The greatest challenge for a startup is differentiation. In an industry that is likely overwhelmed with options and other large companies that have years of experience under their belt, and in a big pond where attention spans are on the decline but stimuli are ubiquitous, what chance does a small startup fish have?
According to most business experts, the chance of success is slim. However, business writer and entrepreneur Tim Berry sees this startup failure statistic as nothing but a myth. “When you start your own business, your odds are not the same as everybody else who starts a business,” he says. “Your odds depend on what you’re trying to do and how well you do it.”
Besides having an innovative product or service, investing in digital marketing to amplify your edge is one way to reliably differentiate your business from the competition and dramatically improve your odds of startup success. Compared to traditional marketing methods, great digital marketing strategies including mobile, email, search, content, social media, etc., are more cost-efficient and come with unprecedented audience reach.
Here are four critical digital marketing strategies that can help you quickly, effectively, and sustainably stand out from a crowded industry.
1. Establish An Authentic Online Voice:
In today’s digital world, the voices of brands and consumers alike are defined by their social media presence. Knowing who you are as a brand is key to being able to get your audience’s attention and engage with them effectively.
Rather than solely leveraging your social profiles as digital billboards for your products and services (which will likely fall on blind eyes), curate and share content that works to define your brand voice and identity.
Surveys show that humor resonates most strongly in Western markets, but don’t let high-level consumer data determine who you are. Instead, find the right data about your specific target audience. Who are they? Where do they spend the most of their time online? What kinds of accounts do they follow? What questions are they asking? How do they like to communicate and what kinds of content do they engage with? Answering these questions and collecting the right data will help to inform your brand’s voice and style and the kind of relationship you should establish with your audience.
On the other side of the brand voice coin is competitive analysis. Where are your competitors missing the mark when it comes to engaging with consumers? What gaps exist? While you may offer similar products or services, how can you stand out with a unique, consumer-facing brand persona? Knowing where your competitors are failing will help you succeed.
Once you’ve established who you want to be, know how to leverage your various social platforms effectively. Top social media tips for startups include:
- Be consistent with your posting schedule.
- Leverage the same content in unique ways.
- Publish at the right, most strategic times for each profile.
- Prioritize imagery and videos.
- Interact with your followers in authentic ways.
Last but not least, perhaps the most impactful benefit to establishing a strong brand voice and presence on social media is the opportunity for other users to promote your business.
2. Tap Into Influencers:
By being active on social media, you’ll be able to quickly build a network of brand advocates out of your loyal following. Many of these active users have their own impressive followings and websites, and all it takes is one product tag in an Instagram photo, one Twitter mention, or one link in a blog post to spark the interest of countless others.
According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, two-thirds of consumers trust opinions posted online. Other sources have reported similar findings, with 70% of millennial consumers admitting to being influenced by peer recommendations when making purchases, and 60% say they’ve been swayed one way or the other when shopping based on a social media post or blog review.
Before social media, this kind of webbed influence was constricted to in-person interactions. Let’s examine a story from Tom Patterson, CEO of the successful men’s clothing startup Tommy John. Patterson’s company didn’t experience the kind of growth or success he really needed to stand out until 2009, when the head of Neiman Marcus’ menswear department had her husband and coworkers test one of Tommy John’s pilot products, their men’s underwear. From here, Patterson’s company began to experience exponential success thanks to Neiman Marcus’ influence.
While Tommy John now benefits from making a fan out of the belovedly funny Kevin Hart, the definition of an influencer isn’t limited to a celebrity or typical “big fish” either. An influencer is any trusted online voice with a loyal following, ready to listen to the things they have to say and the products and brands they recommend.
Online advocates and influencers are the new, digital version of guerilla, word-of-mouth marketing. It’s a community of people on the ground and in the trenches giving your products or services organic exposure and funneling potential customers back to your own profile and website.
In a 2018 influencer marketing trends forecast, Forbes predicts the following:
- Marketers will continue to become more strategic in deploying influencer programs.
- A rise in cord-cutting and decrease in TV viewing means more opportunities for influencers online.
- Influencer-produced content will be more desirable and cost-effective.
- Influencer marketing agencies will be asked to consult much earlier on in the campaign planning process.
In other words, influencer marketing is getting popular and effectual, and startups and established businesses alike should allocate an ample percentage of their marketing budgets accordingly.
Your influencer marketing strategy will also help inform other marketing decisions, especially those related to content marketing.
3. Invest In Impactful Content:
The more you gain a following through strategies like influencer marketing, the more you need to invest in producing content that’s both worth following and worth talking about. Essentially, digital marketing is a cycle that begins and ends with content. The more you funnel people back to your social profiles and web properties, the more you need to invest in great content.
An integrated content marketing strategy that encompasses your entire online portfolio — from your main domain to your Twitter feed — is the most effective way to satisfy a user’s curiosity, live up to the claims they’ve read about, and capitalize on the opportunity to convert them into a customer.
As previously discussed, your social media strategy should largely focus on content that defines who you are as a brand, serving as the persona that provides a digital first impression. That said, your ultimate goal is likely to funnel your audience to your site where they can learn more about what you offer and bring them closer to converting.
Behind recommendations from friends and family, branded websites are the second-most trusted advertising platform, according to Nielsen’s survey. When developing a content strategy for your site, you should aim to develop content that satisfies each step of a customer’s journey. In other words, don’t limit your site to only having product pages.
Consider those consumers who still need more information not only about your products, but about the very industry you live and breathe in. Leverage an authoritative blog that lives on your main domain as a way to further solidify your brand as a trusted expert on all things within your industry.
4. Don’t Neglect SEO:
If you build content on your site without optimizing it for search engines, you are severely limiting your potential reach. SEO experts have found that 93% of online experiences begin with search engines like Google, and 70% of the links searchers click on are organic. Search is also the number one driver of traffic to sites, meaning you’d be remiss to rely on social media alone.
Put simply, having an effective SEO strategy in place will ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to get the content you’re making in front of the right people.
Which digital marketing strategies do you think are key to standing out? Let us know in the comments!
Shannon Burns is a community manager by day and aspiring writer by night. As much as she loves discovering new brands while writing about their interesting beginnings and noteworthy stories which changes the industries they are in one idea at a time. She also loves binge watching documentaries and tv series with her two pups even more. Reading and research are also favorite pastimes.