Being a successful creative nowadays is as much an artistic endeavor as it is an entrepreneurial one. From artists and musicians to graphic designers and custom jewelers, marketing as a creative is easier than ever.
As entrepreneurs, we have access to the same powerful business and marketing solutions that multi-million dollar companies use every single day.
The internet, social media and online marketing has completely leveled the playing field for businesses.
This post is a complete guide and designed as a strategic map outlining the best marketing for creatives – from social media strategy and digital marketing to content marketing and SEO tactics.
Marketing Is Not Selling
Value, Relationships & Brand
OK so obviously, selling is a core component and conversion goal for successful marketing.
However, shifting your focus away from this end goal can ultimately support better campaigns that focus more on giving value and the end-user’s experience – especially in the beginning when you’re targeting new prospects who have never heard of you.
So, for the purposes of this post, it’s helpful to see marketing as a buyer’s journey consisting of multiple contact points that take a cold prospect from brand introduction to awareness and curiosity to content consumption, engagement, trust and an eventual conversion.
I’ll talk more about this customer journey in the next section below on the sales funnel model.
So for now, let’s talk a little more about the importance of adding value, creating and strengthening relationships and building brand in marketing for creatives.
Value & Relationships
Building and strengthening a relationship with new prospects is a foundation for effective marketing.
And this is done by focusing first and foremost on providing value (in some form) to your target audience.
Depending on your industry, your audience’s pain points and value and your personal preferences for content strategy, value adding content can be something educational, entertaining, inspiring or just plain interesting (or some combination of those).
The purpose of value-adding content is to first establish a connection with your market by offering solutions to a problem, answers to a question or relevant content that they would enjoy.
Marketing is a give-first, ask later game. Any campaign that has a take-first approach will stumble and struggle.
Give a lot of value, consistently and, when appropriate, ask with an enticing, customized, highly relevant offer.
This concept of relationship building is accomplished using followup communication via email marketing and/or retargeting ads.
With this approach, a certain percentage of your audience will convert (provided your offer is good, your targeting is on point and your sales funnel is clearly defined).
However, if you fully understand the platform you’re using and create a content strategy that reflects the buyer’s intent on that platform, the process of converting cold traffic can be sped up.
I’ll discuss this topic in greater detail in the Online Marketing Platform: Free & Paid Options section below.
What’s one of the biggest differentiators for a business or entrepreneur amaidst a myriad of competition? Brand.
Building brand consists of consistent value-adding, top-of-the-funnel content with context and purpose.
Nowadays, building brand is much easier due to the ease of access to multiple social media platforms, user-friendly website and blog opportunities and the widespread availability for using any one of the various digital marketing channels.
Building brand is not an overnight process but is a long-term asset that creates equity, trust, authority and loyalty.
Every business of entrepreneur has a story and using that as part of your brand development can be one way to establish brand, since everyone loves (and can relate to) a good, humanizing brand story.
Here are some other tips for creating and establishing brand:
- Find Your Unique, Differentiating Factor
- Tell Your Story
- Use Colors, Design & Other Visual Elements To Express Your Brand Image
- Create Brand From Your Content Strategy
- Are you going to be educational? Interesting or entertaining? Or perhaps inspiring?
- Distribute Content Across Multiple (Relevant) Channels Consistently
- Building brand takes time
- Be Value-Adding & Giving, Not Sales-y & Taking
- Be Consistent & Stick To Your Message, Aesthetics & Image
Recommended Read: 5 Keys To Building A Brand As An Artist
Using A Sales Funnel
A sales funnel represents the buyer’s journey from cold prospect all the way through to a loyal customer.
At the top of the funnel, you have content and objectives focused on building awareness while at the bottom you have content and campaigns closer to making conversions and other sales objectives.
The sales funnel is nothing new, except nowadays it’s more efficient, effective, digital and automated.
Applying this concept to your marketing strategy means creating content and campaigns customized and specific to each stage of your sales funnel.
Therefore, it’s important to identify the stages of your sales funnel for each of your product or service offers.
Here is a diagram to help visualize the sales funnel process and how it relates to content and marketing:
Whether you’re employing a free, content marketing strategy or using paid ads to push people through the buying journe, understanding the sales funnel model means creating campaigns and content with intention, which will be more likely to convert and result in successful marketing.
Recommended Read: How To Make A Sales Funnel In 4 Simple Steps
Your Offer, Audience & Platform Mindset Variance
Understanding the importance of adding value, building relationships, establishing brand equity and marketing with a sales funnel approach is step one.
However, this approach also allows us to more effectively organize our campaigns and craft enticing offers that resonate with a particular audience on the most relevant platform.
