The startup scene is glamorous and exciting in many ways, but it’s also a lot of hard work, and the cold hard fact is that a lot of startups fail. You may have a great product or service that you really believe in, that could solve problems and make things better – but that’s not enough to succeed, is it? If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? In marketing terms, the answer is no.
Startups need to become known, to reach target audiences, and that’s where marketing comes in, especially digital marketing. You essentially can’t make money without engaging in marketing. But catch-22, if you’re an early-stage business, every dollar counts, so you want to make sure you get marketing right.
Fortunately, we live in a digital age, and it’s never been easier to carefully target and reach the right people, at the right time, with the products and services that are right for them. Research by Adobe indicates that 76% of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50, and 66% percent of all marketers think companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach. This is great news for startups: it isn’t that long ago that reaching audiences involved TV & radio advertising, big budgets and virtually no ability to target, whereas lucky you reap the benefits of pay-per-click advertising, A/B testing and all sorts of exciting tools to make digital marketing work for you, to better understand and engage your customers, and to measure, monitor and improve upon your startup marketing efforts to drive your success.
Here’s some of our top tips for startups looking to rock digital marketing.
1) Your startup needs a digital marketing plan
You may be wondering to yourself “so how do I start digital marketing for my startup, anyway?” Well, it’s not just about testing a Facebook/Snapchat ad or two and seeing how it goes. Be careful not to just do bits and pieces of your digital marketing ad-hoc or in siloes; the role of digital marketing in your startup’s growth shouldn’t be underestimated, but it should also be part of a digital marketing plan that is aligned with an overall strategic marketing plan which have specific goals and objectives tied to it. You should be making conscious decisions about what Big 4 consultancy firm McKinsey describes as “where to play” – rather than playing in all channels and markets regardless of effectiveness, considering what channels and markets are right for you now and will likely bring you the best ROI. The messages in the various media which you reach your audiences need to be on-brand, and you need to continually monitor what works and what doesn’t, and adapt accordingly.
2) Get social, strategically
First things first: you almost certainly don’t need to be across all of the platforms. You have limited time and resources, so use them wisely. Of course, we can’t tell you in a basic blog what will work for your business, because no two businesses are the same; but think about your ideal customer personas, where they spend their time and where they’re more likely to be receptive to your message.
Very much generally speaking, if your product is B2C, visually attractive, and appealing to the under-30s, places like Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok are great; whereas LinkedIn marketing tends to be more professional and B2B in nature; and Facebook is used to great effect by B2C businesses but can be fantastic for B2B as well.
The way you promote the same business and its products and/or services can look very different depending on what medium is being used, so tailor your “voice” appropriately.
Want to know more about social media marketing? Check out our recent posts on Snapchat Ads – The New Tool For Your Marketing Arsenal, How To Use Instagram To Kick Business Goals and learn the differences between Facebook ads and boosted posts. Hungry for more? Here’s a handy video guide on using Tiktok Ads Manager. Excited? Let’s talk.
3) TOFU MOFU BOFU
Despite what the name would suggest, it isn’t a Japanese tofu mascot character. And yes, that does actually exist:
TOFU MOFU BOFU, on the other hand, is a highly-effective marketing method used for lead nurturing in which your approach to sales leads depends on what phase of the purchase decision they are in a sales funnel. ToFu, MoFu and BoFu stand for top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel.
What does this mean for you? Well, you need to deliver the right content at the right time to move your lead through the funnel. Around half of qualified leads aren’t ready to make a purchase when they first convert; so strategic retargeting with content created for their phase can take them from a vague interest to a brand relationship.
At the ToFu stage, content should avoid a sales pitch; your job here is to entertain, engage and arouse curiosity. This sort of content can be how-tos and thought leadership, or something fun, thought-provoking and memorable.
MoFu content should be more targeted, or trying to solve a specific problem. This could include detailed product demos; client testimonials; case studies; or integration content. If one of your clients is willing to talk about how you solved their problem, this can be a major asset. It can serve as a mini case study, genuinely speaking to your persona, via your client’s own words. The content at this phase is about getting to know you more and showcasing what sets you apart from others.
Finally, BoFu is for when the user is almost ready to take action and just needs a bit of a nudge. Marketing efforts this stage could include product explainers, customer check-ins (personalised), instructional videos or product pages.
Videos get fantastic returns at all funnel stages; an excellent example is this video from Valvoline on ‘How to Change The Oil’, it promotes the product, but also provides practical instructions which a customer could actually apply once purchasing their product. It’s also the type of video that a customer is likely to key in to YouTube search, to pull up content on their specific micro moment, ‘Changing the oil’.
Digital marketing offers incredible power for startups to work out customer insights, segmentation, and fundamentally what works for who. This can sometimes offer surprising results! By using digital for segmentation, A/B testing and analytics, you can find that your products or services resonate with unexpected markets, fall flat where you were expecting them to thrive, and so on. It’s not just about reaching audiences through acquisition channels; it’s about customer research.
So go wild. Run identical adverts to different demographics and psychographics, and see who converts. Try fine-tuning your messaging to make it more effective where it doesn’t. Test, react, pivot and test again to inspire the right audiences to take the right action.
