of Step 1: I will use my client I Think I Can Fitness as an example throughout. They are an in-home personal training business. Their service area is the greater twin cities area. Their client base is largely 30+ urban professionals, 70% women.
Our Geographic List includes: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Twin Cities
Our Interest List includes:
- Obvious: Personal Training, Fitness
- Tangential: Running, Weight Loss, Healthy Eating, Bicycling, Yoga
- Random (found by using Ian Lurie’s techniques): Time-Saving Cooking Recipes, Pregnancy, and Garth Ranzz (the electricity generating superhero from DC comics).
Having fun yet?
Step 2: Set up your First Link Prospector report
Next setup the specifics of your Link Prospector report as follows:
- Get a Link Prospector account, login and buy a few credits (5 should be plenty for now and will run you $10)
- Create your Campaign
- Find Prospects
- Set ‘report-type’ to commenting.
- Enter your report name
- Select your Country
- Set ‘search-scope’ to blog results.
- Set ‘Depth’ to 20.
- Set TLD to any.
- Set date range to ‘past year’.
- Select and input your research phrases. I’d recommend trying to use a geographic keyword combined with a good mix of obvious, tangential and random affinities.
- Click Submit
- Go learn about Garth Ranzz while you wait a few minutes for your report to be processed.
STEP 3: SKULK AROUND AND MAKE A LIST
After your report is completed the most fun part of process begins. You are going to make a list of blogs to comment on. Don’t jump right into the commenting just yet. Build your list first and then do the commenting in Step 4. Build your list as follows:
- Sort your list by LTS (Link Target Score). LTS is a measurement derived from how often a given domain appeared in the searches conducted by Link Prospector to produce your report. A high relative LTS will tend to correlate with a large readership as well as lots of linking power. Domains on the top of the list are likely to be the influencers we are looking to connect with.
- Visit each blog and give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.
- In order to give the blog the thumbs up it must relevant, interesting, and of high quality.
- Relevant: The blog must be written by someone local to your target area or have substantial content about your target area (one or two posts is not enough).
- Interesting: The topic of the blog has to be something you are interested in and feel comfortable conversing about.
- Quality: The blog cannot be spam-laden, abandoned or otherwise of questionable quality.
Continue down your Link Prospector list until you get 10 thumbs up and make your list.
For I Think I Can Fitness about half of the blogs that I reviewed met my criteria. So to come up with my list I reviewed about 20 blogs which took me about an hour. If after you review your first 5 blogs you have not found at least 2 to go on your list go back and try another prospecting query.
It may take a few tries to lock into blogs that fit you and your business.
STEP 4: Start Commenting!
Now you have a list. Set aside one hour a week of your undivided attention. Set up an RSS feed reader with a special category for these blogs. Keep up to date on new posts and become a regular on the blog. Comment on those posts that are interesting to you. If you get a reply from the author score one for your team!
Even more important than commenting is following up once you get a reply. Keep the conversation going. Interact with the author on your social media accounts. Get to know them and encourage them. Send them business if possible. You are building an ally.
If you spend a month or two commenting and nothing is happening (no attention from the author or the readers of the blog) then you may want to replace this blog with a new blog. Just use another link prospector credit to run a new search with different research phrases.
After several months of this one hour per week effort I predict you will see some real benefits in the form of:
- Links to your site
- Offers to guest post on high profile blogs (more links to your site)
- Customer referrals
- Comments and interaction on your own blog
- Social media attention from the author
But don’t focus too much on any one of these benefits or you’ll come off as self-serving. Be interested. Be generous. Make people feel good and you can’t help but benefit from their goodwill.
(Note: If you need help with Link Prospector you can always check out its FAQ page and I’d be happy to help as well: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jesse C. Walker loves to help people to get more business than they can possibly handle. The site of his fledgling marketing group, Inbound Bistro, is under construction (as of Dec. 2012), and will soon be a fully operational battle station.