Establishing a marketing strategy can be scary. Marketing is generally a large portion of your budget, and naturally, it takes some time to see the results. When you have taken huge risks to realize a personal goal or dream, taking the leap of faith into a marketing plan can feel like jumping off a cliff where you can’t see the bottom. This is a very exciting time too. Marketing your product or service is the way you tell the world about what you’ve created or what you are doing, presumably something that you have cultivated from a place of love and passion. It’s a highly personal, invested and meaningful time in your business development. Good communication with your digital marketing consultant will help ease the anxiety and keep you informed as your campaign progresses.
Most new businesses and start-ups are competing in industries where the giants have purchase power and big marketing budgets. That can be intimidating. But new businesses have many advantages, among them; a consumer trend towards buying local and supporting businesses that are part of and contribute to the communities or causes that are dear to them. Consider too that the larger the business, the more exposure they have to liability and a cynical and easily disenfranchised consumer base. Consistency to brand and anchoring your business to a particular theme or mission promotes the kind of loyalty that would convert a big box, instant gratification shopper to a dedicated consumer willing to wait for a smaller business to furnish inventory or services. And finally, customer service. Without a good customer service plan, every dollar spent on marketing, website, storefront, sales, and inventory are a complete waste. Don’t neglect it! Big Box stores and corporate conglomerates have policies and procedures, but they really struggle to enforce customer service policies. Smaller organizations have much more control over who they hire, how they train their staff and finally how they incentivize and show appreciation to their employees.
I wish I could tell my clients that digital marketing is an easy, overnight execution with instant results, but the marketing of any kind takes time, requires a scalable plan, a budget and cooperation. However, there are a lot of tricks of the trade that will help rapidly increase your search ranking and drive a lot of traffic to your site. With the right plan and team, this can be done effectively in a reasonable time frame. But it takes commitment, perseverance and a bit of fearlessness.
Start with a budget!
Know exactly how much you can afford to spend on marketing in the first year and be prepared to spend about 60-70% in the first quarter. Clearly communicate that number to your hired marketing strategist or consultant. If you aren’t sure how much to allocate towards marketing, consider that 10-12% of revenue is the magic number for increasing revenue. Don’t have revenue yet? Project your revenues and allocate 10-12% of that. But be realistic. Don’t just say, “I want a zillion dollars in revenue!” Know your true market value and be realistic in your estimates.
My prescription for delivering quick and high marketing impact results includes multiple platforms and experts dedicated to delivering on time and on budget. Among my dream team would be:
- A graphic designer with a great understanding of your determined brand personality.
- A dedicated SEO focused site programmer on maintaining curated relevant backlinks as well as for consistent on page optimization, site maintenance, and tagging/tracking the performance of your website.
- A social media and PPC search engine media buyer who knows exactly where and when to place your ads and who also has a keen understanding of search engines and audience targeting.
- A social media manager with a proven track record for audience growth and community building and a keen sense of customer service within social.
- A crack email marketing expert to deliver optimized automated emails that keep your product or service top of mind.
Cliche as it sounds, Content is truly King. Don’t even start marketing until you have a content plan to include:
A highly engaging client-facing website
A beautiful cache of original artwork including high-quality professional photographs of your products or your services in action.
Lots of professionally written copy for email, website, press releases, communications, social media, and advertising.
High-Value Production videos! Video content is the #1 way to communicate with your audience.
Brochures, physical coupons or other leave behind materials including swag and promo items.
A solid social media plan.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough: have a physical presence at events where your product is relevant. Send a team of high energy, relatable brand ambassadors out on location to talk about and demonstrate what your product or service can do. Offer samples, give away freebies, ask for email addresses, offer discounts, and set up social media activations. Get people curious and talking. Make sure there are lots of signs and information about where and how to buy what you are selling.
You need a marketing plan and a sales plan, (yes they are 2 different plans).
If the survival of your business depends on a quick return on your investment, then I highly recommend investing in a strong closer as early as possible for your sales and customer service team to make the absolute best use of marketing efforts. Many great customer service platforms can assist with data capture and relationship management that are very affordable compared with the cost of losing potential clients, but nothing can outperform an interpersonal connection and the availability of a strong customer service person and sales rep. Running simultaneous and cohesive sales and marketing strategies is the absolute key to success in the first year. The old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Remember that a great marketing platform will deliver curious, interested and motivated buyers to your site or to your call center, make sure you implement a strategy with a quick customer service response and get those sales!
Search engines are the yellow pages of today. Remember looking up services in the yellow pages and calling several until you finally found one that could work within your schedule and budget? Today, search engines not only simplify finding products and services specific to our needs, but they also help ensure our satisfaction because of the wide availability of supporting information and reviews found online. Oh! Kids today don’t know how good they got it! Pew Internet Research says 77% of online business to business seekers began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. According to a recent Hubspot survey 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles, Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day (Google, 2014) and 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases. (Search Engine Land, 2014) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics) Pretty convincing statistics!
