Heads up, entrepreneurs! Want to learn how to find your customers online—and how they can find you? See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business With Digital Marketing, by Avery Swartz, has the guidance and solutions you're looking for, presenting in a fun and inspiring read.
Today Swartz is talking to us about why digital marketing matters now, what she's learned from her own missteps, and special advice for publishers and authors looking to connect with readers.
49thShelf: Digital marketing—no longer just a nice-to-have, but necessary to engage with customers while the world is still on lock-down. What do you think businesses need to know about digital marketing at this particular (and most peculiar) moment?
Avery Swartz: For so many business owners, establishing a digital presence (or improving the one you have) often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. It can be such a chore! But now, with the world turning to the internet, it’s become clear just how important that digital presence is. Many organizations are playing catch-up, or feeling like they’re behind and they can’t catch up. I promise you—you can.
It’s so easy to get lost in the details of digital marketing. The tools can be overwhelming. There are so many apps and services and software and so many settings to configure. But if you strip all that away for a moment, you’ll see marketing for what it is: communicating with your customers and clients. That’s what is most important right now. Digital marketing is a way to have direct communication with the people who need you the most, and the people who you want to reach the most.
49thShelf: What was your own path to online marketing? And is there a misstep that See You On the Internet might have prevented you from making had you been lucky enough to have a copy on hand while you were starting out?
Avery Swartz: Oh my gosh, I’ve had the most winding career path. I spent eight years working in the performing arts industry as an arts administrator, publicist and marketer. Then I went back to school and studied graphic and web design, and I ran a boutique web design studio for about a decade. A few years into that job, I started hosting and teaching practical, beginner-friendly tech workshops for small businesses and nonprofits—the kind of people who were my clients. Those workshops took off, and became my company Camp Tech. After managing both companies simultaneously, I closed my web studio a few years ago. Now consulting, teaching and writing about technology is what keeps me busy.
I’ve made just about every misstep possible when it comes to online marketing. I’ve spent time and money on the wrong things at the wrong moments, and had completely unreasonable expectations about what could be achieved. The biggest mistake that I made was not setting goals for my digital marketing that lined up with my business goals. That’s something I talk about right at the beginning of See You on the Internet—how important it is to set goals for your digital activities. You don’t have to write a giant marketing plan, but you should have some idea of what you’re trying to achieve, where you currently stand, how and you’re going to measure your efforts.
49thShelf: The thing about technology and everything that happens online is that it all changes so quickly. What have the constants been, however, the parts of the online marketing puzzle that will never change?
Avery Swartz: It’s funny—when I was writing See You on the Internet and telling people I was working on a book about digital marketing, so many asked me, “won’t that be out-of-date the moment it’s published?” And in some ways, yes. Parts of the book won’t age as well as others.
New social media platforms will pop up, and new apps for adding filters to photos will come and go. But core, fundamental concepts such as “tie your digital marketing goals to your business goals,” “meet your customers where they already are online”, and “don’t build your castle on someone else’s land” are timeless. And they’re all described in detail in the book
49thShelf: What’s something that surprised you about how the book turned out, something integral to the project that was not what you expected?
Avery Swartz: See You on the Internet is my first book, and I learned so much about the book writing and publishing process when working on this project. One thing that surprised me was that it’s not enough to “write what you know”. This might sound obvious to the readers of 49thShelf, but dumping your professional expertise on the page doesn’t make for a good book. Especially not a business book. I spent a lot of time looking through business books and analyzing what makes them successful. Often it’s having a very clear central thesis and some kind of a structure—a “5 step method” or a “7 part proven technique”.
In the early planning for See You on the Internet, I had a structure that I didn’t end up using. My literary agent suggested that I write chapters with specific digital marketing advice for different types of small businesses (micro businesses, side-businesses, service businesses, retail businesses, etc). It was a great idea for structure, but when I started writing that book, I found I was giving the same basic advice to each type of small business!
So I ended up flipping the structure on its head. In the first chapter of See You on the Internet, I introduce a simple framework for digital marketing that any size organization can use. Each subsequent chapter details a particular type of digital marketing (websites, content, social media, SEO, email marketing, online ads, etc) and how you use each one, depending on what your goals are. The last chapter of the book brings it all together, so you can get started on your digital marketing activities using the framework and the details you learned. The advice works because it scales.
49thShelf: Here at 49thShelf, we’re a community of readers, writers and publishers. Do you have any tips for marketing books? How can we do better?
Avery Swartz: There’s this saying in the marketing industry: “whoever gets closest to the customer wins.” What that means is, whichever company understands their customer the best will be able to anticipate their needs and wants, and talk to them in a way that they’ll listen. That company will “win” the customer. It’s kind of a gross statement and feels a bit icky and scammy, but it does have some truth to it.
My advice for book people is the same advice I give to a lot of organizations: know your customer really well. Become downright obsessed with them. Think about what they need, what they want, what they value. Be specific. And definitely think about how those things have changed in the last few months.
If you don’t know what your customers need, want, and value, then reach out and ask. Not through a survey—those tend to not yield the most accurate results because the questions asked can skew the answers. Ask them yourself. Call a few of your best customers and ask them questions, or reach out by email or social media. Try to get a sense of where they’re at. Note what words they use when they talk. When it comes time to crafting your marketing messages, remember those words and where your customer was coming from. Use that in your marketing, and it will resonate.
Avery Swartz is the founder and CEO of Camp Tech, the tech workshop company for non-technical people. She was ranked number 5 on Search Engine Journal's Top 50 Women in Marketing list. Avery is the resident tech expert on CTV Your Morning, highlighting the latest tech gadgets, apps, and tech news for a national audience. She writes for Chatelaine, Today's Parent and The Globe and Mail on tech topics for modern women, families, and small businesses. Avery is the author of the best-selling book See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing. Avery has been a Professor at both Ryerson University and Humber College. She lives in Toronto.
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