As you start your new business, you’re likely pretty darn aware that marketing makes a huge difference in your success. With seemingly infinite options to advertise a startup business, where should you begin? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ve come to the right place. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. Remember, there’s a reason your accountant doesn’t ask you to follow their firm on Snapchat. Different business owners will use a multitude of strategies depending on your industry and your product or service.
Know your goals
If you’re unclear of what you hope to achieve with marketing, you won’t achieve much. Lacking a clearly defined objective quickly wastes your money and time. Define your goals from the beginning so you know what you’re working towards throughout the first years of running your business. Common marketing goals revolve around profitability, retention and growth.
Know your audience
When marketing a startup, it’s extremely important to know your target audience. Depending on your product or service, identify your core market and refine based on data about your audience. Collect information about your target market’s interests, gender, education, income and anything else that may be helpful.
Depending on your startup’s industry, the marketing methods used will be different for everyone. For example, if you’re in the clothing industry social media will probably be very important to you but, if you’re a glass manufacturer, you may not focus as heavily on social media.
Start a website that engages visitors and is visually appealing. Don’t risk losing a sale to a competitor because of an outdated or boring website. If you’re feeling creative, design the website on your own using a platform such as WordPress, just be sure it’s professional and reflects your brand. Start by creating a few basic pages: A home page, about page, product or service page and contact us. Once you have these down, work on some tactics to rank your site on search engines such as Google and Bing. But, before you start creating content for your new site, it’s crucial to understand how writing for the web actually works.
Learn the search optimization basics
Search engine optimization [SEO] is the process of using different strategies and techniques to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high ranking within a search engine. SEO helps users find your website more easily when typing in a related query on a search engine. It’s reported that 90 percent of people searching online will not go past the first page of search results, so create a goal of getting as closest to the top as possible. Search engine optimization is complicated but small business owners can easily learn how to implement the basics. There are many online guides and resources to help. If you have the budget, it’s not a bad idea to hire a marketing agency to help with SEO.
If your site doesn’t rank well in search, you’ll miss out on tons of customers who may be looking for your product or service. Also, connect your website to Google Analytics to measure and track your site’s metrics. Google Analytics offers valuable information about your audience and web traffic. Google offers other helpful tools such as Google Search Console which permits you to check your rankings within the search engine. It’s recommended to add your businesses location to Google’s map with Google My Business. This way when someone searches your company, the address, phone number, hours and some basic product or service information will come up.
The Most Important Elements of Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines
- Keywords: Using targeted keywords throughout your content helps users and search engine bots understand what your site is about. It’s important to use a multitude of different product specific keywords in your content, so the search engines know what your site is about. For example, if you sell clothing you’ll use keywords such as attire, dress and fashion. First, identify what your users are typing into search engines when they look up your products or services. If you don’t know what they’re searching for, it will be pretty hard to reach them. That’s why keyword research should be completed before you start writing any content. There are many tools to find relevant keywords such as SEMRush, Soovle and Moz. In addition to serving up a lengthy list of keywords, some of these tools even sort keywords by popularity and overall competition to help increase your probability of ranking in search.
- Good content: It’s all about the content. Organic search results aren’t necessarily “free”. Improving your ranking in top search engines takes hard work and dedication. Think of high ranking as your reward for providing valuable and unique content (with the appropriate keyword usage of course). Well-written and thoughtful content is important to both search engines and your audience. Thoroughly explain your product and demonstrate the benefits. Offer advice and address frequently asked questions on your site. Turning your website into a go-to resource for your customers is a fantastic way to earn their trust, and ultimately earn their business.
- Backlinks: Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. They are important because they indicate your site’s authority to Google, in other words, Google will give more credit to sites that have multiple quality backlinks. You typically earn backlinks if another webmaster enjoys your content enough to cite or share it with their audience. It can be difficult to obtain backlinks, but it’s a must for ranking in Google and the other search engines. Earn backlinks by blogging, writing press releases and posting often on social media. Every time someone reposts your content or mentions your site in their articles you’ll land a backlink. The periodic table of SEO contains helpful tips on backlinks as well as how to be successful in SEO.
- User-Friendly: Make it simple for visitors to find what they need. It’s okay to tell your visitors what you want them to do. If you want visitors to make a purchase or contact your business, eliminate any friction that prevents it from occurring.
