Launching a new business is tough, especially when you’re trying to find those first customers.
There is so much to do and so little time to do it. You need to be on top of so many different things at once while still finding your bearings and figuring out exactly who and what your business is.
As you launch and grow your business there will be a lot of different facets that you’ll need to learn and master. Some of them will be critical, less important ones may be put on the back-burner, many of them will be slowly developed and improved over time, but some business functions need to be firing on all cylinders right from the very beginning.
Marketing is one them.
8 out of 10 new businesses fail or 96% fail within 10 years and if you want to avoid this fate you’ll need to figure out how to promote yourself efficiently, effectively, and towards a profit.
You are not alone. This is a challenge faced by countless new businesses, and unfortunately, many of the articles we’ve read on the topic make a number key mistakes:
- Spending too much time building instead of selling, especially in the prelaunch stage.
- Giving up too early
- Being too afraid to pivot into other ideas
- Putting too much focus on individual tactics, bad advice or strategies rather than having a cohesive overarching plan
- Not focusing enough on customers
So in order to help you figure out how you can really promote a new business, we’ve taken some of the greatest insights we’ve learned from working with thousands of online businesses (as well as from our own growth over the years) and put together this practical guide to marketing your new business.
Our Tips For New Businesses
1. Know Your Market
Successful marketing starts with understanding your market. The people and businesses buying your product are the most important thing to consider when devising a marketing plan, especially if you’re a new business.
The first reason this is so important is because having an understanding of your market’s demands allows you to create an offer they’ll find irresistible. Secondly, knowing your market and what they like means you can target them with sniper’s precision. These factors are both crucial to the survival and growth of a small business, and they perfectly illustrate the need to research and gain an in-depth understanding of your market.
This step isn’t easy though as it’s highly dependant on your product or service. Something like a fidget spinner has a very wide appeal, and is therefore a bit easier to market. But if you run a hair salon in a small town, then your go to market strategy will be more focused on local marketing techiques (otherwise you end up wasting your money on users that can’t utilise your services).
Here’s a simple example of what’s possible when you truly get to know your market:
When AirBnB was first starting out they did their research and they figured out that a lot of their target audience was already using Craigslist. Using this information, they began re-posting AirBnB listings to Craigslist and prompted proprietors using their platform to do the same.
At the same time, they started inviting people listing accomodation on Craigslist to their platform and in reverse they made it easy for users to post their AirBnB listing directly to Craigslist.
This strategy worked wonders for the young business, it helped them reach a critical mass amongst early adopters. AirBnB took action based on the insights they gained and became a $31 billion business as a result. None of this would have been possible if not for their in-depth research which lead them to finding a huge portion of their target audience on Craigslist.
Popular dating app Tinder also did something similar. They held launch parties where everyone attending had to have the Tinder app installed to gain entry.
Here’s one of the launches from Melbourne:
To get you started on your own audience research, here are some ideas on how you can quickly and accurately gain valuable intel that can be put to use in your strategies:
- Use Google to search for niche-related keywords and see what ads come up. This is an indiciation of commerical intent and is a great way to find the types of marketing messages your audience is likely to respond well to (as ads are often tested to death). The logic here is that if someone’s advertising on Google, consumers are buying enough of their product to fund an sizeable ad budget.
- Find and join relevant Facebook groups – these are very easy to search for
- Look for Slack channels that are relevant to your area or niche
- Browse the Instagram explore pages for #hashtags you think are relevant to your business
These tags follow a consistent format, just switch out the final word:
- Use a tool like SEMRush to see what keywords your competitors rank for and also what keywords they are bidding on via Adwords.
These tips will help show you what’s working in your niche at any given moment, giving you a much clearer picture of what the market wants, and how you can give it to them.
2. React to Your Market & Their Needs
When Twitter started out, they were called Odeo, and they helped users find and listen to podcasts.
Starbucks started as an espresso machine retailer, not a café.
Even Instagram started out as a foursquare-type app called “Burbn”.
All of these businesses had to change what they were doing before finding success, and realistically speaking, you may have to do the same. The change won’t necessarily have to be particularly dramatic, but small tweaks can go a long way towards improving your marketing.
For example, when we started Gleam, our main focus was on Bloggers. Until we realised that this isn’t the type of market that typically pays for a product like ours.