And that’s the purpose of this section.
We want to explore what makes an enticing offer and how to match that offer based on your target audience and what stage they’re at within the sales funnel and the particular platform they’re on.
For example, if you’re reaching a new prospect using a free organic traffic method such as SEO (search engine optimization), this type of person is in a buyer’s mindset and is thus easier to sell to with a more aggressive offer.
However, if you’re targeting new prospects via paid ads on Facebook or Instagram for example, these people are not likely in a buying state-of-mind.
And since they don’t know you (yet) and aren’t actively searching for your product or service, you’ll want to present your messaging and offer gently with a top-of-the-funnel framework.
So as you can see, your offer, messaging and objectives will change depending on the platform you’re using.
Similarly, your prospect’s state-of-mind and placement within a sales funnel will also be influenced by the particular platform they’re using.
Marketing Platform: Free & Paid Options
There are numerous opportunities and platforms for online marketing. From paid ads to search intent content marketing, there are many available options for advertising your business online.
For the purposes of this post, I’ve split digital marketing options into either free options or paid strategies.
But using a combination of these choices is optimal.
My recommendation is starting with 1-2 platforms and marketing strategies and focusing on developing those before adding more and potentially spreading yourself too thin (unless you just love the game and can handle it!).
Investing time into free marketing options will tend to take longer to realize the results.
However, it’s a long-term strategy that provides you with evergreen resources and brand assets.
Below are some common free marketing methods useful for creatives.
- SEO & Content Marketing
- Writing Helpful, Value-Adding Blog-Style Content
- This involves finding low-competition keywords that your target audience are searching for and writing detailed posts answering their questions
- You can self host your content on a personal website (recommended) or even post directly to sites like LinkedIn and Medium
- Check out this great article on how to start and create a traffic generating blog!
- Social Media
- Building out a branded social media presence
- It’s good to find a content strategy that works with your image and personal preferences
- For example, some content strategies for social media include inspiring content, educational content, entertaining material, documenting or some combination of these
- The key not to sell, but focus on adding these value-adding pieces of content consistently and promoting engaging and interaction with your audience, ultimately growing your following and influence within your vertical
- YouTube is a fantastic choice if you can present your content in video format
- Video is inherently more engaging and YouTube is the second largest search engine (to Google search)
- Consistency, keyword research and SEO are all important factors here
- Similar to social media, you’ll want to identify your content strategy and start putting out value-adding material consistently
- This strategy will build brand, increase traffic to your website and grow your business over time online
- Pinterest is actually a search engine, except it’s a visual based platform
- Users are higher income earners, research products frequently and tend to spend more money on the platform compared to other places
- You’ll need to set up a Pinterest Business account and optimize your profile for Pinterest SEO by including relevant keywords in your profile name, descriptions, board titles and pins
- Since Pinterest is a highly visual platform, you’ll also need to create click-worthy images that link to your content
- I use the free tool Canva to easily create beautiful designs – they have templates, many useful tools and a beginner-friendly interface requiring no technical skills or design background
- Click here to learn more about using Pinterest for traffic and business growth!
- Email Marketing
- Despite the variety of advanced digital marketing options available, email marketing is still a great way to communicate directly with your warmest prospects and customers
- Of course you’ll need an existing subscriber list, but automating your email by using an email marketing automation software will optimize this marketing channel
- If you’d like to focus your marketing efforts on lead generation and email marketing, check out this post on 3 effective ways to generate new leads!
Running paid ads is an incredible opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs of all sizes and budgets.
It’s an affordable solution for building brand and awareness, driving traffic or making sales and pushing prospects down your sales funnel.
Although digital marketing requires a strategic, customized approach, getting started is simple.
So let’s look at some popular choices that will help you establish, grow and/or scale your business online.
- Social Media Marketing
- Understanding your sales funnel and how the user’s state-of-mind differs across different platforms is essential for implementing a successful campaign
- For example, you’d want to use different messaging for cold traffic on LinkedIn compared to targeting Facebook users
- Testing different audiences, ad creatives and variables is an affordable and efficient way to start growing and scaling your business online
- Check out my free 6 step guide to Facebook ads here!
