Bernadette Schwerdt: There’s social media, there’s webinars, there’s case studies, there’s whitepapers, there’s email, there’s ad words. And, I think, if any business owner doesn’t understand the basics of marketing and content creation and connecting with customers they’re go to find it really hard to cut through that clutter.

I’m Bernadette Schwerdt and I am the founder of the online business The Australian School of Copywriting, and alongside that I’m a speaker on online marketing and digital disruption,and I’m an author on those same topics as well.

So I work in a space of helping people identify new ideas for their business and how to get those ideas to market, so I created an online video series called Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs, and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to interview the people who’ve done it really, really well, but the beauty of it was, I got like an MBA in online marketing by talking to these incredible people.

Online marketing is a really important part of any business, because these days it’s a global market that we’re in. That people are coming to your website 24/7 and if you don’t have your online marketing sorted out, you are literally leaving customers going to your competitors. A Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a website, any kind of digital footprint, people won’t have trust in you and they won’t know where to find you for a start.

Some businesses don’t think they need an online presence, because they may be a café, they just might need an element of technology that helps their customers do business with them.

There’s an old saying business that if you are happy with the website that you’ve launched with, you’ve waited too long. And what that means is, you shouldn’t wait for perfection before you launch your idea and your website. Get started quickly.

By getting started early it means that you can get feedback very quickly, customers can tell you that’s not working for me, that is working for me, or why don’t you do things a little bit differently?

When people have an idea, the thing that goes wrong very quickly is that they haven’t done their research as to, is there a demand for the product? Is somebody already doing this? How can I do this differently? And you’ve got to find another angle, another niche within that market that’s not being resolved or solved. What need am I solving that somebody else is not solving? Wouldn’t it be great if dot, dot, dot.

And so when businesses can identify what that is, they’ve got a business opportunity on their hands.

Who is my target market? What are their needs?

Most great ideas begin with people saying, ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ because it’s saying there’s an unmet need.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could rent out our spare room and make some extra money – Airbnb.

It’s really important to share your ideas because when you’re able to tell somebody what you’re trying to do, it helps you work out, what’s my pitch? You know, which bits of my pitch are working. And you can see it in their faces, you can see them going, that’s interesting. Or you can see them saying, oh, that’s been done. So the pitch should be created in the sense of, what questions do people have about my business? And I call it the FAQ – the frequently asked questions – why this, why now and why you?

Basic questions like, what does it cost? Where can I get it from? What colours does it come in? What does it do? What need does it solve?

Then you can craft your pitch and incorporate those ideas so that you are instantly answering the questions people have about your product. There are lots of ways in which you can test an idea for a business,

I mean, you can onto Google and see what kind of demand there is for a product.

eBay have thing called the eBay Seller Centre and it’s an absolute treasure trove of information as to what is selling, what’s not and, you know, what is the need for certain products that are not being sold on eBay.

For any online business, in fact for any business, it’s really important that you create something that people can see, that they can buy and it’s often called a minimum viable product, or an MVP, and the point of it is that until you’ve got something in the marketplace, people can’t buy it. So get something out there that’s the quickest, cheapest most efficient way of getting something to the market.

The one thing you don’t want to do is spend too much without knowing if it’s going to work.

So by just putting in the minimum amount and creating the minimum product it enables you to test it very cost effectively.

Now that purchasing cycle is much more complicated. There’s social media, there’s webinars, there’s case studies, there’s whitepapers, there’s email, there’s ad words, and I think if any business owner doesn’t understand the basics of marketing and content creation and connecting with customers they’re going to find it really hard to cut through that clutter.

I need to spend probably 80 per cent of my working day on marketing,and 20 per cent of delivering.

It’s free to create if you’re writing it yourself and it’s pretty cost effective to distribute as well. Maybe having an interview with a webinar with someone well known in your industry.

Another way to do it is to have a guest blog. So you write a blog and you put the blog on someone else’s website that’s complementary to your product. So it’s free marketing and you’re leveraging other people’s databases.

Every small business owner needs to have a little bit of a toolkit of technologies if you like to get things moving. First up, you need a database.

Now database is just a list of people, but if you’re going to be serious about your business you need to have a proper product and MailChimp is a really popular email product. It’s free up until 2,000 names. Just do a test website to begin with, don’t spend too much on it, because you don’t know what you might need. So you can to Weebly, you can go to Wix, lots of web developers can provide you with a website for under a $1,000 and it forces you to make some decisions about, well what’s my copy going to be? What’s the website colour, you know, what sort of functionality?

Another thing is you need to have some content, you need to create some videos, you need to create some blogs, maybe some webinars, or some podcasts. So the way we write the content needs to be very much reflective of the needs of the market. So there’s an absolute structure and science to getting people to read your material, to get them to take action at the very end of it as well.

If there’s nothing in it for them they’re not going to read it or listen to it.

In my experience, they’ve got to have a:

  • headline
  • it’s got to have a sub headline
  • it’s got to have an image
  • it’s got to have some features and benefits in terms of the body copy
  • it’s needs a strong testimonial
  • it needs a call to action, and,
  • it needs a strong to offer.

In those seven points if you can identify what they are for your product, you’re going to have a much better chance of having people buy it, compare to somebody who’s just written copy that’s come from the heart.

But once people have found you, that you do have an online presence, the other thing they’re looking for is creditability. If you have some testimonials on the website, and preferably video, you know, they’re very much that first person experience that people are looking for. The next thing is about having a physical address.

It may sound really simple, but just having a PO box is one thing, but people thing a PO box not quite sure, but a physical address that they can Google and look up where are you based is quite important.

Not to mention things like review sites. Like when I’m choosing a restaurant, if Yelp comes up and there’s five reviews that are all fantastic about this restaurant, it just helps me make a decision, ‘cause what you’ll find is, you’ll get listed in Google more highly if you’re one of those review sites. I really encourage you to think about how can I get on them, and how can I make sure I get a good review.

Another aspect is, you know, photographs of you as the owner, or your staff, or your products so they can visually identify who am I dealing with. Another one is having a phone number that people can ring and check that there’s someone else at the end of the line.

One of the challenges in working in the online space is you, or someone you know, has to be extremely good at technology.

There’s a colleague of mine and he runs Vinomofo,which is an online wine retailer and when he started out he thought he was in the business of wine, so he hired people to sell the wine and to be great at wine. After a while he realised this is not working, and when he asked himself the real question, which is what business am I in? And when he asked himself that question, he said, “Yeah, we’re in the wine business, but we’re an Internet company, we’re a technology company that happens to sell wine.”

He realised the people he needed to hire were a hacker and a hustler, and those two people changed his business. So he got the hacker involved, which is the tech person who can make the website sing, process the orders, make sure the money goes in, all that tech stuff was very important and he invested big time in tech people. And the other one was the hustler, he said, “I need a salesperson.” Doesn’t have to be an expert in wine, but they’ve got to be good at sales. So the moral of the story is, if you’re an online business you are a tech business first and whatever you sell comes secondary.

It’s very difficult to be an expert on how to build your email database, how to build a website, how to be a marketer, how to organise your finances. So what I’ve discovered is that you can’t be an expert at everything, but what you can be is a really good asker of questions. If I had my time again, I would probably seek out the experience and mentoring of people who’ve gone before me, ‘cause what I’ve discovered is that people are very happy to share their experiences, they’re very happy to help and so I would probably be more outgoing in terms of asking people for assistance, so I think I’d be bolder in the early stages of asking people for help.

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