You have two choices for reaching your target market online. You can attract your market to come to you. And you can figure out where your market hangs out online and go to them.
In practice, you want to do both.
Attract your target market to come to you …
One of the common methods of driving your market to you is with SEO or Search Engine Optimization. With SEO you optimize your website to emphasize various search terms and keyword phrases that define or describe your target market and hope that the search engines will index and rank your pages for these keyword phrases. For local business, you want these to be the search terms that individuals in your target market will key in when they are looking for information about the products you sell and the services you offer.
It’s more challenging than most realize, but when you practice SEO effectively, the search engines will drive targeted traffic to your website.
Attract your target market to you by going to where your market hangs out …
Somewhat the opposite of waiting for your market to come to come to you, an increasingly effective and widespread method is to proactively reach out and go to your market. Find out where your market hangs out online and engage directly with people in your market at these locations.
Ultimately, if you participate and add value to the conversation with your target market in these online hang-outs, the interested and curious will follow you home, back to your website to find out more about you, your products, what you do, and what you’re all about.
This is the essence of social marketing. Examples of places online where your target market hangs-out include discussion groups and forums. To find discussion groups and forums for your target market, simply do a search from Google.
For example, let’s say you have a sporting goods store and you’d like to promote your fishing, bait and tackle products online. It’s a reasonable marketing assumption that interested bass or trout fishing enthusiasts would be a good target for your fishing products and supplies that you sell online.
So let’s see if we can can target bass fishing or trout fishing. To find places online where bass or trout fishing enthusiasts might hang out, try searching for bass fishing forums or trout fishing forums.
Here’s the top first-page listing that comes up in Google for bass fishing forums.
Bass Fishing Forums – Index at BassResource.com.
BTW, look at all of those forum categories and discussions related to bass fishing. What a great source of sub-niche and market related keyword categories and search terms, don’t you think? Be sure to add discussion forums to your keyword research goldmine.
Once you find a suitable forum or discussion group, you want to start participating in the conversation. Look for interesting subjects and threads, preferably something about which you’re familiar or have some knowledge. You’ll likely find people asking lots of different questions, looking for a solution to a problem. Try answering some of these questions and offer advice. Remember to always add value.
And never SPAM a forum discussion with blatant promotion …
It’s annoying and considered bad forum etiquette to blatantly promote yourself, your business or your products. In fact, if you practice spamming forums with your blatant marketing and promotion, the forum administrator will likely disable your account and ban you from the forum.
Besides, visitors and participants in most forums don’t respond to blatant marketing SPAM anyway. So just don’t do it!
So how do you leverage these forums to market your business and attract interested prospects back to your website? On most discussion forums, you need to register and create an account to participate. Typically, you are permitted to include a descriptive bio about yourself and your business as well as links back to your website. Yes, you’re allowed to discreetly promote yourself or your business from your forum account profile.
If you are adding value in the forum discussions, other forum participants will naturally view your account profile to find out more about you. Where they’ll find the breadcrumbs that lead back to your website. In a busy forum it can be impressive how well this works as a traffic source.
You can also create a post signature in most forums. A signature is displayed at the end of your post and in many forums, you’re permitted to display a small self-promoting bl0ck of information that can include a link back to your website (with anchor tag link text that you provide), as long as you keep it tasteful and discreet.
One piece of advice. Don’t show up as a brand new member at a forum and start blasting away. Proceed slowly, start participating in the discussions, get your feet wet and spend some time to interact and discover the tone and feel of the group. Wait at least 30 days before you setup a signature and start adding a little promotion appended to your posts and comments.
In fact, the use and abuse of signatures by brand new forum members is viewed as a pretty reliable forum SPAM indicator, which can easily get your forum account disabled. Many forums don’t give you the permission to setup and include a signature until you’ve made some number of posts and the forum moderators can determine that you are there to add value.
While social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have been the all the rage more recently, forums and discussion groups have provided popular forms of online community interaction for years and years. When you think about it, forums have been about social networking from the beginning. And you’ll find that the latest versions of forum software are beginning to resemble social networking platforms with account profiles that include “friends lists”, “RSS blog feeds”, “Group membership”, and more.
Social Media and Social Networking sites are a natural hang out for people in your target market …
Social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn offer a tremendous opportunity to connect with others that have similar interests. Often these areas of interest align perfectly with consumer and business markets. The fact is, we’re naturally interested in discussing and sharing information about the products we like, the problems we have and the products and/or services that might offer solutions, the businesses that we’re in, industry trends and issues, etc.
Frankly, the groups and networks of people that congregate online in formation around thousands of different markets is endless. And whether you are consuming or marketing, the social networking platforms are abundant with opportunities to make these connections.
Connecting with your market on Facebook
For example, the approach on Facebook has similarities to marketing on forums and discussion groups. On Facebook, you can attract your own network of interested contacts and followers from your account profile or business page (even better for business marketing).
Your discussion and interaction actually takes place right from account profile or business page wall. And you can tap into the powerful advantage of viral marketing on Facebook as your followers within your immediate network share your message with their networks of friends, contacts and followers.
The Facebook platform provides the ability to publish and promote links back to your website, and even capture names and build a list for follow-up marketing.
You can also find and join thousands of groups established around specific areas of interests (i.e. markets). Or you can form your own group on Facebook. As with forums and discussion groups, the same rules apply. Don’t SPAM and blatantly promote your business by clobbering everyone over the head with your constant marketing message. Do always add value to the conversation and people will naturally follow you back to your Facebook account profile or page to find out more about you.
Below is an example of several bass fishing groups you can join on Facebook. In fact, the search for bass fishing groups returned over 500 different groups! Do you think you might be able tap into a bass fishing market on Facebook?
These are just a few examples of “figuring out where your market hangs out online” and learning how to proactively take your marketing efforts to these locations rather than waiting passively for your market to come to your website.
Hopefully, this sets off a few light-bulbs for you!
At NewCorridor, social marketing is a critical element in the marketing strategies we implement for our local business clients. Contact us today to find out more about Main Street Marketing Power and learn how you can leverage social marketing to track down where your target market hangs out online!