When you want to be able to launch a brand new business, there are two key things you need to know. Firstly, you can’t launch an incredible product without telling anyone about. And secondly, no matter how much noise you make about a rubbish product, people still won’t want to buy it.
The product itself is up to you, but the marketing is something we can take a closer look at over the next few minutes. Work your way all the way through to the end, and take on board as much information as you can. That way, when you launch into the market, you’ll be able to do it with a bang and leave your competition in the shade.
What is a marketing strategy?
Marketing is a word that conjures up all sorts of different emotions depending on who you ask. If you want to be able to get to the heart of what it means, then you need to throw out all of your preconceptions. It’s not about spending hours pontificating about font choices, nor is it about drilling down to the numbers and ignoring what makes your startup unique. The balance is somewhere in the middle.
Your marketing strategy, simply put, is how you plan to tell the world that they need to do business with you. It’s an action plan that will enable you to evoke the right emotions in your audience so that they hand over plenty of their hard earned money. And it’s a way of doing all of that, whilst staying true to the core ethos of your startup. Starting to make a little more sense?
Why does your startup need a marketing strategy?
This point is rather elementary for some, but alien to others, and that’s the problem. You can happily tell your friends and family about every little innovation and decision you’ve taken to get to this point, and that’s great. But when are you going to tell the masses that will actually buy your product or service?
Marketing is the tool that enables you to do exactly that, but it needs to have direction. If you adopt a scattergun approach where you send out endless press releases every time you do something, then one thing and one thing only will happen: people will switch off.
If you want to be able to catch the eye for all the right reasons, then you need to have a strategy that directs your marketing efforts every step of the way. There’s not a startup alive that doesn’t need one, and you’re not breaking the mold in this respect. So, how do you do it?
Low Capital: Make your product viral from day one
If you’restarting with no capital, or it feels like you are, then that’s just the reality of the lean startup. It’s something to be embraced as it will require you to innovate and think differently. Two things that you’re no doubt very good at as that’s why you’ve gone into business by yourself in the first place!
The perfect way to compensate for your low starting capital is to build a viral element into your startup from day one. Of course, this is far easier said than done, but at least you know what you’re aiming for. Dropbox did it and was soon worth $10 Billion, so why can’t you follow suit and do the same thing?
Going viral is all about piquing people’s interest in a cool and original way so that they want to share what they’ve found with their friends. If you have one particular part of your business you always tell people about, make it the centerpiece of your initial marketing efforts. Once you do that, you need to start thinking about platforms and distribution.
There are a number of ways to do that depending on what type of product you plan on pushing to the market. Online business communities such as Product Hunt and Hacker News are a great source of news and industry trends depending on the niche you operate in. You can grow your public image and go viral through these platforms early in your product’s lifespan and ensure that your capital grows organically over time.
How to find which social media channel is best for your brand
Social media is the king if you want to promote your business on a budget. It’s free, provided you save the paid ads for a little later on, and you can connect with several billion people with the click of a button. In fact, it’s so important that if you’re not on social media, people are considerably more likely not to take your startup seriously. It’s called social proof, and we’ll come to it a little later on.
But first, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the 3 main social media platforms that you need to know about.
Facebook is the undisputed king of the social media world; despite what you may have heard of its often predicted demise. Everyone is one there, and it’s the way you now tell the rest of the world about the big events in your life. If your business isn’t on there, it’s basically the same as not turning up in a search when you Google your own name.
Facebook works best when you follow these 3 marketing rules:
Add value by posting more than just ad, after ad, after ad. Think about what you can distribute for free so that your customers feel valued.
Engage with everyone who messages you, and always look to turn comments into discussions so that you can draw more people in.
Write like a human being, not some big corporate entity. People are on Facebook to have fun, so if you can throw in a little humor along the way then you should certainly go for it.
When it comes to specific tools to use, you can choose several complementary platforms for your marketing campaigns. Platforms such as Agora Pulse offer content management systems for your convenience while others such as Buffer allow for centralized content scheduling and post management. Before you make any decisions as to which tools to use, it’s good practice to check out published Facebook case studies beforehand. Learn from successful brands and marketing experts in order to make the most out of your own content and marketing strategy.
Up next we have Twitter, the home of the 280-character message. The great thing about Twitter is that you can essentially text people in a global setting. This makes it great for revealing sneak peeks of your latest products and services so that you can really create a buzz. It’ll also prove a great way to show your human side if you do it the right way.
