Start-ups have a lot to think about when setting up their new business. On top of premises, staffing and supplies, there’s a million other details to take care of. However, your business will only succeed if potential customers know about you – who you are, what you offer and why they should buy from you.
Digital marketing is simply an umbrella term for advertising your products or services using digital technologies – which means via the internet mainly. You may also find it called ‘online marketing’ or ‘internet marketing’ but it all boils down to companies making the most of the digital era.
In 2016 eight in ten (81%) UK adults aged 16+ said they had broadband internet access at home, and 87% of UK adults aged 16+ said they used the internet either at home or in other locations (Ofcom). A start up business cannot afford to ignore a vast potential market.
Traditional advertising has its place but with so many customers spending their time online it makes sense to get your business in front of them. Yet a 2015 survey of UK SMEs in the UK revealed that only 36% had a digital plan; 33% did digital marketing “when they have the time” and 31% didn’t do any at all. Savvy start-ups should see digital marketing as an integral part of their business plan:
Here’s a short guide to digital marketing for start-ups and SMEs:
- Commission a professional website – first and foremost have a well-designed and well-functioning website. Your website is often your customers’ first engagement with your company so make sure it looks good visually, (think about the websites that appeal to you when you’re buying things for yourself and look at how competitors sell themselves). Make sure your website is easy to navigate, readable and with good links to your products and services. Make it easy for potential customers to contact you and find out more. Don’t forget that more and more people use smartphones and tablets to browse the web so make sure your website works on mobile devices.
- Be distinctive – the internet might be a crowded-place but there’s always room for another clued-up business. A major plus of digital marketing is that it allows new start-ups and local companies to compete with the big boys (and girls). It’s a ready-platform with all the tools (many free), to get your message out there. But your product or service has got to be appealing and offer added-value (what makes you different to your competitors?). You’ll need good and consistent branding to help consumers identify you instantly whether they visit your website, use social media or you meet them at trade shows, events, etc.
- Stay engaged – these days digital marketing is not all one way, from you to the customer. Use social media to engage with your potential market – it could be via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or one of the other social platforms. The most effective digital marketing plan for business start-ups will include a presence on these digital platforms, but if you have limited resources, focus efforts on the social channels your customers are most likely to use as you’ll need to invest time in keeping your chosen channels fresh and relevant. You need to decide whether you want to respond to support queries that might come in via social media. And how you would deal with negative feedback.
- Use email address capture tools and regular email campaigns to stay in touch with customers.
- Blogging – this is time and labour intensive but if you have expertise in something that others might be interested in it’s worth considering. It’s best to blog frequently or at least try to blog a few times a month. Don’t forget to link blogs with social media channels like Twitter or Pinterest. You might consider vlogging or video blogging on YouTube, especially if you can promote tips and guides on using your product.
- Use good customer feedback and reviews – research has shown that social media interaction which allows feedback from customers and website reviews are very effective – customers are more likely to trust the experiences of other customers.
- Search engines – most searches in the UK are done using Google. Appearing as high as possible in searches will certainly help bring you customers. Make sure you use the phrases on your website that people would use to find your type of product or service. If you can add extra information that helps people choose a product, for example size guides, technical tips, user guides etc. that’s even better. Make sure you’re also on Google maps and take advantage of other local marketing initiatives Google and other search engines offer.
- Pay Per Click – you decide which words or phrases people will use to find you (and your competitors), and how much you’re prepared to pay for people to click on your ad and go through to your website. The PPC keyword planner helps you pick relevant words and phrases and shows estimated monthly search volumes. Depending on your type of business some words may cost you quite a lot so you need to decide how much you can spend a day and take the time to test different ads and keywords/phrases. Not everyone who clicks will buy, but you can use various web analytics tools to see the pages clickers visit and what they do, so you can refine your approach over time. You can also look at Google Merchant Center which works with PPC to deliver adds that show products and prices.
- Be ready – when you’re launching a marketing campaign, it’s important to plan for dealing with the extra queries generated by your marketing, Do you have replies drafted for ‘frequently asked questions’? Are you geared up with the staff, time and stock to respond to the success of your digital marketing? You want to be in the best position to convert new contacts into new customers.
One way of ensuring you are on top of your staffing is to invest in a good automated time and attendance system. uAttend is used by a range of customers with retail sites and who trade online, for example to manage shop and warehouse staff to ensure they have enough people on-the-ground to deliver a speedy (and positive) response to customers.