Starting a SAS Business: 10 Marketing Tips to Get You Started

“You may not be able to read a doctor’s handwriting and prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typewritten” – Earl Wilson

Although many people don’t understand exactly what a doctor does, they do generally know when they need one. The amount of people who expect their doctors visit to be expensive is even higher than the number of people who are aware of their need for healthcare. The situation is slightly bleaker for the qualified IT professional, working as a SAS programmer means you are an expert in a field in which the common person has less understanding of the inner workings of your job than they do of their doctor. Although most company higher-ups have a general understanding of the type of IT professional that is needed for their project, you are still facing a knowledge barrier. To overcome this barrier and distinguish yourself to prospective employers exemplary marketing skills are required.

sas programmer computing business

In his book, How to Become a Top SAS Programmer, Michael Raithel states that “The truth is that any organization will pay only so much to its computer programming staff,” stating this as one of the top reasons for SAS programmers to consider marketing their services to individual clients as freelancers. When you start your own SAS business you determine what billable price you put on your services, instead of accepting a set annual salary. Starting a SAS business comes with its own set of difficulties, but the rewards can be high for professionals who are able to work as independent contractors or who decide to incorporate their own small business. With a good marketing plan, you will begin successfully building your client list. 

  1. Determine your ideal clients- Determining your ideal clients will have a significant impact on the type of content you share and how you determine your marketing efforts. When beginning as an SAS programmer, find out where your competition finds their clients. Ask a mentor or leader in your professional groups for advice on the companies who hire SAS programmers within your specialty. Project size and time frame are also important aspects to consider when endeavoring to work with new clients. Figure out how many projects you can juggle at a time and how much time you want to spend working with each client. Determining your own schedule and contracts involves finding clients who meet not only your price requirements, but who are a good fit for you in other aspects as well.  According to IT Pro Today, it is important to narrow down your target market into Geographic Location, to target your preferred customer. Decide if you are willing to travel to an ideal client or if you only want to work with clients within your region. This will help you in marketing to clients in your area and can help you decide other aspects of your marketing plan, for example, which networking events that you want to attend, and how you want your business to appear on search engine results.
  2. Create a Plan to Become Highly Visible on Search Engines- Making sure that your business ranks in search engines is important to gaining clients. You’ll want to focus all aspects of your online marketing content to be easily accessible to potential employers and clients. Make sure that your content is shared on social media sites and that you have a high-ranking presence is important. Listing services in an online directory is a great way to increase your search rankings. Use Google Analytics to track your website visitors and ads created for your business.
  3. Maintain a Website blog with Great Content- Creating content for a blog can be done in a variety of ways, consider Youtube, how-to posts, videos, and ebooks. If you teach online courses, you can promote your classes on your website. Teaching other programmers helps you stand out as an authority in the industry. Instructions and Guides in PDF formats are great content pieces to include in your blog. Interviewing others in the industry and posting the long form interviews on your website can be highly interesting to others in the industry. This type of content works very well and can get high page views. Hire a transcriptionist to transcribe a recorded interview or conversation that would be of interest to your blog readers.
  4. Attend Relevant Networking Events- Attending networking events that put you directly in front of your target client is a strong marketing technique. Use the opportunity to distinguish yourself from other potential candidates. Make sure that you let potential clients know that you are available for potential work and ask questions about their workplace goals. Asking questions about your client’s goals help you to know if you want to work with them and will help you to send more targeted emails and other communications with them in the future.
  5. Learn to explain what you do- Clients do not need to understand the ins and outs of what you do, but they want to know how you can help their company. Practice an elevator pitch that qualifies these questions. For example, if you write SAS programs that help clients to quickly sort through their customer’s data and perform analyses this could be a great thing to mention in your elevator pitch. It’s easy to understand “I help your company to understand it’s clients better and I can write targeted programs to help you beat the competition.”
IT professional sas business
  1. Practice Telling Clients Solutions You Provide- Each time you speak with a prospective client on the phone or at a networking event, you have an opportunity to demonstrate how you can change the game for their company. To leave your clients salivating at the thought of working with you, come up with three to four stories that demonstrate your past success with former clients. Think of this as an oral resume. It needs to be targeted at the success you’ve brought to companies. Practice this like an acting script so you aren’t nervous at event and consider making your oral resume available in videos on your website.
  2. Successfully Use Social Media Platforms- Learn to use social media platforms the right way. Focus on sharing informational content about your industry. The best way to keep a clean social media page is by not sharing negative opinions about others. If it’s tempting to share views that aren’t work-related, consider hiring an assistant to manage your social media. If it is in your budget, purchase a pro version of LinkedIn to speak directly with company representatives you are interested in working with. If you don’t have a twitter account and want to grow your followers, a service like Twiends, can help you increase your follower number quickly and organically.
  3. Join Sharing Tribes and Content Sharing Sources- Hootsuite, Buffer, Quu to help you schedule your social media posts. Quu allows you to pick from over 500 topics that would be of interest to your audience and then shares others content on your social media pages. This helps to connect you with others who are interested in your industry. Plus, it helps you to share more content.
  4. Create an Interactive Experience for Clients- Clients enjoy an interactive experience and will appreciate you creating a resume that shows them instead of telling them what you can do. Focus on your strengths through creatively demonstrating your skills in an online resume.
  5. Create a Client Portfolio- Once you start getting clients, make sure to ask for recommendations and reviews. Reviews from clients helps to show others you are trustworthy and a quality programmer.