Here’s how you can do exactly that:
Add teasers of your latest releases so that people get excited and want to share what they’ve found with their friends. Give them just enough to pique their interest, but not so much that they don’t need to come back again to hear the next part of the story
Use Twitter as a way to connect with your customers on a one-to-one basis. If you find a customer complaining or confused, jump right in and help them out. It’ll show your customer service skills, which should be a cornerstone of any marketing strategy
Jump on relevant hashtags and always have something witty up your sleeve. This is the perfect way to use social media to help your startup go viral
Like Facebook, Twitter also has its fair share of specialized marketing tools for you to utilize. Due to the character limits posed by Twitter, you can use platforms such as Bit.ly to shorten URLs and create interlinked content networks on your Twitter profile. The tool can also help you manage content, analyze profile performance and plan your next marketing strategy move.
Similarly, Hoot Suite will allow you to manage multiple Twitter handles at once and post content on numerous different profiles simultaneously. The more speed and response time you have on Twitter, the more leads you will attract as a result which makes tools such as Tweriod essential to your everyday content management. As we’ve mentioned previously, you should always be on the lookout for successful viral campaigns which you can learn from in order to boost your own marketing odds on the market.
Last but not least, we have Instagram. As the home of visual content, it’s the place to be when you want to put your startup in the spotlight. The great thing about it is that you can quickly build a following, and there’s a real culture of positivity and endeavor that will help you take your efforts to the masses.
Follow these 3 pro tips, and you’ll be able to build Instagram into your marketing strategy with the click of a button:
Find an influencer so that you can jump on their followers whilst you’re still building up your profile. It’ll also provide a healthy dose of that all-important social proof that’s become more important today than it’s ever been
Take stunning images that are just too cool not to share. There’s no exact science behind it, but keep going until you have something you can’t wait to show the rest of the team. Once you arrive at that level of excitement, you’ll know that your followers won’t be able to resist sharing it with their friends
Comment on hashtags and pop up all over the place so that you’re seen by as many people as possible. That way you’ll soon develop the ubiquitous presence that every viral marketing campaign needs
If you want to knowwhy startups fail, you need to look no further than the issue of segmentation. Customers come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s just not an effective one size fits all approach that you can roll out with amazing results. This means that if you want your startup to be successful, you need to address people on an individual basis as best you can. That’s where segmentation comes in.
By breaking up your mailing lists, social media ads, and online content so that it targets different sections of your target audience, you can give everyone the personal marketing treatment they’re looking for. It will take quite a lot of work on your part, and plenty of iteration, but it’s always worth it in the long run.
Getting started is the most difficult part as you might make the mistake of trying to profile dozens of different types of customers all at the same time. The best way to do it is to start by breaking up your target audience into 3 initial categories, and taking it from there:
Early adopters: They were with you from day one and they’ve been loyal, so you are best off offering them value as you know most will already be abreast of what you have to offer
New customers: Introduce them to all the other benefits of your business, and educate them on how you can make their lives easier in dozens of different ways
Browsers who left your funnel: Flash sales and limited time discounts are the best way to nudge people along your funnel who appear to have fallen by the wayside
3 Ways to optimize your marketing strategy
The mistake that countless startups make is that they think their initial marketing strategy is static and should be set in stone forever. The problem with this is that you will quickly fall off the pace of the market, and be left behind by more dynamic and forward-thinking startups. Clearly, that’s not a good thing, so how do you optimize to stay ahead?
If you want to really drill down into the numbers and give your marketing strategy some real-world exposure, split-run (or A/B) testing is always the way to go. The idea is actually very simple. All you do is take two slightly different versions of the same piece of content and then put them both live. The more highly converting one should be kept, and the weaker one discarded. You can then adjust something else in your chosen piece of content, and run another test.
The more you do it, the more iterative refinements you’ll be able to make, and the better job the marketing materials will do of turning browsers into buyers. Keep constantly striving to improve, and you’ll be amazed at the difference between your tenth piece of content and your initial idea.
Refine your why, what, and how
If you don’t know the answers to these 3 super simple questions, then you probably don’t stand that much chance of making your startup the next big thing. If you do know them very well, then you need to constantly refer back to them and see if they’re still relevant.
Here’re 3 reasons why you can’t afford to stand still:
Standing still will make you complacent and inflexible, and you’ll quickly be overtaken by a more dynamic rival
Your ‘how?’ needs to constantly evolve if you’re going to keep up with the constantly changing demands and requirements of your customers
What you offer needs to be a reflection of which you are right now, not who you were yesterday. You have the freedom and flexibility to fail fast and then achieve big successes in unexpected places. So don’t throw away this opportunity just because you want to stick to an outdated premise for your business
This process won’t always be easy, and often it will identify areas that are actually failing when you thought for the entire world that they were working perfectly. The important thing is that you’ll know your answers to these 3 questions better than anyone, and you can use them to define the way forward for your entire marketing strategy.
