Updated for 2023
If you’re a driving force behind a startup or have just started a new small business, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the digital marketing options available and find yourself bouncing from one to another. If so, know that’s perfectly normal. While no two small businesses will have—or should have— the exact same digital marketing approaches, there is a logical order in strategically building a powerful online presence.
Focus First on Your Website
Think of your website as home base. Until your own house is in good order, you don’t want to fritter away energy elsewhere. Step one of your website: great messaging. Before you move forward with anything else, you want to have clear insights into:
- Who your audience is
- What problem you can solve for them
- What the pain points of your potential users are
Don’t rush through this portion of the process. Make sure that key members of your team agree with answers to all of these bullet points; otherwise, you will find yourself being inefficient or even counterproductive, and probably sooner rather than later. Once this is accomplished, make sure that you are speaking to your target audience using the appropriate language, tone, vocabulary and more. Here’s more about how to supercharge your website for maximum effect.
Features Versus Benefits
This is where many small business owners get tripped up, focusing more on the features of their products and/or services than how they will benefit users. For example, car locator apps typically have features that use the power of GPS to allow you to find where you parked your car. Benefits include reduced stress, saved time, convenience and even safety, because wandering around at night looking for your car isn’t the best idea since people with ill intent are known to targets potential victims who appear distracted.
Here’s a second example. One feature of GreenPal is the ability of users to receive a list of landscapers in their areas; another is a section where they can pay their landscapers directly from the app. The benefits: this app saves users time, providing speedy service and convenience.
The next crucial step is to ensure that the design of your website enhances your messaging and differentiates your website from your competitors. Expect your users to visit your competitors’ sites since competitors are only a back click away. Does your design and ease of use meet or beat your competitors? As a startup or new small business, your website can’t look like the new guys on the block. Look at your site with an unflinching eye. Does it look that way?
Review each page. What do you hope to accomplish with a particular page? What do you want site visitors to do? You may want them to sign up for a trial of your product or service, or request a consultation or some other entry-level offer. Is that clear on the page? Are there roadblocks that need removed to make this a smoother process?
Any conversion elements that you choose to use should be trackable with Google Analytics or another analytics platform of your choice. By tracking all of the conversion elements on your website, you’ll be able to identify which marketing channels and campaigns are driving the most conversions. If you don’t use this data, you will be operating blind!
Don’t rush through this stage (or any other, for that matter) or proceed to the next steps without spending the appropriate amounts of time on setting up your goals and tracking elements to ensure data you receive is accurate and reliable.
Online Chat, Call Tracking and Email Forms
You’ve probably heard that your business needs to be where the customers are in the conversion funnel in real time—and that probably sounds pretty challenging. One key way to do this is through online chat.
The value of live chat, according to Forbes.com in August 2016, “cannot be overstated as witnessed by the results of a study by Zendesk.” Here are highlights:
- 92% of customers feel satisfied with live chat as compared to:
- 88% feeling satisfied with voice communications
- 85% feeling satisfied with email communications
- 85% feeling satisfied with web form communications
- 84% feeling satisfied with Facebook communications
- 77% feeling satisfied with Twitter communications
Then there’s call tracking. According to MarketingProfs.com, “Call tracking is one of the most powerful tools available to aid in your inbound marketing efforts. It gives clear-cut, actionable data about any campaign, enabling businesses to better optimize their inbound marketing strategies. Alongside the Web analytics you likely use with your campaigns, with call tracking you can see which inbound efforts are driving phone calls—a key metric that’s often overlooked, despite its importance.”
Finally, user-friendly email forms are crucial. Although it will be tempting to try to get as much information as possible from form fills (something your sales team will likely encourage), you’ll get more responses if you minimize the number of questions asked. This reduces the number of barriers to that first contact with your startup (picture someone saying, “Do I really want to give my phone number?”) as well as the amount of typing a prospect must do; the second factor is increasingly important as the use of mobile devices continues to increase. Have your team test the ease of form fills across browsers and devices.
There are two angles to consider here. First, the more efficiently prospects can shop your site, the more likely they will become customers of your company. Here is a Huffington Post article that walks you through important facets of shopping carts, along with their shopping cart recommendations.
Second, don’t make the mistake of believing that if you have a shopping cart, the other conversion elements aren’t important. These elements are important steps before a sale and a lack of attention to them will almost certainly hurt sales.
