The Steps of Creating Your Buyer Blueprint

Developing a good idea of who your best customers really are will help you find a strong market for your business.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Scott Duffy’s book Breakthrough. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

In the end, business is all about the customer. You can break through and take your product to market, but you can’t make them buy it. Therefore, you need the right product for the right buyer.

The biggest mistake salespeople make is selling the wrong thing. They either push what they think is most important about their product or service or what their boss has told them to sell. When the prospect says no, they don’t understand why. It’s because the seller never asked what the prospect wanted — he didn’t understand their buyer blueprint.

Although I should have known better, I’ve fallen into this trap myself. One example was while I was at Virgin Charter. We had a smart, educated team. We were confident we understood our customer’s problems and knew how to solve them. So, we created a product road map, listing the features planned for development and ranking them in the order we would build them. With a hundred features on our list, I had the sense we were on the right track. Then, after spending lots of money building and going to market, we discovered a problem.

Related: 5 Ways to Inspire Creativity and Innovation in Your Employees

People just weren’t using our service in the way we thought they would. Our team spent its time building features on the back end of our website: creating efficiencies, automating systems, and developing the technologies to enable a buyer to purchase and manage their trip details online. But customers spent their time on the front end of our website, doing searches and viewing profiles of all the available aircraft. When they were ready to buy, most just picked up the phone and asked our team to process the order.

We needed to go back out into the market, so our sales, product, and technical people gathered in rooms with customers.

We soon learned that some of the functions people wanted most weren’t in the current product or in the top ten things to build in our product road map. Some weren’t even in our plan at all.

The challenge is to create a solid buyer blueprint before you do anything else. You can do this by asking two very simple questions:

1. What is most important to you?

Many times, if you ask a customer this question, the answer you’ll get is I don’t know. But try responding with But if you did know, what would it be? You’ll find that usually elicits useful answers, and the person will start listing the things they value most, perhaps without even realiz­ing it. Take notes, and once they’re done, work with them to rank every item on their list to identify which features are most important to them.

Related: 7 Ways to Make Outsourcing a Success Time After Time

For example, if you could only have this feature or that one, which one would you choose? Continue to rework and refine their answers. A potential buyer may say, for example, that their top priority is that a food item taste good or that a tech service is easy to use. That’s a start, but not all you need to know. This leads you to the second question.

2. How do you know you’re getting what you want?

Nearly everyone forgets to ask this question, and it may be the most important one. Why? Because the definition of “good taste” or “easy to use” is different for everyone. Your job is to not only find out what your prospect values, but also what rules they use to deter­mine whether they’re getting what they want. That makes follow-up questions essential: How do you know it tastes good? Do you crave sweet or sour, crunchy or smooth? How do you know it’s easy to use? Do you need to access it online? Would you require it on a mobile device?

With an early understanding of what your prospect wants, and how they know they’re getting what they want, you’ll be able to build and sell products and services that match your buyer’s blueprint, leading to big success for your business.

A word of caution, though: Just because a customer says they want something, that doesn’t mean they’ll buy it once they have a chance to use it. It’s not that they’re trying to deceive you; they can only know so much until they have a chance to experience what you have to offer. For that reason, it’s essential to do two things.

Related: The 13 Factors That Make a Strong Partnership

First, build one thing at a time rather than everything at once. That way, if your customers start using your product and realize they want something slightly different, you haven’t wasted too much valuable time and resources. Second, get customers to use the product as soon as possible and collect as much feedback as you can. Then iterate, redeploy, and scale.

Constant interaction and communication with your users and ongoing reevaluations of your product and priorities are the best way to keep moving forward. Established businesses often make the mistake of thinking they know exactly what their customers want, because they have been successful for many years. Times change, customers change, and their needs change. Keep asking for feedback to stay current. If you stop asking for feedback and stop learning about your customers, your competition will eventually crush you.

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5 Brand Marketing Tips Every Brand Can Learn From the NBA

The NBA has positioned itself for global dominance and there is no reason you cannot steal a page from their book.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The love for sports is global, but the ability that the National Basketball Association has shown in growing into such a global force cannot be attributed solely to the fact that people love the sport. It has a lot more to do with some serious marketing brilliance on the part of the NBA.

The NFL may still have the upper hand in the numbers for general season income and attendance, but with the growth trends in the NBA in the last decade, it is little wonder they have the NFL looking over their shoulders

The NBA has positioned itself for global dominance and there is no reason you cannot steal a page from their book. Here is how you can position your brand with some amazing marketing;

1. Develop line extensions for your brand.

The creation of the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) in 1996 was a savvy marketing move that kick-started the explosion in women’s support for the NBA in general. This came at a time when women’s interest in the sport was largely non-existent.

The NBA has since created other extensions like the NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) and also the creation of extensions like NBA-China which has seen the NBA start generating almost $550 million in revenue per season from China.

Your business may not have the manpower to go this length, but a simple creation of different social media handles and pages that create a niche within your brand that addresses a specific desired market is a step in the right direction.

You may not be able to set up shop in a different country, but with the innovations in digital marketing, you can create, an “X stores/China” or “X stores/women” on diverse social media and employ target marketing to reach the desired untapped market.

Related: Why Former NBA Star Al Harrington is Betting On Cannabis

2. Become a content generating machine.

If you want to understand how seriously the NBA takes Content marketing, visit or any of the NBA teams’ websites. The steady in-flow of videos, articles, and blog posts has proven to be their major driver in getting visitors, creating engagement and getting subscriptions to their e-mail lists.

One word can define why the NBA seems to always be able to create engaging content is, “Personality”. Content devoid of personality will find it difficult to fly in the present day market. Infusing Fun into the game off the pitch has made watching the game itself more enticing to fans.

Content like this scare video of Dwight Howard and other players of the Houston Rockets, and Videos like this one showing some, NBA dance moves are examples of creative content on the NBA sites that has helped create a brand that shines with personality.

The idea is to seriously budget for creating content and maintaining engagement. Whether it is a commitment to one text and video content per day or twenty per month, you need to be innovative and consistent with it and to never forget to let your personality shine through.

