It’s 2016, and if you haven’t learned how to market your startup already, you can bet your money that the startup is bound to fail. Marketing strategies are essential for all startups in every sector; they allow your startup to reach its fullest potential. So if you’ve selected your startup squad, let’s figure out how you and your team can market your business.
First and foremost, set a proper marketing budget. Nothing can be done without one. You have budget for R&D, you need a budget for marketing. You will be surprised at what you can do, even with limited resources. Once you have that established, you need to breakdown all of your marketing into particular segments such as: traditional vs. online. Assuming that you have a tech startup, your marketing will heavily focus on online marketing since traditional marketing strategies won’t be ideal.
In this two-part how-to guide for marketing we will show you the basics, from choosing a market to figuring out conversion rates. You will also learn about online marketing, PR strategies and content creation.
Ready? Let’s dive right in.
The ABCs of Marketing
Learning the fundamentals of marketing is essential before you dive headfirst into the deep ocean that is marketing. Just like any house that is built, a solid foundation is necessary before you start placing bricks.
You need to figure out:
1. Who makes up your market?
As startup founders, we’re all a bit delusional in believing everyone will just absolutely love our products. The reality is a bit different, however. Let’s get real. Only a tiny fraction of the population is genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Needless to say, focusing on everyone at the same time will be a waste of precious resources such as time and funds.
Figuring out your niche is essential. Once you do, you go after that particular “niche target market” as if your life depended upon it (and it does).
So how do you figure out your market? Consider these 4 aspects before you zero in:
- The size of your market – you can narrow down size by asking questions like: who would this product cater to? Men? Women? Children? Seniors? Teen girls interested in fashion? Businesses? Narrowing down a demographic will help you determine the customers you need to focus on.
- The market affluence factor – Teen girls get pocket money whereas adult women ages 25-40 earn solid incomes. In other words, does the demographic that your startup is targeting have enough money to spend on your product?
- Competitors – Some markets are dominated by a few big names whereas other markets have a many up-and-coming small businesses vying for customer attention. Understanding market saturation is key here.
- What value do you offer – Simply put, is the value proposition of your startup product exceptional enough to stand out from the crowd? If not, you need to work on that product some more!
2. Determine keywords
The second stage is of building a list of keywords. With a clearly defined market, you will need a keyword list for content creation – be it blogging, social media or your own startup website. You need words and phrases that reflect your brand persona and are particularly relevant to your product.
The best way to figure out a bunch of phrases is to act like a consumer of your product: what would you type if into Google if you were searching for this particular product?
Make a core keyword list and work your way up. For instance, if you’re a startup company that provides tech services, try keywords such as: web development, software engineers for hire, coding, programming, mobile app development etc… Think about what we mentioned earlier, what value do you offer to your customers? This core keyword list is not only going to help you design your entire website but it will help you create blog categories where you can write blogs with information regarding these particular keywords.
Of course, you have to use tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool and others to keep track of what keywords are sending traffic your way. The best keywords are those that a lot of users are searching for but have a very few results to display. In other words: low competition + high traffic = keyword success.
3. Measuring Success
What does success mean to your startup? Measuring success can be different for different startups. It can be anything, from surpassing revenue hits to getting 1000 new users on your app. Whatever your definition of success may be, it is critical to know what success should be for your startup in the very early stages. It’s something you need to communicate with your entire team in order for them to keep the goal in mind and make progress towards achieving it.
Additionally, define a constant in your success. If you have agreed on getting new users for your app a measurement of your startup success, don’t just suddenly change your mind and ask your team to hit a profit target of $30,000 next month. Consistency and commitment are keys.
4. Defining Core Metrics
Real growth and measuring the real growth is crucial. Don’t just look at a bunch of numbers to feed your ego and feel good about yourself. Your core metrics need to be consistent, targeted and measurable. Determine your customer acquisition funnel and then decide which stage is measurable and how. Don’t wait until the last minute and realize it’s a bit too late to figure out how to measure real growth. It’s probably the first thing you should do once you have established an overarching goal.
5. Allocate conversion rates & values
Responses to emails, newsletter signups, blog subscriptions, eBook/whitepaper downloads – these are all very defined ways to measure growth and success. You can see how many people open your emails and then respond to them. You need to see how many conversions come through the responses from emails. If emails are not doing the trick, look at other areas of your marketing strategy where you might be getting a better conversion rate. Focus more on that specific area and watch the leads grow.
6. Consider your budget
Let’s get real. It’s all about the green at the end of the day. Along with setting up a budget for other aspects of your startup, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend on a marketing strategy. Inbound marketing might be cheaper than outbound marketing but that does not mean it’s completely free (Facebook ads anyone?). Setting a budget is perhaps the thing you should do first and foremost before you even determine what kind of goals you are hoping to achieve with your marketing strategy.
