8 Steps to get you Started
So, you started a business. Now, you need to bring in revenue. Luckily for you, we live in a world of endless opportunities when it comes to marketing.
It's a great time to be an entrepreneur. With the right marketing tools, you can make your business vision come alive without breaking the bank. Instead of relying on pricey and outdated methods that yield a minimal understanding of ROI, there are now countless cost-efficient ways for any savvy start-up to get visibility on how much revenue marketing efforts will generate.
I’ve spent the last 13 years developing a variety of skills that have allowed me to not only start a business but also grow it from 2 to 13 employees in a year and a half without spending a dollar on paid advertising.
We take this experience to help countless companies run digital marketing strategies to hit their growth goals.
There’s a book every entrepreneur should read called, “Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works.” It’s one of the four books in The Lean Series, written by Ash Maurya. Ash is the founder of USERcycle, and his entrepreneurial journey began when he bootstrapped his first company seven years ago. Since then, this visionary has launched five products and a unique peer-to-web application framework while searching for better ways to build successful businesses. His passion for innovation ultimately led him to adopt Customer Development and Lean Startup techniques which have inspired blog posts and his book, "Running Lean." This book gave me clarity on how to start a business.
I will break down my process into eight key components:
- 1. Brand/Logo
- 2. Brand Persona
- 3. Testing
- 4. Website
- 5. SEO
- 6. Brand Marketing/Social Media
- 7. Email Marketing
- 8. Brand Marketing/Social Media
1. Brand / Logo
Every business needs a solid brand. You need to come up with concepts of what that will be. Start simple. Ask yourself, “What do you want to represent?” “Who do you want to be to your audience?” and, “What values are crucial to be identified with concerning your brand?” These are a few things to be thinking about when developing your brand’s name and branding strategy.
Make it original - Don't just settle, stand out! Be original and creative by exploring keywords and ideas that add a spark to your brand. Draw inspiration from everything around you—the world is full of possibilities for dreaming up something unique. And, if you need some help, there are tools like Twinword at your disposal for free keyword searching. No brilliant names should ever pass under the radar as potential contenders.
Make it future-proof - Ensure your business has longevity by naming it thoughtfully. It's best to avoid a name that ties you down to just one product, like "Goddess Heels by Fiona" if the future may include expansions into other areas, such as men’s shoes or other accessories. During brainstorming, consider what elements of your company story, values, or unique qualities could make for an inspiring moniker instead.
Make it user-friendly - With a world of competition out there, it’s essential to have the upper hand when deciding on your business name. Opt for something that looks good in print and is easy to read online — this way, those searching for you can find you quickly. Don't let words be barriers between customers finding you or someone else - after all, some people aren’t great spellers – so make sure your chosen name isn’t difficult to pronounce or spell.
Lastly, check if it is available - Choosing a business name is an important milestone. Ensuring your chosen name is available as a web address will increase the legitimacy of your company and facilitate more traffic to your website. Make sure you're creative with this choice - inventiveness pays off; more originality in the naming process increases the chances that it'll be accessible on a .com (or one of its hundred other forms).
Once you have the name figured out, it’s time to have a logo created. Make sure you use a great graphic designer with experience in designing logos. Trusting a family friend or using a source like Fiverr won’t represent you well long term. Be sure to provide proper insight prior to submitting a logo concept to a designer. What feeling are you wanting to convey in your logo? What similar brand concepts or logos have inspired you, and can you identify specifics that have drawn you to them? Typically, you should have multiple concepts made to choose from.
Once you have logo concepts, you can refine the design to create or choose a strong, finalized logo to represent your brand.
2. Brand Persona
Now that you've taken the necessary steps to get your business up and running, it's time for creative self-expression. Don't fall into being a faceless brand - create a personality by giving yourself a persona that reflects what values and qualities make up your organization. Craft them into something more tangible so customers can relate to who you are as they interact with your company. A brand persona is how you would describe your business if it were a person.
