The inspiration for this project
I’ll get straight to the point…YOU, dear reader, were the sole inspiration for this project.
Let me clarify.
Part of any great business is being in-tune with the needs, wants, and desires of your customers and prospects.
And so, as I create content for our email marketing every month, I take stock of what our readers LOVE, what they hate, and what falls flat. (Yes, it happens.)
It’s no surprise that case studies…in-depth stories about real business owners succeeding with their online marketing…always hits a home run.
I mean, who doesn’t want to read about someone’s success and learn how to replicate it for their own use?
However, I have a very limited ability to share Bixa clients’ success stories due to confidentiality agreements. Plus, not all clients are on board with a high level of transparency. Not that I can blame them…why would they want to post the winning strategy we created together on the web for their competitor to scoop up?
Long story short, I’ve been mulling over how to share more real life examples (because anything hypothetical only gets you so far).
And, I came up, with, what I believed to be a BRILLIANT idea.
But hey, obviously I’m biased and needed to be brought back down to earth.
So what did I do?
I pitched the idea to our email list.
I wanted to get real-time feedback, from prospects and customers, as to whether the idea totally sucked or whether it was an absolute winner.
Can you guess what the results were?
A very tiny sampling of the feedback I received
My so-called moment of genius wasn’t totally misplaced. Phew!
I received so much positive feedback on the pitch, there was no question in my mind…I had to move forward.
So, now that you know the birth story of this project, you’re probably thinking:
“Lauren, spill the beans! What the heck is this project exactly?”
Good question. Well, it’s called the Transparent Marketing Project.
And it’s a living, breathing year-long experiment to demonstrate how I would create an online presence from scratch…starting from an idea to building a site, to growing an audience through content and various promotional strategies.
Because I own the project (one of the perks of being an entrepreneur), the name of the game is total transparency.
This means I’ll be opening up the curtains…showing you all the successes AND failures along the way.
It’s true, no wins are possible without a heck of a lot of losses along the way.
So, buckle your seat belt and get ready. I can’t wait for you to join me on this wild and crazy adventure.
Turning an idea into something more concrete
After I came up with the idea for the Transparent Marketing Project, I kicked my feet back and thought…done! Success is inevitable!
Just kidding. If only it actually worked that way.
Now that I had an idea, I actually had to take that seed and turn it into something a little more concrete…something with roots.
Let me walk you through my process for this:
First, I had to mull over a few things:
1) How much time can I realistically dedicate to this project? What capacity do I have while running a full-time business? Equally as important, what can I be passionate enough about to continue for 12 months, on top of my other personal and professional responsibilities?
2) What will I be creating and who will it be for? Is there enough demand? How crowded is the existing market? It the marketing world, this would be referred to as 2 of the 3 M’s (Market & Message).
3) Is there potential for future monetization? If so, how?
As you can see, these are some pretty big questions. Without any easy answers.
Nonetheless, this is how I went about it.
My capacity + interest
Speaking frankly, I work a pretty full load. And I have a 1/2 day per week (with some extra creative scheduling, maybe 1 full day) that I can dedicate to this project. Likewise, these restraints killed a few of my initial ideas related to e-commerce that would require manufacturing, fulfillment and other responsibilities that I just, quite frankly, don’t have the capacity for.
Accordingly, in order to make this marketing project (the TMP) fit my current lifestyle, I knew it needed to be information based, with a future potential for digital products. Why? Because from a product creation and fulfillment standpoint, it’s far less complicated, not to mention the overhead will be lower.
Once that was settled, it was time to move on to the next question. What kind of information would retain my interest over the next 12 months? And also had enough market demand and opportunity for differentiation? Let’s be real, this is a business venture and not just a passion project.
The market + message
I started reviewing my existing skill sets. Outside of online marketing (because I don’t want to create a second marketing business), what areas of expertise do I have?
I listed them out:
Topic Idea #1: Dance
Not something everyone knows about me…back in the day I wanted to be a professional ballerina and dedicated 30-40 hours a week to honing my craft. However, that was a lifetime ago, and I’ve been out of that world for quite some time. As a 30-year old, I didn’t realistically see myself being able to reimmerse myself in an endeavor that is a young person’s game.
Pursuing my artistic dreams at age 2.5
Topic Idea #2: Yoga
Now more of a yogi than a dancer, this is something I spend some time doing during my week. However, I believe the market is a bit saturated and not something I feel I could really stand out in.
Topic Idea #3: Languages
I enjoy learning languages and have two under my belt (French + Spanish). As an early job, I even tutored others in languages. But do I really see this as something I could turn into a business without an excessive amount of time? No, I decided to keep that as more of a hobby.
Topic Idea #4: Dogs
Yes, while not a skillset, I tend to be a bit dog-obsessed. #trueconfessions
My idea of heaven on earth
Could I create some sort of informational product around pups? While performing some competitive research, all my moments of genius involved some sort of physical product. So I scrapped the idea.
Idea #5: Travel
If you follow my Instagram, you might know I’m a bit of a travel addict. In fact, this year alone, I’ve been on 2 international trips, have another scheduled, as well as a variety of US trips on my calendar.
Hmmm. Now, THIS idea was something that I kept coming back to.
Here’s more or less what went on in my head:
- Could I write about travel regularly for a year? Heck, yes!
- Are there opportunities to create digital information products around travel? Umm, have you heard of travel guides? Yes!
