Claire Carradice is a professional SEO Writer and is the founder of FirstStepsOnlineMarketing.Com. She’s an expert in the first steps to online marketing for entrepreneurs and small business owners and has helped 100+ companies to grow. She specializes in developing online strategies for businesses to get more customers.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I left school early because at that tender age, I “had things to do, people to see and places to go”. The world was waiting just for me! (Confession time: I still feel that way…)
I started my career at 16 as an isle promoter in a mass superstore, and a real estate agent (I liked to call myself that, but I was more a learner) who made no sales and drove around on a 50CC scooter (you can’t fault me for being ambitious), progressing to receptionist at a dental company. After that, I worked at four NGO’s until I became frustrated at the lack of
forward thinking, and then moved to an exceptionally innovative information architecture and process renewal firm.
I have worked as a writer, in brand management and marketing, as an analyst and service expert. For many years, determined to run my own business one day, I worked on the side, setting up a gourmet burger business, confidence classes for teens, a dieting course and much more...
In 2014, I was retrenched by the corporate company I worked for, moved by trailer across the world (or so it seemed) with my dog and parrot, and set up shop close to the beach.
What inspired you to start your business?
Being a bit of a rebel, I have always had a desire to start my own business to kick the bosses who held too tight to the bit. I also had a desire to create my own thing and keep it going all by myself.
From the age of 20, I started multiple businesses doing all sorts of things. Until now though, none of them have brought in enough to survive on full-time.
When I started my current business 3 years ago, it was out of necessity more than anything else and simply evolved to what it is today.
Where is your business based?
I am situated in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but most of my business comes from overseas clients. I keep it digital and don’t see clients face-to-face.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I started small and charged low prices while working to improve my knowledge and skill. Within one year, I had improved so much that I could begin charging double.
In the beginning, I did anything and everything so that I could just get work coming in, and add the jobs to my portfolio so that I could generate more business.
I worked like an absolute dog!
It took me about a year after setting up to start strategizing, and about two years to begin marketing myself more aggressively.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Great question! Although connected, making sales and raising awareness are two different kettles of fish - the most effective strategy for others to become aware of what I do has been via social media.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
There have been many! But I would have to say that my biggest challenge has been learning to know my target audience intimately because that is what determines marketing success. It’s easy finding out information about people, but not the stuff that counts - the stuff that is personal and emotional, which is the stuff needed to create powerful marketing initiatives. I overcame this challenge by learning about my target audience so that I could apply that knowledge to my strategy.
The other major challenge was working from home and having my son buzzing around me, diverting my attention and wanting to talk all the time. I had to get really firm, sometimes to the point of lots of pouting and sulking!
How do you stay focused?
I am a realist and very, very practical. I know that if I don’t stay focused, I am going to miss out on opportunities and fail to keep deadlines.
Somehow, although I am not a disciplined dieter (sigh), I am very disciplined about working. I get up every day at the same time and do the same things. Although I hate routine, this is important otherwise I could find myself napping till mid-morning, or doing other things I shouldn’t be!
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Quality, and caring about the details. I make life easier for my clients. I do things better than my competitors. I find out what’s important to those I serve and give them what they need.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
My website’s content strategy and design. I don’t like spending money on advertising, so my strategy is to increase traffic to my site with optimized content. I also post a lot of value-add stuff on social media. I focus heavily on adding value instead of just promoting my business and services.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Do your homework.
Don’t think that just because you start a business, you will make money, because you won’t. I have started many, many businesses from a young age and most of them didn’t generate enough money because I didn’t do my homework first.
You’ve got to a) know your target audience and b) market your business so that people know about you.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is HubSpot CRM. Although I am still using the free version of it, I love the way they've set it up. I love being organized and this CRM helps me to understand exactly what’s going on and with who, and when to do what.
One of my favorite blogs is Kissmetrics because I love all the data and stats they are able to provide.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Probably Facebook. I use it to network, promote and communicate.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I know this may sound strange because well, He was not a businessman, but Jesus is my role model, because, in a world of dog-eats-dog and high manipulation, I want to do business in a way that ensures quality for my clients, putting their needs above my own, keeping my integrity and my desire to serve.
When I keep my focus on how Jesus would conduct business, it is easy to make decisions, not as marketers would do with all their scarcity and manipulative tactics, but as He would do. It keeps things real.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Very soon I will be releasing my first book, so my marketing strategy will be quite intense. I also plan to diversify and do more advertising.
How can our readers connect with you?
I would love to hear from them! They can check out resources on my website here: FirstStepsOnlineMarketing.com, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.