When you are beginning your efforts in marketing your SAS business remember that one of the best ways to market your business is getting great reviews and recommendations from your clients. Using your current network to expand your business is a great way to begin. These tips will help you grow your online presence quickly and efficiently. Creating an attention-grabbing marketing plan will enable you to get your SAS business started and allow you begin establishing your client portfolio.

Porter’s Five Forces and How to Apply Them to Digital Marketing

What are Porter’s Five Forces?

Sizing up the competition and researching the work of one’s competitors should be a matter of importance for any company or organization—no matter how small or large it might be. Even though you won’t want to become overwhelmed with the business of keeping an eye on the competition, you certainly want to have a healthy understanding of what it is that they’re doing right when it comes to serving their customer base in terms of bargaining power. This is where Porter’s Five Forces comes in. The five-forces model of analysis offers competitive forces including competitive rivalry (including switching costs), the bargaining power of suppliers, the power of buyers, the threat of substitutes, and barriers to entry or the threat of new entry. This five-forces analysis can be used across all sectors of business, and it’s utilized to identify the reasons or trends that allow specific industries to be profitable in their work. It can also be helpful in uncovering the strengths and weaknesses of an organization and that data informs their practices and policies going forward giving you a competitive advantage and increase your market share. Each different force speaks to a distinct variable that all businesses have to grapple with. Competition in an industry, the potential of new entrants into an industry, the power of the suppliers and the power of the customers, and the threat that comes along with alternative or substitute products.

Keep Your Enemies Close…and Your Customers Closer

Knowing just how many competitors one has to keep an eye on is essential. There are only so many customers out there and you want to be able to retain as many of them as you possibly can as time draws on. This means that the more companies there are existing within one niche or sector, the less power each individual company has when it comes to driving sales. Prospective and veteran business owners alike should make it a point to be referring back to this first force regularly, but not obsessively. Competition within an industry might be the most crucial of the Five Forces to study. When there’s less competition within a business sector, existing companies, as well as those up and coming businesses, have the greater probability for success.

Stay Alert, Stay Safe

Just as a corporation is affected by its existing competition, it’s also affected by the threat of new entrants coming into the same field of business. Each sector has its own unique obstacles that go hand in hand with getting an operation started. There are a number of business niches out there that are more costly to get started in and, for that reason, the competition in these niches is not as stiff. That’s not to say that there’s no competition whatsoever, but new entrants are certainly less of a worry for business owners in these sectors. The more affordable an industry is the more motivated new entrants will be to enter that industry. This means that it’s key for existing owners to keep an eye on trends that might arise within their niche that might cause an influx of new entrants.

Pinch Those Pennies Where You Can

Suppliers also play a major role in the business of doing business and their involvement can be very taxing or very simple depending on the niche you’re focusing on. Costs can skyrocket really quickly when you factor in a number of variables surrounding manufacturing. Avoiding disastrous financial ruin is a continuous goal and this is a huge point to ponder long before a business has been established. Even when your business relies on simple materials, you can never predict when an emergency situation or shortage might take place. Marketing an extremely exclusive product might make competitors a non-issue, but costs could become a pain if that product requires finer materials that are not easily sourced. If there’s only a small pool of suppliers that you have to pull from, each supplier’s power will hold a lot of weight where your business is concerned.