Related: The NBA’s Marketing Superstar

3. Build external visibility.

The NBA has created a brand that is not easy to forget simply because they are seen everywhere you look, from Jerseys to billboards and more especially on Social Media. The official NBA Facebook page shares videos of old games reply to users directly and create surveys and other interactive content. 

Most notably, the league has an official presence on the NBA Reddit page which now has over 745,000 subscribers, and before Vine went defunct, just under 100,000 videos on Vine were posted with the tag; NBA.

Your brand can build external visibility by focusing a lot more on your social media visibility, content and engagement, and by syndicating content on as many other sites as you can. 

Many brands still have exclusive rights to post on their social media pages and handles, but switching it up a bit to encourage submissions from customers/Followers may see a rise in interest in your brand.

Sponsored content is also a great way to get your brands story on major online platforms. Entrepreneur’s sponsored content platform, for instance, is guaranteed to place your brand’s story before thousands of eyes. 

Sponsored content has risen to be a major driver of digital marketing in the last 5 years and this has seen companies like getfluence, amongst a list of others, create amazing businesses around this singular marketing trend by connecting brands with influential platforms and creating content for such platforms.

Related: The First Indian Who Cracked The NBA -Satnam Singh Bhamara

4. Find ways to stay In the limelight.

Over the last decade, the NBA has performed a marketing miracle in their increased domination of the spotlight. The NBA has done this by, engraving itself in the one thing that is always being talked about; Pop-culture. So close is this association that Ex-stars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dennis Rodman have gone on to become movie stars.

The idea is to closely associate your brand with whatever is popular, this way you always remain in the conversation. If your brand is not yet big enough to get celebrity endorsements and involvements, you sure can start talking about them, before they start talking about you.

The association of your brand with sports, entertainment, etc in your on-site content and off-site content is a major way to get your name in the frequent conversations. For instance, you can start an “X stores Basketball review” series or finding a credible sports influencer to endorse your brand.

Association of your brand with things that already have a buzz should grow your brand awareness significantly.

5. Build on your brand consciousness.

In the words of Robert Patin, CEO at Patin & Associates, “Managing a business requires wisdom as much as it requires expertise, the challenge of businesses in 2019 will be competition, fragmentation and managing consistent performance”.

To assert your brand on a hugely fragmented market is indeed one of the greatest challenges of 21st-century businesses. The NBA seems to have done fine amidst competition from other sports associations.

More than a quarter of the players in the NBA are foreign-born, and in the 2016 NBA draft, an astonishing half of the draft class was international. Also, the NBA Cares philanthropic arm of the association has gone a long way in increasing the consciousness perception around their brand.

As Robert says, you need wisdom to assert your brand in a largely fragmented market. There are 3 steps you can take to building a noticeably conscious brand;

  • Get involved in social causes: Any brand that is not yet somewhat involved in social causes is a fading brand
  • Build a diverse employment roster: When taking steps to employ your new staff, consider the need for a diverse employee base. it speaks volumes of the inclusiveness of your brand
  • Tailor your Marketing Images to show diversity or consciousness: A Mexican or Asian model on your brand marketing efforts will reach a Mexican or Asian market, faster than target advertisement would over time.

Your brand should reflect positive diversity. To do this the little things matter. for instance, a brand which caters to children may show their consciousness for autistic children by choosing colors and designs carefully as diverse designs have diverse effects on them

Consciousness has never been as relevant to business as it is in our increasingly sensitive society. You should work on it.

The NBA’s influence is global and the game is amazing, but who knew that sports could save your brand as well? 

Now, let’s go crush it!

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The 4 Most Helpful Reports You Can Run Using Amazon Ad Data

Amazon collects data on almost everything happening on their site. Discover the data that will help you improve your ad results.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Timothy P. Seward’s book Ultimate Guide to Amazon Advertising. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Apple Books

To make optimizations in your Amazon Advertising account, you must first pull together the data you’ll need. The data in the Amazon interface is fragmented, so you’ll need to grab data from multiple reporting menus and compile it in a meaningful way before you can analyze it.

Most reports available on Amazon tie back to Sponsored Products ads because they’re Amazon’s oldest and most established ad format. In addition, because Sponsored Products ads take shoppers to a single product detail page, reporting on product performance is much easier.

There are fewer data insights available through reports for Sponsored Brands and Product Display ads. In the case of Sponsored Brands, these ads still have relevant reporting on keyword performance and ad placement analysis, but they don’t include any reports that touch on the performance of individual products since these ads can direct consumers to a product list page or Amazon Store page containing multiple products to convert on.

Finally, Product Display ads can also target multiple products, so Amazon doesn’t release any granular reporting on which product eventually drove a conversion. As time passes, it’s likely that more reports will be released for each of these ad formats. 

Related: Using Amazon’s Sponsored Brand Advertising to Get Customers Interested in Your Brand

With that said, you can carry over some of the insights you find in Sponsored Products data to your Sponsored Brands campaigns. For example, there’s currently no search query data available for Sponsored Brands, so new keyword opportunities from Sponsored Products can be helpful starting places. Although you can test out new keywords in Sponsored Brands campaigns based on data from Sponsored Products, it’s important to keep in mind that keywords and products will not always perform the same across ad types. Let’s look at how to find the most helpful reports for Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands ads.

All the reports you’ll need can be accessed either through Seller Central (for sellers) or Vendor Central (for vendors). Look at a combination of advertising reports (e.g., search term reports, targeting reports, advertised product reports, etc.) and account-level reports (e.g., business reports).

Seller central performance data

In Seller Central, you can find the advertising and business reports under the “Reports” link.

Vendor central performance data

Vendors can find advertising reports by clicking on the “Advertising” link at the top of the page. Often in Vendor Central, you have to request business reports from your Amazon representative. If you’re a vendor and don’t have access to a business report, you can analyze performance data and make optimizations based on advertising performance reports alone. Most optimizations will come from the advertising reports, but if you do have access to account-level reports, I recommend using this data as well to see the full impact of advertising.

