Formulating digital marketing strategy for startups and small businesses
Coming up with your digital marketing strategy isn’t as easy as it used to be.
The ever changing landscape
There used to be a time when SEO, Google Adwords & email marketing were pretty much what defined everyone’s digital marketing strategy. Whether you were a big company or small, you invested in these three mediums & hoped for some return on investment. However, things have changed & how!
In the past decade, the number of ways to promote your business have gone up exponentially. Social media channels came up & suddenly people had access to free, organic ways of promoting their businesses. That dried up soon however as Facebook came out with paid ways of promoting on its channel, effectively ending the free ride. Twitter followed with its own advertising tools & do did Pinterest & Instagram. Then came along snapchat with its own unique promotional style.
We’ll get you out of the maze
Due to all this new development, the choices of promotional channels for any marketing person can be mind boggling. Especially for someone at a startup or a small business, who unlike the big businesses, doesn’t have the luxury of relying on a big advertising agency to plan their digital marketing strategy for them. Worry not we’re here to help just such people where to put their money so as to get the most bang for the buck!
First let’s look at the different types of digital promotional means available.
A) Pay per click marketing
Pay per click (or PPC) does exactly what it says. The ad is shown to lots of people & you pay when someone clicks on it. The advantage of PPC is that it provides short term results as compared to other long term means like SEO. This kind of service is offered by two kinds of platforms.
1) Search Engines (aka Search Engine Marketing)
This involves placing ads on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing email etc. You can set these ads up so that a text ad is shown whenever someone searches for your product or service. Search engines also offer the ability to show display ads or image/video based ads on third party websites affiliated with their networks.
2) Social media platforms
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Instagram let you advertise your wares via image & video rich ads to the users of their respective networks. These services are available on a pay per click basis.
Search Engine Optimization involves making effort to make your website rank on the first page (or first position) of Google or any other search engines. This is a long term technique (involving time periods of 6 months +) which is executed through the following means:
1) Content marketing
You need to regularly make and share content like articles, infographics, videos, presentations, podcasts etc. The content you make goes on your website as well as various third party sites. The combination of your on site content & the links to your website from your off-site content gets your website to rank for certain keywords of your choice.
2) Social media
The content that you’ve made needs to be shared to social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. The likes and shares garnered by these posts help your website gain rank positions on search engines.
C) Email marketing & text message marketing
Everyone knows what this is, but everything mistakes it for something it isn’t. People most often abuse email or text messaging (which includes whatsapp) for spamming users and hoping to get a response out of them. They think it’ll lead to customer acquisition. But what it actually needs to be used for is to reconnect with existing customers or users & keep them engaged.
Start with your objective first
Many businesses just get on Facebook or Twitter and make posts on a periodic basis. They have no idea why they’re doing it. Just some notion that it will help get some recognition & maybe some sales in the long run. Such businesses ultimately get frustrated & give up after a few months. Where did they go wrong? They didn’t have a clear objective in mind!
There are essentially only 2 objectives to be chosen from
1) Brand management
This is when you’re trying to create awareness of your brand so that people are more confident of buying from you. It’s also when you’re trying to manage your brand’s reputation online. Like when an unhappy customer rants about your bad product or service and you’ve to respond to quell them & to show to other potential customers that you’re a customer service oriented business.
2) Driving revenues
This is when then objective of your online activities is to generate leads or sales. Ultimately every business expects to gain some kind of financial advantage out of its online activities. So you should too!
Matching your medium to your objective
Your digital marketing strategy ultimately boils down to choosing the right promotional medium for your business depending upon your chosen objectives. This in turn depends on the stage and scale of operations of your business. Let’s understand this by looking at an example.
Sober just formed!
Let’s say you’re a newly founded startup in the business of ride sharing, by the name of sober! Your investors will surely have a target in mind for you. Something like getting X rides per day by month Y. So you need a medium that will start bringing traffic to your site instantly & give you short term results. Hence you need to make use of PPC, either Google Adwords or Facebook ads or both. You cannot afford to wait for the long term effects of SEO to kick in or hope that your nice looking posts on social media will get you some business. If you do that at this stage, I’m afraid you’ll end up being disappointed! Of course we’re assuming that sober has some amount of seed money to spend on the ads.
Also, it doesn’t mean that those activities are to ignored. SEO and organic social media are long term activities and any newly established business should get started with them on small scale, with the objective of growing them gradually.
What also needs to be done on a small scale here is email marketing. Startup co-founders & small business owners need to use email and text messaging to reach out to all their friends, relatives & contacts and let them know of the new service available to them.
Sober grew a little
It’s been few months into Sober’s operations now & you at sober have been hitting your targets consistently. Now is the time to take stock of your PPC campaigns. If you’ve been using them to just drive transactions, you need to switch them to app installs. You also need to optimize the budget allocation to PPC medium that’s been giving you a better return on investment.
Since you’ve built a decent user base, you can now start making more extensive use of text and email marketing. Keep sending them offers & coupons to ensure that you’re always on their minds & they keep using your service.
You’ll also want to kick your kick up your SEO efforts up a notch. This is the time when most startups begin to feel a cash crunch & the organic traffic brought in by SEO can do wonders to keep the business coming.
Sober hit the jackpot
So you’ve caught some investors’ eye & have been injected with a huge round of funding! Congratulations!
You’ve been given a mandate of growing to a mammoth size & this is when brand awareness becomes really important. The early adopters have tried & tested your service & now you need the mass majority to do the same. Now is the time to pull out all stops to:
A) Use various mediums, particularly PPC (especially display ads) & SEO through content marketing on social media to create mass awareness of your service.
B) Translate that awareness into revenues by making use of PPC, SEO & Email / text marketing.
Things to remember as you go about planning & implementing your digital marketing strategy.
1) See where your customers are
Don’t make an assumption that your customers are on a certain channel. You may think that everyone is on Facebook whereas your audience may be more of an Instagram or Snapchat crowd. Especially if they’re a younger demographic. If you’re unsure then contact a few people in your target audience and ask them what they use on a regular basis. Observing them use their phones may give you better insights into that rather than asking directly.
2) Don’t be afraid to experiment
A/B testing is at least what you should do by way of experimentation. Try our different target audiences, creatives, incentives, product variations and so on. Never assume that since A is working out there’s no need to try B. Maybe B can bring about better results for you.
3) Measure performance constantly
You’re doing digital marketing for getting good returns on investment. Hence you won’t know if you’re fulfilling your goal unless you measure your campaigns constantly. Set a target of achieving X% return on investment and check on a daily basis if you’re achieving that.
4) Strike the right balance
Don’t choose too many platforms, but don’t choose too few either. Take the advise of experts on which platforms are right for you. We’ll be happy to help! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org