Supply and (Alternative) Demand

Customers also hold a lot of power and they can cause prices to drop swiftly if and when demand for a product fades out. Demand relates to the number of customers that support a company and the significance that each customer presents with their purchases. Any business should hope to build a loyal customer base and this is the best way to secure the future of a company. Alternative products and substitutes are the final of the Five Forces that can threaten a business. We’ve seen it a million times in the past: once a new product gets released and becomes a big hit, there are a handful of knock-off versions that are eventually released as well. These knock-off versions are generally made cheaply and the price tags reflect that. Of course, cheaper price tags are going to entice customers and that’s how a market becomes saturated. You want to make sure that you distinguish your products from the rest of the offerings your competitors bring to the table for customers.

Supply And Demand

Business Brains are Creative Minds

When it comes to being successful with digital marketing, innate creativity has to be a part of your nature. If you don’t have creativity intact beforehand, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get projects off the ground. You also want to be sure that you’re paying close attention to the core values of whatever company you’re marketing for—even if it’s your own. Digital marketing has become extremely witty and influenced by pop culture and that should make it even easier to break into it. You can rely on Porter’s Five Forces to guide the creation of vision boards and concepts for your digital marketing contracts. As you research the competition within whatever niche you’re targeting, it’ll be that much simpler to decide on which ideas might be the best to pursue in terms of marketing campaigns. This is the time to get a feel for the winning marketing methods your competitors have used—and to brainstorm as many new ideas as you possibly can with the rest of your marketing team.

The Big Wrap-Up

Porter’s Five Forces analysis has stood the test of time and these principles serve as the perfect foundation for so much thorough research. If businesses hope to thrive through downturns and harder times, they’ve always got to remain open and ready to tweak their budgets in the most ethical ways possible through effective strategic decision-making. Using the Five Forces to inform your digital marketing strategy should take very little effort!

Ladies of the Laptop: Meet Our Project Manager Adriane

Week 2 of Our ‘Meet the Team’ Series!

Every week, we’re featuring one of our hardworking Content Refined ladies, so that you can get to know us all a little bit better.

Adriane O’Sullivan is a remote Project Manager, who has been with Content Refined since the beginning!  She started as a writer, and soon climbed the ranks to establish her own management position.  Adriane’s dedication, kindness, and respect to all of her clients is extraordinary.

project manager adriane

Here are 5 Fun Facts about Adriane:

1. Adriane has lived in Australia and has sky dived, bungee jumped, and, to this day, one of the best days of her life was spent exploring the great barrier reef.
2. Adriane used to own an e-commerce store that she would sell women clothes and jewellery that she collected on her travels.
3. Adriane is the proud dog mother of a very sweet rescue named Rocky (get it? Rocky and Adriane).
4. Adriane is a craft beer connoisseur/super obnoxious beer snob, and once did a craft beer themed road trip from Calgary to Toronto, stopping along the way in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Chicago to visit some of her favourite breweries.
5. In her spare time, Adriane likes to work out, lounge at the cottage with a good book and watch hockey.
project manager adriane content refined
project manager adriane content refined
project manager adriane content refined rocky
project manager adriane content refined
project manager adriane content refined

Adriane is an awesome team member here at Content Refined.  Her life experiences and background in eCommerce and writing have equipped her with a great set of skills for this position!  If you want to get in touch with Adriane about any content marketing needs, you can reach her at adriane@contentrefined.com .

The Perfect Networking Follow-Up Email

The importance of networking is no secret to business owners. We may not like it or want to do it, but networking is an essential aspect of having a successful business. There are many people who can tell you all the best networking secrets like intentional speaking, the importance of conversation starters, how to avoid meaningless small talk, and discuss your career goals.

There are seminars you can take on social business skills, networking, and how to make a good first impression. You can even hire people to make sure you look good during a networking event. Business owners tend to prepare so heavily for the actual networking event that they forget to plan to stay in touch.

