Digital Marketing Strategies and Ideas for Startups in 2018
by Mike Khorev
2017 may have been the year that startup companies finally began to embrace digitization but so far, real changes—the kind that results in growth— have yet to take effect. The problem is simple: the kind of transformation most companies have so far been able to bring about is only the first step. It’s merely paving the way for growth.
The exciting news is now that lots of software and startup companies have made initial efforts to modernize their infrastructures, they’re poised for real growth. If that’s you — if you’ve recently adopted cloud-based CMS and CRM solutions, it’s time to put them to work and start growing your business.
Here are six digital marketing strategies and ideas for startups to help you graduate to that next level of digitization in the year ahead.
1. Content Marketing
To make growth happen in 2018, startup companies need to build on their initial efforts and begin focusing their digital marketing strategies on broader horizons.
And right now, there’s no horizon more promising and full of potential than the customer experience (CX).
Companies who embrace the CX credo — buyers are customers who expect to be delighted — will win in 2018. And what better way to ingratiate your company with purchasing managers than to offer helpful resources that make their job easier. Do this through content marketing.
More than three-quarters of startup companies already have a blog. However, there’s a big difference between simply having a blog and putting it to work as part of a content marketing strategy. What you need is a data-driven blog.
Begin by finding out what your buyers need. There are several tools at your disposal for this. First, you can use keyword tools to find what’s trending in your industry. These same tools will let you know which topics actually have search traffic and which are in demand so you’re not wasting time producing and promoting content that nobody wants to read.
Secondly, need is driven by pain, so think deeply about your B2B and B2C customers and what they lack, what causes them to ‘suffer’. Then, supply the kind of content that relieves those pain points. Almost half of the buyers consume online content (3-5 pieces) before reaching out to a sales rep. It should be your content they’re consuming. It should also be well-informed since almost all B2B buyers want the content they consume to include input from industry leaders.
Some examples of buyer pain points that you can help alleviate with helpful content:
- they lack information about products
- they struggle to compare products (46 percent of B2B buyers report that it’s difficult to compare products online)
- they struggle to understand new technologies
- they find it hard to stay current with industry developments
2. Inbound Marketing/SEO
A solid base of helpful content can also be the cornerstone of a successful inbound marketing campaign. You’ve done the research and produced great content for your buyers for your content marketing campaign. Now make it do double duty by earning some SEO credit.
You’ll need to do some deeper research, however: keyword research that goes deeper and shows you where you could focus your efforts and try to rank. Consider long tail keywords if your industry is competitive, and write data-driven content that helps your SEO efforts.
The trick is to balance SEO content techniques with user experience. SEO content, which employs strategic placement of keywords throughout the content, can come off as awkward. You want good, relevant, resourceful and helpful content that reads well, so keep that balance in mind with all your content. The idea, after all, is to try and get people to link to your pages. This can happen in any number of ways, including organically, through guest posting, and via social media promotion.
3. Social Media Marketing
Because of its rich targeting potential and wide reach, Facebook remains one of the most effective platforms for reaching buyers in the B2B and B2C world. It’s also the least expensive among the other social networks like Linkedin and Twitter. Over 60 percent of startup marketers plan to increase their Facebook Advertising efforts, according to a 2016 report.
You’ll need to identify your target persona and the companies you are going after and then create that profile on Facebook Ad Manager. You can also set up a remarketing pixel and target your website visitors and lookalike audiences to make the profile targeted and relevant. That way, you’ll maximize ROI and, depending on your marketing objectives, you can create campaigns that:
- generate leads
- drive traffic
- increase engagement
- develop brand awareness
- install apps
- increase sales
- get video views
Other options that are available on Ad Manager dashboard include:
- type of ad (photo ads, video ads, slideshow ads, collection ads, etc)
- campaign objective
- type of audience targeting (Facebook connections, Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences)
4. Responsive Web Design, HTTPS, AMP
Faced with more buyers who expect a better customer experience, B2B players now need to take their cues from B2C and look for ways to delight their buyers wherever they are in the buyer’s journey.
The best place to start is with the company website.
Even a quick spin through the startup galaxy of websites, and you’ll immediately know there’s a lot of room for improvement in the Customer Experience (CX). Here are three ways you can improve yours:
- Responsive Web Design. More and more, buyers are using mobile devices on the job. If your site wasn’t designed to be usable on multiple devices (PC, tablet, phone) then you’re making a bad impression on potential customers (especially Millennials). Don’t be like 94% of startup companies, who have no mobile strategy in place.
- HTTPS. If you’re not sure why you should have an ‘S’ on your ‘HTTP’, then you should know that HTTPS is a search engine ranking signal now. Not only will it help your website appear higher in search results and drive more organic traffic, it will also add the green secure lock icon to the browser. Major browsers will start showing a “not secure” warning to all website visitors in the near future if you don’t have SSL installed, so make sure you configure it soon to avoid a higher bounce rate and lower rankings.
- AMP. Buyers are busy and as a result, necessarily impatient. If your website isn’t loading fast enough, they’re likely to strike your company off their vendor shortlist. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Presence and if your site doesn’t adhere to AMP best practices, you’re not exactly making the customer journey delightful or easy. Aim for more engagement and a smoother experience with a sound AMP strategy. That means fast-loading pages, quick performing scripts, and form submissions that go through faster than you can say ‘jack rabbit’.
5. Marketing Automation
B2B customers typically use six different channels in their buying journey. Almost two-thirds of them will be frustrated by their experiences.
Since you’re now in the business of ‘delighting’ your customers, you’ll want to upgrade your methods wherever you have a point of contact with your customers and leads. This can be done through ‘marketing automation’.
Wherever someone may be along the buyer’s journey, you’ll want to help, coax, encourage, and respond to any actions they’re taking in relation to your business. In fact, a major pain point for 40 percent of surveyed buyers is slow response time from sales reps. Other frustrations included a sluggish reordering process, which troubled almost a third of survey respondents. Automation can help solve those problems and more by spurring communications, offering helpful links, and tying in customized past ordering data for individual customers.
In essence, what you’re doing is transforming your business into one that’s customer-focused. B2B buyers want the following:
- easier communications
- hassle-free reordering process
- help with product comparison
The added benefit of automating your marketing processes is that it helps with consistent messaging across all your platforms: email, digital ads, and other channels where you interact with your leads and customers.
6. Email Marketing
Another natural outgrowth of a strong content marketing initiative is email marketing: exciting and useful new content is a great excuse for an email newsletter. Email marketing magnifies the power of your content marketing efforts when you use carefully selected content aimed at segmented buyers at specific points along the buying decision timeline.
Plus, to get more out of your content budget, you can reuse content in lots of different ways. For example, you can redirect leads back to your website through your carefully planned email campaigns that include snippets from blog posts on your website that pertain to the moment.
It’s no secret that startup companies are still playing catch-up to B2B and B2C companies in the process of digital transformation. Having embraced the notion that digitization can lead to growth, startup players who’ve transformed their back-end processes and IT infrastructures should now work with digital marketing consultants on implementing marketing strategies outlined here. That’s how they’ll begin to capture and delight their prospects who expect a stellar customer experience, just like what they get in the B2C world. Good luck in 2018!
April 22, 2018