Marketing on the Web has become a fundamental skill that all entrepreneurs must master. The Web has become a powerful and ubiquitous platform, that women entrepreneurs need to know how to use it to reach their target audiences. Tracey De Leeuw is an Internet marketing expert who has been using the Web as a marketing platform since its early days. Today, she runs an eBusiness consulting site http://www.smartspeed.ca to help other small business entrepreneurs learn how to navigate the Web to communicate and reach their markets.Tracey has created a video series entitled “40 WAYS to sell online FREE (or under $ 40)” on internet marketing and growth activities for small businesses. She will soon launch an online marketplace for small businesses selling services with Bizdrive.biz, which aims to offer outstanding value for women in business who want to increase sales and reduce costs for their business.
We talked with Tracey on her internet marketing tips for women entrepreneurs:
How did you start in Internet marketing?
My first Internet marketing effort was in November of 1993. I was marketing a software training video series by posting to newsgroups to test the viability of Internet eCommerce. It was barely an acceptable practice back then, so I discovered, but it was effective. The test results spawned an idea in 1994 to create one of the first b2b2c commerce sites so others could market and sell online.
I partnered with Royal Bank of Canada, Canada Post, and a telephone company from Manitoba and built the marketing and sales system. Imagine evangelizing Internet marketing when few knew what the Internet was or its commercial potential?
My first company was too early. Since then, I’ve been studying Internet marketing and sharing my insights and ideas with strategy clients and C Suites and entrepreneurs.
Over the past 6 years I’ve been using and integrating a suite of Internet marketing tools into a b2b2c commerce platform for small businesses (specialist and local service providers so they can market and sell online).
Can you briefly describe the work that you have been doing with regards to online marketing and small businesses?
My work focuses on helping large and small business reach new customers, sell more and do it more profitably with inexpensive Internet marketing techniques and technology. I come up with innovative ideas on how to apply tools and tricks. I love finding easy and low cost tools that help differentiate, or weaving small business software and business ‘best practice’ together. I am passionate about Internet marketing (as a means to an end), increased sales and sustainable relationships. I focus on secure transactions that build longstanding service engagements. I focus on attraction, retention, referral and repeat business objectives online.
To help small businesses increase sales online – I did a 40 tip video series http://www.bizdrive.biz/prereg/40-40/ covering the 40 marketing and sales activities (FREE or under $ 40 each) that I think a small business should consider. 25% of these videos are focused on Internet marketing; the remainder focus on growing Internet sales, network monetization and business growth.
From your experience, what do you think is the most common mistake of small business entrepreneurs with regards to Internet marketing?
The biggest mistake might be underestimating the power of harnessing Internet marketing. Clearly ‘internet entrepreneurs’ – those with new business models understand the opportunities – but dog walkers, hair stylists, home service providers, wellness practitioners and other ‘traditional’ service business entrepreneurs often overlook the power of being ‘popular’ or an information leader in the online community.
They need to be where their customers are; and communicate as their customers want them to, with info integral to the research, purchase and relationship activities their customers are engaging in online.
As a marketing guideline to begin, I suggest playing to ones strengths. Replicate offline activities that work – online. If referrals offline help you – get them working for you on Facebook. If signs work – try banners. If power points sell – try video bios. If being the ‘local expert’ is your thing, be that online in local communities. Compete online as you do offline.
How important is online networking for small businesses?
Online networking is becoming more important by the minute. A small business must be found online in a very noisy web world and the way to do that is to be connected to and through all the natural networks related to the person, the product and the business.
If you are a seamstress who makes costumes and you are not connected to the theatre, dance and performance communities, and advertising on Craigslist and Facebook – someone else is taking your business opportunities everyday and you are unaware.
Natural networks include existing customers, past clients, colleagues, family, friends, sports and leisure groups, business networking, chambers of commerce, professional organizations and other people that might like your service, value or knowledge enough to give you a referral.
What tactics, tools and strategies should be included in the online marketing campaigns of small businesses?
Internet marketing tactics need to stress repetitive, high value, differentiated and targeted messages. It’s never the tool – but what you do with it. Use Internet marketing tools of every type to learn, try and test. Tools for communication and content creation and distribution, married with monitoring and measuring tools, fosters conversations, learning and marketing focus.
Strategy: Be found. To be found, a business must jump into all types of new and targeted (related) communities, where customers might be hanging out. Be generous with your insights, be many (use your staff and partners), be consistent, be clever, mix-up types of media to distribute the messages, use multiple channels to share insight, knowledge and expertise. Show off your specialty. Figure the tools out, then do what you can – and leverage what you’ve got.
The 40 tip video series we produced identifies free marketing tools, methods, tactics and strategic ideas to help a business grow online. It’s a growing list of tips and tricks so I hope viewers with contribute some of their own ideas too. Each video is brief. Viewers are free to ask questions in the comment sections on the videos.
How important are videos right now for small businesses? Is this a venue they need to start exploring?
Videos are very important because they are great marketing collateral, they highlight the enthusiasm and expertise that sells the business; and they are viral in nature. Using video live, streaming, collaboratively or just occasionally instead of meetings bridges the missing web link – the person-to-person aspect of communication and business online. Videos can teach, coach and explain a message 24/7, extending the value and shelf life of the information dramatically. Doing video to market a small business is now both essential and basically free.
Everyone is nervous doing video, so laugh and have fun with it. Try Skype or msn with your friends and family before you try making your own video. Treat your web cam video time as you would guest appearances on national television. Put on the lipstick, power clothes and perfume and feel like the confident guru star you are, or your video with be blah. Shine.
What do you think is the biggest need of small businesses right now?
That’s easy. Sales. Small business needs to gain access to new deal flow.
They need to sell more of what they have to new customers. They need to access products and services for lower costs and at a lower cost to them (time and effort) to make those new sales more profitable. They need to find partnerships that pull them into deals. They need procurement deals from large steady companies who pay promptly. They need to be easy to do business with. They need to do more sales with less marketing and ad budget, or none. They need to sew together services to create new value for themselves and their customers. They need to grossly differentiate themselves from their old and new competition. They need to be online, everywhere and be found.
I built a small business online sales platform that is affordable, easy to plug in and gets a business into a new deal flow. Stay tuned, www.bizdrive.biz is coming soon.
I pose this to the leaders of economic change — if the ‘Government’ (any and all) spent 10% of their procurement budgets on small business, those small businesses might be able to pay for healthcare costs, or stay in business, create jobs and contribute to national economic recovery. Tweet that to your elected official J
What other advice can you give other women entrepreneurs?
Technically – learn keywords, keyword phrases and learn how the search engines find you. Learn these key acronyms: SEO (search engine optimization) and HTML (just learn what it is and how an idea becomes a page). Learn PHP (page handling protocol) and MySQL (my system query language) – the foundation for open source (free tools you’ll want). Learn SaaS (software as a service) and learn RSS (real simple syndication). These are the most powerful concepts you can tame to your greatest advantage and success.
Marketing – be part of the communities. Be the research content your prospects find when they go looking. Be found by being everywhere relevant your prospects might be searching. Be the answers to their questions in the forums and groups. Be the solution to their problem.
Executive leadership – be an expert specialist in your business and a strong generalist in online marketing.
Personally – I believe women have a natural aptitude for online tools and business marketing and that our attention to detail, reliability, relationship integrity, tenacity and perseverance serves as strong competitive assets online. I believe this online world is an exciting frontier for women entrepreneurs. It most certainly has been the greatest career I environment I could imagine.