Are you setting up your startup’s online marketing plan?
I speak to a lot of startup founders that are doing just that. It’s a process that involves some thinking about what your business is, what your industry is like and who your target customer is.
It’s hard to have all that information when you’re just starting out, but it’s always good to have some kind of plan. This way you have something to shoot for and a vision for how you want to start acquiring customers.
Your plans will just about always change at least a little over time. You’ll learn more about the market. You’ll learn more about your customer. And you’ll learn more about your business and the product or service you offer.
With all that said, however, there are a few key ingredients that every startup online marketing plan should have today.
Here are those ingredients.
1. Target Customer Persona
You’ve seen this before and I’m repeating it because it’s the most important part of any marketing plan. I worked for a company that had been in business for over 100 years. You’re not in business that long if you haven’t learned a few tricks.
At that company we had customer personas. Those personas helped to get everybody on the team focused on who we were selling our products to. The merchandisers knew. The marketers knew. Everybody had that image of the customer in mind. It made it much easier to make decisions, especially marketing decisions.
Now, I realize that you’re a startup business. But your first step with a marketing plan is to figure out the best description of your customer that you can. Get specific. Don’t worry about excluding anybody. When you target one person you’ll pick up outliers. If you target everybody you’ll pick up nobody because your marketing will feel vague and impersonal.
2. Common Customer Questions
Marketing in the early stages of the sales cycle is about getting your target customers to discover your brand and what you sell. A way of doing that is by finding the common questions your customer is asking.
They could be questions about your product, but you’ll find a bigger market if you focus on the industry-level questions. Look online in forums, blogs and other places to see what your customer is asking.
If you can, talk to a few of your potential customers in person. Get them talking about the industry and see what questions come up.
List these questions. You’ll use them on your content calendar.
3. Content Calendar
A content calendar is simple, but it’s an ingredient that many overlook. Once you have customer questions listed out. Create titles that will form answers you create to the questions.
A good place to start would be to answer one question with a monthly blog post.
But you have more freedom. You could record a video and upload it to YouTube and embed it on your website or blog. Answer the question and do so every month or even every week.
Fill out your calendar for three months. Do it for a year if you can. This gives you a big picture of how your content strategy will shape up over the year. But setting this up in the early stages also takes away a big portion of the work.
It’s really difficult to say that you’ll write a blog post each month. The month will go by and you’ll realize you need a post for tomorrow. You’ll struggle to find something to write about.
Setup the calendar and you eliminate the struggle or at least part of it.
4. Content Resources
Once your calendar is setup you’ll need to assign content resources. It might be you that is doing the blogging or video recording. It might be someone on your team.
You could even try that for a while, but if you start missing dates then you’ll need to outsource this step of the plan.
I’ve seen a number of startups that have all kinds of things going on and they still manage to create one really good blog post each month. Commit 3-4 hours of your time each month to a blog post. It’s good to step away from the regular work to make it happen and it can have great long-term effects on growing your business.
5. Content Promotion
The final step with content marketing is content promotion. The basics involve sharing your content on your social media channels. You can use Buffer to help with that.
Use popular hashtags from your industry like these examples. This will get your content in front of the right people so you can start getting traffic right away.
6. Partnership Opportunities (Influencers & Complementary Businesses)
You’ve already identified your target customer and you need to do some more targeting. This time, look for influencers in your industry and complementary businesses.
For example, GBW is in the marketing world so an influencer would be Rand Fishkin of Moz marketing software. GBW also markets to small businesses and startups. Brian Casel would be an influencer in that field.
When you identify influencers, plan on mentioning them from time to time in your content. This increases the chances that they’ll see your content and that they’ll share it with their audience, which is also your target audience.
It works the same with complementary businesses. For GBW, Buffer is a complementary business. They help people share blog posts. And we create blog posts. If we get Buffer to re-share our content they send us traffic of our exact target (and shared) customer.
It might also lead to unique business partnerships that would benefit both parties and the shared target customer.
7. Your Story To Share On Interviews (Podcasts, Blog Post Interviews, etc.)
When you’re building your business always have an idea of what your story is. For GBW, we create blog posts for small businesses that want to get more customers with a content strategy.
That’s part of our story. We take it further by talking about how I started GBW with one client by writing for them on the side of my full-time job. It’s grown from there. That’s an interesting story. It’s personal. It’s something that people seem to interested in hearing about.
I’ve had some success sharing this story and other parts of the GBW story on podcasts and interviews. That leads to exposure in the industry and works to grow the profile of the business.
There is no reason you can’t do the same even if you’re just starting out.
Identify the podcasts or blogs in your industry that do interviews and featured stories. See what they’re writing about. Find ways you can work your story into something similar to what they’ve already published. Then approach them with your story.
You might only get one or two, but that can lead to more opportunities and eventually it will build up to where your name and story are all over influential websites in your industry.
Hopefully these ingredients help you with your online marketing plan. Know that things will change a little bit over time. But one last key point to remember is that you don’t want to jump around from strategy to strategy. Put in time now to understand as much as you can. Then give the strategies you choose a chance to succeed. If you jump around you’ll only guarantee online marketing failure.