- Search Engine Marketing + YouTube Ads
- This type of advertising can be highly effective since you’re reaching prospects exactly when they’re “shopping” or searching for solutions (via Google keyword search)
- You can also combine this keyword intent marketing with YouTube by targeting users based on Google searches with targeted pre-roll video content on YouTube
- Pinterest Ads
- Compared to social media ads and search engine marketing, Pinterest ads are frequently missing from the conversation
- However, users tend to have more money and tend to spend more money on the platform, making this a fantastic option for advertising your content, offer and business (source)
- Influencer Marketing
- Tapping into another person’s existing audience can be a great way to shortcut brand building and leverage someone else’s established trust, authority and engaged following
- Be sure the influencer, their content and their audience are relevant to your business, brand and offer(s)
- Also be sure that the influencer has an engaged account – for example, be sure that people interact with posts and leave comments and the influencer is actually responding
- Leave the creative decisions and promotion strategy up to the influencer – they know their audience best
- Here’s is a fantastic guide by HubSpot on how to get started with influencer marketing!
Step-By-Step Action Plan
This step-by-step action plan is a process I personally recommend and is something that will promote long-term growth and business automation.
If you’re just starting out and have zero content and no social media strategy or brand awareness, I recommend creating content and using free social media tactics first.
However, if you already have an active social media strategy and/or content, jumping ahead straight to paid advertising and/or Pinterest marketing is suitable.
Either way, this process is dynamic and cyclical.
That is, creating content is an ongoing process that’s never complete just like digital marketing, testing and reaching new prospects to grow and scale your business.
1. Create Content Specific For Each Stage Of The Buyer Life Cycle
Crafting content with your sales funnel in mind will help organize your content strategy strategically while intentionally targeting and guiding prospects from awareness and curiosity to conversions and consumption with buyer intent.
Having great content, whether that’s video or quality blog posts, also serve as an asset which you can leverage in multiple ways.
For example, adapting these content within your paid advertising campaigns while simultaneously optimizing them for search engines and free organic traffic are two immediate applications.
Creating content also builds your foundation as a business and brand while establishing authority, credibility and value for prospects and customers interested in your services.
Perhaps the best part about creating high-quality content is the potential growth these assets can accumulate over time.
If implemented correctly, they will essentially act as evergreen marketing resources that will drive free, targeted traffic to your website, brand and sales funnel long-term.
When creating content, research the existing competition for the keyword you’d like to target and aim for low competition (i.e., not bi, established websites) with high search volume (i.e., Google suggests the search phrases before you finish typing or within the first page under related searches).
You can also use a free keyword research tool (such as Ubersuggest).
Once you find good search terms with low competition, research the page 1 rankings and then create content that’s simply better (i.e., longer, more value-adding, more comprehensive).
Also keep the customer buyer life cycle in mind with your content strategy.
For example, top-of-the-funnel content is built around the “Awareness” stage.
This type of information can focus on answering questions, educating people on how your industry provides solutions to specific problems and other research, resources and insights suitable for newcomers.
Bottom-of-the-funnel (or middle-of-the-funnel) content will target people who are closer to a purchase or conversions, meaning the keywords and content will be more competitive to rank for.
Examples include specific product or service research and comparisons, questions related to purchasing a service and specific searches closely connected to buyer intent.
Consistently making a variety of these content will build out your sales funnel, organically targeting prospects at all stages of the buyer’s life cycle.
$$ Tip Jar
Besides posting your content on your website, you can duplicate those exact posts and reuse them for both LinkedIn and Medium.
This is a great way to increase your exposure and potential traffic and will not count as duplicate content (which could be a negative signal for Google ranking).
2. Leverage Your Creative Skills & Create A Visually Captivating Social Media Profile To Build Brand
As a creative yourself, adopting an engaging, visually appealing social media strategy is right in your wheelhouse.
Places like Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok are highly visual platforms and hubs for creativity.
Marketing is as much about sales and conversions as it is about building brand and a comprehensive content strategy that uses social media to promote engagement, interaction and follower growth.
The key is to be consistent, true to your brand and image and value-adding.
For example, sticking to a specific theme and color scheme will enhance the overall appeal and look of an Instagram profile.
Furthermore, consistently posting content that’s either entertaining/interesting, educational or inspiring (or some combination of those) will give people a reason to follow, engage and keep coming back for more.
All of these actions will be building brand equity and positioning your business as an authority and brand, making down-the-funnel sales and conversions much smoother.
Also be sure to add links connecting all of your various online platforms (YouTube to Instagram, Instagram to your website, your website to your socials, etc.) and to match your brand image throughout your social media profiles, website and marketing campaigns.
You’re essentially creating a brand portfolio for people, working towards a unique brand that’s easily recognizable and commands authority within your niche.
3. Be Consistent, Value-Adding & Patiet
As you know, this is not an overnight thing. Building brand and en engaged following takes time, consistency and patience.
It’s important to not be discouraged – especially in the beginning – and focus on putting out value each and every day.
4. Promote Content Via Pinterest Marketing
I’ve added Pinterest as a marketing step in this post due to its powerful capabilities as a search engine and for generating massive amounts of organic traffic to websites (even if they’re new).
