I've been talking to retired friends who want to start a little online business. I ran across two excellent posts this week that tie into this topic nicely, one by Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42 Blog, and other by Seth Godin.
According to Seth Godin, there are 6 steps to success:
Let's talk about Approach, what does that mean? How do you approach your new project, your new business, your customers?
My advice to my retired friends Lucy and Tom is to explore their mindset and expertise by writing about it on a blog. That's step 1, attitude. You express that attitude with 3 key content pieces: your message, your bio or backstory, and the big problems people encounter in your niche.
With Step 2, you need to collect information about the needs of your targeted audience by creating conversations with them and finding out what they want. You need to listen.
Before you can set goals for your business, you need to research your customers by having conversations, really listening to people, running polls, doing surveys and finding out what people want.
Step 2: Approach
This is where social media tools come in so handy. Use Twitter Search, Google Alerts and other social media tools to listen to what your customers are struggling with.
This will help define the story you are trying to tell. Ask yourself this: "If you don't understand what your customers are struggling with, then how can you solve their problems?" It's a simple question, but it's the core of our entire marketing plan. Good editors dig deep to understand. You have to as well.
There are some very good Web tools for listening to what people are talking about. Even if your blog doesn't get a lot of comments right away (and this will happen for most unless you've got a blog in a topic that's controversial or really popular), you need to find a way to listen to what's being said in your field.
I Spy, You Spy, TwitterSpy
Joe's right, Twitter and Google Alerts make it easier than it ever was before. I've got alerts set up for keywords with SocialOomph (formerly known as TweetLater), and get email updates when certain topics are being discussed.
Here's another tool I just discovered: TwitterSpy. Go there now, type in a word, and you'll get all the tweets using that word, practically in real time. Talk about monitoring conversations...it's a little spooky!
But how useful. You can follow those people if you wish, if they are saying something valuable, you can retweet what they say, connect with them and start building a tribe of people interested in the same things.
Of course, you want to be astute. Don't immediately start saying things like, "You should read my blog." Let people know a valuable tip, and link to your blog. Be friendly, ask questions, be interested in helping others, ask for their help. But you know all that by now, of course.
[NewsFlash: After I published this post, I checked out Chris Brogan's blog, and he's saying the same things as Seth, Joe, Valeria, and me, so we seem to all be on the same page... Maybe, just maybe, these guys are saying something important about content marketing online, do ya think?]
What else? What other ways to find out what people want and need in your niche? I'm sure there are many, these are just a few tips I use.
Content Marketing Pioneers: The Dawn of a New Era
Social Writing: Don't Ignore Social Networking Sites
3 Key Content Pieces for Starting an Online Business
How to Start "a Little Online Business ..."