Digital marketing can seem like a bit of a minefield for the startup business that is selling to other businesses. Startup businesses selling to consumers are increasingly 'digital first' since that is where consumers are going for the best choice and best prices. Marketplaces, like Amazon, eBay and Facebook enable businesses targeting consumers to get set up quickly.
According to a recent survey conducted in the US, millennials now do 60% of their shopping online. But business startups are targeting a fragmented digital landscape and you need to cover your bases if you want to stand out from the crowd.
And the pandemic has changed the way we do business. Never in recent history have so many elements of our lives and business operations been entirely upended seemingly overnight—from work-at-home mandates to the complete shuttering of entire industry verticals. So a digital marketing strategy is a must-have, once you have completed your business planning. First answer the questions: who are we targeting; what is our differentiation; what is the buying journey?
With a clear understanding of your target buyer, you can then determine what is digital marketing strategy for your business. How do you use digital channels to reach, acquire and convert buyers to sales? You need to manage a funnel marketing strategy, that engages buyers with great content, captures their interest and guides them through their buying cycle, so that your Salespeople are converting informed buyers.
This is the role of digital marketing and I cover here 10 of the most important strategies to focus on with this objective in mind:
Social Media Marketing,
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)/Pay-Per-Click,
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO),
Referral Marketing (e.g. TrustPilot),
Of course everyone has a website nowadays, right? Yes they do. But is it performing its proper function?
Your website is the digital 'front door' to your business. It tells the visitor what kind of business you are, your brand promise, what experience you are likely to provide the customer. It should drive action.
This means that the UX (user experience) needs to be compelling, navigation is clear and simple, calls to action involve no more than 1 click. Forms should be short and progressive. The days of website-as-digital-brochure are long gone. They are the top of the sales funnel and the destination to send contacts from other digital channels to engage with compelling content.
Web marketing and content marketing go hand-in-hand. Content is how you engage buyers in the digital world and it comes in many forms for different platforms and buying stages. 88% of B2B marketers agree that content marketing is an important part of their marketing programs. For startups, frequent and engaging content needs to create brand awareness in order to generate demand. By definition, a startup is new and needs to compete with others. You can disrupt the market and challenge traditional ways of doing things. Or show you can compete with established players in a growth category. Either way, content marketing is one of the most important differentiators.
New content channels for business, such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, require content formats, styles and lengths that engage audiences effectively on those specific platforms. Content is therefore one of the most significant parts of Social and search strategies.
Frequently used text and video formats, such as blogging, eBooks, white papers, explainer videos, brand videos may all play a part in engaging your audience. This will be determined by your segmentation and persona definitions.
Despite predictions of its death in the marketing world, emails are still around and delivering a handsome return on investment (ROI) to marketers. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Demand Metric and the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), it was concluded that email marketing had an impressive ROI of 122%. And Marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue. (Campaign Monitor, 2019).
But is it still as effective since GDPR legislation? The answer should be 'yes'. The reason is that GDPR was brought in to protect the rights of consumers to choose how their personal data is used. For businesses to send email to other business contacts, there needs to be a legitimate interest and they need to have the ability to opt out of receiving emails at any time. Be sensible and you will have no legal problems (but always take advice).
The best way to achieve both of these needs is to ensure that you are targeting genuine prospects when acquiring third party data or only using email for nurturing contacts who have already opted in to receive email from you via a form. The use of 'drip' email campaigns for actively engaging prospects who have agreed to receive emails, has been proven to be very effective in converting interest into sales opportunities.
Social Media Marketing
Some of the easiest to use business marketing solutions are found online via social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and they are often free. Combined with a good content marketing strategy, social media channels can generate clicks through to your website. If you use paid-for services, you can offer premium content on-platform to generate leads. 80% of B2B leads sourced from social media come from LinkedIn. LinkedIn has the power to connect you with highly targeted individuals based on such criteria as geographical location, current company, past company, job title, industry, interest and university attended.
