Tag Archives: marketing

3 Keys to Marketing a Service Business



When I first began to market my virtual assistant services, I worried that it would be more difficult than marketing a product. After all, people can see, touch and sometimes even test the product before they make a decision to buy, but they can’t see your expertise or experience.  I wondered if there were any special secrets or methods to marketing a service.

What I’ve learned is that marketing a service can be more difficult, and I haven’t found the “secret sauce” to gaining clients. Marketing a product and marketing a service both take hard work and time. It’s all about showing your potential customers that you have something that will fill a need they have, whether it’s the latest gadget, the guidance of a counselor, or the office management skills of a virtual assistant.

There are three fundamental steps that, if pursued diligently, will bring in business. Those steps are laid out in this short video from Entrepreneur.

Did you catch the cautionary advice at the end?

So there you have it:

  • Become a pillar of the community you wish to serve, whether that’s local or global. Where do your ideal customers hang out? Conferences? Meetups? Twitter Chat? The gym? The local coffee shop?
  • Content marketing: Publish articles, make videos, offer email tips, build an email opt-in newsletter list, offer value and stay top of mind.
  • Build Social Proof. Get and publish testimonials on your website. Write and publish case studies about results you got for clients.

These three keys will show your competency and build trust. Once that trust is established, get ready to grow!

Do you have a service business? If so, are there any special marketing tips you can add to this list? Lay ’em on us in the comments.

Until later …


6 Steps to a Marketing Plan that Works

marketing planWhen you have a product or service that you know is great, it is tempting to think that all you have to do is tell people about it and they will buy.  A marketing plan is not simply a matter of handing out business cards, placing some ads, or sharing information on social media.

People usually don’t have a “buying plan” unless it’s for something big, like a house or a car. They make decisions to purchase based on an immediate need or want. Because people often buy on impulse, it’s important that when the time comes, your business name pops into their head.

While a marketing plan isn’t brain surgery, it’s worth taking a little time to think about your market and write it all down. Call it a blueprint for action that will bring you better results. Here are six steps to get your marketing rolling in the right direction.

1.    Who is Buying What You’re Selling?  Identify the person who is most likely to want or need your product or service.  Be as specific as possible.  What is their age group, income, gender? Yes, others outside of your target market may be interested, but you want to direct your efforts to the greatest number of actual potential buyers. There is a reason you don’t see many ads for jock straps in women’s magazines.

2.    What Makes Your Target Market Want to Buy? There is always something that causes the buyer to pull out the plastic. In my business, it is usually the realization that they are spending too much time doing back office work and not enough time growing their business or spending time with family. What set of circumstances has to happen for someone to feel they want or need what you are selling? Knowing this will help you design appealing promotions, ads, brochures, website copy, and social media posts.  Remember “Got Milk?” and “Can You Hear Me Now?” These are Step 2 in action.

3.    Consider the Buyer’s Friends and Family. Buyers do not live in a vacuum. They have friends and family who affect their buying decision in some way. Whether a purchase is a gift, clothing that will impress their peers, or signing up with a coach to improve themselves, and thus their career and family income, buyers have a reason to buy that exists outside themselves. Point out these benefits in your marketing materials.

4.    How Will You Provide Information About Your Product or Service? Obviously, getting your message out through social media is a given these days, but what other ways will you reach your target market? If you have a local market, submit an informative article about your business to your local newspaper. It will help elevate you to expert status so you can become the “go to” place for your product or service. When it comes to advertising, studies show it takes someone seeing an ad at least seven times before the information registers in his or her brain (the age-old “Rule of 7.”). When that happens, they will notice it more, and think of you when the need arises. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. How would you go about finding you?

5.    Determine the Buying Timeline.  The answer to “When will someone buy?” depends on the type of product or service you have, and your marketing plan must consider this. If you have a sandwich shop, local advertising that includes your shop hours is the logical choice. If your sandwiches are good, you will have repeat customers and word of mouth will bring more people in. If you are a business consultant, it could take months of consistent networking, article writing and social media communication to cultivate the awareness and trust you need to get clients. Knowing the buying timeline helps you estimate not only the cost of advertising, but also the hours you must spend cultivating clients.

