Written by Kelly Stincer.
In the early stages of a business, entrepreneurs wear a lot of different hats. A founder may be a company’s CEO, IT specialist, lead researcher and marketing manager, all at the same time. And with so much to juggle, it can be hard to prioritize. Marketing may seem like a low priority, but regardless of whether a startup has the best product on the market, customers are not going to buy if they’re not excited about it. The earlier a company starts building buzz around their brand, the faster the business can turn marketing efforts into sales.
“The early stages of business can be challenging, and you may be tempted to cut costs,” said Colin Donohue, founder and principal strategist of Root Deeper Marketing. “But marketing is one of the last places you want to scale back because it has the ability to make or break your company.”
Donohue says if you don’t get the right message to the right people, it will put a strain on every other aspect of your business. He shared the following tips to help startups focus their resources on marketing efforts that will ultimately lead to sales:
Figure Out Who’s Interested and Follow-Up – A consistent analytics process to accompany your marketing efforts is crucial. It’s important to see who is visiting your website, reading your social media posts and engaging with your business. It’s even more important to follow-up with those people or businesses as quickly as possible. There are visitor discovery tools you can install that tell you who’s been to your site. Donohue says calling web leads within five minutes of their visit makes a company nine times more likely to close a sale. Getting to that customer first will give you a leg-up on the competition.
Capitalize on the Buzz – New and innovative ideas often attract a lot of attention from the media or online, especially when marketed effectively. But that buzz will be short-lived if you don’t build on it. Donohue suggests adopting marketing automation tools that help build contact lists to let those who are interested in your company know about new developments and products. This will maintain the excitement and keep your business fresh in their minds. Offer specific incentives to encourage potential customers to leave their email address, sign up for a newsletter or request future information. The ability to get back in touch with visitors later is crucial. If you have a large number of people visit your site from a press article but aren’t ready to ship your product, you need to have free remarketing tools enabled in your analytics so you can get back in front of those potential customers when you’re ready to launch.
Are “Likes” Really Drawing Attention and Sales? – You want to reach as many people as possible, but you may be putting too much stock in the quantity of social media followers and not enough in the quality. Donohue says he’s worked with companies with thousands of “likes” on Facebook, but those “likes” weren’t translating to any sales. He says that rather than looking at how many people like your post, analyze the value of each type of interaction. Someone who is clicking through your products page on the website is probably more likely to buy than someone who simply likes a Facebook post, and this can help you decide the best way to spend your marketing budget. Tracking the return on investment of each marketing campaign will help you make that money back as soon as possible in the form of sales.
Don’t Spam Social: Talk to People Without Selling to Them – You may think you can just make ‘X’ number of posts and promote them ‘X’ times a day to be successful on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But Donohue says the social media landscape is changing. He likens these sites to cocktail parties and says they are social spaces where people want to have conversations and build relationships. You don’t want to be the person at the party constantly talking about yourself and trying to sell something to everyone you meet. This tactic can actually do your business more harm than good. Engaging with your customers, finding out what’s important to them, and giving them information they’re interested in will go a lot further in turning “likes” into sales.
Leverage What You Already Do – You’re the expert in your field, and anyone who’s looking for a company like yours shouldn’t have to look far. Search engine optimization is a critical skill and a free tool that drives traffic to your website. Understanding which keywords to use and how to have your site at the top of the search results is one of the best ways for customers to find you.
Exploring the most effective ways to reach your potential customers and increase sales is the best way to put your ideas and products on the map. Donohue says the effort you put into marketing will come back to your business ten-fold.
Root Deeper Marketing is a small digital marketing consultancy helping startups and other businesses maximize their return on investment by tracking sales and other key performance indicators from marketing initiatives. Root Deeper Marketing is an anchor tenant at the Ohio University Innovation Center, a southeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier that mentors startups, helps entrepreneurs develop marketing plans and explains digital marketing practices to grow their businesses.