So you’ve made the leap from planning to doing, you’ve got your business off the ground, carved out a small niche for yourself and maybe even have a burgeoning customer base by now. But what next? In this age of digital marketing and social media, a new company’s web presence and strategy for growth online is more important than ever. So how to go about it and how to gain traction?
For SMEs in particular, a marketing approach with the right focus and the best return for your investment is essential to build momentum and capture the right audience. With marketing in mind, we think on some topics that will help startups and SMEs ensure they have the best possible chance for success…
Web Presence – We can start with an obvious one, your company website. We’re not just talking about a nuts and bolts, functional site. Today a business’s online home is just that, a home. It’s a sophisticated hub performing a number of crucial roles and bringing together all the branches of your online presence. Of course it’s the first port of call for all your company info and other essentials but it should also connect to a quality blog, a dynamic Facebook page and a busy Twitter page… at the minimum. The design, content and structure is all critical and of course embedded with relevant keywords, SEO tags and engaging visual elements. Don’t forget a quality website also needs to be optimised for mobile browsers and e-commerce (where appropriate) to ensure it is fully responsive to all users’ devices, be it a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Blog Strategy – While we’re in the neighbourhood, it’s worth restating that no business hoping to build an engaging online presence can get by without a good blog. It’s fair to say they have become a cornerstone of the modern digital marketing and communications strategy, known to build lasting relationships and credibility with visitors, while supporting and driving a company’s web presence and social media marketing activities.
An engaging blog, crafted with carefully planned, quality content will enhance a company’s profile, help to define your credentials and your company message, not to mention promote your product or services. Once established, why not branch out and invite a guest blogger as a special feature? Having someone influential from a related industry field guest blog on your site is an easy way to spark interest, broaden your appeal and ultimately drive traffic.
Brand development – Your online brand is the digital marker of your business and can represent the sum of people’s perception of your company or service. It’s never been more important for a startup or SME to get their message out loud and clear and stand out from the crowd online.
A strong brand increases the value of a company, makes acquiring new customers easier and can even inspire employees, with staff more likely to feel that same pride and work in the same direction to achieve the goals you have set if everyone understands your company mission and reason for being. To that end, get creative with your company name, logo and URL and tie the visual element of your brand together to really mean something to your target audience. If you already have the right name and URLs then give it the right look and feel, create an arresting logo that inspires employees, attracts partners and lures customers from day one.
Digital PR and social media – We know that the right social networks are a great, cost-effective way to get your business in front of both current customers as well as prospective new ones. It’s easy to see why small businesses in particular are taking advantage of the range of marketing options afforded by social media and planning their digital PR campaigns around it accordingly.
A well executed PR campaign will support and drive the company’s web presence and social media marketing activities so every business should be engaging regularly on Facebook and Twitter at the least. SEO initiatives must be applied to ensure that your website, blog, and associated digital PR and social media marketing activities get effectively amplified. With this in place, they can drive traffic and continue to reinforce your online reputation.
Online Advertising – Once the initial launch phase of your business is complete, you’ve put in place the elements above and you have a greater understanding of your brand, product/service, customer and market prospects, you are in a better position to develop an effective online advertising program. The Google AdWords program is a good place to start as it is cost effective, flexible, results oriented and highly scalable. Following this, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook ads and banner campaigns can be considered and developed as required.
It’s worth remembering that while the social networks offer their own unique advantages, email is still one of the single best marketing investments. A great looking newsletter with quality content is a fantastic way to build a rapport with your audience and can offer a high return at a very low cost as subscribers continue to get your updates for a long period of time.
By David Marrone
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