After a while we moved away from marketing ourselves as a Sweepstakes app, and more as a tool to help users grow their business.
This has a number of positive effects:
- We were able to go broader with the type of content we wrote, instead of just focusing on running a sweepstakes
- It allowed us to introduce more products under the Gleam umbrella
- Everyone wants to grow their business, but not everyone is looking to run a Sweepstakes
Sometimes, the thing you’ll need to tweak isn’t your actual product, but rather an aspect of your marketing or business model
The move left many users disappointed, but sometimes you need to make difficult changes if you want to succeed as a young business.
If you do plan to change pricing we always recommend grandfathering existing users
To put it simply, tweaking your offer allows you to put your market research into action by making the necessary changes to align your business with the needs and wants of your audience. Appropriately pivoting your business will allow you to keep your marketing, as well as your business as a whole, on track to be effective and profitable in the long run, especially when combined with our next tip.
3. Make a Content Plan
All the way back in 1996, Bill Gates famously wrote that content is king.
Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting
Twenty-odd years on, a HubSpot report revealed that content marketing delivers up to 3x the leads while being 62% cheaper than traditional advertising.
If you crunch the numbers, you can find that content is around 8 times more effective than old-school ads. This means that as a small business, content should pretty much always be your go-to strategy for engaging, delighting, and converting users.
As an added bonus, content also helps your SEO in a big, big way. Starting with Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013 and Facebook’s 2016 update, both platforms have been prioritizing content as an SEO factor. This means that producing excellent articles, visuals, and videos (and encouraging the sharing of them amongst your audience) is an outstanding way to boost your SEO rankings and drive a whole lot of free, organic traffic.
For a great example of content marketing take a look at SkinnyMe Tea. They follow quite a simple strategy of posting funny and entertaining content to keep their subscribers entertained throughout the week:
Then sprinkle in a few promotional posts amongst the entertaining ones to drive ROI.
Sometimes we can become so focused on posting about our business that we forget to post more lighthearted content that makes people smile.
Another content strategy they use is to also actively maintain a blog filled with content covering a variety of subjects that strongly appeal to their target audience.
The only caveat is making content sporadically isn’t enough. You need to plan and schedule the release of your content. This is because users respond best to frequently updated marketing channels.
To drive home this point, another Hubspot report found that publishing 16+ blog posts per month nets 350% more traffic than posting 0-4 posts each month.
But how exactly do you make an effective content plan? Well there are a few things you need to do.
- Aim to hit a content goal each month,. For example we reesarch & plan 4 blog posts for each month
- Choose the right platform for each medium. For text, you’ve got WordPress: an open-source platform used by over 25% of the entire internet
- Use Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for promoting visual images and videos
- For self hosted visuals, Gleam offers beautiful, responsive galleries that allow you to aggregate content from various sources into a unified place
- Commit to producing a certain amount of content each week and figure out a plan for reaching your goals with minimal effort. As a young company, you want to produce content naturally. Don’t turn this into a chore
- Think about how you’re going to maximize your content by promoting and re-purposing it. For example, an article can be turned into a slide deck, and then into a YouTube video. This gives you 3 pieces of valuable content instead of just one!
A particularly powerful move in digital marketing today is the harnessing of user-generated content. Brands like GoPro and Contiki have turned UGC into a cornerstone of their marketing efforts, and there’s no reason you can’t adopt a similar strategy to procure a wealth of authentic and relatable content.
Another great way to create content is to make it real and authentic. We had a good chat with Eric from Breadbrand recently and he mentioned that when they film videos inside a barber shop in an authentic setting they perform almost 10x better than some scripted videos.
We could spend an entire post talking about User-Generated Content, and how you can collect and use it, but there’s one particularly important type of UGC that we want to focus on today.
4. Collect and Show Online Reviews
If people like what you do, then there’s a fairly decent chance that you’ll be the subject of some positive online reviews. These reviews are always encouraging, but more than that they can be a powerful marketing tool which you can use to leverage your success and showcase the goodwill you’ve earned to a wider audience.
Forbes magazine reports that 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. This is important because it means that you can replicate the power of personal referrals, which 92% of users trust, by collecting and displaying online reviews.
