Taking on marketing as a business owner is overwhelming. Marketing is a broad term that covers everything from social media to analytical reporting. Even most professional marketers specialize in one area, so figuring out where to start is daunting. You’ll need to create a strategy that tests the basics (advertising, content, and inbound traffic) and also branches out to find new solutions. This article will cover three creative marketing strategies that any business can incorporate.
What is Creative Marketing
Marketing has two parts: one analytical and one creative. The creative side includes finding novel strategies and memorable ways to convey your message. While marketers once focused heavily on traditional advertisements and brand awareness, the modern marketing classics include social media, Facebook/Google Ads, and SEO.
These marketing methods are important to consider, but you may limit your growth by not testing other strategies.
Creative Strategy #1: Partnerships
By creating win-win partnerships with other professionals or businesses, you can open yourself to a complementary database of customers. Even by partnering with seemingly competitive companies, you can create a more compelling story that ultimately increases sales.
Likely, your business can’t cover all of your customer’s needs. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, a wedding venue or planner could share your customer, but not your services. By creating a partnership, you both increase your exposure to new customers via referrals. It’s essential to treat their referrals with extra care to continue to receive the recommendations. Likewise, you’ll want to offer your partner an excellent product or service.
Referrals can also come from satisfied customers. Be sure to ask for reviews and referrals!
Affiliate partnerships refer to deals in which you offer a product or service that could be highly engaging for their customer base. In exchange for the free advertising, you offer a commission or percentage of sales. For example, a fashion blogger features an up-and-coming brand and gets 15% on all sales triggered from their site. Typical terms are 5-30% on last-click or 14-day attribution, but you can look at what your competitors in your industry offer.
Affiliate partnerships are most common on e-commerce platforms, and you must have proper tracking in place through site tags and UTM links (work with your developer if this is new for you). However, it’s also possible to find this type of partnership offline too. For example, you could offer a 15% commission to a friend or past client who refers you to new customers. Or perhaps a local shop is willing to place your product on their shelves for a commission. You get more exposure, and they have little risk.
One note on affiliate partnerships: if you’re not seeing sales after a couple of months, check in to ensure they understand your offering and that the partnership is a good fit for both parties. It should always be a win-win!
If you represent a niche industry or market segment, you could face a significant hurdle in educating your customer base. In addition to creating brand awareness about your own company, you must also inform them about your type of product, region, or service category. Storytelling partnerships involve an alliance between similar businesses to increase brand awareness in their industry.
Suppose you are an independent winemaker in a lesser-known region or village. In that case, you can team up with other quality winemakers in the area to drive interest in your appellation through interviews, conferences, and social media campaigns. Furthermore, you can share your marketing budget! Through the force of the partnerships, your message is more interesting for consumers and journalists.
Creative Strategy #2: Become an Expert
Speaking as an authority on a given subject in front of an audience is one of the best ways to attract people to your brand organically. Do it enough, and people will synonymize you with the subject, you’ll be invited to more speaking engagements, and you’ll get free publicity. Becoming an expert is a powerful and underutilized marketing strategy, but it takes consistency and effort.
Case Study: Nicolas Joly
Nicolas Joly is a biodynamic winemaker in Savennières in the Loire Valley in France. Savennières is a tiny appellation that makes a very unique style of wine, but he’s famous in the wine community for championing biodynamic farming. The philosophy is parallel with organic agriculture, except that it considers the entire vineyard as an entity. Biodynamic farmers generate life for the vines and the land around it. However, Joly wrote books, spoke passionately, and educated winemakers and enthusiasts alike on the power of biodynamic winemaking. Now, most who study wine can list his two monopole sites (single vineyard, single owner) because he made himself known through his expertise. Biodynamic farming is pretty common, but he tied his name to the concept as an expert.
Step #1: Choose Your Niche
When you’re becoming an expert, it’s best to start with a narrow niche (you can expand later). Rather than being a cryptocurrency expert, you could focus the dialogue around NFTs. Or, if you’re a mortgage broker, you could concentrate on self-employed home buyers. For me, I cover a broad range of topics around digital marketing, but I focus on small businesses.
