Running a small business is hard enough.
Combine that with all the work you need to be doing to market your business and attract new customers and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
This is especially true for new businesses — with 50 percent of small businesses failing within the first five years of opening their doors.
For more than two decades, Marc Gordon has been dedicated to helping entrepreneurs face their marketing challenges head on.
Through his work as a small business expert, speaker, and entrepreneur, Marc has become one of Canada’s leading authorities for online marketing.
Recently, I had the chance to connect with Marc to see if he had any advice for small businesses, struggling to make online marketing work for them. I talked to him about his experience of starting his first business, and asked him about how his approach to marketing has changed as a result of the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
Read on to get a glimpse into Marc’s experiences of running a business and his advice to other small businesses on all things marketing:
Tell us about how your business got started.
Before my current company, I started GoldPro Canada in my parents’ basement in 1993 and sold the company in 2003. In 2004, I started Fourword Marketing to help other small companies with their marketing and apply what I learned from my experiences.
Now I work with companies from all types of industries; everything from hospitality, to tech, and even the mining industry. There’s really no area that we’re not diving into.
Every industry is different and that’s what I love about it! One industry might have a marketing method they’ve tried and is ready to move from, while another might apply that same marketing technique and get great results! It’s really interesting to see the views of the different industries and how they each market in a different way.
That’s the main reason why I don’t focus on one niche. I believe instead of finding the niche, have the niche find you.
I read that you became an entrepreneur at the age of 11! Do you think someone is born with an entrepreneurial spirit or do you believe it’s a learned skill?
My dad was a 30-year corporate guy and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, so it wasn’t something I was exposed to at a young age.
As a child, I loved painting plastic models; it was what I did with my free-time. When I saw kids in my class playing Dungeons and Dragons with bare metal figurines, I saw an opportunity!
I asked a kid if he wanted his figurine painted for $2. When he said yes, I took it home, painted it, gave it back to him and that’s when the magic happened! His friends saw it and immediately wanted to know where he got it painted. Within days, I had kids handing me figurines in one hand and cash in the other; it was my first lesson in the importance of word-of-mouth. Another key lesson I learned from that experience was when people value what you can do for them, they will naturally treat you better and that applies even today.
Find the clients who value what you do and anyone can be an entrepreneur if they put their mind to it!
What are the most effective channels you use to promote yourself, your clients, and your business?
The strongest marketing tool for my business has been personal networking at tradeshows or event. I’ll get more business in one day as an attendee than I will from months’ worth of social networks and blogging.
I think that applies to most people, as powerful as social media is, you can’t beat meeting in person or talking on the phone. You can reach a lot of people using social media, but are they the right people?
At a tradeshow, you have the opportunity to filter and talk to the right people who can help you and your business and vice versa.
In fact, I was at a tradeshow last week, my feet were killing me, so I sat down in a chair and a guy sat down next to me and we start chatting. Turns out, he owns a mining company that’s presenting to George Clooney! We talked about half an hour out of the blue, and now my team is in the middle of creating a presentation for him to give to George Clooney’s team. Face-to-face marketing really is the best way to go!
To the second part of your question, what works best for my clients, I would say if they’re into social media, I can help them develop strategies based on the industry. Social media is a slow thing and can be challenging to measure, so if you really want to make it work, you need to be willing to put in the time, and sometimes even money, to get it where it needs to be.
How do you view the relationship between email marketing and social media marketing? How can businesses use these tools to reach their audience?
Email is the equivalent of handing someone something, while social media is like throwing fliers into the wind. You don’t know where they’re going to land, if the person’s going to see them and if they’ll even care.
I’m a big fan of using email to establish and reinforce communication with existing clients or with people who have taken the initiative to put themselves on your list.
Social media and email really go hand-in-hand. The ultimate goal for all of my social media campaigns is to get people to join my email list. I would rather have one subscriber than 10 followers, because I have direct access to that one subscriber.
CASL, the new anti-spam law in Canada, may be scary to some small businesses and nonprofits doing business in Canada. As an influencer who utilizes email, do you have any advice for those who are afraid to hit “send” on a marketing email?
Outside of the legislation, it’s smart, no matter what, to make sure those on your email list want to be there; and to make it easy for them to opt-out if they want to. I know everyone on my list wants to be there because I ask everyone I meet if I can add them to my list.
Segmenting my lists is another important aspect of what I do; I would likely never send a promotional email to the same contact I would send a press release to! You don’t want to over-communicate the wrong information to the wrong people.
Have more questions for Marc? Feel free to ask in the comment section!
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