6.    Determine Your Marketing Budget. Many new businesses operate on a shoestring. Social media marketing is great because it costs next to nothing. Still, it is important to allocate some portion of your operating budget for marketing. Business cards, brochures, websites and other collateral materials are not free, even if you do them yourself. If you have followed the first five steps, you will have a good idea of the kind of marketing you must do. With a little research, you can come up with an estimated cost.

Once your plan is in place, follow it for a few months and note the results. Remember that nothing is chiseled in stone. As you gain more knowledge of your market, adjust your marketing plan accordingly.

I wish you all the best in your marketing efforts!

Until later …


What Is The Best Time and Day to Post to Social Media?


Image by Stuart Miles

For those who use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to spread the word about your products and services, this is key information to know. We all want to reach the widest audience possible, since what good is it to post if nobody sees it?

In 2009, when I first introduced my business on Twitter, the social media gurus at the time said weekdays were the best and weekends were the worst. Sunday was considered a dead zone.

Has that changed? Maybe, maybe not. The article A Scientific Guide to Posting Tweets, Facebook Posts, Emails, and Blog Posts at the Best Time contains informative charts and graphs, and links to in-depth information. Studies found:

  • On Facebook, engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Another study found that engagement was 32% higher on weekends, so the end of the week is definitely a good rough guide to start experimenting with.
  • On Twitter, engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends, according to one study.
  • This same study showed that retweets have been shown to be highest around 5pm and the best time for click-throughs seems to be around noon and 6pm.
  • Twitter’s own study found that users are 181% more likely to be on Twitter during their commute which means there are a lot of people tweeting on their mobile devices instead of a desktop.

When it comes to Blogs, studies found:

  • 70% of users say they read blogs in the morning.
  • More men read blogs at night than women.
  • Mondays are the highest traffic days for an average blog.
  • 11am is usually the highest traffic hour for an average blog.
  • Comments are usually highest on Saturdays and around 9am on most days.
  • Blogs that post more than once per day have a higher chance of inbound links and more unique views.

Some reports I’ve read say the best time to post your blog link to Twitter is around 2 PM. The article states:

Dan Zarrella has some more great stats on this topic, but he makes a good point about the pros and cons of the timing you choose. One thing Dan suggests we consider is that if we post during time of higher traffic, we’re more likely to have higher bounce rates and get lost amongst the noise of other content being published. On the other hand, posting at times when fewer people are online will garner less traffic and engagement, but give our posts more prominence and less competition against other content.

Email still is the best way to reach your audience, and this article has good info about the best times to send email. Do check it out.

Because not all experts agree, you have to assess your specific audience, target time zones, consider your content, and go with your gut on this.  That’s why it’s important to track your results: Facebook likes and shares, Twitter retweets, favorites and new followers, website stats, etc.

As a solopreneur or tiny business, which social media outlet are you getting the best results from? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Until later …




Thursday Thoughts: Serendipity


” Image by Salvatore Vuono

I want to tell you about a REALLY special person I met through a phone call. Anyone who looks at my picture can tell I’m no “Spring Chicken,” so when I say I think someone is REALLY special, it comes from my long experience of meeting and interacting with people — lots of people.

A few days ago, I received an email from someone who saw this post on LinkedIn and wanted to talk about it.  So I called him.

Being an introvert, I’m not the best at phone conversations with people I’ve never met, but this gentleman instantly put me at ease with his friendly, easy-going manner. We chatted about our shared philosophy of helping others, a little about ourselves and about our businesses , and agreed to exchange some information. Sounds pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? But in that brief conversation, he conveyed such wisdom, business acumen, and genuine kindness and concern that by the time we said “goodbye,” I knew I had just met a REALLY special human being.