Whether you go to a large networking event such as a chamber of commerce celebration or you run into a colleague and their associates at a diner and use the opportunity to network, chances are you’re going to end up with a pocket full of business cards. If you are anything like me, these cards probably get taken out of your pocket and tossed into a stack with a dozen or more others on your bedroom dresser.

networking email business cards

Networking can be exhausting. After putting in long hours working our businesses, no one wants to spend additional time, away from home, talking to other business owners or potential clients. While networking events can often lead to great professional relationships and help to stir up more traffic for your business, conversating about your workplace after working there all day can be tedious. We all get it and everyone else is going home at the end of the night feeling the same way. The difference between a successful networking opportunity and a waste of time can be as simple as a follow-up email, however, so make sure you pick up those cards and start emailing. Follow this advice to learn how to craft the perfect networking follow-up email.

Take Notes

Did you have a great conversation with someone at the bar? Did the woman behind you in line for the bathroom share a particularly funny anecdote with you? Did the colleagues at your table share any of your goals and ambitions? Networking events give you the opportunity to meet a lot of people and learn about a lot of businesses. At the end of the night, it can be hard to remember who said what and who worked where. When you exchange business cards (and always exchange business cards with everyone you talk to at a networking event) job down a few notes about the conversation you had with that person that will jog your memory later when you are sitting down to write a networking follow-up email.


Having a generic, follow-up email to send to people you meet while networking can be tempting. After all, writing takes a lot of time and there’s no guarantee the recipient will even read it. You can’t write a generic email that is unique enough for your recipient to not realize you’re sending the same one to every person you met. Those notes you took after conversations on the back of business cards will help you to personalize your networking follow-up email.

Personalizing an email including parts of the conversation or interaction that interested you or that you enjoyed the most is the best way to connect with the recipient. They will feel like you valued their time and conversation and be much more likely to respond. If the recipient did not remember you from the event, including personalized details can jog their memory and impress them.

Another reason personalized follow up emails are so important is that they can serve as a record for you of who the person is, what you’ve talked about, and how they have responded. Having a written record of communications, especially in business, can be very helpful and safeguard us against any future legal action if needed.

networking follow up followup follow-up email


Personalizing a follow-up networking email takes a lot of time but is well worth the investment as long as you prioritize. Who did you have the strongest connection with at the event? Were there any questions or conversations you had that are time sensitive or require urgent attention? What connections did you make that you feel are most important or the most promising? Address these people first.

Don’t feel obligated to send a follow-up networking email to every single person that you meet at an event. There will be many people that you have only small talk with or who don’t make sense to network with if you can’t do anything for each other’s businesses. These people will appreciate you not wasting your or their time.

Solicit a Response

Sending a thank-you card usually doesn’t require a response from the recipient other than an acknowledgment of the card, in most cases. A follow-up networking email is much the same way. If you don’t give the recipient a reason to respond and keep the conversation over, you will be facing a dead end.

Some of the tactics you can employ to solicit a response from your recipient are asking open ending questions, requesting to set up an in-person meeting, or asking for their opinion on something.

You should also always try to add something of value to the conversation. If the recipient feels stuck just answering a bunch of questions for you, they may not feel as though they are getting anything out of the connection. Make sure that the recipient understands your business, field of work, what you’re an expert in, and how your businesses can be of benefit to each other.

Follow-Up within 1 – 3 Days

Following up sooner than later is important and most experts say that sending a follow-up networking email is best within 1 – 3 days of the connection. If the event takes place on a weeknight, it is appropriate to send an email the next day. Events and connections that happen over the weekend can wait for follow up until normal working hours on Monday or Tuesday. Don’t wait any longer than three days or you run the risk of the recipient forgetting who you are, what you talked about, and losing interest in your business.

Follow these steps and you can be sure that you are sending the perfect networking follow-up email. Follow up is essential for lasting business connections so don’t forget this vital networking step!

Where Niche Industries are Thriving: 2018 Edition

Beard oil, subscription boxes, Matcha, and pet supplies have something in common: according to Google Analytics, these are niche markets that are trending upward in 2018. If you’re looking for business opportunities, niche markets are a good place to be.

Grab your data set and get to work. Among the more popular tactics for niche businesses is to make good use of the analytics out there. You’ll want to make use of some of the Artificial Intelligence solutions available in the marketplace. Choose your niche wisely and choose your tools with forethought.