- What’s the competition look like? Is there a space for me to carve out in the market, where I can differentiate myself? Yes!
- Is this something people WANT? Yes! (Important sidenote: I came up with this answer not based on my feelings, but after a lot of market research.)
It was official: I had decided on a topic, but now I had to get a bit more granular and go back to some marketing basics…the 3 M’s.
The Market: Who is the target audience?
When defining your market, the more specific you can get, the better. I like to think of it as your “ideal customer profile”.
Here are the basics of my market:
- 20-30 something, no kids, single, engaged or married
- Lives in an urban area, within 1-2 hours of a major airport
- Thriving career with disposable income to spend on travel: $50K+
- Social…spends a lot of time with friends, including group travel
- High tech-usage: smartphones, social media, smart watches, wearable devices…you name it. There’s no technology this group doesn’t quickly adopt.
- Travel resources used: friends’ reccs, travel blogs, travel channels on Instagram + Pinterest, Airbnb, and online travel publications like Lonely Planet.
- Other sites this group likes: Amazon, Target, YouTube, Netflix, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Barack Obama, Victoria Secret, Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian, Starbucks, I Fucking Love Science, TED, Delish, Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, Wordporn and more.**
**Facebook Audience Insights is a great place for this type of data. And it’s free. ☺
Use data to drive your marketing
Sooo…my target market is a lingerie-loving, left-leaning individual who binges on Netflix while sipping their Starbucks. Plus, as a multi-device user, they’re simultaneously online shopping the hottest new trends (delivered instantly thanks to Amazon Prime) they discovered on Refinery29 / The Kardashian Show.
While by no means will EVERY single person fit exactly into this parodied stereotype, it does help me keep in mind who I’ll be speaking to, so I can create content that resonates. For example, by keeping this “ideal customer profile” in mind, I know that I won’t be writing about recommendations for the 75+ crowd who is looking to go on a group bus tour.
Getting hyper-specific with your target market is important because it helps you create content that attracts your ideal customer profile and repels everyone else (like a magnet).
This is exactly what you want to do. Most people make the mistake of going far too broad with their marketing, thinking they’re going to sell to the whole world. Newsflash: you aren’t. Very few business are able to do this successfully. Statistically speaking, you are not likely to be one of those unicorns.
Likewise, can you see how gathering all this great data paints a nice picture and helps you really hone in on your target market? Thereby setting you up for future marketing success?
The Message: What is the story you are selling?
What does your audience want? What makes you stand out from your competitors?
For me, this was surprisingly simple to come up with. Why? Because I did a TON of research beforehand. I had looked at a lot of travel sites in the space, what content was popular and resonated with my market, and where most of the competition was missing the mark.
Do you know what it was? Travel experiences that weren’t full of your typically touristy spots.
NOT my target audience
I summed up my message in 1 sentence:
“Travel guides + recommendations for adventurers who don’t want to be tourists.”
I find the best ideas are short and sweet, as well as very easy to understand.
Because I was so close to the subject matter, I ran my 1-sentence message by a few people, within my target market, to hear their feedback…which was overwhelmingly positive.
Score! I could now move on to the next step.
The Medium: Where does your target market hang out?
Where can you connect and communicate with them?
Again, because my market was so defined, this was relatively simple to hone in on.
Now, the key here is to only pick a few channels. When you spread yourself too thin, you end up doing a lot of things poorly. So, while I could add channels like Snapchat + Twitter, I decided against it because it would be too much for me to handle.
What I’d feel like if I tackled ALL online channels simultaneously…
Creating a strategic plan
Once I had defined my 3 M’s, it was time to create a strategic plan.
First, I defined my primary objective.
If I wanted to build an audience that could eventually buy from me, I needed an email list. Social followings are great, but they aren’t channels you own. Therefore, my main priority is to build a channel I own. Likewise, I’m going to be solely focused on building my email list.
Fortunately, the success or failure of this goal is easily measured in numbers.
Like I was taught by a business mentor, I’m following the good-better-best goal setting method for the next 90 days. This breaks down to:
- Good goal: 100 subscribers (1.11 subscribers per day)
- Better goal: 300 subscribers (3.33 subscribers per day)
- Best goal: 500 subscribers (5.55 subscribers per day)
As you can see, when I break up this goal into the daily target I need to hit, it becomes even more simple to measure my success (or lack thereof). I’ll be able to determine, every day, which actions are contributing to this goal of 1.11-5.55 subscribers and which tasks are distracting me from the #1 priority.
So, how am I going to reach this goal?
Through a few, well-defined projects:
- Build a website where I can publish content that will convert traffic into email subscribers.
- Create regular marketing emails to nurture these new subscribers and build loyalty.
- Publish and promote content that attracts new subscribers.
- Run giveaways to attract new subscribers.
And I’m planning on completing ALL 4 of these projects in the next 90 days.
And yes, it’s actually possible.
How do I know?
Because I’ve done it many times for Bixa clients.
So, if you want to see me tackle these projects, step by step, make sure you’re signed up to receive my updates here. I’ll shoot you an email, once to twice a month, when the latest TMP report is ready.
You won’t want to miss it.
PS: Have questions about this first report? Share in the comments below, and I’ll happily get back to you in a timely manner.
PPS: Want to take a sneak peak at the start of the site? Check it out here.