I want to share his company with you because I believe it’s a good thing for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons and grow their business. Liked LinkedIn, it’s a place to make contacts, but unlike LinkedIn, it’s more personal. It’s called The Expert Directory.

theexpertdirectory.comI hope you will explore the site. You may not be interested in it now, but perhaps you know someone who would be. I receive no compensation for telling you about it. I just know the man behind it wants you to succeed. I believe he would like to see every one of us succeed. Truly. He’s that kind of person.

His name? Bill Doerr. You can look him up on LinkedIn. Great guy. Here’s what three of his many LinkedIn recommendations have to say:

“Bill is one of those rare people who loves to help others by making mutually beneficial connections. He does it with generosity and professionalism. No one I’ve met does it better.”

“He is one of those rare human beings dedicated to making a contribution to the success all who come in contact with him.”

“Superlatives are the only descriptors possible for Bill Doerr. He is stellar in every single aspect. As a colleague he could not be more intelligent, wise or giving. As a mentor, he is unparalleled. As a friend his deep kindness, compassion and soul is unrivaled. Business is business and there is absolutely no doubt he is a master in so many arenas. Ultimately, it all comes down to basic humanity. Bill is a well rounded human and that is the heart of business. Anyone can spout numbers, facts and tactics. Bill does it with soul and a cheerful, wise nature. He loves his work and it shows.”

One definition of “serendipity” is “the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.” That’s what I found when I called Bill Doerr. Our conversation not only lifted my spirits that day, but also made me get more excited about my business and make some changes for the better. I hope you get to meet him some day, too.

Until later …


Save Money and Time with Google Apps


Google Apps

Do you use Google Apps?  They are really great for team collaboration. I think you’d also benefit from trying it out for your business.

What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that includes Gmail for professional email, Drive for online storage, Hangouts for video meetings, Calendar for scheduling and Docs for editing files. I especially like how easy it is to get things done and work with others from anywhere, using any device I choose. Google Apps is cost-effective, too.

Millions of organizations around the world count on Google Apps for professional email, file storage, video meetings, online calendars, document editing and more.

Watch a video or find out more here.

Here are some highlights:

Business email for your domain

Looking professional matters, and that means communicating as you@yourcompany.com. Gmail’s simple, powerful features help you build your brand while getting more done.

Access from any location or device

Check email, share files, edit documents, hold video meetings and more whether you’re at work, at home or in transit. You can pick up where you left off from a computer, tablet or phone.

Enterprise-level management tools

Robust admin settings give you total command over users, devices, security and more. Your data always belongs to you, and it goes with you if you switch solutions.

For a FREE trial, click here.

p.s. I have a special $10 off coupon I can give you if you decide to sign up. Let me know: toni(at)tonimcnulty(dot)com.

Until later …


Disclosure: If you make a purchase using the links in this post, I will receive a small commission.


Pssst! SMM – Pass It On!

If you are not using social media to raise awareness of your business or brand, you’re missing out on reaching a huge audience. The following article  by Allison Kahn* originally was published by SiteProNews on July 14, 2011.   I like this article because it has all the basics to get you started, so I asked and received permission to publish it here.

social media marketing

Photo via commons.wikimedia.org

Social Media Marketing is the act of using social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) in order to promote a business.

Many companies will want to start their own social media marketing campaign and create a Facebook page or Twitter account. The problem is they don’t have a clue on how to run a successful social media marketing campaign. Here, I have listed 10 of the most basic rules when it comes to social media marketing. Follow these rules in order to have successful accounts with Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The 10 [basic] Rules of Social Media Marketing

1. Update! I shouldn’t even have to list this as a rule, but many forget how important it is. You should try and update daily because when consumers visit your page and it has not been updated in over a month, they will assume it is inactive and decide not to follow your business. Also, they could easily go with your competitor because their page is so active they feel that business will give them better service. You do not want that to happen, so update your social media accounts regularly!