Here are a few great ways you can do this:
- Prompt new customers to leave feedback in your post-purchase e-mails.
- Contact previous customers and ask them to leave you feedback.
- Find reviews of your products on third-party websites, like Amazon, and re-post them (after asking for permission where necessary).
Once you’ve gathered a collection of glowing reviews you can put them to work for your marketing activity by sharing them across your social media channels, or displaying them on your website.
Sharing customer success stories can have a similar effect for businesses who run weight-loss or other similar programs. Just like reviews, success stories authentically showcase the benefits of your product, which is a great way to gain consumer trust and build a reliable and trustworthy brand image.
Something else to consider is setting up reviews on your business’s Facebook page. This is a quick and easy way to showcase positive reviews in a way that’s subtle and unobtrusive.
But remember, review aren’t always just to show the positives of your business. They can also be used by frustrated customers to let you know what they didn’t like. The important part is how you handle these criticisms whilst using the feedback to improve your business for future customers.
If you own an E-commerce store then you should be prioritising reviews on individual products by asking users to review x days after purchase. Shopify has their own Product Reviews app which allows you to quickly and easily get this up and running.
Another approach you can take is asking your B2B customers for permission to display their logo on your website. This gives users the tacit understanding that you have the support and trust of these companies, which is just as good as a positive review.
Here’s an example from the Front customer page:
Those logos up top aren’t reviews, but they may as well be because they carry the implication that these brands are all happy and excited to be working with us.
Another crafty way to leverage the power of personal recommendations is by beginning to…
5. Incentivize Referrals
A Nielsen study found that consumers are 4 times more likely to buy a product when it’s been referred to them by a friend. The problem is, you can’t personally ask online customers to refer you to others, and without a personal request, people aren’t very likely to help you out.
So what do you do?
We say you take a page from the DropBox playbook. Back when the company was first starting out, Sean Ellis – the man who coined the now-ubiquitous term, Growth Hacking – decided to give users 500 MB of extra space for every user they referred.
This idea led to 2.8 million direct referral invitationsin April 2010 alone and played a significant role in DropBox’s growth to 4 million users in only 15 months.
The company has since been valued at a whopping 10 billion, and incentivizing referrals was a key contributor to this success.
The obvious objection to this is:
What if I can’t give away my product like DropBox did? What if I can’t afford to offer anything in exchange for referrals?
If that’s the case you’ll want to read the next point very carefully. It explains how you can drive all kinds of user actions from referrals to e-mail sign-ups, all on a budget.
6. Run a Contest
The idea is simple. You ask users to do something (like join your e-mail list or submit an article or video), and in exchange for following your call to action, these users get a chance to win a prize at random or based on a set of guidelines.
A key advantage of running a contest is that you can ask users to do whatever you want. You can ask for referrals, e-mail sign-ups or page visits. You can even ask for user-generated content that you’ll be able to use in your future marketing campaigns.
As long as the prize is high quality and relevant, people will do what you ask, propelling the sales and growth of your new business as they do.
Another benefit of running a contest is that you don’t have to offer small prizes like you do with a referral program.
Lingerie retailer Adore Me ran a holiday giveaway which generated close to 90,000 impressions and over 1200 referrals. The prize was simply a voucher for $1,000 to spend at their online store.
A prize this big isn’t something you can offer when you’re rewarding every user that does what you ask.
If we haven’t already sold you on the idea of contests, remember that they have the capability of gaining massive viral traction and also engaging your existing customer with fun ways to win the products they love.
Now this is only an incredibly brief look at what contests can do for you. For a more comprehensive look at running contests check out our in-depth guides to running contests on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and if you need more advice then check out our guides on how to run a contest.
Of course, if you’re going to run a contest, you’ll need a way of collecting contestants’ e-mails. To that end, it’s imperative that you…
7. Get a Landing Page
E-mail marketing is a pretty big deal. For starters, it generates as much as $44 per $1 spent on sending out messages. Secondly, 86% of all consumers would like to recieve e-mails from brands they’re into at least once a month.
What all of this means is that e-mail is a low-risk, high-payoff marketing channel that should be the cornerstone of a young business’s marketing strategy.
However, before you can fully dive into email marketing you’ll need to set yourself up with a way to collect email addresses. This is where landing pages come in.