Just remember, if you can’t answer them on a single side of the paper, then how do you expect to craft a multi-platform strategy that will enable you to speak to millions of customers? Make sense when you break it down like that doesn’t it?
Seek out your customers, especially early adopters
If you want to really refine your marketing efforts, then you need to build customer feedback into your model. This can be as simple as having an email address where customers can send queries (and hopefully not too many complaints) and a social page where they can leave reviews.
The people you really want to hear from when you’re getting things rolling are your early adopters. These are the people that spotted something unique in you before the masses did, so their opinions will be worth their weight in gold. They may even make a simple comment that allows you to reorient and realign your marketing to touch a whole new section of the market. Just remember, if you don’t listen to what they have to say, you’ll never learn what they’re thinking.
Why standing out from the crowd always saves your business money
As a marketer, you’re constantly looking for new and exciting ways to make a brand stand out from the crowd. Being a standout is all about being exemplary in at least one area, and leaving the competition in the shade as a result.
Never be afraid to do things differently, and actively look for ways to do it. If everyone is doing largely the same things people will tend to switch off. This means that you only need to invest in a small piece of content that’s completely different if you want to instantly stand out. Be bold, humorous, thought-provoking, whatever you think will be suitable for your target audience.
Combining paid ads with social proof
Paid ads are a powerful tool, and every business will eventually need to try things like Facebook Ads and AdWords. Customers know they’re paid ads, and they’re willing to tolerate them, but everything has its limits.
The best way to embark on a paid ad campaign is to add in plenty of social proof to dilute the more mercenary content. Repost positive reviews, create a messaging board, and actively start conversations online with people who loved your business. That way you’ll be able to add plenty of social proof.
Oh and one more thing, users are far more likely to trust comments and reviews when they’re on social media platforms than when they are on your own site. Too many businesses have posted fake or paid-for reviews on their own sites that now consumers have gotten wise to this rather dishonest approach to marketing. Put as much positivity as you can on social media and you’ll be going viral before you know it.
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Turn your customers into a marketing team by giving them something of value
Take an online business likeThe Word Point that gets a lot of its business through referrals. The great thing about their model is that they can quickly reach a point of critical mass where they get a healthy chunk of their monthly sales off the back of previous happy customers. Whether it is repeat business or recommendations, it’s a great way to turn customers into a marketing team.
If you provide every customer with the level of service that you would give to the biggest order you’ve ever had, then you’ll quickly build a network of thousands of happy customers. They’re essentially like free affiliates because they’ll tell people to go to you, and they won’t expect any commission in return. Ideal really when you’re looking to build a startup that’s going to change the world.
Side Project Marketing
You might want to consider side project marketing as a means to raise awareness of your business by offering something miniscule to the public. Side project creation and marketing revolves around a small, cheap and user-friendly version of your project or product and then link to your startup.
This strategy allows for very affordable marketing and exposure at very low resource cost in the long run. Side projects are typically limited in functionality and have a very strict expiration date. However, they can help small startups such as your own gain leads and traffic while also not draining your resources unnecessarily.
Last but not least: SEO
Finally, we get to the world of SEO — no marketing strategy would be complete without a few words about it. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) represents a pivotal part of content marketing no matter what industry your startup operates in.
Adding relevant keywords, phrases and formatting to your content will ensure that your links rank high in search engine result pages of popular platforms such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. In order to do that however, you will need to vary your content types often and deliver original, relevant information to your target audience. Some of the content types you can include in your marketing strategy include:
Live Q&A sessions
Data visualization (charts, graphs, etc.)
Blog posts, opinion pieces and articles
Surveys, polls and quizzes
If you want to be able to take your startup to the next level, then you need to be in a prominent position on Google. Tools such as Google Keyword Planner and SEM Rush are specifically designed for SEO research and content optimization, so make sure to check them out. People will search for you, and 90% never go past the first page. The mistake many make is that they focus solely on SEO, and forget that they need to provide quality and add value to the content.
Creating 10 pages that are full to bursting with long chain keywords may make you rank a little higher, but it will add little to the user experience. Get yourself an SEO professional, and partner with a content writer. That way you’ll strike the right balance between search rankings and quality.
Building your own startup marketing strategy can seem like a daunting task. However, there is a plethora of tools, platforms and case studies available on the subject across the web. It’s important however to identify where your startup lands in terms of scale and niche to make sure that you don’t stretch your resources too thinly.
Once you have a general idea of whom your target audience is and which channels of communication you will use to engage them, content ideas will come to you naturally. Be true to your startup goals and values and the right audience will always find their way to your products.