Step #2: Share Your Knowledge
In a different post, I talk about the importance of providing value for your audience. When you share your knowledge and expertise, you not only create lead-generating content, you identify yourself as an expert in your field.
You can establish your expertise through blog posts, YouTube, social media, being a guest on podcasts, speaking at webinars and conferences, and providing quotes for journalists seeking experts on your topic. The key is volume and consistency.
In the early days of content creation, it can be discouraging to post without seeing much engagement—keep on putting out content anyway. Share your content as much as possible, show up frequently, and stay steady on your niche. People will take note, and it will snowball.
- Finding journalists: An excellent free option to sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to get in front of journalists. They send multiple newsletters a day with 100s of calls for experts on a wide range of topics.
- Getting speaking gigs: Sign up for newsletters for organizations that put on conferences. Reach out to the organizers of the event to present yourself as a future speaker.
- Becoming a podcast guest: Scan Spotify and Apple for podcasts by using keywords relevant to your topic. As a podcaster, I can say that scheduling guests can be a demanding task—most will be excited to hear from interesting people that can speak to their niche. Have your bio and some interesting facts about you at the ready for outreach.
Strategy #3: Build a Community
When you build a community, that sense of belonging encourages a sense of loyalty. When people personally connect with you and your brand, they are more likely to buy from you and invite others into the community. Not only will the lifetime value of your customers go through the roof, but they will be more likely to adapt to new offerings and be patient through any changes you make in the company.
How to Build Community
Step #1: Go where your customers are
Many new businesses flock to the major social media platforms, but you must learn which platforms are most likely to attract your clients before you go all in. An emerging tech company is better suited for platforms like Discord, Twitter, or Clubhouse. There they can expand on ideas and keep their followers updated with company progress. Conversely, a B2C consumer-based product may find a platform like Instagram or TikTok better to showcase their products and tell their brand story. A Facebook Group is an excellent channel for engagement and community-driven content.
Mind that social media isn’t the only place you might find your customers. Here are some places where you could meet clients and customers
- Social Media
- Trade Conferences
- Public Events
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Consider the type of content you can deliver, what works within your budget, and where you can consistently show up to offer a meaningful dialogue for your community.
Step #2: Be Consistent
Whatever your content channel might be, think of it as a club. If you had a book club that sometimes met up, canceled frequently, and where you as the host were often underprepared, you’d probably stop going.
Decide what type of content you want to deliver, and say no to everything else. Showing up for your audience not only brings better returns and engagement, but it’s also more ethical. People sign up and show up to get a specific message or value, and it’s up to you to bring it!
Naturally, showing up has a different definition depending on your channel. If you’re going to trade conferences, check-in and invite clients and customers…then be there. If you’re managing a Facebook Group, monitor the comments and add thought-provoking conversation starters.
Step #3: Be Authentic
People can sense fake personae. As much as you want to deliver exciting content, people will flock to a company because they like and trust you. Whether practicing your pitch or drafting twitter copy, read it out loud. Does it feel like something you would say to your friends?
Show up, laugh, share your setbacks as well as your triumphs. Never choose a community channel that doesn’t resonate with you. I found myself increasingly tired of the quick-fire content on some social media platforms, so I started a podcast. Maybe for you, it’s a value-driven newsletter. Go for quality community members over quick follows, always.
Step #4: Spread the Word!
You could be creating awesome, authentic content or putting together exciting events, but people have to know it exists to join the community. When you create something, invite people to check it out—personally. Share it on your Facebook and LinkedIn, sure. But also text the link to anyone who you think might enjoy it! Ask people to like, subscribe, and share. Follow up if someone hasn’t RSVP’d.
Creative marketing strategies force us to step out behind our automation and make a real effort to find people. These strategies encourage a lens of opportunity rather than complacency. They’re also very budget-friendly. Partnerships, becoming an expert, and building a community are steps that any small business owner or professional can take, regardless of company size. They only require consistency, authenticity, and determination.
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