According to SmartInsights.com, there are more than 6.5 billion searches every single day. Six-and-a-half billion. To get your lion’s share of relevant searches, it important to create a strong SEO strategy, including mobile strategies, and implement it well. Entire books can be written on what that means, but we’ll look at these core elements:
- Good architecture
- Excellent content strategy
When crafting the architecture of your site, make sure it’s ultra-easy to find and the products and services you offer are easy to navigate. Also optimize the pages, adding strong, relevant keywords to the URLs, title tags, meta description tags, h1 tags and body copy.
As far as speed, you’ve probably heard how a human being’s attention is now less than that of a goldfish. To capture the attention of your prospects, aim for less than a two-second load time average; because page speed is becoming more significant as a ranking factor, this will also contribute to your efforts to rank well. You can test your site speed, both desktop and mobile, with Google’s free tool, and get recommendations to improve speed.
People click on sites they trust, and they buy from sites they trust. Starting in 2017, Google began flagging sites in the search results pages that don’t have an SSL certificate and are using its presence (or absence!) as a ranking factor, so be sure to get your certificate.
Creating an outstanding content strategy is a multi-faceted process, one that starts with keyword research. So, discover how, exactly, people are searching online for the products and/or services that you provide. What are the top keywords they’re using?
Be sure to analyze keywords you’re finding for their commercial intent. For example, let’s say you’re starting a new copywriting business. You might think that “copywriter” is your top keyword as it has the most traffic. However, the intent of this keyword might be someone looking for a job and not someone wanting to hire a copywriter. Some keyword modifiers that identify commercial intent are service, company, consultant, solutions, pricing, discount, for sale, provider and so forth. These keywords will have less traffic but will be easier to rank for with your SEO and usually will come with a much higher conversion rate.
When looking for keywords to use in case studies, white papers, videos, blog posts and other types of content, identify keywords with research intent. These often start with “how” or “why,” and are used by searchers who need answers to problems your startup is solving. These searchers may not be ready to buy but getting your brand in front of them will feed your lead nurturing campaigns and support your SEO campaign. Plus, this type of content gets more links and social shares than service or product pages. This content is costlier to create but will fuel most of your online authority and lead generation.
Finally, while most of your content should be ungated, it’s important to gate your most valuable content. Gating content simply involves requiring an email and/or other contact information to access content. This content could be a downloadable case study, free demo, 30-day trial and so forth. Initially, you will want to focus on content that is valuable enough to gate so you can start fueling your email marketing campaign. Once this has been created, you can focus on creating valuable content that is ungated.
Digital Marketing Strategies Off-Website
Remember all that research-oriented content you created with your content strategy? Now you need to nurture those leads with email marketing. This doesn’t mean sending emails that ask the user to purchase your product. They gave you their email because you provided a valuable piece of non-promotional content. Your email marketing campaign should continue that model as you send all the other ungated content you have created, such as checklists, case studies, or how-to pieces, sending four non-promotional emails to every promotional one. Promotional emails should be invitations for demos, consultations, special offers, discounts and the like, created to make the user feel special, rather than straight-out advertisements.
Social media can be a huge time suck that initially provides very little return. As a startup, your time is limited, so you need to be very strategic with your social media campaigns. Start by identifying the social media channels your target market is using. Keep in mind your ideal customer is busy, too, and is probably only active on one or two social media platforms. If your target market is B2B, then LinkedIn is likely your best channel. Here is a breakdown of target audience by social media channel.
Once you have identified your target market, then initially spend 75% of your time identifying the top influencers, communities, groups, hashtags and so forth, using tools such as Buzzsumo.com. Next, identify what content they are sharing that is related to your business. You will get good insights for your content strategy and email marketing by seeing what is being talked about and you might even gain quality intelligence for the next iteration of your startup.
Now spend 75% of your social media time engaging, talking, liking, following and sharing content with the top influencers. If you want these people to share your content, you must first share and engage with them. Once you have established a few relationships on social media, you can then ask these users to share your content by either tagging them on content they may like or simply explaining that you are a new business and would appreciate feedback on your content. If they like it, they will share it.
No Finish Line with Digital Marketing
With digital marketing, you are never “done.” But, with this blueprint, you should be able to focus your time appropriately on tactics that matter in a logical order to enjoy the highest of returns.