Landing pages, also known as opt-in pages, squeeze pages, or lead pages, are the single best way you can collect e-mail addresses.
Landing pages are so useful that they can even be your entire website when you’re just starting out. This is what Harry’s, a men’s grooming brand did – and they ended up with 100,000 subscribers before they launched any products.
Another option is to augment your existing landing pages with responsive pop-up forms like the one below.
Find Out How to Make Your Own Discount Popups
Take a look at how you can use Capture to build your own discount popups and use them to generate leads and drive sales.Check It Out
Once you’ve started directing traffic to a landing page and capturing email addresses then you’ll need to start considering our next tip.
8. Automate Your Email Marketing
As we’ve already told you, e-mail marketing has an average ROI of up to 4,400%. That is absolutely brilliant…
But do you really have the time (and the resources) to mail each one of your subscribers personally when you have a message to send?
In fact, if you’re anything like us, you may struggle to find the time to even write a single e-mail. This is a problem because it takes 7-13 e-mails to convert the average lead, with high-ticket leads sometimes requiring as many as 20.
Work on writing a series of e-mails for each one of your customer segments and automate their delivery using your ESP (Email Service Provider).
- New Customers get a welcome series
- Purchases get a series that asks them for a review
- New Leads get an educational series that shows the value of your product
- Blog signups get an educational series
This tactic will allow you to give every new customer a preprogrammed sequence of e-mails that nudges them towards making a purchase.
This proccess is referred to as an autoresponder sequence – and it’s a major part of modern marketing. A short, simple one might go like this:
- The welcome/confirmation e-mail
- Addressing frequently asked questions
- A time-sensitive offer to buy your product at a discount
- A reminder about the time-sensitive offer
- Last call to buy at the discounted price
- High-value content
This sequence will help warm users up to you to the point where you can start sending them your regular newsletter. Just remember to include a call to action every few e-mails to keep the sales coming in.
For an example of an excellent email sequence we’re going to take another look at Adore Me. Their emails are engaging, include calls to action, and follow a highly effective autoresponder sequence.
They begin with an introductory email:
Before moving on to some time-sensitive offers:
And they eventually introduce high-value content, which focuses on the audience rather than the organisation:
At this point, we’ve addressed some of the most critical aspects of marketing a new business. We’ve explained how you can use tools like contest marketing, incentivized referrals and e-mail marketing to generate leads and sales.
But there’s one very important thing we haven’t yet discussed.
After all, without traffic, none of the tactics above are going to work. If people aren’t exposed to your marketing, it doesn’t matter how great it is; you’re not going to find customers, and you’re not going to make money.
So in the next few points, we’ll focus on some low-cost, high-reward ways to drive ready-to-buy leads towards your business. First off, you can try to…
9. Answer Quora Questions
What’s unique about question-and-answer sites like Quora is that their user base is pre-qualified. The people you’ll find on Quora are there because they’re actively looking for answers and solutions. This means that they are ready to be provided a solution and sold on an offer.
This provides you with an outstanding opportunity to promote your brand to a ready-to-listen audience with a baseline interest in your offering. All you have to do is find questions relating to your business’s niche and answer them in a genuine way which highlights the benefits of your product and offers it as a solution to the issue being posed.
To put it simply, Quora is a place where people come with questions. If you can provide answers that show you understand consumers’ needs and pain points, then you give yourself instant credibility as an authority on the topic. This will go a long way to help you get click-throughs to your offer.
One entrepreneur even drove thousands of leads using nothing but Quora over a 5-month period.
Considering the platform is 100% free to use, that’s rather incredible, and there’s no reason you can’t drive traffic and leads using the same strategy.
Another way to turn content into traffic is with…
10. Video Marketing
87% of all online marketers are using video content to promote their business. This is happening for 2 main reasons:
Firstly, videos are highly persuasive. Studies have found that 64% of all users are more likely to buy your product after watching one.
Secondly, videos get a lot of organic traffic. To give you an idea of the scale we’re talking about, Facebook videos alone are viewed for 100 million hours each month, and this is likely to rise as Facebook Live gains more traction. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook do their best to put more videos in front of people, and making some of your own is another excellent way to get some free traffic.
