Over the years I have had some experience in working with early stage startups and advising them on their digital marketing approach. I usually start not by discussing tactics but by addressing key digital marketing principles that startups should know.
My recommendations to startup founders are as follows:
Know your niche
Optimize your website
Talk to customers
Build a database
While all of these are important foundational steps in preparing for digital marketing activities, most newly formed companies seem to be stuck at the second step: “optimize your website”. I will, therefore, focus on that within this article.
When I talk about a startup optimising their website, I am referring to ensuring your website has a clear message, is written for your target audience, has a deliberate purpose, and provides a defined “next step”.
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
1. Create a clear message
This is about the website being really clear and to the point about what your startup actually does. I’ve found that most founders are able to tell me in a succinct phrase what they do when we are speaking, but their websites include generic headings with words like “the perfect solution for your business” or “the platform you have been waiting for”. They don’t always clearly portray what they do and the benefits to the audience aren’t communicated in a way that eases understanding or encourages buy-in.
This is easy to both assess and fix. Make sure you don’t simply write content for the website and then walk away. Get others to read it, especially those who don’t know what you do, and see if they clearly understand what you’re offering. Get prospective clients to read your content. Find out if they have unanswered questions after reading it.
A potential customer needs to be able to visit your website and know within the first few seconds what you do and how it is relevant to them. Otherwise they won’t stay – or buy.
2. Write for your target audience
Most startups, especially those participating in a program or accelerator, are already clear on their niche target audience. However, this can still be overlooked in the website content. Consider the audiences that your website needs to cater to and speak in their language throughout the content. Think about the solutions you are providing to them and the outcomes you can deliver. Make sure your blog is not just about you but about things that matter to your target audience too.
3. Establish a deliberate purpose
Every website needs a purpose and in most cases, the reason for the website’s existence is to make sales or generate leads. Don’t lose sight of this when writing the content for the website. Be sure to include information that tells your customers what they need to do to take the next step. You can also have a secondary website objective like generating a prospect database.
4. Provide a defined “next step”
Following from the point above, every page of your website needs to address the goals of the website. This means that no page on the website should be a dead end or have content that leads nowhere. Include a call-to-action on every page. It might not necessarily advocate purchase – it may lead to a follow-up article, a free report, registration for updates, or opportunities to make an enquiry. Businesses spend a lot of time and money to get people to your site, so make sure your customers’ next step is clear.
When you’re ready, invite your customers
Only once the website can tick the above boxes is it truly ready to receive visitors. Only then should a startup consider implementing tactical executions to drive traffic to the website. This may include optimising the site for search engines, trying to grow a pre-launch list, starting social media advertising, or embarking on paid search activity. To do any of these activities prior to getting the core messaging and calls to action right on the website would be a waste of resources and would be sending customers to what is effectively a leaky bucket. Having a reliable website is key to a good digital marketing strategy.
What digital marketing techniques do you utilize in your business or website?