Moreover, figure out which part of your marketing strategy works and allocate your budget heavily towards it. If it’s your blog, you will want to invest more money in making that blog even more popular. If it’s emails, buy a few more domains! Get the logistics out of the way and target your finances before you spend it everywhere and end up with little to no leads.
Think about your Socials
Word of mouth has taken a whole new shape in today’s era of social media. Your online reputation is as important as your product. We have seen some incredibly good products get crap reviews just because their online repute is horrible. Think about it, a foodie has the power to shut down an entire restaurant. It’s a scary thought but that’s the power of social media. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Social media is the ultimate answer to figure out what’s working what isn’t in a short amount of time and to quickly make those changes before the wind of bad reviews catches on and your startup calls it quits. You need to figure out what people like and of course, dislike the most about your product and then make every effort to fix and better it.
You can also get sponsorships from top-notch influencers whose word is as good as a stamp of certification. All you need is great content. Of course, creating great content is half the battle but we will get there in the next few points. Right now, you need to figure out what social media channels suit your needs and how to implement them in your marketing strategy.
1. Which SM channel is right for you?
There are so many social media networks to choose from. Let’s just list a few to give you an idea:
Those are just a few of the immense number of Socials trending. Giants such as Facebook have their own analytics in order for you to engage and measure with ease. However, we would like to give a tale of caution by reminding everyone that just because so-and-so startup is on Snapchat, it does not mean it’s the right platform for your business. Doing too much at once can drive down leads and just because your competitor is doing it, it doesn’t mean you should too.
Each community has its own rules of how to create, share, and engage content. Hashtags might be relevant on Twitter and Instagram but they still serve very little purpose on Facebook. Instagram and Tumblr are heavily image-driven communities and thus having a lot of text will defeat your marketing strategy. Twitter has a set limit to text so it’s probably best to give a short, impactful statement that will provide a CTA (Call-to-Action) such as a link.
You need to be very mindful of where you are promoting your content. You can go crazy on Instagram and Twitter but platforms like Reddit have very strict rules and regulations that prohibit you from shameless self-promotion. In fact, it’s better to have a face to your social media strategy. Personalize it. Engage with users in a meaningful way. You will be surprised at how well people respond to humans and not robots (sarcasm).
Lastly, consider your demographic. Pinterest, for instance, is heavily used by a younger female audience that likes to share inspiration for fashion, makeup, traveling etc… If you’re targeting an audience that is heavily into things like fashion and makeup, LinkedIn should obviously not be a part of your social media strategy.
2. Learn what the best times are to post
Let’s just say there is no universal “best time to post”. School-going teens have lots of time during mornings and nights but what do you do during the summer when there is no school? But just in case you didn’t know the “best practices” of when to “generally post”, here are a few golden rules to stick by:
– Facebook: 12 pm on Saturdays.
– Twitter: 5 pm to get retweets any day between Tues-Sunday (because we hate Mondays).
3. Create and use a keyword list
So they keywords you created earlier? Now would be a good time to use them. Keywords help enhance your engagement endeavors. Have discussions with your keywords embedded in there on social media and use tools like HootSuite to monitor and manage your conversations. You can also use your keywords to focus on any online ads you may be running on Google or Facebook, for instance.
4. Get influencers to do the work for you
Influence the influencer and you will do half the social media work for yourself. Just watch the leads roll in as the influencer reaches out to his or her large following and promotes your product. Developing this relationship is going to take some time but putting in the effort to start and maintain this relationship is every bit worth the effort.
Imagine a fashion brand getting an endorsement on Twitter by a well-known model or a tech startup having the green light from a well-renowned entrepreneur. Even if you can’t dream that big, you can start somewhere: contact your local journalists, or bloggers that have a significant following in your industry. Use your keywords to find out who appears in the results and who those people are following. Look at influencers that are engaged with their following since a high number of followers does not always equal to high engagement.
5. Start your blog
Setting up a blog on free platforms like WordPress is pretty easy. Moreover, the number of useful tools and plugins you get come in quite handy in the long run. Once you have a blog set up, do the final touches before you begin posting, such as deciding a theme and the overall layout of your blog. Setting a “feel” for what your blog should look like is as important as the content that’s going to go on there. It’s all about the user experience folks.
Offer a subscription option, end with CTAs, provide social media information (where else can they follow you? Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc), include featured images, and of course, provide social sharing buttons so people can tweet and share your post on multiple platforms as they read. Additionally, and we will probably keep going back to this point – remember your keywords – and design blogs around them. Embed them in every post and watch traffic grow.
These are just some of the ways you can market your startup. There are, of course, many other ways you can use an inbound marketing strategy to your benefit. We will discuss the other ways you can boost your online marketing efforts and increase leads in the second part. So stay tuned folks!