Too many entrepreneurs still believe that “if we build it, they will come.” With today’s overload of information from digital as well as conventional sources, even the best new solutions and services won’t get traction without real marketing.
Digital marketing is the cost-effective place to start, utilizing the internet, mobile phones, display advertising, and other digital mediums.
The challenge is where to put those limited resources of every startup, to get the biggest return for your investment. It is search engines, web content, blogs, social media, e-mail direct, on one of many mobile-phone approaches? Every entrepreneur needs a strategy, and some metrics to measure what’s working and how much it costs. Firing randomly to see what sticks doesn’t work.
As I was scouting around for some guidance on this subject, I came across a new book, “Get Scrappy,” by Nick Westergaard, who is a recognized expert on brand strategy and digital marketing. He offers a framework I like with lots of practical guidance on how to evaluate possibilities, overcome obstacles, and generate measurable results:
- Identify alternatives that make sense for your business. The first challenge is to resist falling prey to the latest “shiny new thing” online – new platforms, channels, and tools. Eliminate the big budget items if your budget is small, and don’t try to satisfy every checklist. Put your brains before your budget, keep it simple, and find ideas everywhere.
- Define a unique spark for your brand, and its promise. Every entrepreneur needs to market a brand with something to say, something that stands out and ignites everything the brand does. Digital marketing is all about telling memorable stories with your brand, establishing a voice, and visuals with engaging icons, colors, patterns, and movement.
- Determine the best digital channels and marketing objectives. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for selecting a channel. Press releases, social media, partnerships, and influencer outreach are a few of the alternatives. Objectives need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-related. For excellent guidance on the best digital channels, see this recent article, Top 14 Content Distribution Companies.
- Create and leverage engaging and relevant content. A digital marketing content path most often comes in the form of a blog, podcast, video, or newsletter. Build a strategic map and a plan to get to your final destination (objective). Remember that what’s engaging and relevant depends on your target customer needs, not solution features.
- Encourage ongoing social media customer conversations. The key to customer interaction is listening first, then asking questions about what customers need and like, not telling them what you have. Social media is the ideal vehicle for these conversations. Questions fuel content, spark conversations, and turn fears into opportunities.
- Convey a single brand message and unified brand experience. Integrate marketing touchpoints to convey a meaningful message across all channels and platforms. For example, use social channels to mine for newsletter content, and connect to your blog account, where you include email sign-up forms. Content that doesn’t connect doesn’t fit.
- Simplify marketing over time and measure what matters. Simplification starts with a strategy to filter all initiatives. This should be followed with a consistent schedule and editorial calendar. Content can then be relentlessly repurposed, from social media to a blog to a white paper to an e-book, and results measured. For good content, less is more.
While we are focusing here on digital channels, good marketers have other forms of media working in parallel for them as well. These should include in-store signage, product packaging, marketing collateral, and business cards. Let’s not forget the non-digital channels, including broadcast media, direct marketing, public relations, and trade shows.
In summary, marketing is more important than ever to the growth and vitality of a startup, and digital marketing is the way to excel without breaking your budget. Yet, to be effective, even digital requires a strategy, focus on the relevant channels, and the integration of your brand spark and promise into every message. The best entrepreneurs figure out how to do more with less.
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; ATI Angels Selection Committee; Venture Mentor at ASU. Published on Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post.
*** First published on Forbes on 06/08/2016 ***