Digital marketing can sound scary to the uninitiated, full of jargon and tools and in an environment that is constantly changing but don’t let that scare you off. The benefits of digital marketing for startups are huge and you cannot afford to stay away. Digital marketing is a very broad term that encompasses website design, organic SEO, social media, SEM, mobile marketing and content and it basically means marketing through online channels. You may already be talking about your business on Facebook and Twitter or have a website for your product which means your business or startup already has a digital footprint. A digital marketing plan can establish your online presence, create brand awareness, attract new customers and retain your existing customer base.
Planning Digital Marketing for Startups
Before starting we need to define our business. Digital marketing is an activity that gives us measurable and tangible results but first, we need to identify the purpose of our business, our audience and how we stand out from the crowd.
Identify Your Goals
The first step to creating your digital marketing plan is to define your goal(s). Each business has goals that are specific to it, they can be generating brand awareness, attracting new visitors to your website and/or store, building a customer base etc. This is also the time to set your budget and timeline. Digital marketing budgets don’t necessarily have to be as large as traditional marketing budgets. However, if you want to see instant results then you will need a budget to push various social media and advertising campaigns.
Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The next step is to define your unique selling proposition or point. To be able to determine what sets your business apart from the others in your industry is important in designing your digital marketing plan. This is also a good place to refine your brand identity and it is crucial for consistency in messaging.
Digital Marketing Components
We’re now going to look at the building blocks of digital marketing for startups and small businesses. Since this is a beginner’s guide I’m going to give a brief description of each component with a few points to keep in mind while keeping jargon and technical terms to a minimum.
Getting Started with a Website
The website is the main focus of your company’s digital presence. The focus of a digital marketing plan or campaign is to generate more traffic to your website. Your website is also the first place a potential customer goes to know more about your business. There are thousands sites and blogs that define all the various aspects that should be kept in mind when designing your website, however, to start with I’ll be looking only at the most critical aspects of it.
- Website Design: There are many key elements to design a website and two points to keep in mind when designing a website; function and form. Function refers to how easy is it for a user to navigate, how well is it organized and can information be found easily by a new user. Form refers to how good your website looks, are the fonts easy to read, does the color palette harmonize and is the white space used effectively to give an uncluttered look to your page. Keep in mind, the most beautiful website is useless unless the user is able to access their information quickly.
- Optimize for Mobile: More people access the internet through their mobile devices (including tablets) as compared to desktop. So when designing website, we need to think about the user experience and the common difficulties mobile users might face. Design for touch, meaning since more mobiles are now touch screens we need to keep in mind that the users will be using their fingers and thumbs rather than the more precise mouse. Navigation links need to be larger and the user should not need to zoom in or magnify the screen to fill out forms etc. Again the key should be functionality, all design elements, layouts etc. should facilitate the user’s experience.
- Content: This is the crux of not just the website but also of all digital marketing. Creating content is the top priority in garnering more inbound traffic. There is a lot of competition for a user’s attention and good content helps engage potential customers. Brand awareness, product knowledge, the value that your services provide, user reviews are excellent source material for content. Another great value-add to a website is a blog. Blogs, are a great way to add value by allowing you to demonstrate your expertise in the industry, talk in greater detail about the benefits of your product, give your customers more insight into your product and company. A well-run blog also impacts your organic SEO i.e impact your position with regard to search engines. We will discuss further on in this article.
Facebook for Startups
I’m separating Facebook from the rest of the social media channels as is the largest platform with more than 1 billion users (not counting Facebook-owned Whatsapp and Instagram), accounts for 20% of all time spent online worldwide, more than half of the social media logins and 95.8% of social media marketers worldwide say Facebook produces the best ROI (eMarketer). Facebook is a great place to get started with social media marketing and works for almost all types of businesses.
By 2018 Facebook users are expected to hit a mind-boggling 2 billion and it is more than likely that your customers and potential customers will also be there. Apart from being the best platform to engage with your customers, you can also run Facebook ad campaigns similar to Google AdWords. The biggest advantage of Facebook advertising is that it because of the amount of the detailed personal information in Facebook databases, ad campaigns can be extremely specific in their targeting thereby generating a bigger bang for your buck. There are very broadly two areas to focus on when starting on digital marketing for startups and small businesses:
- Increasing Brand Awareness: this should be a continuous and long-term process. There are a lot of distractions on Facebook (this is true for all social media platforms) and we need to create engaging content with a view to social sharing. One of the rules on social media is to never be boring and constantly engage with your customers. Facebook also has brand awareness ad campaigns that can increase your brand recall and provides tutorials and articles on how to build a great campaign.