Related: How an Amazon Store Can Increase Shopper Engagement

Attribution sales against ad clicks

An attribution model is a rule, or set of rules that determine how credit for conversions (i.e., sales) is assigned to touch points along the conversion path. Amazon uses something called last touch attribution to track a shopper’s activity after they click on an ad in case they purchase the product later. In last touch attribution, credit is given to the final touch point (or click) that immediately preceded the sale. That is how sales can be attributed to a click even if the purchase occurred days after the initial click. Attribution in Seller Central and Vendor Central varies, so it is also important to keep the attribution window in mind when making optimizations.

In Seller Central, the standard attribution window is seven days for Sponsored Products and 14 days for Sponsored Brands, while in Vendor Central, the attribution window is 14 days for Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Product Display campaigns.

Attribution example for a sponsored brands campaign

Let’s look at an example of attribution for a Sponsored Brands campaign. Let’s say that your brand sells high-end kitchen appliances. Because your products have a high price point, it’s not unusual for shoppers to do some research on Amazon before purchasing. If a shopper clicked on your Sponsored Brands campaign on August 1 but didn’t purchase until August 8, this would be captured by the 14-day attribution window in both Seller Central and Vendor Central.

Related: The 5 Biggest Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in Amazon Product Listings and How to Fix Them

Additionally, sales data has a 48-hour lag, so recent data can sometimes seem misleading if looked at on its own. In the example above, if you looked at month-to-date performance data on August 4, the data wouldn’t represent actual performance since it would show four days’ worth of spend but only two days of sales. In this case, it would be more helpful to look at the past week’s performance rather than the month-to-date performance.

At the time of this writing, there are no Product Display reports available under the “Advertising Reports” link in Vendor Central. However, you can download a report of daily campaign performance metrics from the “Reports” link after clicking on an individual Product Display campaign.

If you have a connection to Amazon’s application programming interface (API), a system of resources that allows developers to create data connections for building software, the data you see through the API might vary from what you see in the interface or in Amazon’s reports. This API connection could be through a tool that helps manage your Amazon Advertising account, or it could be through an agency or similar resource. Just remember that the numbers you see in each of these may not always match exactly, and that’s to be expected.

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6 Aspects of Digital Marketing No Entrepreneur Can Afford to Ignore

digital marketing

Thanks to an always-evolving landscape and the nearly limitless availability of engagement resources, it feels like marketing gets more difficult with each passing year. This wealth of options, in fact, can put marketers in analysis paralysis while they try to figure out which direction to go.

Social media, for one, has potential as a digital tool that more than one-third of internet users turn to when they want to learn more about a product or service. Then there’s live chat, which is gaining in popularity for companies looking to outfit their websites with real-time, 24/7 customer support.

Even though those two solutions each have their own appeal, you can’t expect to master digital marketing by simply acquiring every available tool—you’ll want to develop a more thorough and holistic digital marketing strategy and plan.

Hiring the right team for digital marketing

Adopting a holistic digital marketing approach pays obvious dividends to a company’s bottom line. However, it also helps you assemble the kind of team you need to sustain that success over the long haul.

Let’s imagine that you hire a marketer to help generate more leads, but you veer too niche by hiring a social media specialist. That’s great for building a social presence, but it’s unlikely this new hire can help you concept an ad, monitor data, or track results.

Keep in mind that like anything else, it can be challenging to hire (and afford) someone who is good at all aspects of digital marketing. You might benefit from outsourcing or using a contractor for specific types of campaigns, giving you control and flexibility around how long you keep someone on board. You don’t just want someone to do the work—you need them to deliver results too.

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Whether you hire a marketer or do it yourself, your goal should be growing your company’s digital (and overall) footprint. The following considerations are some of the most important aspects of any digital marketing campaign.

1. Custom websites

Your digital footprint starts with your website. If you’ve been running your startup or small business entirely from your Facebook page, it’s a good idea to consider putting together your own website. If you don’t, there are some risks. What if the platform shuts down, for example?

A website isn’t much of anything until it’s designed and customized to your business. The last thing you want is to spend all that time, money, and energy driving people to your site only for them to click away after a “meh” experience.

Think of your website as never entirely finished. Use tools like Hotjar to see where people click on your site, or how far down the page they scroll. Test different calls to action. If “buy now” messaging doesn’t result in that many conversions or purchases, test different pricing options and messages, like “no risk free trial.” Use tools like Qualaroo to invite users to tell you whether they found what they were looking for on your site. And if they didn’t, ask them what they were hoping to find!

If you get to know the basics of user experience (also called customer journey), website design, calls to action, and target audiences, you’ll improve your conversion rates and lower your cost per acquisition.

As soon as your website is up and running, set up Google Analytics. You’ll learn a lot about the traffic you’re getting, where it’s coming from, and whether you can associate revenue with that traffic.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For consumers to find your business’s website, you need your pages to show up in search results. That sort of exposure requires search engine optimization, or SEO. Moz defines SEO as “the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as ‘organic’) search engine results.”

Really, SEO is about understanding what your potential customers are searching for, the words they’re using when they search, and the type of content they’re looking for—articles, how-tos, video, podcasts, reviews, and more. There are some technical aspects, like optimizing your website’s meta descriptions and making sure your pages are mobile-optimized and quick to load, but think of it as the process of providing the best quality content on your website.

It takes a lot of effort to build an SEO-friendly site, but you can find plenty of information online explaining current SEO best practices and how they fit into your overall digital strategy. Moz offers a great beginner’s guide to SEO that’s worth reading, just so you understand the whole landscape.

3. Video content

Producing high-quality video content is easier than it’s ever been, and there are some relatively cost-effective options. A basic understanding of the editing process and a smartphone with a 4K camera allows you to take raw footage and turn it into a polished video. There are also a number of animated explainer video tools like PowToon out there. They make created animated videos as simple as recording a voiceover and using a Powerpoint-like drag and drop video editor.

Before you go about finding a basic online program to assist you in editing video content, take the time to identify your target audience’s video content preferences. That knowledge will help you better tailor your final product. Check out these stats on why video is an increasingly important medium for digital marketers.

4. Google ads

Not unlike SEO, Google Ads can help drive consumers to your website. Instead of doing it organically, however, this service moves your website listing to the very top (or bottom) of a search engine results page. Think of it as a digital classified ad with prime placement.

