Want to grow your business online?
Incredible changes in entrepreneurship over the last two decades have significantly impacted the way we start and grow our businesses. Regardless of the industry or niche in which you operate, adhering only to older, outdated marketing strategies isn’t likely to do much other than stagnate your growth.
Although more traditional growth strategies are still a valuable part of your overall marketing plan, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have created an online presence that produces more competition in more places. Instead of just beating out the little Mom and Pop shop down the road, you now the potential challenge of convincing hundreds of thousands of people why your business is better…better than several hundred other businesses all attempting to persuade them of the same thing.
Promoting startup growth now requires creativity, ingenuity, and a dedication to explore new and exciting methods for boosting business.
A multifaceted approach that includes these trailblazing strategies isn’t just an option for most markets – it’s a requirement.
Grow Your Business Online with Video and Podcasts
Saying that your new business should have a web presence is a bit of an understatement.
Simply existing online isn’t enough to draw people in. Consumers are barraged with a never-ending stream of advertisements from major players like Google and YouTube, and that can lead to content burnout with regard to strategies like on-page advertisements.
Furthermore, anyone who runs a Google Adwords campaign will quickly find out that all but the company makes it extremely expensive to run advertisements in all but the deadest, non-relevant niches.
Before you toss up your papers and give up, understand that all is not lost. formats like videos and podcasts are quickly gained ground, mostly because they focus on providing something of value rather than just pushing a product.
Companies (especially startups) that make videos and podcasts that teach, reveal, or explore topics of interest can often slide in a few product mentions without it feeling like a hard sell. If a video happens to go viral, that can take your new startup from drab to fab overnight. Short tutorials, DIYs, and unboxing videos work well, as do human interest stories.
Caveat: understanding what your target audience really wants and what goes into a viral video is critical to your success with this, as is maximizing your reach through iTunes, YouTube, and other video platforms. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t be afraid to hire a consultant. A viral video is worth the investment in nearly all cases.
A decade ago, you could toss down a heavily keyworded cluster of words and call it a day. Google’s algorithms would scan the content, see the keywords, and decide that your blog was worthy of a high search engine rank. Unfortunately, the content itself often left something to be desired, so a high bounce rate was exceptionally common. Clients would click a Google search link, see that the content was terrible, and immediately leave.
That’s precisely what you want to avoid.
Today, Google’s coding scans regularly for spam (i.e. anything that doesn’t inherently provide additional value, especially if plagiarized).
If you wrote it hastily just to shove in a few keywords, you’re doing it wrong. Worse still, you won’t just lose customers; you’ll probably find yourself banned from the search engine giant altogether. It’s a dangerous game to play that often hinders more than it helps.
Understand that keywords are no longer as important as they once were; instead, content that ranks highly and is shared frequently is more likely to be found at the top of the search results. Here, too, viral is everything. A well-written blog that’s cross-linked and shared widely around the web is as much of a golden ticket as a viral video.
Start your blog by defining exactly who your audience is with a persona.
Who is your target audience?
How old are they?
What do they like and dislike?
Do they believe in morals (e.g. “family values”) or are they more free and critical of popular culture, (e.g. “hipsters”)? What drives them to purchase or sign up?
More importantly, what do they want?
Monitor your bounce rates, share rates through Google Analytics, and adjust your approach if necessary. Then, seek out guest posts and syndication on large third party publications, including Huffing Post.
Leverage Contests and Giveaways
Everyone likes getting something for free – this is just a fact of life. In a world rife with economic struggle, it’s truer than ever. The growing popularity of “swag” explains why so many businesses (startup and existing) are leveraging contests and giveaways to draw new target audience members in.
Facebook and Twitter are both excellent platforms on which to host contests and giveaways, especially if you have more than 100 followers already. Contests should have a requirement for the end-user to share, follow, or like the contest information before they are included to prevent hit-and-runs.
Remember: you want to attract target audience members who stand a heightened chance of interacting with your brand. For this reason, you should avoid giving out generic prizes like Visa gift cards, gift certificates, and everyday electronics. Contests that offer each of these certainly will attract more fans, but that doesn’t mean those fans will be worth the investment.
Instead, give away items related to your target market or niche. Aim for products or services that your target market would already need. What’s bringing them to search for your products in the first place?
Here’s an example:
Jim runs a new restaurant industry startup. He’s just opened an Italian eatery in a heavily saturated area. Because of this oversaturation and his lack of familiarity, he isn’t getting much business. Jim decides to hold a contest for the first 100 people to eat at the restaurant.
Jim’s prize options include a Visa gift card, a brand-new iPad, a $500 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma, or a $500 gift certificate for the restaurant. Which is best?
The answer here could be either of the last two options. While the Visa gift card and iPad are likely to attract a wide audience, the gift certificates both focus on a niche market: foodies. People who come for either of those two prizes are already likely to engage with gourmet food on a regular basis.
Monitor and Maximize Your Reach
You may have heard the term, “reach” before.
This word refers to the trickle-down effect experienced when someone shares one of your social media posts. They see it, their friends see it, and hopefully, their friends see it, too. If you’re really lucky, your post goes viral and gets shared at every single jump.
Calculating reach can help you determine exactly how much investment and time you need to put into growing said reach, especially in a startup.
Do you have all the reach you need? (Hint: unless your business name happens to be Wal-Mart, Macy’s, or Bloomington’s, the answer is “no.”)
Growing your reach isn’t something that you do just once; instead, it’s a long-term process that occurs regularly throughout the life of your business. It involves putting your business out there and taking control of how you post on social media, and hopefully, going “viral” at some point.
Using Bambu’s simple and effective calculation tool we can see that a business with a social media team of 2 that has 100 Facebook, 100 Twitter, and 100 LinkedIn fans has a potential reach of around 2,000 – significantly higher! Of course, these numbers are rough estimates; for a more complex and specific formula, try Simply Wired’s formula here.
Once you’re aware of where your business is reach-wise, use the information to track down and seek out new fans with a high potential return. This includes fans with thousands of followers, industry experts, and people who write for or work for large-scale content websites.
Utilize User-Generated Content
Is your website or social media page user-friendly? Does it encourage people to get involved with your startup? If not, you’re doing something wrong. A page that only ever pushes products or churns out memes is imbalanced; it doesn’t get people involved, and that frequently means you don’t build loyalty. Loyal followers who feel like they’re a part of your startup’s story are far more likely to stick around long-term, not to mention the fact that they’re more likely to purchase your products, too.
Encourage interaction on your social media pages. Ask your audience questions about what they like, what they’d like to see, how they feel about a certain aspect of your business, or even how they feel about life. Host contests where people send in selfies of themselves interacting with one of your products to personalize the experience for everyone. Alternatively, start a small charity campaign and let your audience help you to create good in the world.
If you’re on YouTube, iTunes Podcasts, or other video and audio platforms, encourage fans to reply back with their own videos to give their thoughts. Keep the conversation flowing and be sure to respond to at least a portion of the replies and comments regularly. Consumers love to see businesses that really seem to listen to them and take their ideas seriously, even if they don’t necessarily implement them down the road.
Above all else, humanize your marketing strategy. Today’s consumers are much more skeptical and unwilling to toss caution to the wind; they’ve been burned by too many businesses in the past. Speak to them professionally, but be conversational on social media, Reddit, and other stepped-down platforms, too. A warm, honest, and personal approach still beats nearly everything else for growth.