- Mobile device compatibility: Your website should properly render on all devices. Create your website to be mobile friendly, which means it will automatically adjust to match the screen sizes on desktops, tables and mobile devices. Google frowns upon sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
- Easy to scan: Make content easy to read. Some tips for superb readability include bolding headlines, using bullet points and keeping paragraphs as short as possible with enough white space in between.
- Effective menu navigation: Make is easy for users to navigate from one page to the next. Don’t have hidden pages or content on your website that are hard to find.
- Fast loading times: Website load times are important to user experience. In addition to search engines, the average user has no patience for webpages that take a long time to load.
Familiarize yourself with social media
Social media places your brand in front of users on different platforms so you reach more potential customers. It’s also a platform to encourage interaction with your brand and offers a more personal connection. Currently, the top social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. There are plenty of platforms to choose from and the ones you select will vary based on your audience. Not all social channels will work for all businesses.
Facebook is a must have for any business as it serves as a trust factor for potential customers. Business owners can create company pages where you list your address, hours, information about your product or service, answer any questions your customers may have and collect customer reviews. Having a Facebook page and updating it regularly makes you seem legitimate in the eyes of your customers.
Use Twitter to post updates about your business such as blog posts, promotions and current events. When using Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters or less. Place your content in front of users more easily with Twitter than Facebook. Along with text, add images to your Twitter posts to catch the attention of your audience. To gain a presence on Twitter, look at who is following your competition and follow them.
LinkedIn is a professional social platform that informs users about your company and industry. Business owners can create a profile on LinkedIn containing information about what the company does, where it’s located and other facts about the product or service that are helpful to potential customers. LinkedIn is a great platform for B2B startups.
Instagram is helpful for customers to visualize your product and is most beneficial for B2C focused startups. Business owners can create a profile on Instagram about the company’s products and anything else they’d like to include. Use Instagram to post photos of products with catchy captions that persuade potential customers to interact. For example, Staples does a great job of engaging followers and implementing calls-to-action on Instagram.
Up to date social media accounts help your business to be easily found and increases the likelihood that your potential customers will want to buy. Whichever platforms you choose to occupy, stay active on them. Brands who do not update their social media weekly or bi-weekly lose trust from their customers.
Checkout paid advertising platforms
Google/Bing Pay Per Click (PPC): Google is the most popular search engine, which means the AdWords PPC option can place your ads in front of the largest audience. With AdWords you can bid on keywords and depending on how much you bid, your ad will show in the search results. AdWords has the ability to present your listing to millions of potential customers, but it’s reach is based on how much you’re willing to pay. Popular keywords with commercial intent are often the priciest. Bing ads are similar to Google’s AdWords but tend to come at a lower cost. With a lower cost comes less reach. It’s a smart idea to test keywords on Bing to see how they convert before implementing in an AdWords campaign.
Learn about non-online advertising
If you don’t have a huge online advertising budget, don’t worry. Offline advertising methods are still effective. Some strategies to try include:
- Networking events—Attend networking events around town to meet new people who can spread the word about your new business or even become potential customers.
- Manage public relations—reach out to local writers and TV stations to get your business featured in a publication.
- Volunteer—Volunteer in your community to network while helping others.
- Become a thought leader in your industry—attend events and share your knowledge and thoughts on your industry with those willing to listen through public speaking.
Offer promotional discounts
If applicable, your small business can offer promotional discounts and/or coupons to incentivize conversions. Offers increase the likelihood of purchase from clients on your website that aren’t quite ready to buy. Types of offers include:
- Case Studies
- Free Tools
- Free Trials
Provide potential and existing customers with high quality offers that they can use to incentivize prospects and build trust. If you’re offering a free resource, it’s not a bad idea to require an email address or contact information. If you request an email address, use it to alert prospects of future offers and your latest promotions.
Marketing is a necessity for every startup. Especially with small businesses, marketing can build your brand and create loyal customers for years to come. Keep your customers satisfied with top quality products and services. The type of industry that you’re in will depend on which marketing methods are the most beneficial. While it’s helpful to use all of these marketing tips, if the marketing budget is small, you can choose a few that are best for your startup. However, it’s important to remember that small businesses and startups need a strong digital presence to be found online.