The best way to learn and use Google Ads is by taking the search engine’s courses. Just make sure that your coursework details how to connect your ads to Google Analytics. Otherwise, you won’t necessarily be able to measure your advertising ROI. From there, all that’s left is to run and test ads. I’d again suggest a trial-and-error approach to A/B testing and then adjusting your ads based on those findings.

5. Facebook ads

Facebook has some of the best targeting capabilities—not to mention the most users, the most attention, and the cheapest ad costs. Combined, these make the platform a powerful resource for digital marketers.

But test into Facebook ads—meaning, don’t start with a huge campaign. See if you can achieve your marketing objectives on a small scale first. If your business serves a demographic that isn’t spending time on Facebook, you’re going to have a hard time, no matter how good your ads are.

To use Facebook effectively, start with Facebook Blueprint courses. You might also want to explore other Facebook-related classes from outside experts to learn about custom audiences and retargeting, which is a form of advertising based on a user’s past online activity.

Once you find your footing, run and test a few ads. Trial and error often is the best classroom, but this is particularly true when it entails A/B testing, which splits your target audience into two groups and delivers different messaging in hopes of determining which ad resonates with potential customers.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s also wise to learn how to track offline conversions to understand your return on investment, or ROI. Asking a simple question when you make a sale, like, “how did you hear about us?” can go a long way.

Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve. Does getting 2,000 new likes or followers serve your business goals? If it does, great! That said, if your business goal is to increase purchases (conversions) from Facebook ads, make sure that you’re tracking that.

6. Social media

Social media as a whole can offer plenty of long-term value to businesses. It’s all about building a solid foundation and knowing what to post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage your target audience.

Posts will vary depending on your business, but you should be able to sum up your strategy in one word: relevance. Get to know your customers’ likes, interests, and preferences, and then tailor your social content based on that information. If you’re still unsure, follow famed author, speaker, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. His blog and podcast each have a wealth of information on how to build a winning social media strategy for potential customers.

Again, be clear on what you want to achieve with social media. Seeking brand awareness is a fine goal—you might measure that by increases in likes or followers. Brand awareness is a long game though, and it may be difficult to track conversions against branding campaigns on social media. Be sure you’re look at Google Analytics to see where your website traffic is coming from. If any percentage of traffic back to your site is coming from Facebook or other social media platforms, you’ll be able to track that there.

Many business owners don’t even bother with online marketing because they’re afraid it will cost them an arm, a leg, and maybe a few fingers. But getting a feel for just a few online platforms means an investment of time rather than buckets of money.

Do that, and you’ll hit the ground running—or at least walking at a brisk pace.

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Briana Morgaine

Briana is the content marketing specialist for Bplans. She enjoys discussing marketing, social media, and the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Bri is a resident of Portland, Oregon, and can be found working remotely from a variety of local coffee shops. She can also be found, infrequently, on Twitter.

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How to Use Business Text Messaging to Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs

A business text message, believe it or not, has a 98-percent-open rate.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you haven’t done the math, tested the entire marketing funnel or set aside the right funds, then you’re likely working too hard and getting nowhere. Marketing is a challenge if you can’t capture the costs. What’s even more important is knowing the results after the spending is done.

Just think about this: for every dollar you spend, let’s say that you get $3.50 back. This is what we all want to know, but you have a consumer to think about first.  

For every day that goes by without you converting those leads you’ve paid money to acquire, you’re losing money. Therefore, the faster you can turn leads into sales, then faster you can grow and scale your sales.

One of the most overlooked tactics (and my personal secret) to optimizing my marketing funnels and growing quickly is to compress the lead conversion time, one way I do this is through business text messaging. Let’s dive in…

The business texting option.

Text messages are fast, effective and friendly, and your smartphone is optimized to receive them. In being “optimized,” we’re suggesting how easy it is to receive a message without opening it up. It will rest on a locked phone screen. Unlike emails, texts will give you an audible notification after arriving. A business text message, believe it or not, has a 98-percent-open rate.

Few people wait to do the opening. Out of the leads tracked, roughly 85 percent of them read their text within 15 minutes of receiving it. Just think of how busy our lives have become; we have little time to spare. Having the prospect of one glance as enough to convert your leads with is priceless

Why your CAC is important.

Your “customer acquisition cost” (CAC) calculates where your money stands as you try to make more of it. You can only cut down on the costs of advertising when you know how much you’re spending. Still, cost isn’t enough.

Your CAC is how much you’re paying to turn leads into buyers. That is a specific chemistry. Many of you are hesitant. Some have already given up. When you lack the desire and drive, you also lack a direction to go in.

Better understanding the costs, as it relates to acquiring leads, will give you guidance to stay on track with. The simple evaluation is this: If it doesn’t give you the numbers you need, then something needs to be adjusted.

We can even see when our message isn’t strong enough. We learn this by seeing how much it costs to convert people. Keeping your customer acquisition cost down can be achieved with business text messaging.

Related: 104 Facts You Didn’t Know About Mobile Marketing (Infographic)

1. Learn who your leads are.

Making the most out of text messaging is done with a strategy. Don’t pursue your leads at face value. Dig deeper. Find out who they are and then give them the unexpected. Your first step is to uncover their needs.

Every marketer, for better or for worse, has to discover the “pain” of an audience. Simply uncover their biggest challenges, and then present your product as their solution.

2. The art of conversions, persuasion and nurturing.

You now need to be persuasive. Here’s where most marketing campaigns fail. Many have already lost because they immediately scream “buy now!” What you want is to nurture your leads instead. Slowly guide them, strategically excite them and then, when they least expect it, surprise them with your solution. Be honest in your tone, and never go overboard.

Related: 5 SMS Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

3. Building a strong campaign to automate.

Now is when you build a campaign. It’s better when your two-way business texting content is prewritten. If you can set aside some time, work on creating a string of messages, which you can automate later on.

Running a campaign in this manner will give you time to then run your business. You will also stay a few steps ahead of your leads. Consider, for example, writing enough content to send out over a year. This could be 52 messages sent out, as in automated, weekly.

Related: Five Tips for Better Text-Message Marketing

Leaving off with a customer-friendly note.

