Internet Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses: The Best Way To Build A Following For Your Brand

One of the most common questions I’m repeatedly asked by clients, as an Internet marketing strategist, is what the best way is for building an audience for their brand online. They ask as if they’re searching for some kind of magical secret that seems to be kept in a locked box by the elites of the business world, but the answer is actually incredibly simple. So simple, in fact, that it deters most people because it actually requires them to check their own ego. Entrepreneurs often have big egos as a staple, which blinds them from very obvious answers to critical questions they ask about their own efforts.

When I’m asked about the best way to build a following for a brand online, I challenge them with this counter-question: Why should I follow your brand?

Unless the answer stuns them into a stuttering submission, most attempt answering the question by telling me about the features of their brand, rather than giving me a legitimate reason that differentiates them from other brands and convinces me to invest time, attention, and money into their content that I’m otherwise never going to get back.

To answer the question, “Why should I follow your brand?” is tantamount to answering the famous interview test: “Sell me this pen.”

Follow the Laws of Economics

Let’s say that you were trying to build your brand’s following with a blog. Thinking algebraically, the “pen” in this instance would be your blog. This logic could apply to anything:

Sell me [insert variable here].

Sell me your blog.

You could say: “Well, we have contests for x.”

…or you could also say: “We have coupons for y.”

Yet none of those will attract (and keep) me the way that giving me a reason why that pertains to my actual demand will.

Your target audience’s demand is related to what they need to bring value to their life in some way. For each person, what bringing value to their life means is different. It’s a solution to a problem. Entrepreneurship, in all of its complexity, when boiled down, distilled to its first principle foundation, is simply the solution to any given problem in exchange for some kind of price. Determining the price is entirely up to the entrepreneur.

Answering the right way:

Problem: I’m terrible at math.
Solution: Follow my blog to learn more about math.

Problem: I’m horny.
Solution: Subscribe to my website for the best porn.

Problem: I’m hungry, but I need to learn how to cook to save money.
Solution: Join my blog’s mailing list for great recipes with videos on how to cook them properly.

Answering the wrong way:

Problem: I’m terrible at math.
Solution: We have contests!

Problem: I’m horny.
Solution: We have coupons!

Problem: I’m hungry, but I need to learn how to cook to save money.
Solution: We have great pictures!

If you notice in the movie clip above, when people answer the wrong way in the second scene, Leonardo Dicaprio’s character just moves right along to the next participant in the audience. That’s essentially exactly what your audience does online; they’re constantly bombarded with a myriad of different advertisements, day in and day out. You prototypically have only one shot to sell them your blog before they move right on to the next marketing contestant.

Checking Your Ego

How do you know when your ego is the reason why you can’t see what you need to in order to improve the following for your brand? Simple. If you’ve ruled out all other possibilities according to what you can troubleshoot from The Buyer’s Journey (TBJ) in reference to your marketing plan, then no matter how unlikely, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, you may just have to admit that your content is either off the mark with its targeting, or that it may just flat out not be good enough when compared to some other competitor that’s offering the same solution in a better more comprehensive way than you are.

Also, know that iconic brands don’t just pop up overnight; they mostly take years of consistent replication of linked stimuli in the associative memories of their target audience in order to achieve the status of “iconic”, such as McDonald’s, Ford, and Harley Davidson.

If you’re just starting out, then of course you’re not going to have a massive following overnight. Not in most cases, no. You may actually already be doing everything right as far as your content marketing strategy goes, but you may need to check your ego as would be required to see that you’re still just a small fish in the huge ocean that is the Internet, or at least in whatever market that you’re trying to establish your brand in.

That’s going to change depending upon which market it is that you’re trying to gain traction in, exactly. That’s different for everyone.

For instance (as a live example to demonstrate that I follow my own advice without contradiction), if you’re reading this right now, it must mean that you yourself have a demand for knowledge.

Problem: I need to learn how to market my business/brand/blog.
Solution: Follow my blog in order to receive the continual education you need, for free.

In Conclusion…

Thus, in summation, the secret to building a massive following lies not in your brand’s features, bells, and whistles, but in the solution that your brand provides to whatever problem that exists in your target audience’s lives. First, understand whom your audience is, to begin with, what their needs are. Then, simply provide value to that need in the form of your content, consistently, over time.

Master that simple concept, and everything else will fall right into place naturally, with minimal paid advertising and other incentives needed to begin with. Those should be used to enhance your brand’s reach and your customer’s experience with your brand, but it should never be the crux of the brand itself.

For some people, answering the “Sell me this pen” test is akin to a Buddhist quest for enlightenment that comes naturally to some, yet for others, it can take years if they ever get it at all. There’s no actual magical secret being kept locked in a dragon-guarded dungeon or a CIA chamber somewhere; it’s just a matter of understanding the fundamental first premise of economics, and following it with everything you got over time, with no excuses, and a checked ego.

It’s not about what you want; it’s always about what your audience wants. Take care of your audience, and they’ll take care of you.

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Internet Marketing Strategy

Michael Norton
Michael is the bestselling author of Fighting For Redemption, as well as an award-winning essayist, Internet marketing strategist, and mechanical engineer.

Visit his personal blog at NortonsMind.com.
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