What do you do if your previously well-paying business model has stopped working—or it’s starting to crumble before your eyes?
It could be the ideal time to gather market intelligence that’ll help you find new ways to bring in cash.
Recently, I spoke with Jimmy Newson, a senior advisor to the New York Marketing Association and founder of Jimmy Newson Consulting, a business strategy, online marketing and sales consultancy in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., for his advice on how to gather market intelligence that’ll help in finding new revenues streams. I met him before the pandemic hit at a New York Public Library event I was moderating and discovered he has a wealth of knowledge about competitive market research.
Jimmy Newson says studying top competitors’ online and offline strategies can help entrepreneurs … [+]
Here are some of his tips for solo business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking for a way to boost their business now.
Take a close look at your positioning. Even if you have a great product, if you’re not positioning it carefully in your marketing, your sales may be suffering.
As you think about your positioning, he suggests asking yourself some key questions, including:
* What are you selling?
* Who are you selling it to?
* What are your short-term goals?
* What are your long-term goals?
* What is your unique selling proposition?
* Are your goals in alignment with the realities of being in the middle of a pandemic?
Make sure that your marketing strategy reflects how you have answered these questions. If you developed your marketing campaigns and brand positioning a few years back, they may need an update.
If you determine your goals are not compatible with operating in a pandemic and your existing business can’t be saved, you may have to make an immediate shift into a new line of work, he says. “If not, you’re going to have to get really creative and figure out how to generate revenue,” he says.
That might include embracing what you thought were temporary workarounds permanently. One of his clients, a fitness trainer, moved all of his classes online when gyms were shut down. Now he doesn’t want to return his training to the gym. “I’m making more money now,” he told Newson.
Understand who your competitors are. Competition doesn’t always come from the sources you might predict. “If they can take something away, they are a competitor,” he says. “They just need to be classified properly.”
In his own business, Newson often uses a tool called SEMrush to identify top players in a given space and to study what they are doing both online.
“I’m able to do an initial assessment not just of my competitors but also of my prospects,” he says. “I can immediately see where there are opportunities for wins and look at the entire market and determine how it is doing.”
Study where market leaders are getting direct online traffic, as well as referral traffic and search traffic, he advises. Also check out their advertisements and where the ads take you when you click on them, to reverse engineer the strategy rivals are using, he suggests. He also advises taking a close look at what they are doing offline.
“You now have a blueprint,” he says. “Someone else has already paid and done all of the legwork.”
But don’t just copy what your competitors are doing, he advises. “You have to be better,” he says. “See where they are missing the boat.”
Include multiple keywords in your marketing. Many small businesses focus on “owing” one or two keywords that relate directly to their product in their online marketing. That can be an effective strategy, but if they choose popular keywords, it can drive up the cost of paid advertising.
Don’t overlook secondary words and phrases in your copy, he advises. They may still bring customers to you. “A single page can rank for 30 or 40 keywords if written correctly,” he says.
For instance, if you’re selling “room dividers” for people who need a backdrop for video calls, you might also try weaving other terms people use to search for them into your content marketing or ads—such as “Zoom screens” and “backdrops.”
In addition to tools such as SEM Rush, the Google Keyword Planner can help you research potential keywords to include.
The upshot? It’s not easy to reinvent your business in a pandemic but if you want to be self-employed for the long haul, knowing how to do so is a skill worth sharpening.
“You’re going to have a more resilient business,” says Newson. “If something like this ever happens again, you’ll be better prepared.”