Who hasn’t thought about starting their own company at some point? Everyone has great ideas and some of them have big potential. However, very few of us are brave enough to take the risk to throw ourselves off what feels like a cliff and hope that our idea has enough wind under it to glide and eventually soar. Businesses just starting out are staring at the possibility of colossal failure in the face and still taking that first uncertain step. As we know though, with great risk can come great reward. If you already have a great idea and the right support, the next step is to have the right marketing strategy so that you can find your customers and your customers can find you.
I asked several experts to talk about their experiences with digital marketing in the hopes that their wise words can help new business owners and beginning marketers.
Nihat Strider is the founder and CEO of Florida Marketing Group which consults with businesses to improve their marketing strategies. He sees the common mistakes new businesses make and he had this to say:
“Many companies start out in a frenzy, trying to be everywhere with their digital marketing spending exorbitant amounts of money and not getting the returns they need. What companies need to think about first is who their target audience is. For example, if most of your customers are baby boomers, Instagram is not the place to spend money on advertisements.
Another common mistake is spending too much on AdWords without focusing on improving organic search results. You must make sure that the landing page is user-friendly, has useful and attractive content, and is accessible on a smartphone. It is important, as well, to make sure that you are up to date on any changes to Google’s algorithm. Additionally, Google Business can help to improve visibility and ease of access for customers.
Lastly, I would advise any company that is starting out to make sure that whoever is handling their marketing is trained appropriately. Not everyone that is starting out can afford a full-time marketer, however, hiring a marketing company, temporarily, can lead to significant returns. An expert could train current employees on best practices which will lead to long-term benefits. Digital marketing is crucial for any business, so you want to do it right!”
Oswaldo Graziani is the Creative Director for Cansortium Holdings and he knows about the struggles and triumphs that come with working at a startup. He has been with Cansortium Holdings since the beginning and he has used digital marketing to help the company grow.
“It used to be that digital marketing was an extra thing to add to your arsenal. Now, it is absolutely essential and should be the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. It is important to consider the audience you want to reach and how you can keep them coming back. Digital marketing is often used to attain new customers or patients, but the real power of digital marketing is on the retention. The digital space allows you to home in on specific segments and develop an on-going and beneficial relationship with them.
My advice for a new company is to start by working on building a database. Invest small amounts in building awareness and attaining leads. Digital Marketing should be considered as essential as paying for utilities. If you have a small home, you don’t pay as much as if you own a huge factory, but the bill always must be paid. No power, no production. It would make sense to hire a consultant to help give you some footing in the digital space. In the end though, when you can afford it, you will need to hire someone full-time. They will be able to do the careful dance of building awareness without creating noise. You don’t want to be the company that sends annoying e-mails all the time, but e-mail marketing done right is extremely effective.”
Next, I spoke to my friend Raymond Gonzalez who happens to be a technical wizard and renaissance man. Among many other accomplishments and titles to his credit, he is the founder of Venex Media. When asked about digital marketing for startups he said:
“After a decade of working with startups in various industries, I’ve found that the marketing strategy that works for one company may not always work for another. We live in a hyper-competitive world, where often standing out is critical to a company’s success during their early years. Instead of experimenting with new strategies and channels, many startups begin focusing their capital and efforts mirroring what their top competitors are doing. In my experience, what works best is starting small and experimenting with as many different channels as their budgets allow. All efforts need to run long enough to attain sufficient data for proper statistical analysis. It’s also crucial for startups to be in the position to accurately track conversion performance. By experimenting with new strategies and channels, along with using data analytics and business intelligence tools to decide which channels to cross off the list, marketers can discover the right mix that will help a company succeed where many others fail.”
Next, I spoke to Nadia “Adelay” Rami, a young marketer in the creative world of film. She’s an actor, director, and producer, among other things, but considers marketing to be her most important focus. She had this to say about digital marketing:
“Every new business absolutely must learn about the importance of digital marketing. You need to know that perfecting your digital strategies doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. Implementing simple corrections like creating more shareable content, optimizing mobile and/or desktop compatibility, and focusing on social media posts can be a brilliant start. By keeping these digital marketing strategies in mind; a new business will stand to last in the ring with its prime competitors. Ultimately, digital marketing will grow and sustain your business.”