- Capturing Leads: and this is the natural progression for your brand on Facebook. Once you’ve got the ball rolling with your page on Facebook it’s easy to obsess over the number of “likes” and use that as your metric for success. The number of leads you generate and capture are a better indicator of success. There are various strategies from the simple “call to action” your page must have to competitions and “whisper codes”. Again, Facebook makes this easier with “lead ads” and will walk you through the process.
Some example of Facebook Ads for your inspiration.
What You Can Learn/Steal From This Facebook Ad
- Make customer pain points central to your messaging
- Include strong, recognizable trust signals if possible
- Revisit your copy to identify opportunities to include more compelling language
It’s easy to confuse social media marketing for digital marketing and to think you have your bases covered with just being active on social media. Email marketing is still one of the most relevant marketing tools available when planning digital marketing for startups. If you think email marketing is dead or not worth the time it takes to build you database, consider the following: Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
– McKinsey; In 2016, the ROI for email marketing the highest with a return of $44 for every $1 invested (Facebook has the highest ROI amongst social media platforms at 22%).
To simplify the email marketing plan for a small business should keep these two objectives while designing their strategy:
- Nurture your database: By increasing your subscribers and engaging with them. Emails are an excellent channel for targeted, personalized content and can be of different types educational, promotional, newsletters etc. the goal is continuous engagement and to build a credibility and trust so the email content needs to provide value to the subscribers.
- Convert leads: This is by creating specific campaigns with a clear call to action. With a database of information established, emails can be used for retargeting i.e. advertisements based on their previous online actions, generating personalized offers and targeting specific behaviors such as “cart abandonment” etc.
Social Media for Startups
Because this article is a beginner’s guide I’m clubbing various social media platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr etc. for a couple of reasons; the first being that while a social media presence is an important component of digital marketing for startups and SMES, having multiple accounts is not really feasible if you have a budget and resource crunch. The second reason is that these platforms are more “niche” platforms as compared to Facebook. A good social media strategy must consider demographics as well as the kind of content you want to share. Industry specific updates, company news etc. these formats are best suited to Twitter and professional sites such as LinkedIn, Slideshare etc. Image based content does better on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr (one of the more complicated sites to use but is useful especially for a younger demographic).
When looking at more niche social media platforms it is important to assess which platform will be a better fit for your business. The nature of your business, your target audience, the channel your competitors are using and the purpose of your marketing campaign are all relevant when determining which social media platform to use.
For example, a restaurant posting pictures of food would be a better fit with Instagram than a laundry service. On the other hand, a B2B would benefit more from LinkedIn. Keep in mind that social media requires constant engagement and while you can cross-post i.e. reuse the same content across channels, the best content should be edited for a specific platform and be fresh and unique. It is much better for a beginner to focus on one or two channels while starting out and then add on channels as they gain experience and resources to manage these channels.
Content is King
I have so far covered the structures that need to be in place for digital marketing for a startup, we’re now looking at the most important aspect of digital marketing: the content. This is the part that can make or break you when it comes to digital marketing. Digital marketing has moved away from the “hard sell” where the customer is bombarded with aggressive advertising which can work negatively. Most prospects now look for information on the product, consider reviews and look for content that will enable their decision making. Every channel that your business uses will require compelling content and this is what drives organic SEO.
Our recent blog post 10 Facts of SEO we discussed about What is SEO and why it it important, you will get detail information on SEO.
SEO is a complex and vast field but even some basic knowledge can make a big difference. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind while writing content to make your more SEO compatible.
- Original Content: This cannot be stressed often enough and is still rule that gets ignored the most. Content should be relevant to the searchers.
- Use Keywords: Are the words and phrases that searchers use to input queries in the search engine. Web pages that have these keywords will be found by the search engine for these particular queries. Keywords help both users and the search engine understand the purpose of your page. It is also important to use long tail keywords rather than broad range keywords, for example, it is better to have the keywords “Puma red running shoe” as compared to “shoe”. Keyword research is a big topic but for beginner’s it is important to understand that they matter when we want to be found on the internet.
- Spelling and Grammar are important criteria for quality. Search engines use these parameters (among others) to check for the quality of the content.
- Titles should contain the keywords as Google gives more weight to the headings and titles of a page.
- Subheadings are another easy way to implement a feature for creating effective SEO content. Breaking up your content into subheading makes it easier for users to read and search engines scan subheadings while rating it.
- Images are a great way to boost your content. Visual data is always more memorable and can be used to present a lot of information more effectively and images do improve your SEO.
Digital marketing is a complex and technical subject and in this article, my goal has been to simplify the concepts and the technicalities. While there is a huge amount of information available online for each point that has been discussed and in greater depth, use this article as the starting point to your research as you look to implement digital marketing for startups or a small business. While writing this article I had two goals, the first was to demystify digital marketing and the second to demonstrate that digital marketing does not require a huge budget.In my next article , I will discuss in detail aobut Startegies for Digital Marketing .