Besides consistency (10-15 pins per day, at least) the key to take full advantage of Pinterest is:
- To Make Beautiful, Click-Worthy Pins
- To Link Those Pins To High-Quality, Value-Adding Content
- To Optimize Your Pins & Profile For Specific Keywords Via Pinterest SEO
Since a full Pinterest marketing tutorial is outside the scope of this post, check out this post to learn more about this topic!
5. Levarage Your Content & Social Media For Digital Marketing
Social media marketing has expansive opportunity for creatives looking to grow their business online.
However, it’s essential to understand some core concepts and approach this marketing strategically.
Here are some key concepts that are critical for successful digital marketing:
- Understand The User’s State-of-Mind & How It Changes Between Different Platforms
- i.e., a user’s state-of-mind and intent are completely between Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram
- Match your campaigns, offer and messaging to this mindset
- Understand & Identify Your Target Audience Clearly & Where They Fit Within Your Sales Funnel
- Are you targeting cold or warm traffic?
- Craft An Enticing Offer That Your Audience Actively Needs & That Is Suitable For Where They Are Within Your Sales Funnel
- Are you using a free lead magnet to build an awareness campaign for cold traffic?
- Or are you running a retargeting ad presenting a specific offer for website visitors or people who’ve engaged with a previous post of yours?
- Use Retargeting & Test Multiple Audiences, Creatives & Ads
- Testing is essential to fully understand which variables perform best and which do not
6. Retargeting, Testing & Scaling
Retargeting is the backbone to any good marketing campaign.
On average, it takes up to 7 points of contact before a prospect becomes a viable sales lead or converts into a customer (source).
As such, retargeting people and pushing them further down your sales funnel via customized ads and value-adding content is essential to succeed with online marketing.
Here’s the basic process of testing, retargeting and scaling:
- Set up multiple ads and ad sets to segment and test different creatives, audiences and other relevant variables
- After a few days of running those ads, pause the under performing ones and scale the better performing ones by increasing their budget(s)
- Once you have enough data, start running retargeting ads to the most engaged prospects, funneling these people further towards your ultimate conversion objective(s)
Recommended Read: A Foolproof Guide To Facebook Ad Retargeting
Digital Marketing Tips
- Focus On Adding Value
- Customize Campaigns, Messaging & Offers For Specific Subsets Of Your Audience
- If you try to reach everyone, you’ll reach no one
- Be Aware Of The Platform You’re Advertising On & Match Campaigns To The User’s State-Of-Mind There
- Be Consistent & Patient
- Especially With Content Marketing & Organic Social Media Strategies
- Generally Speaking, Selling Straight Away To Cold Audiences Who Don’t Know You Is Unlikely
- Use a sales funnel method and build awareness and consideration with your audience
- Use Retargeting Ads
- Install The Facebook Pixel To Track Website Visitors
- Use Storytelling To Build Brand & Promote Engagement Within Campaigns
- Build An Email List For Email Marketing Automation
- Use Video & A/B Split Test Your Ad Creatives
- For example, test an ad using carousel images, one with just a static image and another using video
- Split Test Your Ad Sets For Different Audiences
- Test Other Relevant Variables (landing pages, offers, copy and messaging, content, etc.)
- Run Ads For At Least A Few Days Before Deciding Which Ads Are Performing Best
- Pause Underperforming Ads & Ad Sets While Scaling Better Performing Ones By Raising Their Budgets
- If Something Is Working, Reinvest Profits & Scale It
- Use Lookalike Audiences & Custom Audiences
- Retarget Cart-Abandonment Online Shoppers With Followup Ads Reminding Them To Complete Their Purchase
- Add Relevant One-Click Upsells & Downsells To Boost Your Average Cart Value
- Use Timelines & Deadlines To Create Urgency
- Use Social Proof To Create Credibility & Boost Trust
- Customize Ads Campaigns For Specific Customer Segments
- If you try to target everyone, you’ll target no one
This post has walked through all the steps for implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy as a creative.
At the core of this strategy is establishing brand, adding value and applying the sales funnel model to appropriately target, retarget and build campaigns that resonate with your audience.
The step-by-step action plan outlined above highlights the importance of having a content strategy and an established social media presence for online marketing.
Leveraging these assets for more effective digital marketing is a large benefit.
Beside paid strategies, this post also explored how to implement SEO tactics and Pinterest marketing for free, organic traffic.
Although it’s a long-term strategy, adopting this protocol is something every creative should take advantage of due to its compounding effect on business growth over time.
Thanks again for reading today and let me know in the comments what you think is the biggest obstacle for marketing as a creative!