2. No pitching! You are not Billy Mays. Therefore, you do not need to yell at consumers telling them to buy your product or use your business. Social media is meant to connect, not pitch. If your consumers feel they have a connection with your company through your Facebook page or Twitter feed, they are more likely to use you over another business that does not make an earnest effort to connect.

3. Communicate with your audience.
If you do not feel it is necessary to reply to comments, answer questions, or join in on conversations on your page, then social media is not for you. You need to be a part of the conversations on your page. If not, you will lose touch with your customers and what they want.

4. Choose Wisely. What you say will forevermore remain public record on the internet. Choose what you post on your page wisely. I cannot stress that enough. If you hire a company to post for you, be sure to hire someone you can trust. And, remember, if you manage your social media outlets yourself only post what you would want to see on the front page of the New York Times (or the Huffington Post).

5. Handle angry customers with class.
Some customers will just have a bad day and want to take it out on your page and blame you for everything. Do not delete any negative comments. Instead, ignore it if it’s only one comment (unless the comment has foul language and is completely inappropriate). If you are in a predicament like Nestle was several years ago where everyone protested on their Facebook page, post an update saying your business is making moves to fix the problem. Never directly respond to one individual, you will never win. Also, never make promises you cannot keep.

6. Link to others. If you find something interesting (and relevant) on the web, link it on your Facebook or Twitter page. Explain why you find it interesting (and relevant) and ask for their input. Link to other companies, articles, cool websites, whatever. Just be sure to ask yourself before posting, is this relevant to my business?

7. Share! Don’t be afraid to show your consumers what your company’s employees are doing when they are not in the office. Take photos of your office picnic, philanthropic event, or even a run/walk for a good cause. These photos create a positive image about your company for your consumers. They want to know you’re human and don’t wear ties all the time. If it’s casual Friday in the office, take a group photo of everyone wearing the company polo and post it immediately so others know what is going on in your office in real time.

8. Start a weekly trend. If you do something once a week, on the same day each week, your followers are bound to come back that day every week. For example, if you own a shoe store, every Monday you could post the shoe of the week. Include an image and a promotion for the shoe, such as a percentage off that week only. If you posted every Monday, consumers are bound to check every Monday to see what pair is being promoted that week and come into your store to buy. It’s a great way to get customers onto your social media pages as well as into your store.

9. Link to your blog. You put so much effort into writing that awesome post about trendy heels for the spring, but no one ever reads your blog. Link it on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. Don’t do it all the time, because if that is the only thing you do to update your social media outlets, people will get bored with you very quickly. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to link back to your blog. You put a lot of hard work and effort into it, and you want people to read it!

10. Spread the word!
If you have a Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube channel, etc. you really need to tell people. They are not just going to assume you have them. Put them on your company website, on your business cards, put a sign up in your store saying “Add us!” with all the little logos for each site next to the copy. Don’t be afraid to tell your customers you’re on Facebook. If they like you and your product, they will share it on their Facebook account and say, “Hey, I’m a fan of Sally’s Shoes and I want everyone to know!”

Until next time …


*Allison Kahn is the Marketing Assistant at Princeton Marketing Group in Greensboro, NC. She has a BA in English Literature from Wesley College in Dover, DE. She has a passion for Social Media Marketing. http://www.princetonmarketing.net  and  http://www.princetonmarketing.net./princetonmarketingblog

Target Your Market. Market Your Target.

Target Marketing

Photo via Wikipedia

I think it’s safe to say that most of us who are launching a new business or service usually operate on a tight budget, and need to start bringing in revenue as quickly as possible. It’s important to understand who is most likely to be a paying customer and direct our marketing efforts and dollars toward attracting that customer.

Here are some tips designed to help you market your product/service effectively.