What if…?

You get some analytics and even though the results don’t include your industry you can think of ways to leverage the information. Whether you’re looking for something compatible with your existing line, something trending to bring the shoppers to your site, or you’re looking to start something new, you need the analytics to tell you the shape of the niche market. The semantics are important.

For example, the results of two related searches bring slightly different results. Take the beard oil as an example. A broader search using men’s grooming products shows a positive trend and if you drill down into what’s driving the trend, you may find something like beard oil. Take that idea and roll it up with a subscription box and you have trending trends that you’ve bent to your will. It’s like a superpower.

niche market beard oil

Finding Your Niche

Even if you’re starting from scratch, you can invest in the metrics and analytics that give you a better than average chance at success. Think of Matcha and you’ve just joined the trend. Matcha tea and related items, like Green Tea Shot which is a trending thing, fit into the larger trend of teas.

Everything VR is hot and getting hotter as the technology catches up with the expectations of people who want to try it. If your technology skills are not VR-ready, you can break into the general market with toys like electric skateboards (a hot item, getting hotter) or Wi-Fi video doorbells. If you go with manufactured goods, consider using a dropship model where there are some specific niches which include wireless devices, a pretty wide field. That means you can target VR headsets using a dropship model and double-up on your trends.

You can also mix and match trends, such as the electric skateboards with companion trends, such as LED shoes. Check out the demographics.

What’s Trending?

Some old reliable vertical markets, such as fandom items, which continue to trend upward, need an awareness of which franchise is burning up the Internet. Check social media, up and coming companies in the fashion industry; check out small businesses with niche products and dip your big toe in the real estate industry. Pay attention to your buyer analysis and pick the franchise with the greatest opportunities. As fast as you can think of gewgaws to market, you can grow your market.

Cell phone power banks and anti-stress toys might be a great mix. Both are predicted to trend up in 2018. With ideas like this, the secret is to do the homework and brainstorm with data points helping you to plot your business plan. Find a niche or a niche of niches to target and dominate. Both B2C and B2B online businesses are on the rise. Mark your territory and then market yourself like everyone is watching.

Sustainable and ethical clothing lines are expected to be a hot-ticket item in 2018 with a strong upward trend. You can drill down into what that means and focus on organic cotton clothing. Interesting designs are going to be important and should reflect your brand.

Something that is on a serious upward trend is vaping. An online vape store is a great business opportunity. The market is growing and you can grow with it. Wrap some of your vape juices with a subscription box service and you’ll find yourself in the center of another burgeoning trend for 2018. Many sites bundled vape juices together. Put together a kicker of a site, beautiful graphics and boastful descriptions of each flavor of juice you offer, and let your audience know you’re out there.

Another growing market is in the ubiquitous backpack, knapsack, and rucksack. Consumers hunt furiously for the perfect carrying bag, something that does everything they need. The lowly backpack has become a mobile office and that is true, apparently, for a lot of people. Dig into what people are looking for and you can find a place for smart backpacks.

Pets are a dominant market niche. Businesses that provide pet food, accessories and pet-themed gifts are expected to thrive. Create a presence with dog-themed mugs, enamel pins (another positive trend), and accessories. People are still in love with their companions.

Trending up in 2018 are videos explaining an industry or product. You can create a digital marketing campaign in which you illustrate, simplify, demonstrate, and explain your niche, industry, services, or products. If you’re wondering about what this looks like, think of the popular videos on Facebook: “Buzzfeed,” “Tasty,” and “TechInsider.” This niche is excellent for graphic artists, public speakers (who translate well to the little screen), and others who can present content in an engaging and visually stimulating way.

What’s Next?

Take the data you find and identify a niche that screams your name. If you come from the product direction, you’ll look for analytics that tells you who is in the target audience for your product selection. If you come from the target audience you’ll have identified a buyer persona and you’ll be looking for what products that audience wants. Manage the business using smart objectives and the demographic and trending data available online.

You can create your own sales space or use one of the services available to interact with the customer. How much control do you want? How much of the nitty-gritty mechanics of business can you handle?

You can build a business where the core business, such as mugs, cards, plaques, and T-shirts, services several channels. Blank mugs and T-shirts can be printed when the customer orders the specific channel theme and image.