Being fired from a job is not a pleasant experience for anyone. So when it happened to Mike Brcic twice in short order, he decided it was time for a change. “I discovered that I was probably not a great employee, and that I might make a better entrepreneur and just create something myself from scratch,” recalls Brcic, an entrepreneur consultant and founder of Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures.
Brcic started his company by taking tourists out on the mountain bike trails of Fernie, British Columbia, a town which at the time didn’t have the cachet of nearby Whistler. “I was really trying to create some brand awareness, not only of my own business but of Fernie the town,” he recalls. It clearly worked—Sacred Rides now offers tours in 17 destinations, and over the last half-decade has grown at an annual rate of some 40–50%.
Sacred Rides’ marketing efforts have played a big part in that growth. Brcic came to the field through necessity. “Back in [the] early days I was the head cook, the head guide—the head everything—and the head marketer,” he jokes. While he’s since shed many of those responsibilities, he’s focused heavily on targeted online marketing in recent years. “We get about 100,000 page-views a month on our blogs—it’s extremely busy and the main driver of revenue for Sacred Rides,” he explains.
Here’s how Brcic keeps a steady stream of traffic flowing to the Sacred Rides website and turns those visitors into leads.
It’s easier than you think
Though you wouldn’t know it from pop culture today (think HBO’s Silicon Valley or the 2010 film The Social Network), most entrepreneurs aren’t coders. But Brcic says you don’t need tech skills to get your business online.
Platforms like SquareSpace or WordPress offer templates and turnkey web solutions at low monthly rates. “You could have your own website up and running in the span of a day, with not a lot of tech-savviness,” Brcic says. Or failing that, platforms like Upwork allow you to contract freelancers who can do it for you quickly and at low cost. There are also easy-to-use tools available for lead capture and email marketing—Brcic recommends SumoMe and MailChimp respectively.
Start with who you have
Although there are best practices (more on those in a bit), there’s no one-size-fits all model for content generation and engagement in online marketing. Which platforms and methodologies you invest time and money in should be based on the audience you’re trying to attract.
Brcic says many businesses don’t look much beyond basic demographic factors like age, location and income. “What are their wants, what are their needs, what do they fear?” he asks. Gathering that intelligence takes a more offline approach. Brcic recommends scheduling phone calls with existing customers to find out what’s driving and troubling them.
You can’t set it and forget it
One of the biggest misconceptions entrepreneurs have about online market according to Brcic is that prospective customers who engage with the content they post will naturally go on to buy from them. “There’s a whole journey they have to go on,” he says. That’s particularly true for big-ticket items like the $3,000–4,000 trips to New Zealand that Sacred Rides sells.
Marketing is “the process of getting your prospective customers to know, like and trust you,” says Brcic. “Engage in an ongoing conversation or relationship with them, build that like-ability [and] trust to the point where they are so attracted to your brand that they just have to buy from you.”
Build the journey
Once you’ve identified an audience, work your way backwards to the marketing strategy. For example, Brcic offers one-on-one consulting for entrepreneurs. “If somebody is going to commit to a $1,500 consulting package with me, probably they’re going to want to test me out first,” he says. “So I might offer a really low-cost introductory half-hour session.” Or stepping even further back from the ultimate goal, he could offer a $5 PDF that solves a specific problem.
Then comes lead capture. “Once they give me their email address in order to receive that content, I want to continue to give them more value,” he says. “So I’m going to give them more emails that help them to solve that problem even further.” That creates an ongoing relationship with the prospective customer, which can be used to move them further along the journey.
Don’t overdo it
There’s a word for an online marketing campaign that goes too far: spam. Brcic says too many companies using email distribution lists send subscribers multiple sales messages in the hope that one of them will work. All that leads to is unsubscribes and spam complaints. “Just keep on delivering more and more value. Figure out what that person needs, how you can solve problems for them,” he says. “You can throw in the odd sales email, but really try and drive more and more value.”
The fastest way to get into online marketing is by starting a blog. Sacred Rides has one that attracts over 100,000 visitors a month, generating 20–50 leads a day. “Whether you’re B2B or B2C or whatever industry you’re in, there are people out there who are hungry for useful content,” says Brcic.
You don’t have to be a born novelist to produce compelling content for your blog. Brcic recommends using a tool like BuzzSumo to find out what typically does well in your line of business. “It give you a clue in terms of the type of content people are looking for and sharing,” he says. “You want to find an overlap between that and stuff you can actually write about with passion, with authenticity, with credibility.” Then optimize the content using tools like SumoMe or Google Keyword Planner.
It’s important to make your content marketing sustainable from the get-go. Too many business owners begin blogging with great enthusiasm, only to lapse once they run out of post ideas or time to write. “You don’t have to put out five blog posts a week,” says Brcic. “[C]ommit to two a month [and] get them out there.”
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