As startup owners, we pride ourselves in having a deep understanding of our target markets. Indeed, we would not be in business if we had not studied the market, noticed the gaps and created products and services to meet those demands. Plenty of research goes into launching a business, understanding the market for it and determining how our product meets those customers’ needs.
And that’s just the starting point.
Yet, when we actually start building a customer base for our business (online or offline), what happens next is rarely smooth sailing. Businesses may have a winning product but they often still struggle to get off the ground.
So, what gives?
Marketing blunders are often the culprit. These can be huge setbacks for startups. Here are some of the most common pitfalls you should watch out for.
1. Not nailing the messaging
It’s not enough to create the right product or service. The relevance and usefulness of your product needs to be conveyed to potential users on a large scale. (It pains me to see fantastic products receive no love online because their owners underestimated the importance and power of brand messaging.). How does a business nail this?
Through content. Everything is content — the text on the website, the blog posts, the videos, the social media updates. And content speaks to potential customers. It is therefore imperative to get the message right across those multiple platforms.
A visit to your website should leave a customer with no confusion as to what you do. He or she should not have to read the introductory text more than once to understand the business. The tag line should emphasise the essence as well as the uniqueness of the business in a short punchy manner. (It’s OK to be clever, but not so clever that you begin to sound vague.)
Every subsequent page should further drive this point home. What do you stand for? What services do you offer? What makes you unique? How exactly can you help? Which geographical locations do you serve? Clear and concise messaging will attract the right kind of people to the business and increase conversions.
2. Not capturing visitor details
So, you’ve created a website you’re proud of and invested in content creation and SEO to generate healthy organic traffic to the website. What happens next? The answer: Don’t let these visits go to waste. Capture those leads!
Give visitors a reason to share their contact information. Offering newsletters and downloadable resources has traditionally been the preferred way to build email databases, which in turn helps nurture leads. (You’ll need a newsletter-making tool like Campaign Monitor or MailChimp to improve the email experience for your subscribers.)
Not every visit you get will be from a customer-in-waiting, however. How then will you know who is or isn’t a potential lead? What if it were possible to capture this all-important information without even getting people to sign up? Leadfeeder provides businesses with actionable data regarding anonymous visitors, how they found you and which pages on your site they visited — data that can be capitalized upon to conduct outreach or to make sales calls.
Placing social plugins at strategic points makes it easy for those interested to follow you online. Before they follow a brand, people are more likely to share the blog content. That means plenty of winning posts (potentially) and the opportunity to earn new followers!
3. Settling for poor-quality content (or not creating enough content)
Content is how you interact with an audience, and basically how people know you online. Therefore, when your posts and the videos are lackluster, or your updates erratic, you may be giving out the impression that you’re not professional; that will reflect poorly on the business.
Quantity and quality are both important here. But startups are often strapped for resources. In that case, I’d suggest choosing quality over quantity, but even then, not letting the number of updates slip below a point.
Let me reiterate: Disciplined posting is as important as quality posting.
If once a week is all you can realistically manage, stick with that. You should know how often you can post when you create the content calendar. There are some helpful editorial calendar tools available, such as CoSchedule, but if you are short on cash, Google Docs is a free and useful option for creating collaborative content calendars.
4. Creating quality content but not marketing it
Who will care about that beautiful blog of yours that lives out its days in obscurity? New entrepreneurs are often so focused on getting their product/service right that they forget that marketing it is an equally important part of the job.
Also, new business owners often struggle with self-promotion. Many seem to have an inherent dislike of talking about themselves. I notice this more in those with tech backgrounds, but anyone can suffer from self-consciousness when promoting a business online. This, unfortunately, may compromise or dilute the message of the business.
After all, social media is driven by personality, and your life story is your “street cred,” so you’ll probably want to capitalize on that. Would it help to rethink self-promotion? If you absolutely cannot do this, hire an experienced marketer (it will be worth the investment). In its initial stages, a business needs all the attention it can get. This is not the time to play coy.
Businesses don’t speak for themselves.
How we wish businesses could speak for us, but that just isn’t the case, at least not initially, and not unless you get Mark Cuban to endorse you. Even then, you’d have to do a hard sell just to get him on board.
There’s a reason successful companies, too, continue to invest big money in marketing: It is the only way to get noticed. For startups on a budget, clever strategies and quality content creation, aided by the right tools, can tip the scales in those startups’ favor, and garner the visibility and engagement they absolutely need online.