  • Define your market segment. Will your initial focus be on your local geographic area, or on a particular type of customer? In some cases, it could be both. Obviously, a dog groomer will want to focus on dog owners who also are in their geographic area. If you’re selling the latest fantastic widget, will it appeal to the world on the Internet, or to specific people, like tourists, or senior citizens? Once you have honed in on the most specific target area and/or customer, then you can decide what approach to take in marketing.
  • Narrow your focus. Avoid the scatter-shot approach with your products or services. Keep your product line narrow and specialized. If you’re the only business in town selling “X,” everyone who wants an “X” has to come to you. The same rule applies to services. Don’t try to be all things to all people. A high-quality service or small service package will do better in the long run than a broad range of services that don’t provide the return on investment (ROI) you need to survive.
  • Define your prices. Depending on what you’re offering, a lower price can mean higher volume, but how will it affect your bottom line? On the flip side, a higher price may mean fewer customers, but a high quality product or service will keep those customers coming back and result in high quality referrals. For virtual assistants, pricing can be tricky, especially when one is competing globally with people who are willing to work for as low as $1.00 an hour. Additionally, fees for similar services vary widely across the U.S. Therefore, it’s important to understand what a fair price is, both for the customer and for the business owner who needs to keep a roof over her head.
  • Promote your business. Unless people know you’re out there, what’s the point of being in business? No longer do we have to spend a small fortune to advertise. If your business is local, networking in the community is vital. Join a service club, volunteer, find networking events in your area, attend charity dinners where you can meet new people, or, if you live in a small town, drop in at shops and introduce yourself. Follow local businesses on Facebook and comment on their pages. If your market isn’t confined to a geographic area, social media marketing is key. Get active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the others where people gather. Devote some time every day to interacting with people online so you can build a community of like-minded people and potential clients.

Have you found the marketing approaches that work best for you? If so, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Until next time …



Marketing Monday: Old Advertisements

George Washing with American FlagSince today is Presidents’ Day, (formerly celebrated as George Washington’s Birthday), I was thinking about people who owned small businesses back then, and how they advertised. Most businesses were small and local to a town, so word of mouth was, no doubt, how the word spread about what was available, who made it, and where they were located.

In larger towns and cities where there were newspapers, advertisements began to spring up. According to History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course,  advertisements in colonial America were most frequently announcements of goods on hand, but even in this early period, persuasive appeals accompanied dry descriptions. Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette reached out to readers with new devices like headlines, illustrations, and advertising placed next to editorial material. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century advertisements were not only for consumer goods.

Old Ad House for RentNotice there is no address or other contact information for John Beale. Richmond must not have been very large in 1804, and there must not have been more than one John Beale in town. That’s still true in many rural areas of the U.S. today. If you live in a small town, and have a good product or service, at a fair price, word will get around.

Until late in the nineteenth century, there were few companies mass producing branded consumer products. Patent medicine ads proved the main exception to this pattern. In an era when conventional medicine seldom provided cures, manufacturers of potions and pills vied for consumer attention with large, often outrageous, promises and colorful, dramatic advertisements.

Old Ad - Asthma CigarettesI couldn’t help but smile at this ad. Can you imagine trying to sell cigarettes to people with asthma in today’s world?  I wonder how many people bought them for their asthmatic 7-year old?

National advertising began to take hold in the 1880’s, when larger companies started to offer products that could be ordered through the mail. This also is when advertising agencies sprung up, to help design ads for national publications and find placement for them in popular newspapers and magazines.

Workers in the developing advertising industry sought legitimacy and public approval, attempting to disassociate themselves from the patent medicine hucksters and assorted swindlers in their midst.

Today, of course, we have a myriad of ways to advertise, and are bombarded with ads everywhere we look. The advertising industry is enormous. In 2012, U.S. companies spent $140 billion on advertising.

Here’s to Presidents’ Day and to entrepreneurs, old and new!

Until next time …


Sources: Daniel Pope, “Making Sense of Advertisements,” History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/Ads/, June 2003; and Kantar Media


$140 billion
$140 billion
$140 billion