I want you all to meet my friend Camille Perkins, founder, creative director and absolute star of JoinMeIn.Miami. She is a successful influencer and has started a veritable movement around Miami’s nightlife and food scene. As many of us may know, blogging and influencers are great tools for reaching new customers and forming relationships. Hear Camille’s description of her experience:
“It’s hard to believe that almost four years ago I started my blog, Join Me in Miami. I created my blog as I have always loved the digital world and wanted to share my love for Miami with others. My blog serves as a guide to the best food, hotels, bars, and activities in Miami for both locals and tourists. To get my blog off the ground, I learned about basic SEO, photography skills, WordPress, basic HTML and CSS, social media marketing, marketing strategy and took time to study and engage with other lifestyle bloggers.
Growing my blog has been a fun but also frustrating process. Initially, you put in a lot of work and effort, but it usually takes time to bear fruit – whether that’s growth in readers/followers/email subscribers or seeing monetary rewards. The key to overcoming this is to choose a topic that you are passionate about, so you still push through even when it seems that nothing is happening and to consistently create quality content. Other advice I would give to new bloggers would be to build relationships with other bloggers and PR agencies, and to engage with your community both on your blog and on your social media platforms.”
Lastly, I wanted to showcase a real story of a local business owner who started out marketing his business “the old-fashioned way” and is now savvy to the benefits and strategies behind digital marketing. Andres Gizzi is the owner of Gizzi’s Coffee House in Delray Beach, Florida.
“When I first opened Gizzi’s Coffee Shop and started my business over 14 years ago, I started advertising by sending flyers and postcards. We would have special deals like BOGO coffee, half price for college students, etc… now we advertise through social media and have our employees post on their stories. Additionally, we have hired a professional advertising agent and who keeps up with promotions and posts through all social accounts. She oversees keeping up with our Yelp reviews and making sure customers are happy. She helps us learn ways to improve. As for challenges, it was hard to find the right group to target when we first opened, but I learned quickly how to target the right customers through social media”
With the valuable perspectives of marketing experts, creatives, influencers and business owners, we have a complete picture of the unique utility of digital marketing for startups today. There were some major common themes at play in these snippets of wisdom so let’s break out the analog notepad and pencil and make a checklist.
- Segmentation is Key!
Segmentation is the process of defining subgroups among your customer base and giving each group what they are looking for in your brand. Each of my experts mentioned this in some form or another, from SEO (as Nihat and Raymond discussed) to social media, which helped Andres’ business tremendously.
2. Don’t overspend, but definitely invest intelligently.
Nihat and Oswaldo each mentioned that it is easy for startups to spend money the wrong way when it comes to advertising. At the same time, both agreed that advertisements and other forms of digital marketing can be extremely effective if done right. It is important to target your ads to the right people in the right place at the right time.
3. Search Engine Optimization (i.e. Google) will take your business or blog to the next level.
Even if your ads get plenty of clicks, those clicks will mean nothing if visitors are bouncing right out of your site without engaging. Additionally, high bounce rates hurt your Google ranking which in then hurts your business. For high rankings, you need to make sure that you have attractive, user-friendly content and that your sites are mobile-friendly. Nihat and Nadia made those points clear.
4. Relationship-building is necessary for continued growth
Oswaldo touched on how digital marketing is crucial for retention. In other words, digital marketing helps you keep relationships with your customers. Camille also brought up the benefit of collaborations with other bloggers, influencers, developers, etc. Andres also touched on the importance of listening to customer feedback and doing all you can to keep them happy. Businesses are only made possible through collaborations with others and mutually beneficial exchanges with your customers.
5. Be flexible and continue learning
Raymond is an absolute genius when it comes to SEO (my words not his) and he described how important it is to adapt your strategies to the situation. Your business is not exactly like any other business and your business will change over time. Not to mention, Google’s algorithms evolve constantly as well. You need to be current with your own data and the trends around you so that you can pivot whenever necessary.