This is the launching point to craft your messaging. Messaging should be geared towards solving a problem or providing undeniable needed value for your ideal customer. Most brand messaging explains what they do, but ultimately, many businesses provide similar solutions. Go beyond the product or service to the heart of why a customer would want to be in business with you specifically.
3. Time for Testing
It is time to test out your business!
There are a few ways you can go about an initial launch to gain valuable feedback.
Option 1: You could create a Google Survey regarding your proposed business service/product need and send it out to a network of contacts. This will give you some outside perspective on how to adjust your message.
Option 2a: You could create a test landing page and practice sending traffic to the page by sending it to a list of contacts.
Option 2b: If you have the capital, you could run ads to the test landing page to see how people respond to different messaging.
In The Lean Series, Ash did testing for six months before fully committing to the next steps.
You might not have six months, but the reality is the longer you have, the better. If you could give yourself a couple of weeks or even a month's worth of data, you should be in a decent position to move forward to building the website.
After you’ve developed all the steps from building your brand, logo, persona, and messaging, it’s time to make your website. Do not reverse this order!
Similar to the logo, you should seek out experienced designers* and developers to help you build your website. *Note - web designers are not the same as print designers and neither of them fills the role of a developer. Understand the difference and ensure you have both a designer and a developer working on your website.
Make sure you own the website. Who owns the site and the domain are important. Do not skip asking that question. Remember, it is a long-term solution, and you should not cut any corners for convenience.
The website platform you choose matters! The platform best suited for you is dependent on your needs. Are you trying to inform, generate leads, or sell directly to consumers through e-commerce?
Typically, I’ll recommend WordPress to host your website. With around 810 million websites on the internet today, WordPress hosts 43% of all websites on the internet. It is a tried and true solution that you can count on for a long time, instead of rebuilding your website again down the road. You can also own a WordPress website, whereas Squarespace or Wix will technically own the sites hosted on their platform. For e-commerce, there may be other options to explore that may succeed just as well as a WordPress site.
WordPress is completely customizable and you can make your site secure, which is essential in the world of cyber-attacks we live in today. Fact: Cybercrime, which includes everything from theft or embezzlement to data hacking and destruction, is up 600% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll want to get ahead of this as much as possible.
If you are looking for some great tools to help you create your menu(sitemap) you can try out https://octopus.do/. Octopus.do has a free version of site-building and makes the process of mapping out your menu structure much easier than traditional coding. Your website is live! What do you do next?
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
It’s time to start SEO baby. SEO is the process of improving your website visibility in Google, Bing, and other search engines whenever people search for your services or products.
Beware: If your only marketing channel is a paid ads plan, you are headed down a long, dark road that could cost you a ton of money with little results.
Business is a long play, so you should start working on your SEO as soon as your website has been built. There are an infinite amount of places within your website that SEO can be improved on frequently.
A solid SEO strategy of new content, website maintenance, and listing management will lead to opportunities to be seen in Google searches, get traffic and data coming to your website, and have the potential for new business. You can choose to work on this yourself, but an expert in keyword research and SEO strategy will improve your search ranking much more quickly.
6. Brand Marketing
Up next is a brand marketing strategy, focusing on the way your brand is viewed by others organically. Social media is the perfect place to start getting your brand out there with a cohesive image to educate the marketplace about who you are and why your target audience should work with you.
Social Media is the primary place to display a professional branding strategy that helps your target audience become familiar, and eventually recognizable, with your business name, colors, fonts, and tone of voice. It’s also a place to easily connect with potential customers by educating them through informative or helpful content that can help establish your expertise within the industry.
There are a few Basic Concepts/Rules of Social Media:
- Choose platforms that your industry can connect with your audience
- Be consistent in posting frequently
- Connect with your audience through genuine engagement
- Re-Engage. Make sure you don’t post in ghost. You are going to want to re-engage with your audience.
- Video is king. Social is a video-heavy world these days and you would want to ensure that you are keeping up with the times.