A true two-way business text messaging system has to have an element that people see as real. It’s good to automate your texts, but be ready to then follow up with a real response. You or your team will suffice as the people responding. Just show us that real people are involved and that you care about the concerns that your readers have.

If you’re struggling to produce business text messages, here are 21 business text templates which I useful when getting started and which personally like to use, all of them are already setup and have been tested by marketers before.

Compressing the conversion time it takes for a lead to buy your service offering will not only help you hit your reveneue goals faster but also put a human touch into your communication with your future customers which in turn drives lower churn in the long term. This is one of my secret tactics I have been using for a years and I’m pleased to share it with you today.



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Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Become a Consultant (and 15 Insights for Success)

starting a consulting business

The gig economy is in full swing, and it has forever changed the work world as we know it. For various reasons, people are leaving their traditional 9-to-5 jobs and working in more agile roles instead—even starting their own businesses.

Sometimes this is by choice; sometimes it’s not. Either way, the massive shift away from the full-time employment model and toward contract, freelance, and other non-traditional arrangements has made it easier for those who prefer a more flexible, self-directed work life.

In other words, there’s never been a better time to start a consulting business. It’s the new normal. And as the workplace continues to change, more and more companies will be on the lookout for talented consultants.

Many businesses turn to consultants because they just can’t do everything in-house anymore. In our fast-paced world, companies lack the specialized skills and expertise to handle their growing needs, and they often don’t have the staffing flexibility to complete special projects that require more manpower.

Further, they may benefit from fresh new ideas, outside opinions, and the speed and efficiency of bringing in an expert. Consultants solve all these problems and more. No wonder consulting is a $250+ billion industry, and still growing.

Making the decision to become a consultant is easy. The tricky part is knowing how to become a successful consultant. It isn’t the right choice for everyone. Yes, being a consultant can be incredibly rewarding and lucrative, but there are many drawbacks as well. Here are a few tips and insights to help you understand what you’re getting into and to make sure you get started on the right foot.

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1. Don’t buy into industry myths

You’ve probably heard the following about consulting: You’ll make tons of money for less work. You’ll have plenty of leisure time. You can say goodbye to office politics!

It’s time for a reality check. You’ll likely be working more than you work now; taxes, business expenses, and benefits will quickly eat into your higher pay rate; and, as a contractor or sole proprietor, you will find yourself answering not just to one boss, but to many.

2. Know that your expertise alone won’t make you successful

Your area of expertise will take you far, but it can’t prepare you for the unique challenges of being an entrepreneur.

You will still need to learn how to behave on a sales call, how to market your business, how to do your taxes, how to write a business plan, how to network. Be ready to jump in and learn new skills.

3. Make your business plan first thing

There is a lot of planning you must do up front before you set out on your own. Don’t even think about becoming a consultant without writing a business plan, a marketing plan, and a financial plan. These are essential and will pay off for you once you are working for yourself.

Not sure where to start? Check out Bplans’ library of sample consulting business plans to help you get started.

4. Test the waters before quitting your day job

If you’re unsure about becoming a full-time consultant, give it a trial run by doing it part-time while working at your current job. (Always get your employer’s permission before doing this.) Take on a few small projects to do on weekends or during vacation time.

5. Don’t lowball yourself on price

You may be tempted to set a low rate when you’re first starting out. This is usually a mistake. It’s important to set your fees high enough that they generate a comfortable salary that also covers your various business expenses.

One method for figuring out this number is what I call “Elaine’s 3X Rule.” For example: In order to earn a salary of $100,000, you need to bill $300,000 each year.  

6. Also, don’t lower your rate once you’ve quoted it (this is unethical)

For instance, if you say that your rate for a project is $15,000, and the client has only $10,000 in the budget, then you should walk away.

Agreeing to work for the lesser amount is a surefire way to ruin your reputation. Why did you ask for $15,000 if you can do it for $10,000? This makes clients question whether you had $5,000 worth of fat in the proposal.

7. A great accountant can make your transition easier

Find an expert accountant to advise you as you grow your consulting business. A good accountant can offer advice and help you make smart decisions regarding the structure of your business, your plans for growth, profitability, and accounting procedures.

8. Focus on reeling in large businesses

Don’t waste your time seeking out lots of small accounts. Instead, go for the medium and large businesses. They are used to hiring trainers and consultants and may be more willing to give a new consultant a try. Plus, their larger budgets mean they will be more likely to bring you in for repeat business.

9. Have a plan to combat isolation

Working alone creates a sense of isolation. Make a game plan to alleviate your loneliness. Set up frequent lunch dates with former colleagues and friends. Meet up with other consultants and attend industry events; even if the talk does turn to business, you will appreciate having some social time.

10. Keep a file full of raves

Clients who love your work will be more than willing to sing your praises, so start collecting those testimonials now. Place them in a file, along with any notes thanking you for a job well done. These will come in handy for prospecting letters, proposals, and brochure copy.

11. Find creative and cheap marketing strategies

Don’t be afraid to get creative and thrifty in order to bring in business. There’s no limit to inexpensive marketing tactics.

Start a blog. Agree to be interviewed on a podcast. Send a lumpy envelope for a holiday: a gourd for Thanksgiving or candy hearts for Valentine’s Day. Submit articles to your professional journal.

12. Maximize your clients’ ROI

Your goal should not be to make clients dependent on you. Instead, ensure they receive the maximum return on their investment by enabling them to sustain the changes you have helped them make. Before you leave, make sure your client owns the solutions. Achieving this is the best way to be hired again.

13. Do everything you can to generate repeat business

Did you know that it takes 7 to 10 times the investment to sell your services to new clients? That’s why earning repeat business is a smart goal. Try to bill 50 to 75 percent of your annual revenue from repeat clients. This helps you avoid having to constantly hustle to find new clients.  

14. Be optimistic, but plan for the worst

When you believe in your success, your clients are more likely to believe in you as well. Yet while you should keep a positive attitude and act as if you’re living the best-case scenario with your clients, never spend your money until it’s actually in your hands! This rule will help you avoid financial trouble when you’re just starting out.

