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Being part of a startup is an exciting time. There’s a reason why people compare it to a rollercoaster ride!
The ups: You’re filled with passion about creating something that will bring value to others. There’s a certain energy that fuels your dreams–no, that’s not the Red Bull–and allows you to take on new challenges that you might have felt impossible before.
The downs: However, there are many hurdles ahead of you. You lack visibility, credibility, and leads. You have few or no customers. No one knows who you are. You’re on a shoestring budget.
Maybe you think that social media is some sort of silver bullet, but you’re about to get a rude awakening. Take Facebook, for instance: you’re competing for the attention of your ideal customers against other startups, established businesses, local and national companies, news organizations, the PTA, mothers-in-law, college buddies, friends and family.
But don’t get frustrated. Although social media isn’t the easy game it was just a few years ago, there is a method to grow your credibility, audience, and startup using digital marketing.
The Digital Marketing Action Plan
Here at flyte we’ve created a model that works well for almost any type of business, from boat builders to B&Bs, from SAAS providers to propane delivery companies.
While the platforms may change—Twitter may go the way of MySpace, or a new platform will supplant Facebook’s supremecy—the model is constant. This is especially true for startups, which are full of promise, but also risk.
There’s one caveat to the Digital Marketing Action Plan (DMAP): it requires a website that you own and control. You need an online platform to make this work, even if your business takes place in the “real world.”
And I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but your website needs to be mobile-friendly. Once that’s in place, you’re ready to develop a DMAP that’s going to increase your visibility, credibility, and lead generation.
The four components of the Digital Marketing Action Plan are:
- Attraction – How do you drive traffic to your website?
- Retention – How do you keep in touch with visitors after they’ve left your site?
- Conversion – How do you get visitors to take a desired action on your site?
- Measurement – How do you know what’s working…and what isn’t?
Attraction – Driving traffic to your website
While there are many ways to drive traffic to your website, I’d argue the “big three” right now are SEO (search engine optimization), social media, and digital ads. There are books, blogs, podcasts, and conferences dedicated to each of these channels, so I’ll just give you the view from twenty thousand feet.
When your ideal customer searches for a product, service, or business like yours at Google, you want to be on the first page. You do this by writing quality content that answers their question or addresses their problem. The more quality content you create, the more likely you are to get found.
I’ve discovered that the easiest way to add content to your website is by including a blog. Anytime you want to rank well for something, create a series of blog posts around that topic, and then create links from the blog posts to the pages on your site where they can learn more about your solutions.
There are plenty of platforms and channels in social media, and anything I write now may be out of date when you read this. However, there are some truisms that work on any platform.
Spend time where your audience already hangs out. If you find LinkedIn boring, but you’re selling a B2B service, you need to invest your time there. If you think Twitter is stupid, but your best customers are constantly tweeting, you need to learn how to work that channel.
Social media works better as a trust building platform than a sales platform. Channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are like networking events…a place to get to know your customers and for them to get to know you. Come off as too sales-y and you’ll just turn off your prospects.
Google’s Adwords allows you to appear on page one for any search you choose, as long as you’re willing to pay for that privilege. Facebook’s ad platform allows you to narrowly target your ideal customer by age, gender, location, interests, and so many other variables it’s downright scary. And Retargeting, using platforms like AdRoll, allows you to advertise to people who visited your website but didn’t make a buying decision, no matter where they go on the web.
Another important reason to try digital ads is that they go to work immediately, driving traffic to your site the minute you start paying for them. Compare that to SEO, which can take several months before you start to see a payoff for your investment there.
The flipside of that, is that ads stop working the minute you stop paying for them. Good content will continue to attract visitors to your website for years to come.
(Check out this post on Text Message Marketing with Brian Mikes!)
Retention – Staying in touch with your site visitors
As difficult as it is to lure someone to your website, it’s even trickier getting them to return. Retention is about getting them to give you permission to keep the lines of communication open.
The most effective approach is to get them to opt into your email list, which gives you access to the most valuable piece of real estate on the internet…your customer’s inbox.
There are plenty of techniques to get visitors to opt into your list, but a signup box that just says, “Join Our Mailing List” isn’t one of them. Instead, offer them discounts in the online store, a free download, or just valuable content delivered right to their inbox. These are called “lead magnets” and they’ll greatly increase your ability to build your list.
Although not as effective, you can also leverage social media by getting people to follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, or subscribe to your YouTube channel. However, I caution you against sending people away from your site after you worked so hard to get them there in the first place.
Conversion – Getting people to take action
When businesses want to generate more leads from their website, they often focus on getting more traffic. However, the bigger problem may be that their website can’t convert visitors into customers. Turning the spigot wide open doesn’t matter if you have a leaky bucket: you need to plug those holes.
Your website should constantly be “asking for the sale.” Now, that could be a “Buy Now” button, but it also might be getting someone to fill out your contact form for free consult, to subscribe to your mailing list, to use your online calculator, or to pick up the phone.
There are many ways to improve your conversion rates, but here are a few “must haves:”
- Clean, professional design: your website is often the first impression someone has of your business. If your website doesn’t immediately instill confidence and trust, your visitor will click the back button.
- Fast loading pages: people have no patience any more. If you page takes too long to load, your visitors won’t wait around. In fact, Google measures your site speed as part of their ranking algorithm!
- Obvious calls to action: every page should end with a call to action…give people guidance on what they should do next. It may seem obvious to you, but if there’s not a clear path, people won’t take it.
Measurement: Is any of this stuff working?
Have your web developer install Google Analytics on your website (if it’s not there already.) GA is the most popular traffic reporting system, and it’s completely free. You’ll get insights on how people found your site, what they did while they were there, and whether they completed a goal you set out for them.
By regularly reviewing your GA, you can get insights on which marketing campaigns are effective, and which ones aren’t providing a positive ROI. You can uncover questions that your ideal customers are trying to get answered, so you can create new blog posts, videos, or podcast episodes to gain their attention and trust.
Beyond your own website, most digital marketing channels have reporting tools as well. Facebook Insights, YouTube Analytics, and your email service provider’s reports are all critical tools to understanding and improving the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Digital marketing is critical to a startup’s chance at success. Using the model of Attraction, Retention, Conversion, and Measurement, you’ll be continually improving your visibility, building trust, and generating more online leads.
Just be sure to invest in the platform where your ideal customers already hang out, and provide value and incentive to get them to visit your website. Once there, do everything you can to get them to make a buying decision, or at least give you permission to follow up with them via email or on social media.
And while these are all “best practices,” you’ll never know what works best for YOUR startup, without measuring the results.
About the Author
Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media, a web design and marketing firm in Portland, Maine. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, digital marketing and social media.
He is a founder of The Agents of Change, an annual conference, podcast, and blog, all about search, social & mobile marketing.
He is also a regular contributor at SocialMediaExaminer.com, the world’s most popular social media marketing blog.
He is the “tech guru” on WCSH Channel 6’s evening news show, 207, and teaches web marketing and social media courses for entrepreneurs at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Continuing Education.
- Back to Basics: Your Business Website: http://www.takeflyte.com/website-basics
- Back to Basics: Email Marketing: http://www.takeflyte.com/email-marketing-101-small-business
- 69 List Building Tips from the Experts: https://www.theagentsofchange.com/list-building-tips/
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