As with all digital strategies, it is important to understand your objectives for social media, as this will influence both the content and the platforms used. LinkedIn is very good for highly targeted, low volume campaigns that convert to leads at a fairly predictable CPA (cost per acquisition). But to extend your reach to different audiences and build brand awareness, you may want to post regularly - at least 2-3 times per week - to other channels like Twitter. To enable this, it is important to have a tool that helps create, schedule, post and measure social media performance.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) /Pay-Per-Click
Pay-per-click advertising is offered by Search engines like Google and Bing to position your company, product/ service in front of buyers who are searching specifically for keywords that reflect your offering and which you are bidding on.
Its advantages are:
You can reach your customers at the right time with the right ad
You only have to pay when an interested person clicks on your ad, not when it appears
You control your bids for each keyword or phrases, and how much you want to spend overall
You don’t have to wait for results - performance can be optimised quickly
Data and insights to help sharpen other marketing strategies
PPC campaigns exhaust the budget quickly. So it requires a certain kind of expertise to engineer a successful campaign that generates more conversions than clicks.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the unpaid sister to SEM. In the same way, it is based on identifying keywords that buyers are searching on when looking for the kind of products/ services that you provide. However, instead of bidding on these terms, Google (or Bing etc) rank your search result using a continually changing algorithm. How it works is a well-guarded secret, but it basically ranks the most popular and relevant content more highly.
SEO is therefore a significant factor in the design and performance of your web and content marketing strategies. Both your on-page content and the way your website content is set up, affects your SEO ranking. SEM and SEO strategies usually work hand-in-hand and require long term investment and expertise. However, even for startups, it is important to have SEO Marketing on the agenda, as you create your brand and content, since there are real upsides for whether you can be found online if it is set up correctly from the start (see also, Google Local section below).
The majority of visitors to your website do not make themselves known by completing a form. They may just be researching you, or be distracted - or simply not find what they were looking for. It doesn't mean they are not interested in you, so retargeting is a means of reaching back out to web visitors with relevant ads.
When a potential customer comes to your website, a pixel (an unobtrusive piece of code) is placed on their web browser if their settings allow. These are known as cookies.
The retargeting platform, for example, the Google Display Network (GDN) is notified by that pixel when the visitor views other pages on the network and he/she is then served with the relevant ads based on the pages visited on your website. The intention is that they click the ad and return to your website. Retargeting is often used in a conjunction with an SEM or social media strategy.
With effective retargeting ads, you can convert those visitors who have previously shown interest in your products or services and increase your conversion rate.
Local search optimisation is often a significant channel for startups serving the local area. Starting with claiming your business via a Google my Business Google Local can help to bring your SEO,
SEM and social media strategies to bear on generating enquiries from the local area that your business serves. Most importan
tly, you can generate reviews, referrals and engagement with local customers that can help build your reputation.
Referral marketing has grown significantly with digital marketing, and well-known brand names have emerged in B2C with referrals at the heart of their offerings: TrustPilot, AirBnB and TripAdvisor being just three examples.
A referral in B2B is different from B2C. Product discounts, shareable promotion URLs and similar tend to be replaced by testimonials, off-line visits to a company - or just entertainment (when not social-distancing!). But companies like G2 Crowd, who provide business software reviews and Influitive, who provide a managed digital referral programme are beginning to bring B2C approaches to B2B.
In days past, influencer marketing was primarily handled via public and corporate relations, since influencers were discrete communities accessed via the media or the investor community. But today, with social media, it is much harder to direct your focus to just a small number of stakeholders. Bloggers, industry analysts, partners, Consultants, reporters, key customers and many others need to have a positive perception of your brand - and yet all have different needs.
Your social media strategy can act as an initial introduction to influencers, since communities exist on all of the social media platforms - e.g. LinkedIn Groups. By joining and participating in these groups you can identify key influencers and begin to target them specifically. Influencers can drive viral marketing as well as word of mouth so they are an important channel to market, for your messages, brand and content.
As this article makes clear, businesses should focus their efforts on perfecting the types of marketing that they know will have a positive reaction from their specific target audiences. Continually analysing what works and remaining true to what their own customers want, rather than trying to do everything.
Brands can instead take small steps on the road to these new strategies by dipping their toes in the water with campaigns that include video, user-generated content or influencer marketing, all of which are proving extremely popular with customers and if executed correctly can show great business return. Follow strategies with long-term commitment rather than stretching resources too thin.
Rome wasn't built in a day.