15. Put your clients first, always

Remember that you are only as good as your last client says you are. This is why it’s important to put your clients ahead of everything, even your profitability. Projects end, but your client relationship will not. If you make a pricing mistake, you will learn from it and not make it again. Even if a project goes into the red, it is a small price to pay to maintain a great reputation for life. Don’t compromise, and your clients will reward you with repeat work and great word of mouth.

Yes, starting out on your own can feel frightening. But don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back from reaching your career potential. Take a page from other consultants who have found their new place in the gig economy and find out what you are capable of. You will be rewarded with an exciting new career you love.

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Elaine Biech

Elaine Biech is the author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond. She is a dedicated lifelong learner who believes that excellence isn’t optional. As a consultant, trainer, and president of ebb associates for more than 35 years, she helps global organizations to work through large-scale change and leaders to maximize their effectiveness.

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How to Start a Podcast With Almost No Money

From finding inexpensive equipment to booking great guests, Ralph Sutton, co-host of The SDR Show, breaks down everything you need to know about starting your own podcast.

12 min read

Podcasting Insights estimates that there are currently 750,000 podcasts in existence, with a combined archive of over 30 million episodes. That begs the question: Does the world really need another podcast?

The answer: yes!

The audience for podcasts is insatiable, always hungry for new insights, new experiences and new voices. And for the people on the other end of the earbuds — the creators — podcasts offer a ton of rewards, including bolstering their credentials as an expert, creating new revenue streams, building brand awareness for their business and, honestly, podcasting is just really fun to do.

So how do you start a podcast? We asked Ralph Sutton, co-host of comedy podcast The SDR Show and founder of the million+ subscriber GaS Digital Network to give us an overview, starting with day one. Whether you want to create a podcast dedicated to business, books, raunchy comedy or mindfulness techniques, the steps are pretty much the same. Here is Sutton’s breakdown of everything you need to know to get started.

Why do you want to start a podcast?

“The first thing I tell anybody is, if you’re in it for the money, don’t start a podcast. I started in radio and was pretty successful, but I didn’t start with the idea of, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna make so much money on the radio!’ I just wanted to be on the radio. And it’s the same thing with podcasting. You have to want to do it, whether five people or five million people are listening.”

Related: Listen to Podcasts to Grow and Inspire your Business

The first step: Start talking!

“Before you do any research, before you start thinking about marketing or anything else, just start doing it. See if you like doing it and if you like listening to it. If you can’t listen back to yourself, if you don’t find yourself interesting, I promise you nobody else will. But don’t judge these early episodes too harshly. Plan on throwing them all out, they will likely be pretty bad. Nobody has the perfect gift of gab that allows them to just sit down, turn on their microphone and be entertaining on day one. But if there are glimmers of something good, or even if there aren’t but you’re having fun, keep going.”

Listen to similar podcasts

“If you want to do a marketing podcast, listen to the top five marketing podcasts and see what you like and what you don’t like. Do the same for comedy, movie reviews, whatever you’re into. Feel free to build off of their ideas and make them your own, make a list of segments and ideas to figure out your podcast’s format. If you understand what the competition is doing, you can differentiate your show from the others out there. And remember: This is a show. I’ve said a million times to people, three or four guys around microphones drinking and shooting the shit is not a show, and that’s 90 percent of podcasts out there. Come up with a format, plan a little.”

Get (cheap) recording equipment

“Buy a cheap microphone that plugs into your iPhone or Android. iRig is a good one, but there are a lot of companies that do this. You can get one for like $40 or $50. The ones we use on our show now are a couple of hundred bucks and, yes, there is a difference in quality, but not enough of a difference to spend that much when you start your podcast.”

Related: 3 Benefits of Launching a Podcast for Your Business

Download audio editing software and learn how to use it

“You want to be as self-contained as possible. You don’t want to be beholden to some college kid who decides he doesn’t want to edit your show this week and you don’t release an episode. Maybe you’re going to hire somebody down the road who is way better than you, but do it yourself when you start. There’s a great editing platform called Soundtrap, which costs less than $15 a month to use, and a great free audio editor called Audacity. Both are easy to learn, and editing will help you figure out what you can do better next time.”

Get a logo and a theme song

“Of course there are certain things that you’re not going to be able to do. You may want to hire a graphic artist to make your logo. And you may want to hire a musician to make your intro music. is a great resource for this kind of stuff. Another great resource is Canva, which is like a poor man’s Photoshop. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily make cute logos. It’s free and it’s not watermarked, which is good because that cheapens your brand.”

Name your podcast

“You want get social symmetry with your name, meaning the name of the show is the name of the website, your Twitter handle, Instagram account, etc. There are great website resources like and where you type in a name and it shows you if it is available on every single platform. I’m a big believer in having the same name across all platforms, rather than having to add underscores or numbers to some because it is already taken on Twitter or whatever. For my show, “The Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll Show” was taken, which is how we landed on The SDR Show.”

Related: Check Out New Episodes of Entrepreneur’s Problem Solvers Podcast

Get a web site

“This is hugely important. Google is really going big on podcasting, and they’re starting to make podcasts show up in searches, but only if the podcast has a web site with the same name in the header. So if someone is searching for marketing tips and that’s what your podcast is about, guess what? You just found yourself in a new listener.”

Cheap mics are fine, but audio quality matters

“Once you get up and running and you think you want to keep doing this, one thing you can do to stay one step ahead of everybody else is to make your audio quality better. Personally, I punch out if I hear shitty audio — I don’t care who’s talking. Most podcast listeners are auditory-based, so they want to hear good audio. There are websites like Soundtrap and Auphonic that will level your audio and make your files sound much better.”

Fly solo or do you want a co-host?

“A lot of people can’t ramble by themselves, and they’re going to need a co-host. If you decide to go with a co-host, make sure your co-host is going to be with you for a while. Nothing is worse than getting a whole thing going and then your co-host leaves. And make sure that all of your intros and your graphics don’t mention either of your names, because if you lose your co-host or something changes, then you have to redo everything.”

Related: Get Inspired By New Episodes of Entrepreneur’s How Success Happens Podcast

Booking guests

“Obviously when you’re just starting out, you’re not going to email Mark Cuban and have him show up. Go to all of those sites I mentioned before, and reach out directly to podcast hosts that you like and say, ‘Hey I’ll go on your show if you’ll come on mine.'”

