Digital Marketing for Startups

If you’re experiencing anything like I did in the first 6 months of my business, you’re most likely feeling slightly overwhelmed and possibly confused as to how to market your biz. The available digital marketing strategies for startups seem endless. Do you jump on social, throw up a Google Business Profile page, or double down on LinkedIn? It can be a lot to navigate while running a business.

Well, not to worry my friend. I put together a little marketing 101 and startup strategy to help you brainstorm. In time, you will be well on your way to developing a marketing strategy that will have customers flocking to you in droves or at the very least you’ll have a better idea of what to do next.

Set Clear Goals 

Before beginning a posting frenzy on Twitter or Facebook, think about what your ultimate goal is. Be as specific as possible.

Here’s a quick, “do-this-not-that” breakdown:

  • Do This: Clarify your unique value proposition (UVP) for your audience 
  • Not That: Create general awareness of your brand
  • Do This: Engage and connect with prospects by providing value upfront in order to convert prospects into customers
  • Not That: Generate revenue 

See how the slightest change can modify your goals and help you get more strategic? The key is to think specifically about what you want to accomplish and how you go about it. This is crucial in choosing which tools (like social media channels) to use in marketing to your prospective audience.

Define Your Target Audience

The most important part of any brand is the customer base that invests in it. Before beginning any digital marketing venture, startups need to know exactly who their product or service is for. If you know who they are, you’re more apt to know where they are.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s their age range
  • Are you targeting a specific gender 
  • What’s their race or ethnicity
  • Where do they live (urban, suburban, rural) 
  • What do they do in their spare time (sports, movies, music, etc.)
  • How much money do they make
  • What’s their education level
  • What’s their job or what industry are they in
  • What similar brands to your service do they consume 
  • Where do they spend most of their time when they’re online–Facebook, IG, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc. 

Not all of these categories will necessarily apply to your specific brand, but when you’re thinking about serving a customer, think about serving a human being. Getting a clear picture of their characteristics, habits, and rituals will impact how you market your brand to your target audience. From the colors and design of your website to which social media channels you reach them on, clarifying your target audience is one of the most important things you can do in improving the marketing strategy of your business.

Two girls discussing digital marketing ideas for startups
As a startup, knowing exactly who your target audience is will help you curate an effective and detailed digital marketing strategy.

Know Your Competition

Now that we know what our specific goal and target are, becoming an expert on what competing brands is coveted intel. I’m not saying you need to run out and start stalking other brands like yours, and by no means should you swipe what they’re doing and claim it’s yours. But knowing exactly who your competitors are and what they offer in detail will help you sharpen the pencil on your brand. 

Ask yourself three questions:  

  1. What problem are they solving for their customers?
  2. What’s the solution to that problem look like?
  3. How is my solution unique?

It’s time to decide on and start strategizing exactly how you’re going to reach your potential customer. The following three ideas create a solid starting point for your future. You can choose to adopt one, and it will help. However, if you choose to adopt all three (especially the last one), the world is yours for the taking.

Don’t Skip SEO

The pandemic has proven that even if you have a brick-and-mortar, having a website is always a good idea. Your website will be the digital face of your brand and depending on your business, it may be the main way customers learn more about what you have to offer. 

Ok, so that’s the simple part. The not-so-simple part, or the one that receives the most eye-rolls from my clients, is SEO (search engine optimization). And before you start scrolling to the next paragraph, hang on. In general, SEO is writing and designing your web pages in a way that will make your website show up more easily in Google searches with relevant keywords. But let me give it to you another way: good SEO is free advertising.

I recommend startups choose one social media platform to start.
Don’t spread yourself too thin.

When you follow good SEO practices and someone searches for a word or phrase related to your business, Google will refer them to your website. How? Without getting too in the weeds, Google’s algorithm breaks down the search phrase into keywords, combing the Internet for sites using those keywords, and then ranks those sites by keyword usage. This is a super bare-bones explanation of SEO, but it gives you a good idea. It should also give you a reason to pay attention to SEO early and often as a startup. Because SEO is a long game. It can take weeks and even months to start ranking. Heck, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by not paying attention to SEO the entire first year I was in business. But since I have started practicing good SEO and doing it consistently, my ranking is increasing.

An SEO-savvy website contains not just information about your product and services, but rich, valuable content that prospective clients need and want right now. One way to do this is to write a blog. You don’t need to blog every day, one time per week should suffice. Do it consistently and your audience will use your site as a resource, and the chances of them investing in your service are drastically increased. Alternative to blogging, you could post videos or host a podcast and keep show notes on your website.

Create Your Social Media Strategy

Along with your website, fire up a brand presence on social media. Using what you learned in researching your target audience, start engaging and following with like-minded brands and potential clients. A word of caution here: don’t just jump into people’s feeds and tell them about what you do. Social media shouldn’t be a place for door-to-door type sales. Provide valuable insight, feedback, and genuine comments.

What should you post? Typically, I tell my clients to focus on 3-5 (no more than 5) pillars of key content relative to their brand and their potential buyer. For example, if you’re a yoga instructor offering personal training and online classes, your pillars might be: proper pose alignment, nutrition for yogis, apparel/products you love for yogis, meditation/motivational quotes, and lifestyle moments (posts with you and your pup–as an example).

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to social media is deciding which platform to use. Each one is unique and appeals to a different audience. Regardless of where you begin posting, I recommend startups choose just one platform to start. Creating content, engaging with followers, and growing your brand on one social media channel takes a lot of time and attention. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Start an Email List

Last but certainly not least, startups should tap into the star of digital marketing, and start an email list. You may have heard the phrase, “Don’t build your business on the borrowed ground”? That means don’t build your business on social media alone. Why? Because if the great Metaverse or TikTok go down (hello, October 2021), all of your followers go with it. There’s zero tying them back to you and even worse, nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, you own your email list. That’s yours and until they unsubscribe, you own it. 

One great and easy way to do this is to offer some kind of freebie. A freebie is a downloadable checklist, cheatsheet, workbook, or guide about something related to your business. People give you their email address in exchange for your valuable download. As you begin building your list, you’ll have yet another way to provide value and grow a relationship with that person via your weekly e-newsletter. 

And for the record, email marketing is most definitely not dead. According to some analysts, it should account for roughly 30% of your total revenue. Think about it. If someone is willing to share their email with you, it’s because you have something they want. Consider your email list as a pool of warm leads, giving you the opportunity to show up in their inbox and keep serving them. Done correctly, they will buy from you.

For startups, digital marketing might take more time and focus in the earlier months and even years of business. No one strategy will work for every brand, since your needs, audience, and service will differ from someone else’s. The strategy you design will truly be unique to your brand. The key is to commit to the process early on and be consistent. Through it, you’ll learn a lot about your audience and how your product or service can evolve to better fit their needs.

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