Search Engine Marketing for the win
Search engine marketing is very appealing at the early stages of a startup, because you can get instant results – as opposed to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), which pays off in the long run but takes time to get rolling. Effective SEM is great for low-hanging fruit and quick wins, which is fantastic for your bottom line as an early-stage business.
You can also instantly reach a carefully targeted and qualified audience without having to pay through the nose to do so, who are already searching for terms that are relevant to what you do. You can start with a tiny budget, stop when it suits you, and use the data and insights gleaned from your SEM efforts to improve future SEM campaigns. After all, you can tell pretty quickly if the campaign you’re running now is successful in terms of reach and returns; if it doesn’t work well, you can gauge that quickly too. Based on this, you can target, test, react, tweak, change your targeting and test again, learning about your customer as you go to kick even more goals.
Want to know more? Check out our posts on digital advertising.
Do web right
Your website is the online face of your company, so it should look good, share your why effectively, and excite people about what you’re doing. When you reach new leads through outbound, there’s a good chance they will mosey over to your website, so you want it to be part of a great brand experience. At Glide Agency, we use WordPress for design and development, so that once your website is up and running, it’s easy for you to change things around – you’re in control – and we’re always here to help (or just do it for you if you’re busy handling all those leads!)
When you’re designing a website, it’s important to think about user experience first and foremost: the overall experience of your user as they navigate your website, particularly how easy or pleasant their experience is in using your website. You already know your brand, your product and services; but in this case, you need to think like a user, understand what they need, what matters to them, their emotions in exploring your website and interacting with it, and any limitations they may have. It’s not enough to make the website look pretty: it has to be functional, easy to navigate and be set up to engage your users and convert their visit into action.
From a startup perspective, you want to turn your visitors into brand ambassadors – word of mouth is a powerful tool in the early days, and a compelling website is a great way to reel ‘em in. You can conduct some very basic “usability testing” with acquaintances who you trust to give you honest feedback on their interaction experience with the website, and suggestions on how to make it better; even if you’re a digital native who feels confident that you can create a user experience that rocks, and a marketing aficionado who can share your brand story with aplomb, a fresh pair of eyes can often help pick up some of the things you’ve missed. And they’re bound to be there; it’s easy to spot a website that’s been geared for user experience best practice versus a #thereifixedit.
Of course, if you’re looking for a responsive, easy-to-manage website that takes your visitors on a smooth journey, builds brand love and converts, here at Glide we’ve got all the skills you need to do that (and more!)
Make SEO work for you
If you do a good job of promoting your brand, eventually your marketing efforts will pay off and inbound leads will come to you – you’ll be discovered organically, rather than pulling people towards you. This comes down to search engine optimisation: gaining a relationship with Google for your Expertise, Authority and Trust through a combination of strategic, high-quality link-building; and developing relevant content that adds value to users. Fresh content is an important metric, so blog regularly, but don’t just blog for the sake of blogging or for the Googlebots alone – write content that people will enjoy reading, about topics that they will search for, and get it picked up by (again, relevant) websites to gain authority; and the users will come.
Different types of content will work better with different niches. If you’re in the B2B space, your audiences may gain serious value from case studies and white papers; if you’re B2C, your audience may prefer videos that show how effective your product is, product reviews and so on. It’s worth lightly exploring what some successful competitors are doing and doing a bit of reverse-engineering – don’t replicate, but be inspired!
Unlike your SEM spend, which gives you instant results, SEO efforts can take many months to bear noticeable fruit. But in the long run, the average cost per lead for organic traffic is significantly less, and organic search results are seen as more credible. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon; and combined with search engine marketing, it can pack a powerful punch.
At Glide Agency, we conduct keyword research, competitor research and traffic analysis to work out where you are now, what keywords you should focus your SEO efforts on, and opportunities to outrank your competitors so that you can get found first. We then implement your SEO strategy in a way that will gain you traffic that converts, in a way that suits you: whether you’re looking for advice or full-service, we’re here to help you win.
“When an outbound marketing campaign is successful, its reach and results are fairly immediate. Likewise, it is quickly apparent when an advertisement or cold-calling campaign flops. The opposite is true as well: when you stop your outbound marketing campaign, you might disappear from the hearts and minds of your potential customers very quickly.
Magnetise your leads
Do you have a lead magnet? You should! It’s simple: create some free content that adds value for your ideal customer, or offer some sort of discount, and put it behind email form enquiries so that you can capture emails and continue to communicate with your leads. This will keep you in the forefront of your customer’s mind before they make the purchase decision, and for long afterwards; remember, it’s much more effective on average to keep a customer happy and returning to you than it is to find a new one.
Want to know more about digital marketing? Check out our blog posts on Using Data to Understand the Customer Journey & Intent, Persona-Level Marketing in the Digital Age, learn about how our expertise in Equity Crowdfunding Marketing helped Perth startup Tiller Rides to raise $1m . And if you’re a startup looking for some digital marketing help, whether you’re launching your business or going to the next level, get in touch to talk with us about how a tailored digital strategy can play a vital role in helping your startup to succeed.