Posting your show

“So you have your show, now you need to figure out where you want to store it. There’s a bunch of hosting sites available, and you’ve got to pick a respectable one. There are free ones, but you know what? You get what you pay for. I’d recommend using Libsyn. It’s not free, but if you’re not going to spend the $15-20 a month for a media hosting provider, maybe you’re not that serious into doing a podcast. Do a Google search for a coupon code to get it free for a month or two. Libsyn creates an RSS Feed for your podcast and gives you a destinations page where you want it to go. You can manually input destinations, but they have all the major ones like Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and a ton more. You want to be available in as many places as possible.”

Be consistent

“Launch with at least three episodes to allow for some binge listening and to build loyalty. And be consistent! If your show is a half hour, make sure they are all around 30 minutes long. Don’t come out on Monday one week and Friday the next. Even if it is just once or twice a month, be consistent so you train listeners when you look for new episodes. Don’t let your listeners down; they might forget to come back. I don’t mean to be depressing, but my father died about two years ago and I didn’t miss an episode, because that’s how much the show means to me. Keep an evergreen episode in the can so you have something to fall back on if shit hits the fan and you can’t record a new one in time. You can also do a “best of” featuring the five best clips of a guest you’ve had on a few times. Get creative. At the very least, if you really have nothing and no time to slap something together, put out a 30-second clip saying, “Hey guys, this thing happened and unfortunately I’m not getting a new show out this week, but I’ll have a new show next week.” If you don’t care, no one else will.”

Promoting your podcast — don’t be shy!

“I’m a crazy advocate of ABP — Always Be Promoting. Last year I had jury duty and by the end of my three-day stint, I think I got 25 people to listen. I don’t leave my house without stickers, and I consider every day a failure if I don’t talk to at least one barista or one person on the train platform about my podcast.”

Help your audience find you

“You should obviously promote on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff, but the truth is people are very platform loyal. If someone is scrolling away on Instagram, they’re not likely going to click off it to do something else. To me, the best way to promote your podcast is by being a guest on other podcasts. That’s where your audience is and that’s where you’re going to see the biggest bang for your buck. Reddit is great for getting yourself on other shows. Sub-Reddits like podcasting and podcasts have tons of people who are in the same boat as you. Then there’s a website called Podcast Guests where you can put yourself out there for free.”

Related: Top 25 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs

Monetizing your podcast through advertising

“There is a standard term called the CPM rate, which stands for Cost Per Thousand. (M is the Roman numeral for a thousand.) And generally, the industry standard is somewhere between $15 and $25 per thousand listeners. Not a huge payday if you have 1,000 listeners, and I don’t believe in it anyway. When SDR had 2,000 listeners, I was making like 300 bucks a show which shouldn’t be possible based on the CPM rate. But it is possible based on me going out and talking to people.

I noticed a lot of our listeners were in New Jersey, so I printed out the stats and I went to a club owner that I knew and offered them a ridiculous deal. I said, “We’ll talk about your club for a minute for $25 per episode, $100 bucks a month — if you just take three months.” The guy said no problem and gave me 300 bucks. And just like that, I was covered for the year for my hosting fees, some gas and beer money. So I advise people to go talk to relevant businesses. If it’s a D&D podcast, there’s a game store in your neighborhood. Drinking podcast, there are bars in your neighborhood. And if you tell your listeners to mention your podcast when they go into these places, those business owners will be advertisers for life.”

Want to start? Then start!

“My number one thing I advise anyone who asks is to just start. You’re in a day and age now where you can get a podcast up and running almost immediately. There are no excuses, nothing to figure out, it’s all ready to go for you. And once you start, keep at it. I tell everybody: You really are one great viral clip away from being a 100,000-listener podcast.”

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SWOT Analysis Challenge Day 4: How to Identify Threats

SWOT analysis threats

You’re invited to take the SWOT analysis challenge—see if you can complete all five steps in five days or fewer! Then invite your network to do it too. Share this article on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and use the #SWOT hashtag.

If you’re looking for the rest of the steps in the SWOT analysis series, find them here:

Small business owners are notoriously busy people. We understand that you have a lot of items on your daily to do list, but we’re about to suggest one more. Every business owner should sit down and conduct a SWOT analysis, which gives you an inside look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that can impact your business.

If you’ve been working through each step along the way, you’re already up to speed on the finer points on why companies, whether they’re brand new or they’ve been around for 100 years, should make SWOT analyses part of their regular planning and review process.

But here’s something you might not know about yet—the history of SWOT, or where it came from and why. Then we’ll jump down to how to assess threats.

Click here to download our free SWOT Analysis template

The history of SWOT analysis

We know you’re anxious to complete your SWOT matrix, but before you start brainstorming, we thought we’d look at how this process came to be.

Here’s the quick history:

While there is some debate over who came up with it, most research suggests that Stanford professor Albert Humphrey was the father of this process.

How did the strategy come about?

Humphrey led a research project at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s that tried to figure out why corporate planning failed within several big companies. The team started breaking the data into categories like opportunities and threats.

Eventually, other strategists tweaked Humphrey’s categories into the SWOT matrix that we know today.

O.K., history class is over. Time to pull out your SWOT templates and start thinking through the threats that your business is facing.

How to define your company’s threats

A threat to your company is an external factor, something that you can’t control, that could negatively impact your business. A threat is different than a weakness, which is internal, or part of your company as it exists right now.

Identifying threats to your business is a powerful first step to reducing their risk, or at least mitigating them enough that they won’t shut down your business. It’s all about being prepared and taking proactive steps to minimize the hurt.

Coming up with a list of threats can be difficult—you just don’t know what you don’t know. They might not spring to mind as easily as your strengths, but there are certain categories that most external threats fall into.

You can use these categories to brainstorm possible threats to your business:

Questions to ask to find threats

These categories should get your wheels turning. By thinking through each category, outside threats should come to mind. If you identify weaknesses, or internal challenges as you go, just add them to your SWOT matrix. And if you’re just getting started, download a free SWOT analysis template here.