Google ranks pages based on two primary metrics: Authority, which is a measure of how many people share or link back to your content, and Relevancy, which is a measure of how well you create content that relates to the keywords users type into search engines (like Google) to find your website or blog. Websites and blogs which create relevant content that gets found by internet users, and then gets shared across the web, is deemed as being authoritative.
I believe in organic and authentically cultivated traffic. I do not believe in buying an audience or creating a bunch of non-relevant backlinks. These tactics will only give you heartbreak in the long run. When multiple content channels are orchestrated, they will serve to strengthen all others and give you a greater authority in search. Therefore the tighter the budget, the shorter the timeline with a heavier concentration of services on the very front of your strategy. If you set a yearly budget, I believe it is better to focus the majority of your budget in the first 120 days of the marketing plan to creating high
Search Ad Campaigns (PPC)
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) through Google Adwords is a time-saving and cost-effective way to gain more visibility, referrals, and recognition for your business. Piggybacking off of SEO, there is really no better way to capture new relevant traffic from the business to business community than through a combination of optimized keywords and highly targeted search advertising. Searchers who discover products and services they are already looking for are more likely to convert than consumers seeing advertising that is not targeted to their search history or demographic.
Social Media Engagement
Social Media should not be neglected. When a well crafted Social Media campaign creates an engaged following with return users who share, like and follow, those social media pages also show up in a search. We’ve all googled a keyword and had the first page flood with the website and 3 or 4 social media pages of one specific company. When that happens, a searcher naturally feels that the specific company dominating the top of search engines also dominates the market. And, generally, they do. Social Media contributes greatly to the Authority and has a significant impact on SEO. Conversely, if you drive a curious audience to your site from social media and the campaigns aren’t cohesive, that can also negatively impact your SEO with a high bounce from a turned off or confused audience. Keep your posts on social media relevant and maintain a consistent voice throughout your digital footprint.
Social Media Advertising
Social media advertising is the perfect way to deliver highly targeted ads to individual users by using profile data to match audience interests, geographic location and other demographics that might determine purchase history, intent or general interest in an item or service. With so many social media forums available right now, all or at least most of them offering an advertising platform, there is most certainly one where your audience is spending time. The most popular sites being Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are joined in the advertising world by SnapAds from SnapChat which is no doubt “the” place to market to millennials. If your audience is not definitively on one platform or the other, you may consider diversifying your ad spend with cross-platform marketing. The social media advertising options are limitless and offer you a direct avenue to a “ready to buy” community like never before.
Targeted Email Marketing Campaigns
62% of B2B consumers prefer communication via email in comparison to direct mail, phone calls, and office visits. If you consider that it takes an average of 7 points of contact to generate consumer curiosity, then I strongly urge you to add an email campaign to your arsenal. Additionally, you can pack a lot into an email that you can’t fit into an ad. Offers, contests, audience growth through sharing and information! In the age of texting and remote, non-familiar contact, email marketing acts as a much more personal means of reaching out to your audience. Email marketing is the best place to promote new services and products, offer introductory pricing and specials to build a base for generating new revenue streams.
Two Spoonfuls of Sugar with Your Medicine
Two final bits of advice: One: Don’t let marketing distract you from handling your business. Too often business owners get wrapped up in trying to monitor and track their SEO and advertising on an hourly basis and then neglect their business development. If you’ve hired an agency or a consultant, set up a routine reporting procedure and let them do their job. If your consultant or marketing director is on the phone with you, educating you about analytics or how digital advertising works, they aren’t doing the job you hired them to do. If you are on a retainer, time spent with you on the phone or in meetings are billable hours just as they would be with any professional such as an attorney or an accountant. Don’t spend your consultants allocated hours for you getting a cliff notes education on digital marketing. Study the results of the reports they provide to you and be clear on timelines and expectations from the beginning. Two: Don’t confuse Marketing with Sales. Marketing is meant to drive awareness and deliver an audience to your sales funnel. A good marketing consultant will advise you on the keenest solutions for strengthening the joints between marketing and sales. And a reputable salesperson will generally be skeptical in contracting with a company that doesn’t have a marketing funnel because they generally work on commissions and don’t want to have to do marketing and sales just to close a small percentage. Generally, a great website design will carry you through a marketing funnel and with the right Information Architecture will capture data for future remarketing and best of all convert visitors to lifelong consumers. It takes a great marketing AND sales strategy to create this seamless consumer habitat. Be sure to get these two arms of your business development in sync as soon as possible.
Amee Gray is the Founder and CEO of Ms.Gray Marketing, a full scope marketing agency in Los Angeles specializing in Digital Reputation Management and Online Brand Visibility utilizing Content and Search Optimization techniques as well as digital advertising and social media.