Choose between 2-5 social media platforms to focus on and remain consistent in posting for. Instagram and Facebook are excellent resources in showing a professional organic strategy that encourages networking in your local community and industry. LinkedIn, GMB, and TikTok are other frequently used platforms that can connect your business to potential customers in a cost-efficient way.
An ideal social media strategy entails a mix of helpful and promotional content on a frequent basis. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the types of media better received on the social media platforms of your choosing so you can better connect with your target audience. The more you post, the more you learn.
Wherever you choose to develop an organic strategy, assure that you remain consistent in showing up and engaging with your target audience. Don’t fall into the overwhelming trap of “posting & ghosting”. If you make a conversational post, make sure to continue commenting on the post to gain traction and manage direct messaging across the board.
Starting with these two organic channels (SEO & Social Media) builds trust in your brand, which will make it more likely that people will want to work with you when they start seeing you more. This is social proof!
7. Email Marketing
Once you start getting business in the door, you should ensure that you have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool and an email marketing platform ready to distribute information.
Email marketing will allow you to nurture people that sign up for your email list as well as educate potential customers about your business and services. Eventually, you can lead them to trust you with their business further. In the opinion of someone well-experienced in the digital marketing world, this channel is the most underutilized and typically one of the most successful because it provides direct attribution reporting. You know exactly how much business you generate from email. It’s clear and easy to understand.
We focus on 3 main buckets for email marketing:
Audience & Automation - You need a strategy to manage and grow your email audience. How are you getting people to sign up? What is the offering? What value are you providing them? Once you have a list and you are growing it, how are you managing it?
Not everyone who signs up for your email list will read it and receive it regularly. How does that list engage with your content? You’ll want to improve the content that you’re delivering to them based on the actions they are taking instead of just one broad standard, weekly, or monthly email. Creation automation in order to serve your list of different content and guide them into the buying process will become a crucial part of an efficient email marketing strategy. Automation journeys will serve your business well and bring you more business with minimal attention over time.
Broadcasts - What is your broadcast schedule? For some businesses, it is going to make sense to do weekly or monthly broadcasts in addition to automation. It doesn’t matter the frequency of these types of emails, but you will want to ensure that you’re consistent in this approach as it’ll be expected by your list.
Distribution - You need to carefully manage your email distribution plan. This requires consistent maintenance of your list. Make it a habit to “scrub the list” and clean it regularly to improve your deliverability.
It’s inevitable that sometimes your emails will go directly to your list’s spam folder, or some emails will bounce. You will want to improve the quality of your list with close management of these KPIs specifically.
You should also be creating segments based on what you are seeing from each individual. This will allow you to be more curated in the content you are delivering.
A standard segment example could be categorized by lead type, like cold, warm, and hot leads to prioritize some KPIs and subscribers more intently.
8. Paid Advertising
Paid advertising, the last piece of the puzzle, is running ad campaigns for your business on channels like Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. You can also run paid advertising on streaming platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. via OTT ads.
After all previous building blocks are in place, you can add the last component of a strong digital marketing plan—paid advertising specifically designed to increase sales through targeting.
Paid advertising is a supplement to a great marketing strategy. The cost-per-click opportunity can drive potential customers to you quickly, and if you’ve established excellent visibility and trust in your business, they’ll likely work with you.
Some things to keep in mind will be the difference between outbound, inbound, and remarketing ads:
- Outbound Advertising means you are serving ads to people. They are not taking any action to find you, but you want them to know about your business so that when they are ready to buy a service or product, they’ve already become familiar with your business and think of you as a great option.
- Inbound Advertising means people are actively trying to find a business that offers what you have through search. Your target audience may be searching for something relevant to what you do, and you are found because you’re running ads for those keywords directly.
The goal for your marketing strategy should be layered, but the most important thing you can do is be patient and play the long game. If you dive into advertising aggressively you will likely eat into your margins, and have a hard time with expenses. Taking it slowly and tending to the areas that present growth opportunities long term will drive you toward the healthy growth you’re looking for.
Alex Wells | CEO of Imprint Digital | LinkedIn