There’s plenty of types of videos you can create too:
- Behind the scenes of your business
- Product reviews
- Product launches
- Customers using products
- Customer reviews / testimonials
- How to videos
- Product overviews
- Product features / benefits
Just remember that videos don’t have to be shot on a camera. The visuals can consist of a fancy slide deck, a very basic presentation, or even still images. As long you come up with something that is high quality and engaging, your marketing will benefit.
If you don’t have the skills to create your own video, then get others to do it for you. Just provide them the product!
Now let’s take a look at another extremely effective way you can drive free traffic as a small business…
11. Interactive Content
Do the words “interactive content” sound intimidating? Well, they shouldn’t. Interactive content can be something as simple as quizzes, which have been around for decades and proven themselves to be extremely effective as a marketing tool.
“How effective?” You may be wondering.
Well, the average quiz gets shared 1900 times. Buzzfeed, a platform famous for its quizzes, has a 96% completion rate on their interactive content, and Zenni Optical were able to generate $1,000,000 in sales from just one quiz.
Quizzes work because when done properly, they’re highly engaging and highly shareable. They’re also just one type of interactive content you can easily make!
You can also try your hand at making an interactive video. Sesame Street used a fairly simple interactive video to great effect by making a quick science lesson that got their young audience actively involved in their content while promoting the show.
Other forms of interactive content include interactive infographics (which can be easily made with tools like Visme), and essentially any other piece of interactive material you can think of.
Interactive content is a terrific way to make your audience feel actively involved in your brand. So while this type lof content won’t drive traffic by itself, it will turn traffic into leads and sales and make paid traffic profitable.
And while we’re on the topic of paid traffic…
12. Paid Ads
A big reason social media marketing has been so successful is organic reach: the views and clicks you get from followers without having to pay anyone.
But this has begun to change.
So this all begs the question, is organic reach dead?
We don’t think so – but it is extremely difficult for a new business to grow by relying purely on social media marketing and other free traffic sources. Sooner or later, you will end up using paid ads.
So here are some tips on how you can do it right:
- Use Google Adwords to target people making Google searches relevant to your business.
- SEMRush has data on what keywords your competitors are buying, use that to get a head start on your campaigns
- Facebook ads can be a lot harder to get right than Adwords, but worth experimenting with different ideas
- Always try to send your traffic to targeted landing pages, don’t fall into the trap of just sending users to your homepage
If you do them right, paid ads can generate sales instantly. A feat that is much less common with SEO and list-building, which often take months to start delivering results.
But while we’re on the topic of SEO – there is one little no-cost hack that can quickly place you on Google’s first page…
13. Google Places
Getting found through Google Search is hard – but remember that Google Search prioritizes local businesses when relevant to a search:
And while getting on the first page of a Google search through SEO can cost months of time and thousands of dollars, getting listed in Places is quick and 100% free. In fact, Google does everything it can to make registration easy with these detailed instructions.
Remember: 20% of Google’s searches are for local information. And of those searches, 34% of the ones made from a desktop computer and 50% of those made from a mobile device lead to a same-day store visit.
So if your business has a physical location, you should definitely get it listed with Google Places. It costs nothing and will drive an abundance of traffic your way.
Next up, let’s look at another sneaky way to get an abundance of free traffic.
14. Joint Ventures / Influencers
As a new business you don’t really have the time to build up lists and social media pages. If you want to keep the lights on, you need to start making money now. However, this doesn’t mean you have to say an outright “no” to lists and social media.
These tactics will pay off in the long run, so it’s important you get off to a running start. Also, there are some ways to use social media that will give you a rapid payoff.
By entering joint ventures with other businesses. Ask relevant influencers, authorities, and organizations to help market your product in exchange for a commission or even just some interesting content. This can get you access to tens, or even hundreds of thousands of their loyal followers, which is a great way to generate a whole lot of leads in the blink of an eye.
Just think about how much traffic these clothing brands would have gained by pairing up with this high profile Instagrammer.
A great way to make the most of a joint venture is by guiding traffic towards an opt-in page. This will help you build your e-mail list up extremely quickly, all without having to pay anyone a single cent out of pocket.
At this point you should have just about everything you need to turn your new business’s marketing up to 11. So head out there, try as many of these tips as you can and figure out exactly what works best for your business 🕺
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