We’ve also created a list of questions that coincide with the categories above to help you think critically about the threats that could be out there.

Economic trends

  • Is the economy in your area in a recession?
  • Will the economy negatively impact your customers’ ability to make purchases?
  • Are economic shifts happening that impact your target audience?

Market trends

  • How is your market changing?
  • What new trends could hurt your company?
  • Is there more competition in your market that’s pushing you out?

Funding or cash flow changes

  • Do you expect to have any changes in your cash flow that might have a negative impact? Delays in payment, seasonal issues, etc.
  • Will funding changes hurt your business? If so, how?
  • Do you expect a decrease in grant funding or donations this year?

Political support

  • Do you anticipate a shift in political support this year?
  • Is there reason to be concerned over political shifts?
  • What does your business stand to lose because of political changes?

Government regulations

  • Are any regulations shifting that could cost more money or hurt production?
  • What kind of damage could new regulations have?

Changing relationships

  • Are any outside business relationships changing?
  • Is there any turmoil with partners or vendors?

Target audience shift

  • How is your demographic shifting?
  • What threats accompany these changing demographics?
  • Is your audience changing in a way that you can’t accommodate?

Tips to find threats

  1. Do market research. As you’re looking into possible threats, you’ll want to conduct market research to see how your target audience is shifting.
  2. List every threat you can think of. If you think of a threat, list it. Even if that threat has consequences that won’t be felt immediately, it’s still better to have it on your radar.
  3. Threats exist, don’t panic. Listing threats may cause some anxiety, but remember that all businesses have threats. It’s better to know about threats than it is to turn a blind eye to them. Plus, we’ll give you some strategies in step 5 of this series on how to minimize these threats.

Once you’ve listed your threats, your SWOT template should be filled in. You’re almost done! The last step, number 5, is turning what you found in your SWOT analysis into actionable strategies.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2019.

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Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.

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How to Become a Better Digital Marketer in 2019

Master SEO, social media marketing, copywriting and more in just 38 hours.

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Starting your own business has never been easier. Maintaining a new business, on the other hand, has never been more difficult. In the digital world, there are so many different ways to reach customers it can honestly give you a headache. Luckily, you can learn to master the digital space and steadily grow your business with the Complete Digital Marketing 12-in-1 Course.

This training packs 12 individual courses into one massive 38-hour masterclass that will turn you into a digital marketing rockstar. You’ll get lifetime access to 372 lectures and 38 hours of content covering everything from content marketing and social media to SEO and Quora marketing.

No matter the size of your business, this training will walk you through the most important digital marketing tools available. And it’s more than just reading, too. You’ll actually create your own WordPress website, write copy that converts, and design a data-driven approach to growth using Google AdWords and Analytics.

If you’re looking to take your business to the next level, this masterclass will get you where you need to go.

Usually, this 12-in-1 course would cost you $200, but right now you can learn how to create content that’ll convert for just $15.

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What Franchises Should Look For In a Marketing Firm

Reaching customers (and potential franchisees) is part art, part science. Three industry vets offer advice on finding a marketing and social media firm that strikes the right balance.

3 min read

This story appears in the
June 2019

issue of
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1. Think holistically

From Kenny Wu, director of corporate marketing, Scorpion

Franchisors are concerned with brand awareness and cohesion, but franchisees see marketing as just a small slice of their daily to-dos and are hyperfocused on performance. Both sides can be made happy…but it means a lot of careful planning, and no rogue franchisee campaigns! The ideal strategy: Build a playbook that broadens and deepens brand awareness, while also developing localized, brand-compliant tactics to help franchisees stand out in their neighborhoods.

To pull all this off, franchisors should shop around for a holistic marketing agency that works in different channels — not just search engine ads but also social media, email advertising, remarketing, and video marketing. It’s an approach that goes beyond low-hanging fruit, and instead helps franchisees reach their ideal customers wherever they’re already spending time on the internet.

When you’re interviewing agencies, ask to see successful case studies featuring franchises, and beware of anyone who makes guarantees; an agency promising x number of leads for x number of dollars can often mean exaggerated leads and short-term focus. Once you do sign a contract, stay on top of the results. You’ll want your agency to walk you through the numbers every month and provide transparent reporting. Be patient at first — it can take a few months for marketing efforts to ramp up — but if you’re still not seeing an ROI, it’s time to revisit the agency or plan.

Related: 5 Recession-Resistant Franchise Sectors You Should Consider During an Economic Downturn

2. Build a strong foundation 

From Charlie Kerr, president, Drama Kids International

Drama Kids is an after- school theater program with 307 global franchisees. To boost business, in 2017, it hired SocialJoey, a Tennessee firm that could…

a. Work independently.  

SocialJoey spoke directly with franchisees to understand Drama Kids’ concept and challenges, freeing the franchise’s corporate office to focus on its own tasks. “It requires less and less of my time to manage the account,” Kerr says. 

b. Create quality content. 

Drama Kids needed to catch the attention of its core audience: parents of kids ages 4 through 17. SocialJoey hit refresh on the brand’s social media accounts with posts linking to articles on topics like springtime activities for families, and kid-friendly slow-cooker recipes. “Any brand that simply bombards parents with ‘Enroll now’ messaging will lose them as an audience very quickly,” Kerr says. “You need to entice customers to keep coming back to your site.” 

Related: 23 Questions to Ask a Franchisor When You Meet Face to Face

c. Understand what works. 

To boost enrollment numbers, SocialJoey ran ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, tracked how many ad clicks led to new customers, and adjusted to optimize for paid sign-ups. Says Kerr: “The results skyrocketed.”

3. Unexpected success

From Andrew Pudalov, founder and CEO, Rush Bowls

What he expected: Pudalov, founder of blended-fruit-bowl chain Rush Bowls, wanted a branding strategy to attract new franchisees. When he hired Denver-based firm RainTree in 2016, he expected it to do just that. 

What he got: RainTree didn’t just generate leads; it shaped Rush Bowls’ story in a way that built relationships with franchisees. “They created a connection, one that makes sure the partnership is a right fit,” Pudalov says. The brand jumped from two to 101 locations in development.

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